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Thomas Bernhard

Walking

(German title: Gehen)
ca. 100 pages
Paperback
1971
Thomas Bernhard
Foto: Thomas Bernhard
© Andrej Reiser

Thomas Bernhard, born in 1931 in Heerlen (Netherlands), died in Gmunden (Austria) in 1989.

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About

A powerful, compact novella, Walking provides a perfect introduction to the absurd, dark, and uncommonly comic world of Bernhard, showing a preoccupation with themes—illness and madness, isolation, tragic friendships—that would obsess Bernhard throughout his career.

Walking records the conversations of the unnamed narrator and his friend Oehler while they walk, discussing anything that comes to mind but always circling back to their mutual friend Karrer, who has gone irrevocably mad. Perhaps the most overtly philosophical work in Bernhard’s highly philosophical oeuvre, Walking provides a penetrating meditation on the impossibility of truly thinking.
(book description from the English edition by Chicago UP)

Praise

»There’s very little peace to be found within the minds of the characters of Austrian author Bernhard’s celebrated philosophical novella Walking. It’s not the easiest of reads—an account of the conversations between the unnamed narrator and his friend and walking companion Oehler, the two men’s discussion inevitably drawn back to that of the fate of a mutual friend of theirs, Karrer, who recently went mad and is now in an asylum—but there’s an absurd humour lurking between the lines.« Independent

»[#1 of the 10 funniest books]... Bernhard’s oeuvre is the longest, funniest joke in literature. If I were being honest this list would probably consist of nine Bernhard books and maybe one by Beckett. But I’ll go with this novella for its extremely long, hysterically funny description of Karrer’s mental breakdown in a clothing store, when he tries to convince a salesman, at some length, that the pants they are selling, when held up to the light, display a number of thin spots that can only be attributed to the use of shoddy materials, materials which Karrer insists (for page after page after page) must be what he refers to as 'Czechoslovakian rejects'.« Publishers Weekly

»Walking is indispensible Bernhard, a novella that can go toe to toe with his finest novels. At a brisk eighty-six pages, it’s also a great entry point for readers who haven’t yet made time for Bernhard. All of his obsessions and stylistic mannerisms—the things that make Bernhard Bernhard—are on full display here... As is usual with Bernhard, the ceaseless pessimism is actually very comic, and as Oehler and the narrator continue to state positions on the slow death of intellectualism and thinking, the narrative ramps toward one of the greatest moments in all of literature, eighteen pages of brutal hilarity.« Rain Taxi Review of Books

»What is extraordinary about Bernhard is that his relentless pessimism never seems open to ridicule; his world is so powerfully imagined that it can seem to surround you like little else in literature.« New Yorker

»Our precious individual lives, we discover, are only a symptom of a swirling, uncentered excess of thought in which we lose our direction and identity. We lose ourselves into madness, we find, not at the end of reason’s course but in the infinity between two beats of reason’s clock. It is Bernhard’s genius to be able to make this revelation darkly, but giddily, humorous. [...] this piece reads like a soliloquy revealing the complex inner tides constituting an individual psyche... Uncompromising.« Chicago Tribune

»In Walking, we see burgeoning signs of one of the most distinct literary voices of the twentieth century... A small treasure.« Rain Taxi

»The writing is repetitive, but the repetition eventually seduces the reader into the strange nature of the friends’ discussion. Despite its difficulties, the writing is beautiful; even if you don’t enjoy weighty writing or agree with Bernhard’s sometimes heavy-handed views on society, the prose can be appreciated for is beauty alone.« Bookslut

»It is with Walking, worth the price of admission, that we understand how Bernhard’s writing, a writing constantly struggling against, is a consistent, desperate, humorous, bitter, and all-too-human attempt to keep from going under.« Review of Contemporary Fiction

Other publications

Goethe schtirbt/Goethe schtirbt (2011)

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Der Wahrheit auf der Spur/On the Trail of the Truth (2010)

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Meine Preise/My Prizes (2009)

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Domestic Rights Sales: German Audiobook (Roof Music)
 

Der Briefwechsel Thomas Bernhard/Siegfried Unseld/The Correspondence (2009)

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Spanish world rights (Complices)

Domestic Rights Sales: German Audiobook (Der Hörverlag)

Werke in 22 Bänden/Extinction (1986)

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Werke in 22 Bänden/Old Masters (1985)

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Werke in 22 Bänden/Woodcutters (1984)

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Werke in 22 Bänden/The Loser (1983)

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Wittgensteins Neffe/Wittgenstein’s Nephew (1982)

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Werke in 22 Bänden/Concrete (1982)

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Die Billigesser/The Cheap-Eaters (1980)

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Ja/Yes (1978)

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Werke in 22 Bänden/Correction (1975)

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Werke in 22 Bänden/The Lime Works (1970)

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Werke in 22 Bänden/Gargoyles (1967)

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Werke in 22 Bänden/Frost (1963)

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