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This controversial portrayal of Viennese artistic circles begins as the writer-narrator arrives at an 'artistic dinner' given by a composer and his society wife—a couple that the writer once admired but has now come to loathe. The guest of honor, an actor from the Burgtheater, is late. As the other guests wait impatiently, they are seen through the critical eye of the narr This controversial portrayal of Viennese artistic circles begins as the writer-narrator arrives at an 'artistic dinner' given by a composer and his society wife—a couple that the writer once admired but has now come to loathe. The guest of honor, an actor from the Burgtheater, is late. As the other guests wait impatiently, they are seen through the critical eye of the narrator, who begins a silent but frenzied, sometimes maniacal, and often ambivalent tirade against these former friends, most of whom were brought together by the woman whom they had buried that day. Reflections on Joana's life and suicide are mixed with these denunciations until the famous actor arrives, bringing a culmination to the evening for which the narrator had not even thought to hope. "Mr. Bernhard's portrait of a society in dissolution has a Scandinavian darkness reminiscent of Ibsen and Strindberg, but it is filtered through with a minimalist prose. . . . Woodcutters offers an unusually strange, intense, engrossing literary experience."—Mark Anderson, New York Times Book Review "Musical, dramatic and set in Vienna, Woodcutters. . . .resembles a Strauss operetta with a libretto by Beckett."—Joseph Costes, Chicago Tribune "Thomas Bernhard, the great pessimist-rhapsodist of German literature . . . never compromises, never makes peace with life. . . . Only in the pure, fierce isolation of his art can he get justice."—Michael Feingold, Village Voice "In typical Bernhardian fashion the narrator is moved by hatred and affection for a society that he believes destroys the very artistic genius it purports to glorify. A superb translation."—Library Journal


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This controversial portrayal of Viennese artistic circles begins as the writer-narrator arrives at an 'artistic dinner' given by a composer and his society wife—a couple that the writer once admired but has now come to loathe. The guest of honor, an actor from the Burgtheater, is late. As the other guests wait impatiently, they are seen through the critical eye of the narr This controversial portrayal of Viennese artistic circles begins as the writer-narrator arrives at an 'artistic dinner' given by a composer and his society wife—a couple that the writer once admired but has now come to loathe. The guest of honor, an actor from the Burgtheater, is late. As the other guests wait impatiently, they are seen through the critical eye of the narrator, who begins a silent but frenzied, sometimes maniacal, and often ambivalent tirade against these former friends, most of whom were brought together by the woman whom they had buried that day. Reflections on Joana's life and suicide are mixed with these denunciations until the famous actor arrives, bringing a culmination to the evening for which the narrator had not even thought to hope. "Mr. Bernhard's portrait of a society in dissolution has a Scandinavian darkness reminiscent of Ibsen and Strindberg, but it is filtered through with a minimalist prose. . . . Woodcutters offers an unusually strange, intense, engrossing literary experience."—Mark Anderson, New York Times Book Review "Musical, dramatic and set in Vienna, Woodcutters. . . .resembles a Strauss operetta with a libretto by Beckett."—Joseph Costes, Chicago Tribune "Thomas Bernhard, the great pessimist-rhapsodist of German literature . . . never compromises, never makes peace with life. . . . Only in the pure, fierce isolation of his art can he get justice."—Michael Feingold, Village Voice "In typical Bernhardian fashion the narrator is moved by hatred and affection for a society that he believes destroys the very artistic genius it purports to glorify. A superb translation."—Library Journal

30 review for Woodcutters

  1. 4 out of 5

    İntellecta

    The book is excellently readable, and in my opinion this makes it a very good entry for people who have not read Bernhard yet. But it contains everything that makes the books of Bernhard so readable: repetitions, cynicism, polemics and yet a certain sense of humor.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Steven Godin

    As I sat in my chair after reading of a man sat in a chair, I thought, what an odd, darkly comic and nihilistically cold book this was. The only thing I am sure of is I haven't read anything quite like it before. I wouldn't have minded going for a drink with Mr Bernhard, but if this is his idea of a dinner party, I would decline the invitation and stay at home with a good book and some takeaway noodles. The novel takes place over only a couple of hours, but is told with large chunks of flashback As I sat in my chair after reading of a man sat in a chair, I thought, what an odd, darkly comic and nihilistically cold book this was. The only thing I am sure of is I haven't read anything quite like it before. I wouldn't have minded going for a drink with Mr Bernhard, but if this is his idea of a dinner party, I would decline the invitation and stay at home with a good book and some takeaway noodles. The novel takes place over only a couple of hours, but is told with large chunks of flashback thoughts, so the time scale feels far greater, and features an intolerable narrator who can't be bothered to leave the 'wing-backed chair' his derrière is comfortably planted on, during an uncomfortable dinner party held in honour of an actor performing in a production of Ibsen's The Wild Duck. The hosts, 'the Auersbergers', are a most unlikeable couple (ignorant cultural snobs), I though, as I sat in my chair, so unlikeable in fact, that I actually started to like them the more the story progressed, the novel on the whole is a scathing attack on the futile pretentiousness at the heart of Austrian bourgeoisie society. And Bernhard marvels in it's telling. After attending the funeral of friend Joana, a suicide victim, our narrator is off to the artistic dinner party, after accepting to be a guest of the Auersbergers, after bumping into them whilst out. He hasn't been acquainted with them for many years, and despises them with deep repugnance. Still, he goes along, observing the rest of the despicable crowd from his winged chair, waiting for what seems like an eternity for the actor to arrive. He looks back over the past, and reviews his grievances against his hosts and their pretentious friends, and thinks, hard, and in such a flurry of disdain, and his account is set down in one long paragraph that starts on the book's first page and doesn't close until the narrative concludes. There are no chapters, and no breaks, it's all done in one long swoop. The nonstop stream of consciousness is demanding of the reader but fully appropriate to this satirical jeremiad, and he, the narrator is consumed by a crotchety, often vitriolic interior monologue which illuminates his own personality and his relationships with the other guests, I thought, as I sat in my chair. Apparently, many Viennese who feel worthy of greatness recognised themselves here and were upset at their depiction, it's little wonder, as there's little in the way of compassion. Bernhard pretty much pokes fun and loathes most of those in the novel. On reading Bernhard for the first time, there will definitely be more to follow, I thought, as I sat in my chair, the stunning writing in the first section had me hooked, and even though it fell away slightly later on with an ending I am still pondering on, overall I was well impressed. After confronting a circular mass of sentences, with a repetition of building into a dizzying wall of words seemingly intended to obscure meaning and prevent progress, I slowly but surely, accepted Bernhard's narrative, and just went with it. The narrator sees in his eyes, some blame falling on the shoulders of the Auersbergers for Joana's death (someone he was very close to), but in fact, the truth be told, he, is just as guilty as all the others of using those around, below and above him to make his way to the top of society, financially, sexually, any which way really. It felt like reading this with an annoying piece of lemon stuck in my mouth, the sour taste throughout was unprecedented. I cursed under my breath at every given opportunity for these nauseating characters, but after a while the sickness wore off, and down to the way Bernhard goes about his business, I couldn't help but fall in with them.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    Ok, let’s just cut to the chase. This work, this novel, this brilliantly flowing diatribe of comic vitriol, is a work of pure consummate genius. The writing, the pacing, the internal dialogue, the word choice, and probably the translation, too (though that is only a guess)—it is all perfect, perfect, perfect. You people will think I’m joking when I say this, but I am telling you: this book is a freaking page-turner. Woodcutters is the first-person narrative of an over-the-hill, acrimonious gentle Ok, let’s just cut to the chase. This work, this novel, this brilliantly flowing diatribe of comic vitriol, is a work of pure consummate genius. The writing, the pacing, the internal dialogue, the word choice, and probably the translation, too (though that is only a guess)—it is all perfect, perfect, perfect. You people will think I’m joking when I say this, but I am telling you: this book is a freaking page-turner. Woodcutters is the first-person narrative of an over-the-hill, acrimonious gentleman who becomes reunited with a group of shallow, pretentious, artistic “wannabe” individuals with whom he had once been intimately acquainted, after the death of one of their mutual friends. For most of the story, the narrator sits in a wing chair in the corner of the anteroom of one of these people’s homes, after having been invited there following the friend’s funeral, and silently blasts his hosts for their abominable character and their tactlessness at hosting this party to begin with, as it was initially meant to be an artistic dinner to honor an artistic guest, and only later became an in memoriam dinner to honor their dead friend, as—it should be mentioned—it was only for this latter purpose, once it was learned that the friend had died, that the narrator was extended an invitation. And that’s it. That is the entire premise of this novel, and yet it is all Bernhard needed to completely knock it out of the park. For anyone who knows me, or for those who have been following my reviews long enough (why? why would you do that to yourselves?), you might know I’m a sucker for an ambiguous character, or perhaps a character whose motives reveal themselves as contrary to what the character would prefer you to believe. Our narrator would like you to believe, as he seethes away in his wing chair, that he is unlike the miserable hosts of the party to which he had been invited, unlike their vacuous, imbecilic guests, and unlike the insufferable artistic-guest-of-honor who hasn’t even shown up yet but who the narrator has already made clear is insufferable and is unlike him, the narrator, as he sits in his wing chair. But as he continues to rip into these people, you start to wonder...how did the hosts manage to invite the narrator to their party in the first place if the narrator insists he has always tried to avoid these people? How has his opinion of these people managed to change so drastically from the days during which he used to associate with them? And what do these people think of him, the narrator, as he sits in his wing chair ridiculing all of them? Look, you know what? I’ve said enough about this novel. I don’t like long reviews, so I’m just going to say one more thing: this book is phenomenal, and my only challenge to you, my review-reading audience, is to read one paragraph, just one single paragraph of this novel, because it is all you will need to become as enamored with this book as I am.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Vit Babenco

