Frost

Thomas Bernhard, Author, Michael Hofmann, Translator , trans. from the German by Michael Hofmann. Knopf $25.95 (341p) ISBN 978-1-4000-4066-7

A student's increasingly erratic dispatches over 27 days comprise this obsessive first novel by Bernhard (1931–1989), published to European acclaim in 1963. An unnamed medical student is sent from Vienna by his supervisor, an eminent surgeon named Strauch, to undertake "precise observation" of the surgeon's brother, a famous painter who has suddenly left the city for the "dismal" village of Weng. After "systematically inveigling" himself into the company of the painter under the pretense of being a vacationing law student, the student slowly feels his own mood and mental attitudes being subsumed by the painter's paranoid outbursts and disjointed monologues. Weng itself, located in a grim valley still bearing the grisly traces of WWII, is a hotbed of murky scandal: the landlady sleeps with the village knacker (handyman), while her husband, against whom she testified in a murder trial, sits in jail; a traveling show appears in the village displaying "deformed women and deformed animals"; a barn is torched. All are dutifully reported by the disintegrating student. Bernhard's glorious talent for bleak existential monologues is second only to Beckett's, and seems to have sprung up fully mature in his mesmerizing debut. (Oct. 19)

Reviewed on: 08/21/2006
Release date: 10/01/2006
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 341 pages - 978-1-4000-3351-5
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