Like all of Thomas Bernhard’s mature novels, Concrete is written as one long paragraph representing a continuous interior monologue. In this novel, the monologue is in the form of a manuscript perused by an anonymous narrator, possibly after the death of the manuscript’s author, Rudolph. The unnamed narrator is noticeable only by brief editorial references, such as “writes Rudolph,” or “so Rudolph,” which appear mainly at the beginning and the very end of the novel.
At the outset, Rudolph, who fancies himself a musicologist, once again attempts to start his magnum opus, a study of the composer Felix Mendelssohn, as he has done several times for the past ten years without ever writing a line. Convinced that he has only a few more years to live because he suffers from sarcoidosis, a usually nonfatal lung disease, he is determined to start writing. He attributes his inability to begin to the constant interruptions of his sister, whom he depicts as an anti-intellectual but apparently very successful business woman. Further excuses for his procrastination are the adverse cultural conditions in Austria, his health, and the climate, but the reader senses that the very completion of his project would deprive him of any reason to continue living—the completion of his life’s work would also be the end of his life.
After a long rant about these obstacles that takes up two-thirds of the novel, Rudolph decides to follow his...
(The entire section is 557 words.)