    Woodcutters is a story about the ruination of artistic hopes – it is a complex, multilayered and caustic tale of life in the world of arts. People hated me and everything I wrote, and ganged up against me in the most vicious fashion whenever they saw me. But ever since my return from London I had been on my guard against them, against all the people I had known previously, but above all against these so-called artistic figures from the fifties, and especially those who had come to this artistic d Woodcutters is a story about the ruination of artistic hopes – it is a complex, multilayered and caustic tale of life in the world of arts. People hated me and everything I wrote, and ganged up against me in the most vicious fashion whenever they saw me. But ever since my return from London I had been on my guard against them, against all the people I had known previously, but above all against these so-called artistic figures from the fifties, and especially those who had come to this artistic dinner. The narration – a virtual torrent of gall – is an inner soliloquy of an old lonely writer disappointed in all those present at the artistic dinner and in all their creative ambitions. This inner monologue is sorrowfully bitter and sadly ambivalent… How low they’ve sunk, I thought as I sat in the wing chair – these people who as far as I can see have been artistically, intellectually and spiritually bankrupt for decades… At one time, of course, all these people had actually been artists, or at least possessed artistic talents, I thought, sitting in the wing chair, but now they were just so much artistic riffraff, having about as much to do with art and the artistic as this dinner party of the Auersbergers’. All these people, who were once real artists, or at least in some way artistic, I thought as I sat in the wing chair, are now nothing but shams, husks of their former selves… High hopes of youth… But the artists grew older and their hopes got fewer… Some of them were left behind, some were over the edge, some drowned their talents in alcohol, some compromised, some became opportunistic and some sold themselves out… There sit the Marianne Moore, the Gertrude Stein and the Virginia Woolf of Vienna, I thought, and yet they are nothing but devious, ambitious little state protégées, who have betrayed literature – and art in general – for the sake of a few ludicrous prizes and a guaranteed pension, kowtowing to the state and its cultural riffraff, churning out their derivative kitsch for the vilest of motives and spending their time going up and down the stairs of the ministries that dole out subventions. There are true objects of art and there are fashionable objects of art: fashionable books, fashionable films, fashionable music… To live in accordance with fashion is to live a life of pretence and falsehood.

  5. 5 out of 5

    David

    In a prominent, well-trafficked gallery of the Bad Dinner Guest Hall of Fame we should logically expect to find the (unnamed) narrator of Thomas Bernhard's excoriating masterpiece Woodcutters, who not only isolates himself from the other guests, preferring a lone wing chair in the entryway to their generally detestable company, but also spends the better part of the evening mentally dissecting, dismantling, and disparaging everyone who is unlucky enough to fall under his gaze. At the long-antici In a prominent, well-trafficked gallery of the Bad Dinner Guest Hall of Fame we should logically expect to find the (unnamed) narrator of Thomas Bernhard's excoriating masterpiece Woodcutters, who not only isolates himself from the other guests, preferring a lone wing chair in the entryway to their generally detestable company, but also spends the better part of the evening mentally dissecting, dismantling, and disparaging everyone who is unlucky enough to fall under his gaze. At the long-anticipated conclusion of the party, the narrator admits that he only spoke twice -- once to ask a question of the guest of honor, and later to insult the host. Once he falls asleep and shrugs off the hostess testily when she tries to wake him. Later he remains at the dinner table, alone, after everyone has retired to the 'music room.' Bernhard is preoccupied with antisocial characters to a remarkable extent. It isn't merely that they confine themselves to a subculture, or anti-culture; they are resolutely alone, standing as a lone bulwark against a society they loathe -- and perhaps love, but only as a side effect of intense familiarity. I wonder about Austria, don't you? Both Bernhard and Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke seem to have harbored a virulent hatred of their native country. While I sense the depths of their antipathy, I wonder what it is that is peculiar to Austrian society that they dislike. Is there an Austrian condition -- or a particular variety of decadence -- that can be defined or delimited from that of Europe or the 'Western World' in general? At any rate, our proximity to our own homes, wherever they may be at the moment, affords us an ideal vantage from which to examine their faults. Austria or America. Uruguay or Uzbekistan. Sri Lanka or Sudan. There's nothing so revolting as the place where we shit. There's nothing so instructive as the cultural claustrophobia of spending too many days among like-kinds. (There's, of course, a comfort too. Even in Bernhard's bleak appraisal.) This novel should be read by Americans because Americans (in general) are too optimistic. They think too highly of themselves and of the human species. Or I should amend that statement... Americans think too infrequently about themselves, in a serious way, reflectively, critically, and prefer to subsist on a high-fat diet of platitudes, new age aphorisms, and moronic idealism. This isn't to say that idealism is itself categorically moronic, but the American brand often is. It fails to take into account even the most basic constraints of reality. It's saccharine, false... It's the mirage that leads the dying man farther into the desert. I think the narrator's almost unmitigated bitterness is the [or my] antidote to the wan security a nation or society feels in itself, whether ours or any other's. Many readers may find the narrator's harping and ruthless judgments to be too radical a corrective. We've been instructed to regard cynicism with suspicion. It is a cancerous affliction which undermines the effects of positivity and lightness of spirit. There are all kinds of studies, you know, that seem to indicate that positive thinking heals us (to some limited extent) physically and psychologically. But at what cost? If I am here to live my life (at the bidding of science, fortune, or both), I'd prefer not to live it anesthetized, a disciple in the cult of can-do-ism. I'd rather sit alone in the wing chair and think to myself what a complete and total ass you are. And by 'you' I mean anybody.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Manuel Antão

    Before the year 2012 was out, I needed my usual fix of Thomas Bernhard... I've picked my favourite: Holzfällen" (meaning literally "Lumbering"). I've read this in German a long time ago. This time round I wanted to tackle him through an English translation. I've chosen the McLintock translation, due to the raving reviews, and I must say it never felt I was reading a translation. At the end of this English version, I wanted to read again the German version, just to feel the flow of reading a book Before the year 2012 was out, I needed my usual fix of Thomas Bernhard... I've picked my favourite: Holzfällen" (meaning literally "Lumbering"). I've read this in German a long time ago. This time round I wanted to tackle him through an English translation. I've chosen the McLintock translation, due to the raving reviews, and I must say it never felt I was reading a translation. At the end of this English version, I wanted to read again the German version, just to feel the flow of reading a book in the form of 192-pages-no-chapters paragraph in Bernhard's German "prose"... After reading it no one will be able to forget it! How I'd love to see it on stage. This book embodies what I love the most about Bernhard intense prose. It just drags you in as though you are the narrator. Advantages of the Ich-Erzähler (first person narrator), but not every writer can give the sense of absolute narrative immersion... As usual I won't bother detailing with the plot. Not important... The novel takes place in Vienna, also known by the Austrians themselves as "Die Künstlervernichtungsmaschine" (the artists killing machine ...) By this mouthful of a term in German, you can see what it's all about. If not read a synopsis in Amazon. Only Bernhard can write like this. It's glorious to read how he, sentence after sentence, depicts a very bizarre but not foreign world from the point of view of an observer (the narrator - Bernhard himself?). While reading it, I found myself reading and re-reading several sentences as not to miss anything. Definitely one of the greatest testimonials of the German Language of the 20th century. PS. I still remember it was with this novel that I came across the german word "Ohrensessel" ("Wing Chair") for the first time¦ lol

  7. 4 out of 5

    MJ Nicholls

    This excellent monologue combines the acid wit of Sorrentino’s Imaginative Qualities of Actual Things to another book whose title escapes me for the moment but will be added to the review upon remembering. A melancholic and hilarious novel sans para breaks (first Bernhard for me—assuming all of them are similar) told from the perspective of an embittered writer in his twilight years reflecting (after the death of a friend) upon the odious Austrian demi-monde he has been trapped in for too long. This excellent monologue combines the acid wit of Sorrentino’s Imaginative Qualities of Actual Things to another book whose title escapes me for the moment but will be added to the review upon remembering. A melancholic and hilarious novel sans para breaks (first Bernhard for me—assuming all of them are similar) told from the perspective of an embittered writer in his twilight years reflecting (after the death of a friend) upon the odious Austrian demi-monde he has been trapped in for too long. The suicide of Joana brings him to an after-funeral shindig at the home of rich artistic poseurs the Auersbergers, who he proceeds to eviscerate from the comfort of his wing chair in some of the most painful and acute putdown-prose this side of Laura Warholic, offering little flashes of his own unnoble behaviour, but mostly observing like the Underground Man but with no drunken payoff. In the midst of this, the narrator reflects upon his relationship with the doomed Joana, in scenes that constitute the “heart” of this mostly splentic novel, and suggest a note of tenderness through disappointment and romantic idealism. A sensational and breathtaking book that also contains the most uses of the phrase “as I sat in the wing chair” in any book written by a sentient creature.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Meike

