By Thomas Bernhard
(Knopf, Hardcover, 9781400040667, 352pp.)
Publication Date: October 17, 2006
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Visceral, raw, singular, and distinctive, Frost is the story of a friendship between a young man at the beginning of his medical career and a painter who is entering his final days.
A writer of world stature, Thomas Bernhard combined a searing wit and an unwavering gaze into the human condition. Frost follows an unnamed young Austrian who accepts an unusual assignment. Rather than continue with his medical studies, he travels to a bleak mining town in the back of beyond, in order to clinically observe the aged painter, Strauch, who happens to be the brother of this young man’s surgical mentor. The catch is this: Strauch must not know the young man’s true occupation or the reason for his arrival. Posing as a promising law student with a love of Henry James, the young man befriends the mad artist and is caught up among an equally extraordinary cast of local characters, from his resentful landlady to the town’s mining engineers.
This debut novel by Thomas Bernhard, which came out in German in 1963 and is now being published in English for the first time, marks the beginning of what was one of the twentieth century’s most powerful, provocative literary careers.
Thomas Bernhard was born in Holland in 1931 and grew up in Austria. His interest in music and theater led him to study at the Akademie Mozarteum in Salzburg. He published nine novels, an autobiography, one volume of poetry, four collections of short stories, and six volumes of plays. He died in Austria in 1989.
“If Frost is an apprentice work, a blast of raw feeling without the formal elegance of his later novels, it already heralds Bernhard’s urge not just to look death in the face but to climb directly into its mouth and produce a fearless report of the architectural dimensions of a place that few of us care to imagine for very long. In writing that is remarkable for how close it takes us to our own ending, Bernhard is, finally, uplifting and revelatory, because he does not turn away from the most central and awful part of reality. His characters are so ruthlessly determined not to be fooled that they ruin themselves before our eyes. This is mercilessly honest work that shows the moral consequences of being highly alert to life, and it is terrifying to read. As the narrator of Frost says of his own report, ‘I could read the whole thing back, but I would only give myself a fright.’”
–Ben Marcus, Harper’s Magazine
“The late, brilliant Austrian writer’s first (1963) novel, previously untranslated, is a characteristic excoriation of all things great and small and the tragicomedy of existence . . . perversely exhilarating.”
–starred, Kirkus Reviews
“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.”