Form and Content
Thomas Bernhard is best known as Austria’s most prolific contemporary playwright. His plays have been neither an unqualified popular success nor a critical one, but they have appeared regularly onstage and on television in Austria. His reputation as a novelist of considerable power and originality has been firmly established. His peculiar narrative voice, his individualistic manner of manipulating the German language, is a literary device which was developed to reflect an analytic, unemotional, joyless, and often bitter perception of life. His autobiographical writings are similar in both form and content to his novels, which contain autobiographical material as well. The English translation of the five autobiographical works collected in Gathering Evidence, while eminently readable, does not fully reflect the author’s syntactically complex style, which is marked by seemingly endless periods and a predilection for indirect speech.
Bernhard’s autobiography was originally written and published in five separate volumes over a period of seven years. The first four books deal with his life between age thirteen and age nineteen. The last is a record of his childhood, beginning at age eight with flashbacks to the time of his birth. In the English translation, however, the account of the author’s life up to age nineteen is presented in chronological order in one volume. The original volume titles appear, somewhat elaborated, as major chapter headings, and the title for the whole work, Gathering Evidence, is taken from the text itself, where Bernhard explains at one point that he has never ceased to gather evidence and that his whole life has been geared to finding out about his origin...
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