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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 29 March 2000
Bernhard always grabs me into a trancelike state of reading. Something about those long sentences, the repetitive, rythmical commentary on a process of increasing decay, just seems to captivate me. In this particular book, he is unusually concise and to the point, if that is possible with Bernhard. For Bernhard is a whiner on the grand scale, like Celine, but without Celine's particular madness. Bernhard has of course his own. He also has great insight, both about himself and others; he is unusually honest and completely free of sentimentality. He can be poignant, but without schmalz. Bodil Malmsten, a Swedish poet held in high regard, once remarked in an interview, that she found Bernhard's writing to be a sexual turn-on. I've sometimes tried to imagine that but I haven't made up my mind yet. Perhaps that would demand more maturity on the behalf of the reader, or possibly less...
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 19 November 1998
On sunny afternoon towards the end of June 96 I met a famous Austrian-American psychoanalyst in a bookstore near St Stephan's Dome in Vieanna. I am almost a fan of this analyst/author,after introducing myself (a psychiatrist attending an international conference where he was lecturing),he asked me what I was reading from Austrian authors and I mentioned the only name I knew -Arthur Schnitzler, a contemporary of Sigmund Freud. He said it was OK but had I heard about Thomas Bernhard ? That was the beginning of my relationship with T.B.. The only English title from T.B.'s works was "On the Mountain"; I bought a copy and as soon as I started reading I was in touch with a conglomerate of emotions- anger,"boredom", pain, sorrow, "emptiness" and a very skillfull reflection of probing the realm of self and others in terms of various levels of self representations. As for W.'s Nephew, I should admit it is rather an easy reading title amongst T.B.'s works. Here we have the extremes; body and psyche, mental "disorder" vs medical disease, living upto all or none... W.'s Nephew tries to undo wrongs by helping paupers to the extent of becoming peniless himself (which leads to another episode of "institutionalization" with his relatives' more than willing consent) or is able to mark an opera work with his applause (or silence) as fabulous (or kill it) at the end of a premier. While W.'s Nephew might be perceived as pure emotionality the protagonist represents the "rational mind". Their relationship is based on a very true friendship and conveyed on a stage of Vieennese cafes (Sacher, Havelka..), suburbs and hospitals. I recommenf this book for those who are interested in reading about human relations in a cotext of self and others during post modernity.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 6 November 1998
Thomas Bernhard is no lover of humanity, but this is a very compassionate book. It is a sympathetic portrait of Paul Wittgenstein as well as of Bernhard himself. Bernhard comes across as rather crotchety, rather irritating, but quite stubborn in getting his point across. His ability to repeat himself - which intially leaves the reader wondering - is ultimately hilarious and endearing. This book is poignant, touching and eventually, sad.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 24 July 2003
This is one of my favourite Bernhard novels. It is both funny and pessimistic at once, slamming the borgeois and literary worlds of Vienna, while examining the themes of mental and physical illness and the artistic temperament. And although this is a portrait of Paul Wittgenstein, nephew to Ludwig, it is also a largely revealing portrait of the artist. Bernhard's view of book awards is worthy of an award in itself! But, like The Loser, this novel seems to take real-life characters and twist them into fictional constructs (eg. Paul has both his arms); however, if you know a little of Paul Wittgenstein, then you will be able to spot the differences and realise that this truth-bending only goes to serve the narrative and the narrator beneficently. It is short, like most of his works, but naturally presented in the one-paragraph format that hypnotizes you and simply does not let you put the book down. This I would almost recommend as the perfect introduction to Bernhard ... either way, a cracking good read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 8 May 2015
Last year's top reading pleasure for me was this author's Extinction, a magnificent dissection of an Austrian family's complicity in the absurdities and guilt (as in the Nazi period) of their nation. This is far shorter and I read it in an afternoon, but oh what brilliance we have on show here, the hypnotic, addictive prose relentlessly drawing on the reader. As others on this page explain it is primarily an account of a friendship between two highly creative yet difficult men who'd quickly drive most of us to fury. But Bernhard's affection for his eccentric chum is genuine enough, in evidence by his reluctance to see him when he is dying, and that core of humanity is what saves the book from being a rant. It is also hilarious and TB didnt hold back from excoriating his country and its institutions. "Austrian newspapers are not newspapers at all but mass-circulation issues of unusable toilet paper," he declaims at one point. This is brilliant stuff from a brilliant writer. Try it for yourself.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 2 February 2007
This is an optimal choice for those who have not read anything else by Thomas Bernhard. It is short enough to be read in one day, but it exemplifies many characteristic qualities of Bernhard's writing. Half-memoir, half-fiction, it "uses" Paul Wittgenstein only as a starting point. The book essentially consists of Bernhard's ruminations on doctors, sickness, health, life, art, literary establishments, Viennese coffeeshops, the aristocracy, the city and the country. A brutally honest work that wins you over, without explicitly trying to do so. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 2 January 1999
Anybody familiar with the ranting, repetitive, hauntingly beautiful prose of Thomas Bernhard cannot possibly be disappointed by this short, semi-biographical account of the author's friendship with Paul Wittgenstein. Here, however, we find something new, something painfully confessional, a sense of contrition and devastating self-recrimination which probably reaches the heart of Bernhard's work - a disgust for human vulnerability and weakness which stems from his own weaknesses, and which is the source of his despair.
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on 27 June 2011
At just 100 pages one might think that this is a light read, but then one is faced with aragraoph, no chapters, no breaks. Persevere and one finds excellent insights into the feelings of patients and those facing death, but also amusing insights into Vienna life. I bought this to accompany a visit to Vienna and it helped to bring the visit to life.
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