    English: Woodcutters Bernhard would have turned 90 this month (2/2021) Thomas Bernhard is the Shakespeare of grumpy ramblings, fiercely holding his ground while embracing contradictory emotions. Almost 30 years after his death, his literary importance doesn’t fade, on the contrary: Bernhard has become a postmodern classic, and just recently, author Benjamin von Stuckrad-Barre (who is extremely famous in German-speaking countries) maintained that “Woodcutters” was the best novel ever written. One of English: Woodcutters Bernhard would have turned 90 this month (2/2021) Thomas Bernhard is the Shakespeare of grumpy ramblings, fiercely holding his ground while embracing contradictory emotions. Almost 30 years after his death, his literary importance doesn’t fade, on the contrary: Bernhard has become a postmodern classic, and just recently, author Benjamin von Stuckrad-Barre (who is extremely famous in German-speaking countries) maintained that “Woodcutters” was the best novel ever written. One of Bernhard’s trademark traits: He never shied away from controversy. When “Woodcutters” was first published in 1984, a former friend (composer Gerhard Lampersberg) sued the author for defamation - in consequence, all printed copies were confiscated, which of course caused an enormous scandal (Lampersberg and Bernhard later sought an extrajudicial settlement). And Lampersberg was not the only one who felt offended by Bernhard’s text. In it, the narrator (an alter ego of Bernhard`s) takes part in an “artistic dinner” (“künstlerisches Abendessen”) in the house of a Viennese composer (ha!) and his wife. The couple has invited artists, friends, and even an actor from the famous Imperial Court Theatre (which is the national theatre of Austria). The whole book takes place in this setting, the narrator and the other guests only moving from one room to the other – and the narrator also doesn’t really interact with the other guests, we read his stream-of-consciousness and all the thoughts that come to his mind while he is sitting in his wing chair and later at the table observing the others (in German, the steady references to the wing chair are a lot funnier, as the German expression is “ear chair” (“Ohrensessel”), so Bernhard is playing with the concepts of listening and expression). It is the chain of thoughts that introduces us to the other artists present (and partly absent), jumping back and forth between people, time frames and, most interestingly, perspectives of judgement. Bernhard’s text is funny, mean, complex and engaging – and it seems like the same could be said about its author. I am often confused or even disappointed when I see what gets translated and widely read, but when I see a non-German speaker reading Bernhard, I am definitely happy.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh

    “I eagerly crack open the book and can feel myself getting smarter as I turn the first few pages. At first, even though it is really depressing, this book excites me because it deals with mental health the arts, a subject I am very interested in.” Do you consider yourself an eclectic reader? Willing to broaden your horizons, now and then explore one of those slightly obscure but much-admired novels? On top of that do you find it next to impossible to abandon a book? Well try this one on for size “I eagerly crack open the book and can feel myself getting smarter as I turn the first few pages. At first, even though it is really depressing, this book excites me because it deals with mental health the arts, a subject I am very interested in.” Do you consider yourself an eclectic reader? Willing to broaden your horizons, now and then explore one of those slightly obscure but much-admired novels? On top of that do you find it next to impossible to abandon a book? Well try this one on for size...From his wingchair at an ‘artistic’ party in Vienna an aging writer reflects back on his life, and mentally assassinates the character of every person (himself included) in the room. The party’s focus shifts between discussing an actress who has recently hung herself and the pompous guest of honour, a stage actor from ‘the Burgtheater’. And that’s it – prepare yourself for some serious navel-gazing, a nonstop monologue that's tediously repetitive, dripping venom & oozing contempt. “But the novel is nothing but a trick. I will not be quoting Hemingway Bernhard anytime soon, nor will I ever read another one of his books” I’ve never struggled so hard to finish a book so why did I bother? Bragging rights at parties! Hey Matthew Quick’s just a flash in the pan, how about that Bernhard? Sorry. The richness of the characters, his biting satire, his masterful scene setting – you are IN Vienna - just brilliant. And I did like the ending. When all is said and done, it is a novel I'll never forget, poker burned into my psyche. Similar to how I feel about Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” – Yes I admire it and no I don’t like it. Bernhard is a brilliant writer – sucked me right into that wingchair. “And if he were still alive, I would write him a letter right now and threaten to strangle him dead with my bare hands just for being so glum.” All quotes are from Matthew Quick’s The Silver Linings Playbook The Scream sells for $120 Million: http://leicesterbangs.blogspot.ca/201...

  10. 5 out of 5

    Josh

    This is a winged chair: Nothing spectacular. Just a chair. This is a man in a winged chair: He is the observer; the archetype of neurosis. Neither are authentic to the story of ‘Woodcutters’, but are significant in nature. A man possibly perceived as having a sense of ubiquity mocks his old acquaintances, but also mocks 19th century Viennese bourgeoisie society. As this non-forgiving, self-deprecating curmudgeon sits in his winged chair he displays his angst of the past and his hatred for the hypocr This is a winged chair: Nothing spectacular. Just a chair. This is a man in a winged chair: He is the observer; the archetype of neurosis. Neither are authentic to the story of ‘Woodcutters’, but are significant in nature. A man possibly perceived as having a sense of ubiquity mocks his old acquaintances, but also mocks 19th century Viennese bourgeoisie society. As this non-forgiving, self-deprecating curmudgeon sits in his winged chair he displays his angst of the past and his hatred for the hypocrisy of the people who he has accepted an artistic dinner invitation from as they both learn of a mutual friend’s suicide. When this unrelenting attitude is not displayed from the winged chair, it’s from a dinner table as the actor arrives, for whom they’ve been waiting for. The all-inclusive dinner is reminiscent of this scene from Beetlejuice: …and the actor, a Tombstone-esque Billy Zane type, the one you love to hate as he conforms to the absurd and arrogant people to which he is a part of and then as characteristics are exposed, you start to warm up to him as he blasts one of the guests as he transforms into the philosopher , an unyielding man of emotion. As the dinner disperses for the late night/early morning, the narrator is the same, yet reflective. Knowing he hates the society for which he left, but also knowing without it, he wouldn’t be who he is. It is a love/hate relationship not only for Vienna, but for himself. Entertaining and intelligent. 4 stars easily.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Szplug

