Concrete by Thomas Bernhard





















Concrete by Thomas Bernhard

Austrian fiction

Original title – Beton

Translator –  David McLintock

Source – personal copy

It is German lit month and it wouldn’t be right for me not to review a Bernhard I have reviewed six works by him on the time on the blog and hosted a Bernhard reading month. I was pleased when Faber brought some new editions out last year and this year as I had still a few I need to get by him and to read. It has been thirty years since he passed away hence the five reissue from Faber of Concrete, Extinction, woodcutters, The losers and Wittgenstein’s nephew I have linked to the ones I have reviewed by him.So here is the first of their two from Faber I hadn’t read I hope to get to the other Faber nook Extinction before the month runs out but let’s see how I get on.

Everybody suffers, my dear little brother, but you despise life, That’s your misfortune, That;s why you’re ill, that’s why you’re dying. And you soon will die if you don’t change, she said. I could hear it clearly now, more clearly than when the words were uttered in that cold, unfeeling manner of her. My sister the clairvoyant- absurd! she’s probably right though, that it would be a good thing to get away from Peiskam for a while but I’ve no guarntee of being able to start my work anywhere else, let alon get on with it.

His sister points out some things to Rudolf about himself.

As ever we have Rudolf our narrator at the heart of the Bernhard book as he is suffering for his art he is a writer about classical music but has had a bad bout of writer’s block. We also have another piece of Bernhard writing that is Music he has a man that is set on writing a piece about the composer he is working on a piece around Mendelssohn Bartholdy has taken him a ten ear to get the perfect tart to this work. Then he has a sister that he has let into his private world in the house he has inherited from his parents this is another mirroring of Bernhard’s own life in the book. Rudolf lives in the outreaches of Austria this is the same Area the Bernhard himself lived on his farm .near there on Ohlsdorf in Upper Austria. Rudolf’s sister was successful and a person that was at the heart of Viennese society this is, of course, a prime candidate for what is a Bernhard Alter ego to hate.  Rudolf also recounts when he takes a holiday to try and get this book finished the year earlier when he went to the same place in Mallorca and met a young widow whose husband had recently died but a year later he discovers she took her life. This reflects Bernhard’s own life that was full of losing those close to you.

As a result of the prednisolone my resistance is virtualy nil. When once I’ve caughta cold it takes me weeks to throw it off. And so there’s nothing I dread so much as catching a cold. Even a slight draught is enough to make me take to my bed for weeks, and so at Peiskam I live most of the time in fear of catching cold. This fear almost verges on madness and is probably one of the reasons why I find it so hard to begin any protracted intellectual work

Bernhard himself suffered himself with a lung condition so one imagines this fear is his own fear infact it was what eventually leasd to his death.


Well, this is yet another Bernhard book that is full of his bile for his homeland and the upper echelons of it especially those like Rudolf’s sister that get into those her parts of Viennese society. There are even echos to other books mention of knowing Wittgenstein’s nephew at one part which is, of course, another Bernhard book. Music in the loser has a failed musician here it is a failed musicologist. All these characters are a reflection of Bernhard himself now with Handke winning the Nobel we could turn and say if Bernhard hadn’t had such bad Health would he had been the winner imagine the bile of him winning the Nobel I loved his prize-winning speeches book my prizes. So another German lit month and I am now at book seven from Thomas Bernhard I have three more on my shelves and a couple I could buy so I think I could be doing him for a couple more German lit months in fact maybe even another Thomas Bernhard week?

8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jonathan
    Nov 03, 2019 @ 01:07:30

    I can’t believe I still haven’t read anything by hin as his works seem so appealing to me.


  2. mytwostotinki
    Nov 03, 2019 @ 15:35:47

    Haven’t read this one yet, but Bernhard is one of my favorite German-language authors, and he never disappoints. His “sound” is quite addictive, and there is frequently a dose of black or absurd humor in his books. A much more interesting writer compared to Handke in my opinion, whose style seems to me very boring and stilted. (I am not even mentioning his unsupportable political statements.)


  3. Steve Mitchelmore
    Nov 03, 2019 @ 20:49:42

    Concrete is one of Bernhard’s weakest, only Bernhard’s weakest is mighty compared to most fiction. As for Handke mytwostotinki, what are those “unsupportable political statements”? Please check what he actually said against what you think he said. This website may help:


    • mytwostotinki
      Nov 04, 2019 @ 06:56:31

      Steve, I read all his six Yugoslavia books plus several essays and his infamous interview with Ketzerbriefe, a journal well-known for his right-wing extremist views in Germany. And I lived 5 years in ex-Yugoslavia. So I am quite familiar with what Handke said and did. This is not the right place to discuss it, but you can find plenty of articles that just document in detail what he said, including denying that the Srebrenica massacre happened (later he said this was not what he meant, but the massacre was just a somehow acceptable form of revenge for a previous massacre about only he and his Serbian friends know); being a close friend of a convicted war criminal whose best man he was, and who was a major source of inspiration for Breivik and the Auckland shooter; insulting the mothers of the victims of Srebrenica; describing the perpetrators of the atrocities committed by Serbs as “victims”, or describing the snipers who killed thousands of people in Sarajevo as “native Indians who were fighting for their freedom”, etc. etc. It is just disgusting when you read his texts. If he at least once would have shown empathy with those who had been killed by his extremist Serbian friends….but he didn’t. Here is a link that gives you an idea about what I am talking, but if you read his books and public statements, it is even worse, believe me: (the text is in German, but you get a fairly good translation with Google Translate).


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November 2019


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