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Woodcutters


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Woodcutters is widely recognised as Bernhard's masterpiece. It's a short novel, 181 pages, and is written in one long monologue, no paragraphs and no chapters, which takes a wee bit of getting used to. It's a satire novel and so is critical of Austrian society and it's values in the time period in which this is set, the 1980s.  This is the second in a trilogy about the arts.  The first is The Loser and the last is Old Masters.

 

from Amazon : "Over the course of a few hours, following a performance of Ibsen's The Wild Duck, we are in the company of the Auersbergers, and our narrator, who never once leaves the relative comfort of his 'wing-backed chair' where he sips at a glass of champagne. As they anticipate the arrival of the star actor, and the commencement of dinner, the narrator of Woodcutters dismantles the hollow pretentiousness at the heart of the Austrian bourgeoisie. The effect is devastating; the horror only redeemed by the humour."  Except that I didn't see any humour in this at all.

 

Horror is correct, however.  This is Bernhard at his cutting best. Vicious and nasty he takes no prisoners.  Blunt and to the point the criticisms come thick and fast and nobody is spared, even the narrator us subjected to vicious criticism, but only occasionally.  The prose is astonishing and while the criticisms are off-the-wall nasty they are also perceptive and revealing. As the evening wears on the narrator comes to feel some sympathy for the actor who states at the conclusion of the meal that he might have been better off being a simple woodcutter - there is a lot more to this book than just simple criticism 

 

This book is amazing and well worth reading but you need to be strong to read the criticisms which are downright nasty.

 

 

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