    Brilliant, bilious, hilarious, unsettling, a breathlessly intense, sustained novelistic experience that leaves you smiling and strained on the outside, nicked and nourished beneath the skin. By this point in his literary output Thomas Bernhard was a master craftsman, and the narrative voice he conjures for the unnamed—but immensely Bernhardian—writer whose interiority serves as the driving force of this little human engine that couldn't ranks among his very best. Personally, and has always prove Brilliant, bilious, hilarious, unsettling, a breathlessly intense, sustained novelistic experience that leaves you smiling and strained on the outside, nicked and nourished beneath the skin. By this point in his literary output Thomas Bernhard was a master craftsman, and the narrative voice he conjures for the unnamed—but immensely Bernhardian—writer whose interiority serves as the driving force of this little human engine that couldn't ranks among his very best. Personally, and has always proven the case with this author, the experience of reading Woodcutters was binary in nature—there's the surface story, unfolding in monoparagraphic form before one's eyes, that features the usual cast of obsessive, anguished, speechifying, misanthropic, circular and suicidal Austrians, barking, baiting, and biting at each other before the caustic gaze of the narrative ringmaster, who weaves his own perception of personal, idealistic, and mental erosion into the blistering denunciations that nucleate the essence of the textual spell cast across the pages. And then there simultaneously exist the mineshafts tunneling deeper into the existential state of things—and where, progressing whilst yet diverted from the story happenings above, you can become immersed in wending along the various gradients—in which the excavations of the living, daylong mind are presented, amplified and inflated, both as regards the mazing undertaken and erected on the back side of that incorporeal cracked mirror and how it frames and sublimates that which it takes in, via relentless sensory suction, and parses as a personal evaluation of all that lies exterior, foreign and unassimilated, to that motive emulator of Maxwell's Demon. That is, it's a stream of consciousness in which a story is told in twain—one of the mind's corroded perception of the world, the obverse of the mind's magnification, disruption, and distortion of the latter, such that the first awareness can be both clarified and cast in doubt. It's a difficult act to pull off; but, in my opinion, there are few authors better endowed to handle the task than Thomas Freaking Bernhard. He gets it and gives it every time. Thus, we open with the narrator, an Austrian author of a singularly sour, dissatisfied bent, resentfully present at an artistic dinner being hosted by the Auersbergers, a wealthy Viennese couple, held in honor of an as-yet-unarrived actor from the state-sponsored Burgtheater, where he's starring in a production of Ibsen's The Wild Duck, and transpiring late in the evening of the same day in which Joana—an artist friend of narrator, host, and the assembled guests, who hanged herself a few days prior—was buried in her home village of Kilb. This nameless voice—who delivers his relentless procession of declarative, ruminative, and speculative invective with a measured steadiness that speaks of a calm belying the angry agitation that fuels the torrent—was once a constant friend, companion, and lover to the Auersbergers and Joana, not to mention other guests such as Jeannie Billroth, an (allegedly) hackneyed writer long sold out to creature comforts who nonetheless fancies herself as the Austrian Virginia Woolf. But that was thirty, twenty-five, twenty years ago—the dates are as fluid as the choleric current which carries them along—and in the intervening years, those in which he apparently secreted himself away from the lot of them ere they destroyed and then annihilated him with their insatiable demands, he has taken the true measure of their character, their abilities, their lifestyle, permeated as they are with the essence of an abhorred state, and now views them, and their works, with a hatred that teeters between contempt and exhaustion. In this way, the narrator, secreted away upon his shrouded wing chair, passes two thirds of the novel in a vituperative, circular, and encompassing tirade upon each and every aspect of this absurd supper, its ridiculous guests, the dolorous suicide, its acidic locale, and—the focal anchor for the narrator's obsessive reviling—the Auersbergers: obscenely wealthy bourgeois parasites (allegedly), a conductor and singer whose undoubted talents have been squandered through the corruptions of time, mediocre ambitions, and the essential nature of Vienna/Austria. The remainder comprises more of the same, but conducted in the dining and music rooms after the arrival of the actor, whilst the revelations grow more personal, spreading inwards and outwards—and with the aged, weary actor himself enkindling both the narrator's visceral disregard and spontaneously exuberant rebirth, in which the greaves and curiass of his mental armor are, at the end, rapturously abandoned, that a new set might be constructed from the memorial detritus of this dinner as Dunciad. It is negativity and hilarity, engirding poignancy and contemplation, alienation and abandon, all in equal measure and taken unto the limits such that they fill every particle of textual being. What's that? Sounds about as inviting as a train wreck? Well, that's the funny thing. What it is about Bernhard that sucks me right into and down his own particular splenetic rabbit hole are those underworld passageways, the subtexts and parallel purposes—at least as I have discerned them—that accompany and are intertwined within what's transpiring under the open sky. For as much as Woodcutters details a ceaseless assault upon all that is wrong with the modern world in its mountainous permutation of Austrian state and ancient capital, the shabbiness, falsehoods, pretensions, and debilitations of faux-artsy cliques maneuvering within a crass, status-riven society overseen by a fumbling, strangling bureaucracy deaf to human desires, it simultaneously redirects that obloquy against the accuser. The narrator's polemic, which consumes all traces of oxygen in its encompassing nature, serves yet as a polemic against that degree of mental hyperemia, a modern incarnation of obsession taken to the maximum degree. Indeed, within this twinning of accusation, in which the light cast forth shines inwards at least as brightly as it does without, the accuracy of the latter comes more and more to be called into question. And I think this is the inevitable result of such a solipsistic, ego-driven engagement with the physical world. Such is the manner in which Bernhard pens his prose that he endows his voices with a potent conviction, limns their words with a truth emphasized by the thoroughness and breadth with which they are uttered—and so when things leak out, slip through the cracks of controlled repetition, burst forth to startling effect, that persuasive essence comes to undermine its own case. In every Bernhard novel that I've read, the principal narrative agent impresses me as being both searingly honest and utterly unreliable. The writer voicing Woodcutters makes allusion to the oft-stated Bernhardian ideal that only in the highest is there satisfaction. This is a gnostic level of expectation—since the perfect idea is always imperfectly realized, the material world in which it is so rendered comes to seem marred, debilitating, of a lesser degree and, hence, filled with lesser creatures. But wouldn't that apply, in full, to the mind hurling such continuous and bitter denunciations? The narrator condemns all that isn't highest—but that encompasses almost everything, including the narrator himself. In such a complete denigration of the failures and frauds of others, the limitations, even illusions, of that standard are laid bare, morally mangled and metastasized. The mind, locked on such a pervasive abundance of targets, in projecting from itself must, as gravity bends light, come to circle in on itself, exaggerating, reducing through repetition, abrading and eroding its target-the world-until it has diminished it, and itself, to the point of pallidity and absurdity. This process produces outbursts and tangents that vary from the mediating script. Thomas Bernhard fully understands the circular rhythms of mental processes, especially when they are engorged and inflated. The usage of repetition, the mantras of steadying thought function as a defense mechanism, taken to extremes. It shores up foundations, builds verity and confidence, no matter the actuality of what it is providing that interior service for. Even lies, repeated often enough and in unvarying form, take on the hue of truth. So it is that, from that echoing nature, it comes forth that the narrator may, in fact, be the agent and instigator of virtually every sin he pins to the Auersbergers, Jeannie, Joana, the aged actor. All that he accuses them of may, in fact, have derived from his actions, his abandonments, his abuses. The intervening years, then, have perhaps not served as a salvational period away from those who would have insatiably reduced him to a husk, but rather provided the time and means to ensure that self-knowledge of his own culpability, existing inside such a formidable condemnatory machine, was turned outwards, exercised unto pervasiveness and furiously launched and maintained, that some manner of reparation might be effected on the one most responsible for the ills being decried. Why? I don't know. Maybe that's a lot my own words and thought expended upon something neither particularly insightful nor applicable to Bernhard, here or in whole. And it's a bleak presentation—for if we're in the kind of echo chamber where a corroded mind turns itself against the world, diminishes the latter to the point of execration and simultaneously is leeched of its will by that degraded world it so perceives, where lies the road to salvation? With Bernhard, often in suicide, or early death from the inevitable breakdowns deriving from such severe physical and mental impairment. And if bodily extinction manages to be avoided, it's to pursue the course of isolation: removing oneself from the pathogens of the modern world and its ravenous populace—either by hiding oneself away (preferably in, say, a garret) to pass the days in reading great works, pacing the floor, and burnishing that (one) perfect idea that resides within the mind and should/will/must never be brought out of that idealized womb; or else absconding into the heart of quiet, forested, being-empty nature, where in tranquil silence and arboreal envelopment one can find the harmony so alien to life as experienced within the bustle and schemes, inevitable despairs and spiritual envelopment of mastering civilization. As I say, that may all be absolute fucking nonsense. So here's what I do know: I thrill, chill, shrink from and marvel at how much of myself I can recognize in Bernhard's damaged creations. I am engaged in a similar sort of struggle with a mind that has grown outsized and outlandishly smothering, declaring war on both the self within which it is contained and the world that fosters the self. So I feel a sort of kinship with this author, in that he has to have experienced the same frightening, enervating, and immobilizing metastasis of that maddened mind locked into avenues of repetition and regurgitation that insatiably devour time and ambition whilst hobbling hope and anticipation. He's more openly and outwardly bitter than I am, aggressive, his anger far more visceral, focused, and brought to bear upon targets on both sides of the plane—but that's simply because he's more honest than I am, more courageous and prepared to engage in struggle to escape the labyrinthine distractions and despairs inflicted when STENTORIAN CONSCIOUSNESS ATTACKS! Perhaps, too, like Cioran, in that though he may paint in a hard light the grim means of egress from this intolerable situation, he yet tolerated it. So we should tolerate it. Even consider, try to configure, how it might all be an illusion of that shrilly overactive mind. Perhaps the world is not really quite as horrid as it is made to be. It may be that the perfect is the true enemy of the good—because that kind of purity is simply unattainable, and in gauging against such an immeasurable standard, even the good will come to seem paltry, meager, and contemptible. And that's where the humour that walks hand-in-hand with the blanketing mind and its unstoppable tergiversations, growing in tandem with its chest-puffing companion, looms so large, releasing the pressure and persistently painting in the bright hues of the absurd. That's how I feel, particularly and pungently right here, right now. I don't know if it's the same for others—for that matter, I worry that I've lost the plot here and haven't managed, or found the conviction, to state things clearly and accurately. All I can say, with absolute certainty, is that I love the novels written by this man—this brilliant, bilious, hilarious, unsettling, breathlessly intense and sensitive man.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mariel

