Bernhard, Thomas

Bernhard, Thomas, 1931–89, Austrian novelist and playwright. A literary descendent of Kafka and Beckett, Bernhard wrote dense, intensely pessimistic and provocative works. Typically, his novels are composed of lengthy monologues and his protagonists are obsessive geniuses searching for unattainable perfection. His books include Frost (1963, tr. 2006), Verstörung (1967, tr. Gargoyles, 1970), Das Kalkwerk (1970, tr. The Lime Works, 1973), Korrektur (1975, tr. Correction, 1979), Concrete (1982, tr. 1984), Holzfällen (1984, tr. Woodcutters, 1988), and Auslöschung (1986, tr. Extinction, 1995). Both Bernhard's novels and his plays frequently reflect his contempt for his Austrian homeland and its history. His last play, Heldenplatz (1988), excoriated Austria's Nazis and its anti-Semitism and provoked a furor at its opening. His other plays include Die Jagdgesellschaft (1974, tr. The Hunting Party) and Der Schein trügt (1983, tr. Appearances Are Deceiving, 1983). He also wrote poetry and nonfiction.

See his autobiography (5 vol., 1975–82, tr. in 1 vol. as Gathering Evidence, 1985); biography by G. Honneger (2001); studies by S. D. Dowden (1991), J. J. Long (2001), T. J. Cousineau (2008), and M. Konzett, ed. (2010).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: German Literature: Biographies