"Yes" is the story of a man who lives in rural Austria, a scientist with an overactive imagination, and a psychologically oversensitive nature. His friend, a real-estate agent, sells a highly undesirable plot of land to a Swiss couple, a man retiring from a successful career as a power-station architect, and his female companion, a middle-aged Persian woman. The narrator strikes a friendship with the woman, and finds her his intellectual equal, or at least his emotional one. He wonders why this couple has chosen that horrible plot of land (which his friend had never previously been able to sell), and why they are building an ugly home on it.
He begins to suspect the retiring architect does not treat his female companion with as much respect as she deserves. He retreats into his home for a time, trying to get away from the world, in a fit of general agitation and anxiety, but eventually returns to his friends' company, and deepens his friendship with the Persian woman, who seems to be growing apart from her companion. The novel ends with an emotional shock, summarizing the story's happenings, and explaining it in highly dramatic terms.
This novel is unequivocally brilliant. Thomas Bernhard (1931-1989) does not employ a style easy to understand at first, but it is worth every ounce of energy invested. For example, he has written this short novel with no paragraph breaks whatsoever. (The book is 135 pages long, but the type is larger than usual and the pages shorter than usual.)
Bernhard writes in an overflowing, fulsome style, not unlike Samuel Beckett, full of language, full of description, incessant, and captivating. This is exactly his strategy: he is trying to capture the reader by forcing them to expend so much energy following his text, his narrative, his story, and his unusual style, that the final words of the story will hit the reader like a ton of bricks. This is Bernhard's signature, and this novel is a fantastic example.
Any reader should try this novel who is interested in an inventive, experimental novel, but one which does not veer too far from normal story-telling. Berhard's novels, for all their roller-coaster style, are actually quite conventional, and "Yes" is a great introduction to his literary work. His vocabulary is sharp, his characters are well spun, his occasional insights are spectacular, and his stories are intruiguing. This novel is highly recommended for anyone wishing to sharpen their mind, find a new adventure after having enjoyed Beckett's works, or introduce themself to one of the finest writers of the 20th century.