    The artistic life. The artistic world. Writing feels fake to me. Not other people's writing. I mean that me writing doesn't feel natural to me. The more articulate I try to be the worse it gets. This "You're such a fake" voice and a rising of stupidity blush on the back of my neck (my ears get it the worst, in the end). I do it anyway. I like thinking about stuff. I pretty much have to have it or I'll feel even more doldrums and pointless circles than ever. It's the trying to say it all together The artistic life. The artistic world. Writing feels fake to me. Not other people's writing. I mean that me writing doesn't feel natural to me. The more articulate I try to be the worse it gets. This "You're such a fake" voice and a rising of stupidity blush on the back of my neck (my ears get it the worst, in the end). I do it anyway. I like thinking about stuff. I pretty much have to have it or I'll feel even more doldrums and pointless circles than ever. It's the trying to say it all together in one place with some kind of point and in a way that makes sense that's really embarrassing. Especially if I try to say it well. Faker! What's clarity? And what are connections to other things? (I would love it if my brain could produce some kind of map connecting all of the things I've heard, seen and read. With lines in thick or thin shapes that correlate to their relevance to other things.) Thomas Bernhard does it. The puffed up standing around and sitting around and talking about la di da da da artistic dinners and did you hear that song and the next Virginia Woolf, the percursor to Webern, blah blah. Thinking you know anything about someone else's marriage because they invited you into their home and are putting on a cracks and all facade for someone's benefit. What an asshole you feel like because you find yourself playing the society game of "It's so nice to be here. I'll call you". I'm such a jerk, I wanted to know how she killed herself. Did she do it in the way that I suspected would fit a person that I suspected her to be? I could have placed bets on when I thought she would have done it by now. They don't look as upset as I think they should be. What assholes! Life sucks. People die, go to a dinner party. What am I even doing here? I missed the writer keeping himself alive writing playlets for Joanna the movement director, Joanna the woman behind the tapestry artist, Joanna the ballerina or Joanna the actress. Hunched together in her room when her husband isn't home. Or happy and singing arias in German, English and Italian at the Auersberger's piano. It felt sad that he couldn't go back to that, couldn't pretend that their "art" was going anywhere, or was at the center of their lives. He could have been reading alone in his bedroom. Me too. The cruel thing is when you need people and when you don't need them and you spit them out. There's a loss and a doubt in their place. The actor from the Burgtheatre, the one they wait past midnight for soup to be served, played his dream role as Ekdal in the production of Ibsen's The Wild Duck (I can't remember if I ever read this one). He could be there out of politeness, or maybe he liked the idea of an "artistic dinner". He wouldn't have gone if he knew that there would be someone there who would take apart his every component until the parts meant nothing. It's like saying something so often, maybe in an interview, until it is all lines to be rehearsed. I wasn't as taken aback when the actor becomes interesting to the writer by saying out loud what he is thinking (if he had known those words could have been addressed to the writer himself, not that he gets that). He doesn't play the part of the guest any more and get poked and prodded. It wasn't the being silent in a dinner party and having all of these thoughts that interested me about Woodcutters. I would have imagined that the actor was not happy to be there. I could see the Viennese Virginia Woolf feeling like the abandoned child when her parents have a new favorite baby. My mind map that I've got would walk (down the Graben) on planks to jump off pedestals. I've read complaints (maybe they were just remarks) that Bernhard is a one note kind of guy. I think of it more as walking down the same street in the same town, not necessarily the same direction. The Loser made me think a lot about keeping people on pedestals. Woodcutters made me think about knocking people off of them to feel like you're still moving. That's what interested me about Woodcutters. The love he once had and then that he had to stop loving them. There's a quote on the back of the book that compares Bernhard to Beckett. I can see this, especially for Beckett's Watt. I might not have put this together otherwise. I mean, my book connections are not usually the ones on book jackets. I'm probably the only person on the entire internet who connected The Loser with The Fountain Overflows (Rebecca West). I will not get invited to dinner parties with the Viennese Virginia Woolf. They would ask me who they are the next something something of and I'll say the wrong thing, like "The poor girl's Kathy Griffin?" Watt's repeat sentences felt to me like someone trying to feel around for reality by constantly naming it. Bernhard's repeat sentences felt to me a little like that. If he was missing a tooth he might touch the empty spot with his tongue to keep checking that it was gone. Even to keep alive like stoking a fire or a shark swimming. Sometimes the truth changes. I don't need them, I need them. I could be somewhere else. Touch the hole and that becomes the keeping you alive movement. I don't need them, I don't need the city. Yesterday a coworker was criticizing someone we work with for being the man he knew who wanted to be high society more than any other man he ever knew. I caught myself from replying "But what about Auersberger?" in excited, "Yeah, I know!" tones. (This man's only crime is wearing dorky sweater vests and playing tennis. He's hardly Auesberger!) I do that a lot. Book people are real people to me and I take it way too seriously. That's why I don't think I could ever start referring to anything as artistic anything. I would hate myself if I ever did. It wouldn't feel really me. Real me doesn't make art. It stumbles in repeat sentences. Woodcutters made me think about people I used to find interesting and then no longer did. (Some of them books and not real people.) Not that I think it could go any other way, just that it's something that's too easy to do... Maybe it hurts more than you think it does. Maybe you'll try to get it back and sit in a wingchair at a dinner party and hope to see the lost magic again. Or go on taking it apart and you won't have to. "And as I went on running I thought: I'll write something at once, no matter what -- I'll write about this artistic dinner in the Gentzgasse at once, now. Now, I thought -- at once, I told myself over and over again as I ran through the Inner City -- at once, I told myself, now -- at once, at once, before it's too late." What do you know? He had to think about it too. If you don't draw them into shapes you have no idea what they mean, I think. I did think Woodcutters was funny. Like when Auesberger slams the table and complains about the quality of the goulash. If I ever get invited to any kind of party again I'll do that and then talk about Auesberger like he was a real person.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Maria

    In a big, old chair at a late night dinner party, the main character sits and rages silently over his hosts, their art snobbery and the general state of the culture scene in Vienna. Half hidden behind a door, he observes the other guests and reminisce on events from the past. He regrets accepting the invitation to this "late night artistic dinner" with old acquaintances he obviously loathes. My Norwegian translation has a subtitle that can be translated as "An agitation", which is very fitting. In a big, old chair at a late night dinner party, the main character sits and rages silently over his hosts, their art snobbery and the general state of the culture scene in Vienna. Half hidden behind a door, he observes the other guests and reminisce on events from the past. He regrets accepting the invitation to this "late night artistic dinner" with old acquaintances he obviously loathes. My Norwegian translation has a subtitle that can be translated as "An agitation", which is very fitting. The language is rhythmic, almost hypnotic, very repetitive and intense. The whole book is about the main character's agitation, rage, melancholy and despair. I think the English title is usually Cutting Timber or Woodcutters, while the original is Hultsfellen. The latter means trees that topple over on their own, from old age or rot, or some other natural reason. And I think it's past tense? So the original title might be interpreted to mean that the old giants, the old authorities, have fallen, maybe from rot, or from growing too big and heavy. This makes sense when you think about the main character's never ending criticism of art snobbery. The entire book can be read as a furious critique of Vienna's high culture. And still, there seems to be a conflict between rage and accept/friendliness throughout the novel. Especially in the instances when the main character realizes or admits to himself that he is no better than the people he is criticizing. It made me wonder what the secondary characters in this novel are actually like, because the reader has almost no contact with the world outside the main character's raging mind. It's a little bit like stream of consciousness, except this inner monologue is more theoretical/analytical and less about sensory input. Repetition. The main character repeats words and phrases that gets stuck in his head. Words are doubled and repeated in complex and rhythmical patterns, which builds up and builds up. It intensifies, underlines, focuses and shows his agitation. He even says some of them out loud so many times that people starts to stare at him, and in the first half of the book, this is the only direct contact between the main character and other people. It's like his inner world - his thoughts and frustrations - is leaking out into the world around him. The main character's rants are often quite funny, and the agitated, never ending stream of thoughts are fascinating to read, in spite of their repetitiveness. Exaggeration. Hyperbole is used throughout - a metaphor of exaggeration, a figure of anger. It strengthens the picture of "the enemy", and by using this type of rhetoric, you can distance yourself from the thing you criticize. The novel makes war on people, social norms and certain types of behavior. But hyperboles are often difficult to take seriously. There is too much patos, it's all to exaggerated (and sometimes quite funny). The main character might have some good points, but he gives us no evidence. He is definitely an unreliable narrator, albeit an eloquent one. This makes me ponder what his intention is. Is he really trying to convince us, or himself, of something, or does his rhythmic, intense and energizing anger have some other purpose? Italics. The frequent use of italics when he is quoting someone he disagrees with often has a hint of mockery. This is also a way of distancing himself from what he is criticizing. He's making it very clear that these are not his opinions. The use of italics also makes the words stand out as something remarkable, he makes words and phrases that are seen as natural and normal by the people who use them, seem stupid and silly. This is pretty arrogant, and it made me wonder if protest and criticism isn't also an artistic norm? At other times, the use of italics underlines something that's important to the main character. Composition. The novel consists of one solid block of text. No chapters, no paragraphs, no pauses anywhere. This, like so many other things in this book, creates intensity. It can also make the book tiresome to read. There is no good place to stop reading, it just goes on and on (like an angry rant often does). The composition, like everything else in this book, mirrors the main character's state of mind. Sentences are typically long, but with many commas and semicolons as the main character moves continuously from one line of thought to another. A lot of the characters have at one point changed their names from their given or "natural" names to something more artistic, fashionable or appropriate to what they want to achieve. They exchange their real names for something that has a desired effect. It all comes back to the dichotomy between the genuine/natural and the fake/fashionable. The main character describes how talented people from the countryside travel to Vienna to fulfill their dreams and are crushed and broken there. It's like two different spheres that are not compatible. But the dichotomy isn't necessary between the city and the countryside. These places represent, to the main character, the fake and the genuine, respectively. It's about people seeking the social status art, fashion and high culture gives them, rather than actually being interested in art for its own sake or wanting to create something great or meaningful. And the people who are genuinely interested, are doomed to fail in such an environment. But although people in the countryside are vaguely described as being genuine, we are not really given an alternative, a solution, a positive counterpart to Vienna's art snobbery. It's just the negative side the main character conveys to the readers. This novel is complex and, yes, artistic, even as it criticizes the art scene. Everything in it is carefully chosen and molded. There is definitely a melancholy longing for a past long gone where the main character was inspired by, and interested in, art. Throughout the novel he isolates himself from the people around him. He prefers to observe and criticize from a distance the milieu he used to be a part of. His change of heart has been a difficult and agonizing process, and his present day anger seems to me to have the purpose of an exorcism. He is driving all of these people away from himself, trying to cleanse himself of everything they represent.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Agnieszka

    Novel "Woodcutters" takes place during one evening through so-called artistic dinner given by a couple of narrator’s former friends. A pretext for the dinner is a visit of known actor, but the real reason is a suicidal death of their mutual friend, unfulfilled artist Joana. And that way a celebration for the actor transforms into a funeral reception. What would come of it? Nothing good except a gripping writing. Narrator, an uncompromising observer hidden in the shadow, sitting in the wing chair Novel "Woodcutters" takes place during one evening through so-called artistic dinner given by a couple of narrator’s former friends. A pretext for the dinner is a visit of known actor, but the real reason is a suicidal death of their mutual friend, unfulfilled artist Joana. And that way a celebration for the actor transforms into a funeral reception. What would come of it? Nothing good except a gripping writing. Narrator, an uncompromising observer hidden in the shadow, sitting in the wing chair with contempt and boundless spitefulness comments behavior of the guests. His obsessive an interior monologue with one continually repeated phrase I thought, sitting in the wing chair is one great accusation of an artistic circles, upper classes and bourgeois mentality and finally Austria itself. Bernhard seems to take a perverted delight in massacring own country. Austria for him is an inept country, Vienna – city destroying artists, not mention famous Burgtheater, according to Bernhard, the worst theatre scene in the world. He's not the subtle one and shows no mercy to anyone and anything, with aversion verging on fascination attacks Vienna elites, their snobbery and obscurantism, xenophobia and pro-fascist sympathies, complacency and shallowness. Bernhard straight out throws up Austria, with delight pulling all this mutual adoration society apart, these mediocre so-called artists and their claims to greatness. His reluctance or, as a matter of fact, hatred is almost substantial. Powerful prose.Keep you in the seat. Literally. And by way of digression, what’s wrong with Austria ?

