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Frost, by Thomas Bernhard, is a work of existential literature and, as such, it has no particular plot, though it does have a structure; the narrator, an unnamed medical intern, is tasked by his immediate superior with getting to know,and reporting on, the Doctor's estranged brother, a painter who no longer paints, a depressed and acerbic misanthrope living in a village isolated from progressive society. 

The narrative consists primarily of the painter's rants, with occasional observations by the narrator. It reminded me in many places of Samuel Beckett, and while it was more accessible than Beckett it was also less absurdist, and to my mind, slightly less profound. It was also somewhat colder and more intellectual than Beckett. 
But Frost also manages several other character studies, both by using monologues by the character's themselves, and by differing view points from other characters.  
The writing is consistently good, sometimes great, and often poetic without ever being lyrical. Though the scattershot manner of the painter's rants, and their frequent non sequiturs, can be disconcerting and hard to follow. 
For me the greatest dramatic tension came from the question of whether or not the painter is insane. And, if so, does that actually invalidate his perceptions, since he clearly lives in that world? Which begs the bigger question- How much does our mental state and imagination affect our so-called reality? And are we all, to a greater or lesser extent, delusional? 
Is madness contagious? This is another theme of this book. For clearly ideas can be infectious, and when they are virulent,poisonous, and unbalanced, the result can certainly be debilitating.
There was humor here, black and thunderhead grey, but I think some of it was lost in translation, and though what remained was often savage, it seemed more inclined to the petty and mean spirited variety. And the painter takes himself so seriously that I don't think he actually has a sense of humor. 
Ultimately I found the book to be too one sided, albeit reflective of the unbalanced mind of the painter. Even as misanthropic as I can be I recognize that there is some good in most people. And though I agree, as a devout pessimist, that everything always turns out for the worst eventually, I find that I can't agree with the assertion that life, regardless of its hollow emptiness, is an unrelenting, and unremitting, crapfest of a horror show.  But that is the world as seen through the lenses of fear and ego. And it is hard to find flaws in the painter's negative reasoning, as when he says;
"Cold is one of the great A-truths, the greatest of all the A-truths, and therefore it is all truths rolled into one. Truth is always a process of extermination, you must understand. Truth leads downhill, points downhill, truth is always an abyss. Untruth is a climbing, an up, untruth is no death, as truth is death, untruth is no abyss, but untruth is not A-truth, you understand: the great infirmities do not approach us from outside, the great infirmities have been within us, surprisingly, for millions of years..."
So possibly it's my own delusional reluctance to acknowledge the validity of this overwhelmingly dark Weltanshaung that is the issue. But I think it is the absence in this book of even the possibility of a genuinely spiritual perception that is most off-putting. 
 This would've been a much better read at 200, rather than 341, pages. But I'm glad I read it, if only for the questions it raised, rather than the answers it gave. 
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