Walter Abish

(Geb. 1931 in Wien, gest. 2022 in New York City)

Thomas Bernhard is by far the most disturbing and original literary figure to have emerged in postwar Austria. At 54 he has produced a remarkable body of work, over 30 books of fiction and drama that focus with an immeasurable single-mindedness on the ill will, the continual betrayal and the self-doubt that inexorably motivate his characters to contemplate their self-destruction. 

Now ranked with the foremost world authors, Mr. Bernhard writes novels that continue to incur a certain resistance on the part of the reader, for to read him is to enter a hazardous emotional maze singularly devoid of affection, love or pleasure not marred by the intrusion of death. (…)

Death encapsulates an esthetic, an Austrian morbidity, and its embrace, its avoidance, its rituals permeate the author’s remarkable memoir, which in one volume brings together the five separately published autobiographical books that cover Mr. Bernhard’s childhood – really a failure of childhood – from the age of 8 to his early adulthood and near death at 18. The five-part memoir (…) is a remarkable literary contribution to what, in the German-speaking world, at any rate, may soon come to be considered »the Age of Bernhard«.


Walter Abish: »Embraced by Death«, in: The New York Times, 16. Februar 1986.