  15. 5 out of 5

    William2

    The great paradox of this Bernhard narrator, like so many others, is his hypercritical nature, which is often in conflict with itself, and, for the entire book, his utterly static physical presence. Indeed, he never moves during the narration, which occurs at a dinner party, except to go to the next room and back. The action, if it can be called that, for most is reminiscence, takes place during a single day. The phase he uses constantly is: "I thought, sitting in the wing chair. . ." The unname The great paradox of this Bernhard narrator, like so many others, is his hypercritical nature, which is often in conflict with itself, and, for the entire book, his utterly static physical presence. Indeed, he never moves during the narration, which occurs at a dinner party, except to go to the next room and back. The action, if it can be called that, for most is reminiscence, takes place during a single day. The phase he uses constantly is: "I thought, sitting in the wing chair. . ." The unnamed narrator has returned to Vienna for the first time in thirty years, from his self-imposed exile in London. Since his return he has spent a portion of each day walking up and down Vienna's streets, most recently the Graben and the Karntnerstrasse. Here he runs into old associates, the Auerbergers, who were lovers and mentors thirty years before, but whom he now despises with a passion that is often laughable in its boundlessness. The entire book is an internal monologue of rage. Everyone he was friendly with 30 years ago he now despises. He is appalled by the fact that he has actually attended this so-called artistic dinner. Why did he come? He doesn't know. He is indifferent to nothing. Anything and everything provokes an almost out of control rage. He seeths with perceived slights. Yet, he says nothing. He is as much controlled by the social contract as anyone at the dinner. Indeed, perhaps more so, since a few others are at least not afraid to make their displeasure known when they hear an opinion they disagree with. Joana, an old associate, has recently hung herself. Most of those who attended the funeral also seem to be at the artistic dinner in honor of an actor currently playing Ekdal in a production of Ibsen's The Wild Duck at the Burgtheater. The narrator knows better than to get worked up. He repeatedly berates himself for giving way to his hysteria, but then just as quickly he is right back at it. He cannot help himself. Now why? Why does he sit there and seeth and yet bottle it up. Well, you see, he is a writer. This is his process; this is his subject matter. The book we have just read is the product of that terrible evening.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    You’ve always lived a life of pretense, not a real life – a simulated existence, not a genuine existence. Everything about you, everything you are, has always been pretense, never genuine, never real. Bernhard's satire of Viennese petit bourgeois society is one long frantic, hateful, angry, and at times even nostalgic internal monologue. It’s narrated as if it’s one deep exhale by an aging writer who has returned to Vienna after several decades away and has reunited with people he “didn’t like 3 You’ve always lived a life of pretense, not a real life – a simulated existence, not a genuine existence. Everything about you, everything you are, has always been pretense, never genuine, never real. Bernhard's satire of Viennese petit bourgeois society is one long frantic, hateful, angry, and at times even nostalgic internal monologue. It’s narrated as if it’s one deep exhale by an aging writer who has returned to Vienna after several decades away and has reunited with people he “didn’t like 30 years ago and doesn’t like now.” He spends the majority of the novel sitting in the corner at a dinner party hating everything about everyone, and hating himself even more for attending. That’s it. But, it’s fascinating. Once you get over how funny this book is, it turns quietly sad. There’s that complicated feeling when one has an intense love-hate of their city and their people (and themselves), and that old adage of how you can never really escape who you are and where you come from, no matter how much you turn up your nose. And by the way, all those people you’re making fun of? You’re just as vile and pedantic, if not more. The dinner party sort of turns into an impromptu gathering for the group’s friend (and the narrator’s ex-lover) who has committed suicide. His internal tirades start to become a bitter reminiscence about love and relationships, youth, loss. We spend years sucking all we can out of someone, and then, having almost sucked them dry, we suddenly say that we ourselves are being sucked dry. And then for the rest of our lives we have to live with the knowledge of our own baseness. This book makes Bukowski seem almost cheerful. Loved it.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Hugh

    Thus is my third experience of reading Bernhard, and after Old Masters and Correction, I had a pretty good idea what to expect. Once again this book is largely an intemperate rant against Austrian society written in a single long paragraph full of repetitions but this time I picked up on more of the humour. The unnamed narrator is a writer who has returned to Vienna after a long period in London. He is invited to an artistic dinner by his one time friends, the petit bourgeois Auersbergers, after Thus is my third experience of reading Bernhard, and after Old Masters and Correction, I had a pretty good idea what to expect. Once again this book is largely an intemperate rant against Austrian society written in a single long paragraph full of repetitions but this time I picked up on more of the humour. The unnamed narrator is a writer who has returned to Vienna after a long period in London. He is invited to an artistic dinner by his one time friends, the petit bourgeois Auersbergers, after they see him on the street on the day they have heard about the suicide of a mutual friend Joana. The book covers the events of that dinner, and for the first half of the book the narrator sits in a wing chair drinking champagne and observing and remembering while waiting for the guest of honour, an actor in the Burgtheater. The events of the dinner play out remorselessly, (view spoiler)[but as in Old Masters, a small measure of redemption creeps in at the end (hide spoiler)] . This is another memorable book but not a comfortable read.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    There are many writers who have written books and most of them are crap, but that is not the case with Thomas Bernhard, who is a great writer, and his books are not crap. Thomas Bernhard writes great books, that is to say, he did write great books, and he was a great writer, but now, I am pretty sure, Thomas Bernhard is dead. Considering that he is dead, it is no longer accurate to say that Thomas Bernhard writes great books; however, it is still wholly accurate to say that his books are great. There are many writers who have written books and most of them are crap, but that is not the case with Thomas Bernhard, who is a great writer, and his books are not crap. Thomas Bernhard writes great books, that is to say, he did write great books, and he was a great writer, but now, I am pretty sure, Thomas Bernhard is dead. Considering that he is dead, it is no longer accurate to say that Thomas Bernhard writes great books; however, it is still wholly accurate to say that his books are great. It is accurate to say this of Thomas Bernhard's books despite the fact that most books are crap and most of the people who write books are idiots. This is, however, not the case with Thomas Bernhard's books, which, despite Thomas Bernhard himself being dead, continue to be great. Woodcutters begins with a man sitting in a wingchair at a party, bitching about having been invited to the party and complaining about how he hates everyone there, all the while sitting in a wingchair. For page after interminable page of Woodcutters this man sits in the wingchair and complains bitterly about being invited to the party. He is a guest at the party but professes he to be angry and disgusted that he is there. Thomas Bernhard, who is dead, but who wrote such great novels during that clearly unhappy period when he was still alive, has written a fabulous novel about a very cranky man sitting in a wingchair at a party, complaining bitterly. There is more to the book than that but you will have to read the book, or another review, if you would like to know what. I suggest the former course of action, that is to say, I recommend reading Woodcutters, as it is an excellent book, unlike most books, which have for the most part been written by idiots, and are crap. I recommend reading Woodcutters but I do not recommend reading the reviews. Most book reviews, I would even venture to say nearly all book reviews, are crap that has been produced by idiots, and I see no real purpose in reading them. I do see a purpose in reading Woodcutters which is a very fine book, though I would admit despite this that it's not for everyone. The world is full of idiots and most of them would doubtless fail to recognize that Thomas Bernhard wrote some great books while he was alive, though he has not continued to do so recently, being as he is dead. To a person who has not yet read Thomas Bernhard, I might unoriginally endorse the sentiment, recorded elsewhere, that this book, Woodcutters, is a pretty good place to start. I myself have not read very many books by Thomas Bernhard. I have read more than one book by him, but I have not read most or even a lot of his books. Thomas Bernhard managed to write several books before he went and died, and I have only read a few. I do intend to read more books by Thomas Bernhard, who, unlike most writers, who are idiots, did write some very good books. I cannot with any authority promise that all of his books are as good as this one, because I haven't read most of the books that he wrote. I have read Woodcutters and a couple of others and thought they were all very good, though certainly not to most people's taste. It's only to be expected that most people would not enjoy the brilliant novels of Thomas Bernhard, indeed it is unsurprising when one considers that most people are idiots, and are used to reading crap novels, indeed, preferring them over novels that are great, as I personally found Woodcutters to be. Thomas Bernhard was clearly a very great writer, though even if he were not dead, I would not invite him to any parties I might be planning to throw. I would, however, and will, persist in reading more of the books that he has written, as I consider those few books of his that I've read -- including this one -- to be very fine.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Yu

    This is the first Bernhard I read. I like how through satire and irony, it gives a superb depiction of the spiritual decay of Austria, and of Western culture in general. In the setting of a party held and attended by Vienna's intellectual and artistic elites, the narrator observes the stupid sentimentality and moral weakness of the guests, and gradually pursues his sense of contempt and hopelessness to the extreme. Bernhard's language is humorous and musical. He both attacks mercilessly and addr This is the first Bernhard I read. I like how through satire and irony, it gives a superb depiction of the spiritual decay of Austria, and of Western culture in general. In the setting of a party held and attended by Vienna's intellectual and artistic elites, the narrator observes the stupid sentimentality and moral weakness of the guests, and gradually pursues his sense of contempt and hopelessness to the extreme. Bernhard's language is humorous and musical. He both attacks mercilessly and addresses wistfully without getting either too angry or sentimental. Overall, I very much enjoyed this novel.

