ABOUT THIS BOOK
Thomas Bernhard is "one of the masters of contemporary European fiction" (George Steiner); "one of the century's most gifted writers" (New York Newsday); "a virtuoso of rancor and rage" (Bookforum). And although he is favorably compared with Franz Kafka, Samuel Beckett, and Robert Musil, Thomas Bernhard still remains relatively unknown in America.
Uninitiated readers should consider Three Novellas a passport to the absurd, dark, and uncommonly comic world of Bernhard. Two of the three novellas here have never before been published in English, and all of them show an early preoccupation with the themes-illness and madness, isolation, tragic friendships-that would obsess Bernhard throughout his career. Amras, one of his earliest works, tells the story of two brothers, one epileptic, who have survived a family suicide pact and are now living in a ruined tower, struggling with madness, trying either to come fully back to life or finally to die. In Playing Watten, the narrator, a doctor who lost his practice due to morphine abuse, describes a visit paid him by a truck driver who wanted the doctor to return to his habit of playing a game of cards (watten) every Wednesday—a habit that the doctor had interrupted when one of the players killed himself. The last novella, Walking, records the conversations of the narrator and his friend Oehler while they walk, discussing anything that comes to mind but always circling back to their mutual friend Karrer, who has gone irrevocably mad. Perhaps the most overtly philosophical work in Bernhard's highly philosophical oeuvre, Walking provides a penetrating meditation on the impossibility of truly thinking.
Three Novellas offers a superb introduction to the fiction of perhaps the greatest unsung hero of twentieth-century literature. Rarely have the words suffocating, intense, and obsessive been meant so positively.