Wittgenstein's Nephew (Magill's Literary Annual 1990)
The late Thomas Bernhard’s view of life as farce, which comes out in his plays and novels as well as his autobiography Gathering Evidence (1986), seems the result of artistic temperament coupled with the painful burdens imposed by a chronically diseased body. That everything is against a person from the beginning and that only two options exist—suicide or incessant rebellion—a reader is more easily convinced of when preached to by the likes of Bernhard. His illnesses, particularly tuberculosis, forced him regularly away from his writing table for the company of terminally ill in sanitaria and hospitals. Choosing the rebellion option, though regularly tempted by suicide, Bernhard fought the medical institutions as one more evil of the delusive world. His code for living advised that whatever forces itself on a person as true or right should be resisted.
Wittgenstein’s Nephew, an attractively slender volume meant to be read at one sitting, is the memoir of Bernhard’s close friendship with Paul Wittgenstein, a nephew of the famous philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein and member of the wealthy Vienna Wittgenstein family. At the time he met Paul, Bernhard’s code of distrust applied to human relationships: “I was deserted by everyone because I had deserted everyone—that is the truth—because I no longer wanted anyone.” This...
(The entire section is 1778 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1990)
Booklist. LXXXV, December 1, 1988, p. 616.
Chicago Tribune. February 24, 1989, V, p. 3.
Kirkus Reviews. LVI, November 15, 1988, p. 1621.
Library Journal. CXIV, April 1, 1989, p. 109.
London Review of Rooks. X, February 4, 1988, p. 13.
Los Angeles Times Rook Review. March 5, 1989, p. 4.
The New York Times Rook Review. XCIV, February 19, 1989, p. 16.
The New Yorker. LXV, October 9, 1989, p. 132.
Publishers Weekly. CCXXXIV, November 11, 1988, p. 41.
The Times Literary Supplement. August 28, 1987, p. 933.
The Washington Post Rook World. XIX, March 5, 1989, p. 11.
(The entire section is 67 words.)