By Thomas Bernhard
(Vintage, Paperback, 9781400077595, 192pp.)
Publication Date: August 10, 2010
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Fiercely observed, often hilarious, and “reminiscent of Ibsen and Strindberg” (The New York Times Book Review), this exquisitely controversial novel was initially banned in its author’s homeland.
A searing portrayal of Vienna’s bourgeoisie, it begins with the arrival of an unnamed writer at an ‘artistic dinner’ hosted by a composer and his society wife—a couple he once admired and has come to loathe. The guest of honor, a distinguished actor from the Burgtheater, is late. As the other guests wait impatiently, they are seen through the critical eye of the writer, who narrates a silent but frenzied tirade against these former friends, most of whom have been brought together by Joana, a woman they buried earlier that day. Reflections on Joana’s life and suicide are mixed with these denunciations until the famous actor arrives, bringing an explosive end to the evening that even the writer could not have seen coming.
Thomas Bernhard was born in Holland in 1931 and grew up in Austria. He studied music at the Akademie Mozarteum in Salzburg. In 1957 he began a second career, as a playwright, poet, and novelist. The winner of the three most distinguished and coveted literary prizes awarded in Germany, he has become one of the most widely translated and admired writers of his generation. He published nine novels, an autobiography, one volume of poetry, four collections of short stories, and six volumes of plays. Thomas Bernhard died in Austria in 1989.
“Superbly distinctive and provocative. . . . An unusually intense, engrossing literary experience.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“Musical, dramatic and set in Vienna, Woodcutters resembles a Strauss operetta with a libretto by Beckett. . . . Bernhard is easily the most original and important writer in German since Gunter Grass.”
“Bernhard’s narrators are prodigious haters, and yet we love them; they are too brilliant for it to be otherwise.”
“No other book by Bernhard could possibly constitute a better introduction to his work as a whole. Apart from perfectly illustrating his shrewdness, disgruntlement and acute awareness, Woodcutters is very funny.”
—The Washington Post