Extinction: A Novel (book review) Thomas Bernhard

220114: having read a few austrian novels, several jelinek, in particular [book:The Piano Teacher|764953], i have general idea that it is not pleasant place. as the narrator insists he is exaggerating to tell the truth, he certainly writes against that politesse ideal that <I>if you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything</I>: he has nothing nice to say, not about the country, the people, the petit bourgeois culture... and he goes to great lengths saying it. in more or less unbroken diatribe he excoriates everything from his background, his brother, father, sisters, particularly mother, then the catholic culture, rural bourgeois, the national socialist history (nazi)...


read this possibly too quickly, too early in his works if this is indeed his masterpiece, but once i got used to his style it is hard to stop. it addresses an entire history and politics of middle european countries, and that particular vision of the artist as truth-teller and outsider compelled to reveal all the mendacity he sees (<I>mendacity</I> is favourite word) in everyone. there does not seem to be plot, simply unending vitriol. he has nothing sacred, not even the church... despite his approval of certain characters... such as his sole idol uncle georg, who helps him leave provincial austria for the world city of rome and delights of intellectual life...


his ideas of the horrors of photography, <I>happiness when you are unhappy</i> are subject of one diatribe, his comments on the <I>ugliness</I> of German language, music, plays- philosophy in general are further exclamations... and do not get him to comment on his mother!


he is full of judgements, and, as it is mostly himself talking to himself, he shares them all. all. he is hilarious, not least when he becomes self-conscious enough to notice how he himself is behaving badly. read this of course in translation. easy, propulsive, acerbic. not sense of humour for everyone. wondered if the translator used stock words or did bernhard just deliberately repeat himself: he castigates most everyone as <I>base, ignorant, stupid, weak, mendacious</I>... and you follow his winding, meditative sentences first with shock, then doubt, then admiration, as his voice does not change or soften until the last page, when the clarity of the title comes through...

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