Friday, April 8, 2016

An extract from Thomas Bernhard's Woodcutters

Woodcutters is my favourite novel by Thomas Bernhard. It is difficult to choose one favourite novel from his oeuvre because they are all so similar in terms of style, tone and the authorial voice but I like Woodcutters because of its compact structure specially the way it ends which makes the whole narrative circular (the extract below). When I read it the first time I immediately jumped to the beginning and read the whole thing once again. It also touchingly shows his relationship with Vienna and its people. He may hate the city and its residents but it is still his city and its people his people.


I ran through the streets as though I were running away from a nightmare, running faster and faster toward the Inner City, not knowing why I was running in that direction, since to get home I would have had to go in the opposite direction, but perhaps I did not want to go home. If only I’d spent this winter in London! I said to myself. It was four in the morning, and I was running in the direction of the Inner City when I should have been going home. I should have stayed in London at all costs, I told myself, and I kept on running in the direction of the Inner City, without knowing why, and I told myself that London had always brought me happiness and Vienna unhappiness, and I went on running, running, running, as though now, in the eighties, I was once more running away from the fifties, running into the eighties, the dangerous, benighted, mindless eighties, and again it struck me that instead of going to this tasteless artistic dinner I ought to have read my Gogol or my Pascal or my Montaigne, and as I ran it seemed to me that I was running away from the Auersberger nightmare, and with ever greater energy I ran away from the Auersberger nightmare and toward the Inner City, and as I ran I reflected that the city through which I was running, dreadful though I had always felt it to be and still felt it to be, was still the best city there was, that Vienna, which I found detestable and had always found detestable, was suddenly once again the best city in the world, my own city, my beloved Vienna, and that these people, whom I had always hated and still hated and would go on hating, were still the best people in the world: I hated them, yet found them somehow touching—I hated Vienna, yet found it somehow touching—I cursed these people, yet could not help loving them—I hated Vienna yet could not help loving it. And now, as I ran through the streets of the Inner City, I thought: This is my city and always will be my city, these are my people and always will be my people, and as I went on running, I thought: I’ve survived this dreadful artistic dinner, just as I’ve survived all the other horrors. I’ll write about this artistic dinner in the Gentzgasse, I thought, without knowing what I would write—simply that I would write something about it. 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, nowat once, at once, before it’s too late.

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