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on 3 October 2016
Probably the best book I have read since Ballard last year and it will certainly take something truly good to displace this as best read of the year. I can hardly add to the excellent Afterword written by Mark Anderson on this book and Thomas Bernhard. This is not so much a book as a supreme work of art which uses form to delineate something bigger and more important.

Bernhard uses the method that he used in most of his writings which is a long, single paragraphed monologue of great intensity. Anderson points out that there is much in the book which is auto-biographical but he distorts his facts to serve his purpose. His means to do this is through his three protagonists, all friends and colleagues and piano students under Horovitz at the Mozarteum in Salzburg - Glenn Gould, Wertheimer and the narrator. All three have elements of Bernhard in them as they appear on the page. Gould is more or less true to life as the virtuoso genius of the Goldberg Variations which plays an important function through the book. The book unfolds like one great series of variations - Bernhard's own Goldberg - turning on itself, giving a line, repeating that line with added information later, never resisting the flow of information but by repeat building up layer upon layer of truth and beauty as Bernhard sees it.

In some ways one should read the afterwords first to give a lien to the complexity and modern relevance of 'The Loser' which Anderson is to be complimented on, as too is Jack Dawson for the excellent and painstaking translation. But to read the Afterword first would detract from the voyage of discovery and pure pleasure that this book brings to the reader.

A word of warning. Do not pick this book up if you want linear narrative. If you want it all laid out on a plate for you, if you are not prepared to think and work at this book and to read EVERY word, every sentence - every note so to speak - then give this one a miss. It needs the extra care and attention.

However if you DO do this then you will be opening up a modern master. This is a brilliant book and Thomas Bernhard's work needs to be more readily available.
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on 31 March 2008
This is my second Thomas Bernhard novel, and whilst reading it my liking for his unique prose style increased. An unnamed narrator walks into an inn and talks to himself about his two best friends (one being Glenn Gould the famous piano virtuoso, the other being Wertheimer "the loser" who has committed suicide by hanging himself near his sister's house). The obsessional, repetitive and funny thoughts of the unnamed narrator continue for half the novel whilst he stands in the inn: it must be the longest wait for a drink in history! Eventually the landlady sees him and it isn't long before he has moved on, both physically and mentally, to the subject of Wertheimer's decline and suicide. It all sounds grim and pointless, but it's surprisingly engaging, especially for the reader who has a liking for cynicism and unhinged rambling: the word "cretinism" pops up quite a lot. Overall, I didn't find The Loser as satisfying as "Correction" (my first TB novel), it isn't as deep or disturbing, but still I was impressed by the peculiar intensity of it all.
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on 6 August 2015
This spellbinding "novel" details the thoughts filling what is surely the longest wait to attract the attention of an innkeeper in all of literature. The unnamed narrator (a TB trademark) muses on the creative soul - here that possessed by piano virtuosi - and the destructive effect consummate genius has on its lesser varieties, driving one character to artistic lassitude and one to a grotesquely theatrical suicide. This rumination, conveyed in relentless, hypnotic prose, is undertaken presumably as the narrator leans on an empty bar or reception desk, listening to the innkeeper performing mundane tasks "out back", unaware of their waiting customer. The characters are insufferably elitist - and one, Glenn Gould, actually was a musical prodigy - but such is the quality of the prose that you barely notice that you are being called a "cretin" on a regular basis. Thomas, you were a consummate genius yourself but, I gather, a pain in the backside to boot. May it ever be thus.
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on 31 May 2003
Bernhard is one of those discoveries one makes in literature - due to the fact he is quite obscure - which will either leave you cold, or, as in my case, with a new favourite author.
His writing is - 'labyrinthine' - is probably the best word, and he uses a method of repetition a little like Broch (emulated by Sebald and Rick Moody), which serves mostly to hypnotic effect. The prose is hypnotic and rhythmic and repetitive, and quite stream of consciousness, and usually his novels are constructed in one, or a few, paragraphs, and only as many sentences as there are pages. The Loser is one of the more conventional narratives, largely about a guy who is so distraught that his sister won't 'look after him' that he hangs himself in front of her house. Though she doesn't notice. This is typical of Bernhard's black and sardonic sense of humour. It is also about the aforementioned man and the narrator's not being able to deal with the vituosic genius of Glenn Gould - and thanks to this novel I am now discovering the genius of his oeuvre - but strangely gives a lot of quite false details about this real person's life. It is very much about the musician's vocation, but not really music, which incidentally is what Bernhard studied before turning to journalism, then drama then novels. Illness, depression, music, philosophy, suicide and writing are Bernhard's core themes, and as in this novel, The Loser, you get a quite depressing, though darkly funny, and interesting read. If you are a fan of Broch, Sebald, Joyce, Bellow or Houellebecq, this is the same pessimistic labyrinthine engrossing kind of prose. The Loser is a novel not easily forgotten - highly recommended.
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on 10 May 2000
Thomas Bernhard approaches his best ever form in this book. It charts with extreme bitterness, and self-loathing the progress of an old-man as he lumbers around 'in the inn'. It is a work of undisputable genius, as Bernhard's lines seem to go on for ever, almost crazed in its style, but somehow darkly brilliant. This piece cannot be categorised as a 'serious' work - on the contrary! It is the funniest book I have ever read, and the italicised rants 'the deterioration process', 'a professional aphorist' etc. and the indifference with which the narrator approaches the subject, but continues with a venomous indifference is pure entertainment, and pure ridiculousness.
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on 7 September 2000
Bernhard is still relatively little known to the Anglo-American audience, but I believe he is the most serious contender for the inheritor of the mantle of Celine and Beckett.
In 'The Loser' he produces a heartbreaking meditation on the demands the pursuit of an art at the highest level places upon an honest devotee. I have never encountered a more clear-sighted study of human failure depicted with an utter lack of sentimentality or self-pity. In this book Bernhard disposes definitively of the charges of heartlessness and flippancy which are sometimes laid at his door.
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on 26 November 2011
This review is going to do something that novel reviews aren't meant to do: that is, reflect on the substance of the ideas and thinking behind the book, rather than on the quality of the book as a novel.

Stylistically the book is perhaps a minor triumph, and if you can read close to stream-of-consciousness prose there is something hypnotic about the repetitions that reflect the looping thoughts of a human mind.

It is not necessary enjoyable to read this style, though that is a subjective judgement. However I found it hard to force myself through a style that - while accomplished - I didn't much like, because the substance of the book was somewhat repellant to me.

I think it is possible to write a book about art, success, failure and so on without wallowing in delusions of superiority. This all of the characters, and I suspect the author himself (the ironic distance is not well maintained, despite some self-mocking) completely fail to do. This is a work of relentless elitism by someone who understands rather too well the feeling of disgust for his own audience. I cannot see it as anything but the author's attempt to establish his own superiority.

This is not how one is meant to write a review, because I suppose it comes down to this: regardless of the merits of the novel, I do not like Thomas Bernhard.
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on 22 October 1997
If you are agree with this book ... I recomend you the Oskar K. Maerth's book entitled "The Beginning was the End". Maybe you will find the answer for your questions.
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