Written almost twenty years after Correction, The Loser strikingly resembles the earlier novel in both form and content. Whereas Correction deals with a character representing the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein and his pessimistic language philosophy, The Loser focuses on a highly mythologized Glenn Gould—some of his biographical data are intentionally wrong—and his quest for the perfect piano performance of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Goldberg Variations.
Like most of Bernhard’s novels, The Loser is a one-paragraph interior monologue. In this novel’s monologue, the narrator is moved to reflect back thirty years, when he, Wertheimer, and Gould were studying to become concert pianists in Salzburg. As in Bernhard’s previous novels, all three main characters are afflicted by a lung disease and prone to self-absorption and self-doubt. Wertheimer has recently killed himself, and the narrator, who has been making little progress on his presumed magnum opus, a study entitled About Glenn Gould, has come to take charge of Wertheimer’s papers, which would presumably shed light on the reasons for his suicide. Almost the entire stream-of-consciousness monologue is delivered during the brief time the narrator waits in a country inn near Wertheimer’s house for the innkeeper to show him to his room.
The narrator conjectures that Wertheimer’s suicide is tied in some way to the recent death of...
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