on 22 April 2014
This is the first book that I have tackled by Bernhardt, and I had heard him referred to by novelists like Max Sebald and David Foster Wallace, and the comparisons high modernist writers like Kafka.
Like those mentioned, his style is challenging and at times you need a good amount of resolve to get through the especially tough parts of the book. The prose is written in very long sentences which are penetrating yet repetitive, and are from the point of view of a friend who is out in charge of executing the estate of a now deceased Roithamer - a character modeled both on the author and the fellow Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. In fact, my interest in Wittgenstein's work is what guided me, like many others, to this remarkable novel. This is what pulled me through, which is not an easy task considering that the book is not split into chapters and because of this I found it easier to read it in long sittings rather than dipping in and out. If you've ever read a Max Sebald or Jose Sarramago then you will may understand where I am coming from.
I have bought Woodcutters and Extinction and I very much plan to read them in the future. The book is mind warping, and this is perhaps why I will wait before I tackle another Bernhard.
on 14 August 2015
Thomas Bernhard attracts pretentious criticism like a cat attracts fleas and the foreword by George Steiner has all the ponderous observations you'd expect, with Amazon commentators here offering much the same lumpen prose straining for 'deep meaning'. But is it so hard? If you don't get on with TB's rhythmic, reggae-style prose (as good here as it is in Extinction), and the life of the mind is out beyond Planet Zog, then there's little point taking up this volume. However, if all that appeals, then the second half of this spellbinding book is essentially a lament for an upbringing gone wrong in an unhappy home, a desperate search for emotional equanimity manifested in an obsessional need to keep correcting things until the only thing left to correct (or end) is life itself. Roithamer's vicious battles with his mother are the basis for this personality and some of the punishments she inflicts on him as a child are what we'd now term abuse. His attraction to the Hoeller household (calm and well-regulated) and the garret there is self-explanatory, as are the childhood moments of peace he finds at the narrator's home. Poor Roithamer; he wanted peace and love and ended up with the Cone, an expression of unhappiness so perfect that it kills his sister. Not a happy tale, then, but TB was probably one of the finest writers of the last century and it's time you caught up with him.
on 12 February 2008
CORRECTION is a strange book, at times bewildering, but overall enthralling, in particular the dense, obsessional style, which I found addictive.
An unnamed narrator arrives at a friend's house - an unusual house situated on the banks of a fast-flowing river - where another friend, Rothaimer, stayed before he committed suicide in the nearby forest. The story is basically about the unnamed narrator's attempt to fully understand what drove Rothaimer to lose his mind and take his own life. He does this by going through Rothaimer's obsessional writings.
On the backcover someone describes Bernhard's writing as a "strange new beauty", and I have to agree. The prose is relentless: there are only two paragraphs! It is somewhat deranged: for the most part it's a rambling monologue concerned with the construction of a Cone in the middle of a forest. It's obsessional, with repetition being a marked feature.
Overall I found CORRECTION a challenging work that is both compelling and dizzying. The main themes of the novel are the nature of genius, the worth of creativity, and the slow-death of life. Unique.
on 8 August 1999
I consider Correction as one the best works of his author. I've read Miguel Saenz' translation into Spanish and I've found it excellent. I can't quite say wether English traslation is as good or it's not. The main Bernhard obsession are shown in this book. His peculiar, rather tough style is displayed in all its intensity as well. Amongst the former the suicide topic and the relationship between the man and Nature are worth mentioning. Among the latter, I guess those endlessly soliloques whose secret only Bernhard seems to know, would be the most characteristic. The plot is based upon Wittgenstein's life or, rather, upon Wittgenstein's philosophy. The method of this philospher has been described as a spiral -rather than lineal way of thought. He rounds the same issues all the time but getting deeper and deeper every time. In Bernhard prose, the same process can be verified. In a lineal following of the plot, not many things can be registered. But the thoughts of the protagonist are able to discover always a new view of those few issues he is obsessed with. At last, the suicide of his friend (known for the reader since the first page) can be interpreted as his last step in his impossible way from civilization (in wich he has been thrown against his will) back to Nature. Highly significative in this regard is the place where the suicide takes place: a spot in the woods exactly in the half of the way between the town and his house in the mountains. The style and the strange use of the lenguage can be interpreted in the same way. Wittgenstein once said: "When you can't talk about things is better to keep silence." Bernhard try to fight this assumption by writing. No matter what he is writing about, keep writing, unceaselessly, correcting the former phrase with the current one, and recorrecting it again, and again and againg. This effort is highly evident Bernhard work. Like the life of the suicidal, his literature is a continuos process of correction, of amending, improvement, redefinition. But is never enough. There is no end, no limit, measure bound in this toil. Written words in Bernhard are just useful to realize they can't quite convey what they are trying to. But is not a failure what he gets as a result. On the contrary, by means of suggesting what he is not able to convey, he remarks exactly what the rest of the literature always tries to hide: its dispatched of the essential, its lack of hinges, its desperately seeking in a world where no points of reference have been left.
on 29 August 2006
Before anyone thinks that my 2 stars are due to Bernhard's dense writing style, with its unparagraphed blocks of text lasting for hundreds of pages, I want to point out that his `Extinction' is one of my favourite books. `Correction' however, failed to grab me anything like as much and consequently I found myself wading through it without much enthusiasm. I was more than ready for it to end.