  20. 5 out of 5

    RandomAnthony

    Thomas Bernhard’s Woodcutters is a fascinating, claustrophobic (er, in a good way) book. The novel’s narrator sits in the corner of a party and comments on the attendees, their shared history, the nature of the Vienna art scene, and the subtle, hegemonic nuances of action and motivation. The party’s ostensible purpose is twofold. First, a celebrated actor, fresh from a triumphant performance in an Ibsen play, is invited but holds up dinner by failing to arrive until late in the evening. Second, Thomas Bernhard’s Woodcutters is a fascinating, claustrophobic (er, in a good way) book. The novel’s narrator sits in the corner of a party and comments on the attendees, their shared history, the nature of the Vienna art scene, and the subtle, hegemonic nuances of action and motivation. The party’s ostensible purpose is twofold. First, a celebrated actor, fresh from a triumphant performance in an Ibsen play, is invited but holds up dinner by failing to arrive until late in the evening. Second, many of the partygoers attended the funeral of a suicidal colleague earlier that day and the gathering serves as a sort of funeral reception. The narrator, once a close friend to the arts-scene-society-ladder climbing hosts, hasn’t interacted with most of his former friends for years. As the hours pass, and the actor finally shows, the toxic relationships color the proceedings. The narrator ruthlessly bares the faults of those present. He eviscerates one host for wasting potential genius and settling for comfortable mediocrity then rips up an author for sucking up to the Austrian state (who apparently sponsor some writers financially) after years of disparaging people who do the same. The narrator is unable and unwilling to avoid inclusion in his own harsh critique. And when the Ibsen actor responds to a pretentious question with frustration and stark honesty the narrator responds with a deep, complex empathy for the people around the table and a re-articulated desire for what, I believe, drew him to literature in the first place. I think Woodcutters is about, on some level, how the culture that surrounds art can become its own mephitic artifice. I knew a woman in Chicago whose boyfriend owned a (now closed) used bookstore. She fancied herself, from what I could tell, as a sort of literary muse when in retrospect she was sad and insecure. But whoo, she could talk up a storm about the local celebrity parties, the authors with whom she had close and meaningful relationships, and the self-generated and self-important Lakeview book scene of the eighties. And I admit I wanted to be part of that scene back then, tried to discern its rules, meet the players, and gain cultural stature. I don’t know what the hell I was thinking, as my credentials ended at a college radio show and a couple (thankfully unrecorded) appearances at poetry open mics, but I thought the path to substantiality, if you will, was through the prescribed Chicago literary yellow brick road. The silly misstep, of course, was that in order to achieve liberating substantiality I followed the strict rules of a subculture self-proclaiming as innovative and free-thinking but ejecting anyone not pliable enough to kowtow to the unwritten hierarchy. Although this may sound like sour grapes, I guess, I’m glad my stretch in that scene didn’t last long. Better to fail when the price of success is compulsory attendance at a sorry masquerade. I needed to grow up. All of us did. Art deserves more authenticity than hipster Lakeview parties. Twenty years removed I imagine remnants of that scene still exist, and I hope those fuckers read Woodcutters before they send out invitations to their holiday get-togethers. Some of the Vienna-specific references in the novel are foreign to those outside of Austria, from my perspective, but a reader could probably substitute any second-tier city for Vienna. I should add that Bernhard praises Virginia Woolf throughout the novel and attacks one of the characters as a pale imitator of Ms. Woolf. The narrator’s stream of consciousness style resembles Ms. Woolf’s and the references fit well. Also, reading a book without any paragraph or chapter breaks is unsettling at first. I didn’t realize how much I took narrative structural conventions for granted. I want to delve deeper into Bernhard’s back catalog. Thanks to Watkins and David for pointing me toward Woodcutters. This is the kind of book that changes the way you perceive conversations and your own motivation. I hope to be more honest with myself as a result. Also, I suck at social gatherings, so any time I land in the corner at a party, from here on out, I’ll think of Woodcutters, waiting for the actor to show.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Lee Klein

    Just re-read after 8+ years: not nearly as funny as I remembered, which isn't what I was expecting, since I re-read it to prep for an essay on Bernhard's humor: hmmm. Laughs at first may have come in part from initial exposure to his intoxicating/detoxifying technology in prose. It's not all bile at all -- the moments of tenderness for his friends and Vienna really stood out this time, as when he shifts into generalizing "we" mode. The style isn't totally refined yet either. I'd almost be tempte Just re-read after 8+ years: not nearly as funny as I remembered, which isn't what I was expecting, since I re-read it to prep for an essay on Bernhard's humor: hmmm. Laughs at first may have come in part from initial exposure to his intoxicating/detoxifying technology in prose. It's not all bile at all -- the moments of tenderness for his friends and Vienna really stood out this time, as when he shifts into generalizing "we" mode. The style isn't totally refined yet either. I'd almost be tempted to drop this a star on re-read, in part because I found the histories of the narrator's friends tiring on second read, but still I think that initial intox/detox exposure must be respected. *** Here's what I'd written in 2007 about the book: So fucking funny, he wrote, sitting in the wingchair . . . How is it possible that I'm the only one who has reviewed this book, and no one I know has rated it?! It is a sure sign, he wrote, sitting in the wingchair, of the decline of western civilization . . . If you read the overview of this book, you'll see all these newspaper reviews that project exactly the sort of snotty literary attitude the writer-narrator of "Woodcutters," sitting in the wing chair, would absolutely loathe. Also, how is it possible that the overview does not even mention the book's abounding humor. This is not comedy, but if "funny" is defined by times per book you hear yourself laugh, snort, or chortle, it's one of the funniest books I've ever read.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Janice

    Have you ever existed within the periphery of a group of friends, or maybe classmates in school? You’re never truly accepted by them. Maybe they use you for your access to pharmaceuticals or because you’re careless/generous with money. They belittle you; you are the butt of all of their jokes, they’re only nice to you when you have something to offer. Then you grow up and move on. You realize these people are shit. That they’re not as smart, as funny, as charming as you thought. You resent them Have you ever existed within the periphery of a group of friends, or maybe classmates in school? You’re never truly accepted by them. Maybe they use you for your access to pharmaceuticals or because you’re careless/generous with money. They belittle you; you are the butt of all of their jokes, they’re only nice to you when you have something to offer. Then you grow up and move on. You realize these people are shit. That they’re not as smart, as funny, as charming as you thought. You resent them for constantly denigrating you. You realize you’ve evolved past them, that you are better than them, have always been better than them. Then you run into them randomly, and you’re invited to some grotesquely tasteless “artistic dinner” they are hosting. You accept, partly because you’re caught off guard, but also because you can’t resist indulging in a little Schadenfreude. What could be more gratifying than to gloat over how tacky and pretentious your former friends are? Except there is no one to gloat with. So you are stuck there alone, sitting in a wing chair, isolated from the rest of the group, shit-talking in your head. So this is kind of about this experience. The text is a first-person internal monologue which serves as a searing indictment against the petit bourgeoisie of Vienna/the narrator’s former friends/colleagues. The narrator is judgmental, misanthropic and morose,* but like any true misanthrope, he also turns his vitriol inward and glares at himself. To wit: You’ve always lived a life of pretense, not a real life -- a simulated existence, not a genuine existence. Everything about you, everything you are, has always been pretense, never genuine, never real. This book was banned upon its initial publication in Austria. Apparently, some prominent artistes recognized themselves in the characters, and found their portrayals to be defamatory and successfully sued. That would never happen here. No wonder Bernhard hated Austria. *I may also be describing myself.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Trish

    In one of his many interviews Karl Ove Knausgaard praised the work of Thomas Bernhard, an Austrian writer (1931-1989) of whom I had never heard. His work was placed in the canon of great 20th Century literature. He wrote in German. Scrolling through the list of titles translated into English I chose Woodcutters to get an idea of his work. First published in 1984, it was translated and published in English by Knopf in 1987. It references the atmosphere of the 1950s or perhaps the early 1960s. A m In one of his many interviews Karl Ove Knausgaard praised the work of Thomas Bernhard, an Austrian writer (1931-1989) of whom I had never heard. His work was placed in the canon of great 20th Century literature. He wrote in German. Scrolling through the list of titles translated into English I chose Woodcutters to get an idea of his work. First published in 1984, it was translated and published in English by Knopf in 1987. It references the atmosphere of the 1950s or perhaps the early 1960s. A middle-aged man taking his daily constitutional along a popular avenue in Vienna sees old acquaintances who, in passing, invite him to a dinner soirée that evening. The man accepts before he remembers that he doesn’t even like these people. As the couple is walking on they mention the death that morning of a dear friend of the man. The soirée would honor her memory. What follows is a harrowing descent into the twisted confines of one man’s mind as he “sits in the wing chair” in the well-appointed flat of the couple he does not like and passes judgment on all who circulate around him. His thinking is circular, observant, riven occasionally by memories. His thoughts are “morose, vulgar, repellant and self-indulgent,” attributes he assigns to the other guests. He does not participate, but sits in the corner “in the wing chair,” radiating disdain and waiting with the others for an actor the couple has invited to appear. (view spoiler)[ When the actor (how the man hates actors!) finally arrives, late, the man, “sitting in the wing chair” proceeds to dine with the group, exhibiting the same lack of control he displayed by accepting the invitation in the first place. Only when the actor openly attacks one of the guests does our man’s attitude begin to modify. Suddenly he finds himself admiring the actor, “enthralled” with his cruelty, who had “suddenly became a thinking human being, even a philosopher of sorts, transforming himself from a gargoyle into a philosophical human being, from repellent stage character into a real person.” The man finds himself now enjoying the soirée, reveling in the atmosphere, loving the actor and the phrase the actor speaks as he stands to leave: ”The forest, the virgin forest, the life of a woodcutter—that has always been my ideal.” The man, as he takes his leave, murmurs to his hosts “Perhaps it was best that [his good friend Joanna] had killed herself, it was probably the best time for her to go.” (hide spoiler)] This small novel has the whiff of a classic in that it takes the human condition and holds it boldly up for us to examine. “To get ourselves out of a tight spot, it seems to me, we are ourselves just as mendacious as those we are always accusing of mendacity, those whom we despise and drag in the dirt for their mendacity; we are not one jot better than the people we constantly find objectionable and insufferable, those repellant people with whom we want to have as few dealings as possible, though, if we are honest, we do have dealings with them and are no different from them…I told [my hosts] I was glad to have renewed my ties…and as I said this I thought what a vile hypocrite I was, recoiling at nothing, not even the basest lie.” Ah, self-loathing—such a good topic for a novel. This is a difficult read in many ways, but it does highlight some important truths. And yes, I see the connection with Knausgaard.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Eddie Watkins

