Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Correction, and all Bernhard’s writings, should be considered in the context of modern existential literature. The experience of the alienation of consciousness from being that pervades his texts is akin to the fundamental assumptions that inform the works of French existential writers and thinkers such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus. The former’s well-known novel, La Nausee (1938; Nausea, 1949), for example, highlights the same kind of experience that motivates Bernhard’s figures. Roquentin, the narrator of Sartre’s work, repeatedly confronts the brute otherness of existence and becomes, much like Roithammer and the narrator in Correction, a lone and solitary individual, estranged from society and from his own consciousness. Roquentin does not, however, commit suicide.

The issue of suicide also links Bernhard to Camus. In his famous essay “The Myth of Sisyphus,” Camus suggests that, given the ultimate absurdity of human existence, the first question of any philosophy must be whether one commits suicide. If one rejects that alternative, then one turns to “revolt” against the meaninglessness of life. For Camus, the highest form of protest is art or “absurd creation,” the temporary transcendence afforded the individual through the creative use of the imagination. Art allows humankind, if even for only a moment, to escape the suffering that existence inevitably entails. This is closest to...

(The entire section is 426 words.)