`Correction' is apparently based on the philosophy of Wittgenstein, something that I know very little about, which is perhaps why it lost me so quickly. The preface (by Geaorge Steiner) was written in pretentious and obscure language, where perhaps a clearer explanation of the themes and structures of `Correction' would have helped. The story is typical of what I have read of Bernhard. An alienated academic works on a project of philosophical import (a cone in the middle of a forest in which his sister will live), and while he is building it he muses on his relationship with his family and his home. The academic (Roithamer) is dead before the book begins, and it is his friend who must put Roithamer's thoughts together by staying in the room where he made his plans and wrote his thoughts down. The friend begins to understand why Roithamer had to build a cone, and why it inevitably lead to his own negation.
`Correction' contains a lot of motifs that will be familiar to Bernhard's readers, such as repetition of themes and words, and circularity of structure, as well as obsessive focus on some subjects. There are some pages where the words Altensam (Roithamer's home town) or Hoeller's garret (the room he stayed in) are repeated 20 or 30 times. For me, this structure was one of the joys of `Extinction', and something I enjoy in other writers, such as Joseph Heller. However, because I just didn't make any great intellectual or emotional connection with `Correction', it just ended up boring me, making the book a slog. Perhaps it is fairer to say that this isn't a bad book, but it was a bad one for me to have read. I'm not giving up on Bernhard yet, and will try reading more of his stuff in the future, but `Correction' isn't the one for me.
on 15 July 2014
Well, in short, this is an acknowledged masterpiece, and although not a page turner, as such, it is mesmerizing and challenging. A great read.
"Actually I'm shocked by everything I've just written, what if it was all quite different, I wonder, but I will not correct now what I've written, I'll correct it all when the time for such correction has come and then I'll correct the corrections and correct again the resulting corrections andsoforth ... We're constantly correcting, and correcting ourselves, most rigorously, because we recognise at every moment that we did it all wrong (wrote it, thought it, made it all wrong), acted all wrong, how we acted all wrong, that everything to this point in time is a falsification, so we correct this falsification, and then we again correct the correction of this falsification and we correct the result of the correction of a correction andsoforth ... But the ultimate correction is one we keep delaying ..." And that ultimate correction is made at the point of death.
This (semi-autobiographical?) novel raises profound issues about the meaning of existence, the interpretation of memory, the lack of certainty about our own interpretations, and - as a side issue - the importance of cherishing intellectual and social diversity in children.
Whilst Bernhard made me think deeply about these issues, his response - suicide - is the ultimate cop-out. At the end of the work I was left underwhelmed by the conclusion (if, indeed, there IS a conclusion) but impressed by his method and viewpoint.
I would recommend that everyone who has an interest in these issues should read this book for the originality of thought and style. But I would find it difficult to love this book and rate it five stars.
on 31 December 1997
In Correction, Thomas Bernhard arranges an interlocution between poet and thinker, between his own protagonist's theories and Heideggerrian thought. Correction seems to undertake a "mock-up" of Heideggerian thought, a parody of Heidegger's essays on "Clearing," "Origin," "Thinking." Inasmuch as there are similarities between the novel and Heidegger's essays, a "fictional-critique" of Heidegger becomes apparent. Essentially, Bernhard's novel evolves its critique not through close examination or critical analysis, but by embracing Heideggerian thought whenever Roithamer (the protagonist) attempts to enact it--in short, making it "literal." Even where Heidegger cautions that this poetic space of Origin must remain beyond the temporal capabilities of the present, Bernhard makes it exigent in his text, makes it concrete. Bernhard, however, is less interested in showing the weaknesses or contradictions in Heidegger's thinking than in illustrating the results of its realization, its literalization. Roithamer, in fact, models his architectural plans to build a Cone in the middle of a forest on Heidegger's writings on architecture and his insistence on the "mutual articulation" of city, surrounding landscape, and human culture. Similarly, throughout the novel, Roithamer is engaged in a rigorous correction of all the ideas which he had previously written in his architectural journals. Yet--having read the accumulated logic of Roithamer's dissembling--I was not left with a reduced and refined record of his thinking at the end of the novel, but ironically with an excess of meaning, the architectural plan including all its corrected ideas. In effect, as a reader, I was presented with the residue of meaning: a hard copy of the correction of Roithamer's "originary" thinking, a protuberant eulogy for the ideas which cannot be cancelled into oblivion.