Publication Date: October 13, 2009
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It is 1967. In separate wings of a Viennese hospital, two men lie bedridden. The narrator, named Thomas Bernhard, is stricken with a lung ailment; his friend Paul, nephew of the celebrated philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, is suffering from one of his periodic bouts of madness. As their once-casual friendship quickens, these two eccentric men begin to discover in each other a possible antidote to their feelings of hopelessness and mortality—a spiritual symmetry forged by their shared passion for music, strange sense of humor, disgust for bourgeois Vienna, and great fear in the face of death. Part memoir, part fiction, Wittgenstein’s Nephew is both a meditation on the artist’s struggle to maintain a solid foothold in a world gone incomprehensibly askew, and a stunning—if not haunting—eulogy to a real-life friendship.
Thomas Bernhard was born in 1931 and grew up in Salzburg and in Vienna, where he studied music. In 1957 he began a second career as a playwright, poet, and novelist. A winner of the three most distinguished and coveted literary prizes awarded in Germany, he is one of the most widely translated and admired writers of his generation. His works already published in English include the novels Gargoyles, Tire Lime Works, Correction, Concrete, Woodcutters, Wittgenstein's Nephew, and The Loser, and a memoir, Gathering Evidence. A number of his plays have been produced off-Broadway and at the Tyrone Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis, and at theaters in London and throughout Europe. Thomas Bernhard died in 1989.
For his translations of works by Thomas Bernhard, David McLintock was awarded an Austrian state prize in 1986, and in 1990 he won the SchlegelTieck Prize for his translation of Heinrich Boll's Women in a River Landscape. Mr. McLintock graduated from Oxford University, studied in Munster and Munich, and now lives in London.