    Wherein a man attends a dinner and demolishes a country without leaving his chair (or even opening his mouth); then, high on his own splenetic vituperation, falls in love with it all over again. But this new "love" is at once sincere, ironic, and deeply conflicted. Add to this the circular nature of the narrative - the narrator at the end is in a rush to write the book you just read, which makes of the book a verbal maelstrom - and you have one fascinating and fantastic book. Key quote - Although I Wherein a man attends a dinner and demolishes a country without leaving his chair (or even opening his mouth); then, high on his own splenetic vituperation, falls in love with it all over again. But this new "love" is at once sincere, ironic, and deeply conflicted. Add to this the circular nature of the narrative - the narrator at the end is in a rush to write the book you just read, which makes of the book a verbal maelstrom - and you have one fascinating and fantastic book. Key quote - Although I still found the Burgtheater actor repugnant, he had momentarily earned my esteem.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mark Hebwood

    Oh dear. What can I say about this? Well, for one thing, I am glad I survived the experience of reading this novel. After 200 pages of violent, angry rants against the Viennese art establishment, and attacks on myself (as the book is written by an I-narrator) I feel physically exhausted, and in need of counselling. But I am jumping ahead. The first thing I would like to do is recommend an edition. I can only recommend buying the hardcover edition in Thomas Bernhard's Complete Works, recently comp Oh dear. What can I say about this? Well, for one thing, I am glad I survived the experience of reading this novel. After 200 pages of violent, angry rants against the Viennese art establishment, and attacks on myself (as the book is written by an I-narrator) I feel physically exhausted, and in need of counselling. But I am jumping ahead. The first thing I would like to do is recommend an edition. I can only recommend buying the hardcover edition in Thomas Bernhard's Complete Works, recently completed and published by Suhrkamp: http://www.suhrkamp.de/werkausgabe/we... The reason I am recommending this edition is twofold: It has one of these ribbons attached to the spine that you can use to mark the page you're on, and second it includes a 60 page text-critical compendium that gives a comprehensive analysis of the book's background and reception. Why is the ribbon important? Because without it you'd be truly lost. In a normal book, you can always go back to where you stopped reading, even if you lost your place. This is because a normal book has a plot, and paragraphs. This one has neither. In this one, the narrator sits in a chair at a party and spends his entire time spurting vitriolic bile about how much he hates the hosts and selected invitees, how much he regards the Viennese art scene as beneath him, how rotten and corroded Austria and the Austrians are, and what a weak person he is for allowing himself to be lured into all of this in his formative years. And all of this is delivered without break, with no paragraphs, with nowhere to go. Once you start this, you deliver yourself hook line and sinker to the rantfest. Believe me, the little ribbon is your only lifeline in this adventure. Dont even think about starting this book without a ribbon. Why is the compendium important? So that we know whether our suspicions about the novel are correct. Right from the start, everything feels just a little bit too real, too personal, in short, not fictional enough. Locations are identified with detailed streetnames, all accurate, the Burgtheater is well-known as the national theatre, and anybody who knows just a little bit about the book's reception will remember that Bernhard got sued for libel by the real-life version of the fictional party's hosts. And indeed, the compendium gives a detailed analysis of all characters, place names, and situations the I-narrator refers to. And they are all real! Which makes it quite hard to read this as literature, something Bernard himself says is all he ever wanted, allegedly. I, for one, don't believe him. In the first, unpublished, version of the text, the character of the Viennese writer named Schreker was called Juniröcker. Well, one of the most highly decorated writers in Vienna is Friederike Mayröcker. The allusion is not exactly hidden, is it. But in the end, it is literature, and it is a novel. So I suppose I could read this as the inner torment of somebody racked with guilt that he allowed himself to be swept up into a society he regards as false, superficial and pretentious. A person who is unable to put this behind him, and consumes himself in resentment, turning his self-hatred against the world, in this case Austria, and specifically Vienna. And this would work, sort of, but only if the narrator remained the narrator throughout the text, and the narrative veil never tore, and the historical author never revealed himself as the real-world, non-fictional person sitting behind this. And I must admit, for the most part, Bernhard pulls this off. But not entirely! On page 160 in my edition, the narrator disappears, and an angry Thomas Bernhard appears. In a blistering attack even Bernhard himself suspected to have gone too far (see p209 in my edition), he delivers a direct personal attack on his fellow writers, and on Vienna and Austria by extension. At the end of page 161, the narrator is back, but the damage is done. Literature or rant? And this is the trouble with this book, I find. Read as literature, it may have some appeal. Then, the characters are characters in a novel, and the reader is witnessing the frustration and bitterness of the I-narrating protagonist as a literary theme. As long as it remains a theme, the novel can stand for something, and we may become enlightened in the discovery of a trait in the human condition. But if we are unable to read it as literature, because the links to reality are too thinly veiled, this metaphorical quality evaporates, and we are delivered into an embarrassing reality. In this reality, Thomas Bernhard shouts at the world. In this reality, Bernhard is unable to extricate himself from his perceived entrapment, and remains satisfied to wallow in bitterness and self-pity. So where are we? I cannot tell. I can only tell you where I am. And I am afraid I cannot banish this reality from the pages of Holzfällen. Even when the narrator is present, Bernhard is lurking underneath the surface, never far away from his fictional world. So in the end, for me, it comes down to the following question. Did Bernhard deliberately choose to make the links to the Viennese art world obvious? If he did not, he may be a poor writer. But if he did, he may not be a writer at all.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

    One of the best of his, no doubt about it. The structure is perfection itself, and the musicality of it (even in this excellent translation) is a wonder.

  27. 4 out of 5

    knig

    A five star which I folded, halfway through. Difficult decision but so it goes. There is absolutely nothing to complain about: in fact I felt cocooned in a security blanket quilted with the reassuring monotone of neurotic repetitive obsessiveness: ‘as I sat in that arm chair’, intones Bernhard over and over again, until its languid whisper acquires the sensual sussurance of a Buddist mantra; chair or ‘Om’, the effect is equally hypnotic and lulling. But. I’m crossing over to the camp who claim B A five star which I folded, halfway through. Difficult decision but so it goes. There is absolutely nothing to complain about: in fact I felt cocooned in a security blanket quilted with the reassuring monotone of neurotic repetitive obsessiveness: ‘as I sat in that arm chair’, intones Bernhard over and over again, until its languid whisper acquires the sensual sussurance of a Buddist mantra; chair or ‘Om’, the effect is equally hypnotic and lulling. But. I’m crossing over to the camp who claim Bernhard is a one track pony. If recently I was exasperated with Virginia Woolf for plageriasing herself, if thats at all possible, in the cross link between Mrs Dalloway and To the Lighthouse, I’m now even more stunned to see Bernhard go one step further, and actually ‘clone’ himself here as a heteronym from ‘The Loser’. Slightly different set piece, same dialogue. Now, theres something to be said for mining the same thema consistently: heck, theres even a Completist Club on GR which promotes? Advocates? this. I can see the attraction. Life is short, and if you find something worth savouring, well: a bird in hand and all that. You know, why go out for burger if you’ve got steak at home. And I appreciate that. But I’ve got one eye always on the horizon, a low marginal utility threshold and a high Icarius-ian(sic) streak. Theres too much Word out there I need to crash and burn through, so can’t stay for second helpings of Bernhardia, good as it is. And, it IS good. And here are stunning reviews which more than do it justice. http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/... http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...

  28. 4 out of 5

    Nate D

    Utterly vitriolic dissection of so-called artistic society, compromise, and self-deception -- and yet, what keeps striking me is how funny, how entertainingly readable, Bernhard really is.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Adams

    My first Bernhard. ABSOLUTELY NOT my last. Brilliant.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Robinson

    Magnificent. Woodcutters is an invigorating blast of cynicism and bitter, scathing humor. I’m pleased to be able to say that it loses none of its punch when read for a second time. Definitely among Bernhard’s funniest works, and certainly one of his masterpieces. Would make a terrific place to start for somebody looking to get into wonderfully alienating world of Bernhard. Highly recommended.

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