Old Masters

Michael Hofmann writes:

Old Masters is typical of Bernhard in that it is both a parodically eccentric version – one isn’t sure, or it’s not sure, as often in Bernhard, if it’s a skit or a rarefied, laboratory version – of life, but at the same time it is almost reassuringly normal. A Bernhard novel is a bizarrely skewed but immediately familiar planet, whose rules and concerns we grasp as readily as those of Le Petit Prince. Old Masters takes place in a single location, more or less in real time, and yet is able to include in its purview most things under the sun. Come to think of it, even the sun: ‘He avoids the sun, there is nothing he shuns more than the sun,’ it says in Ewald Osers’s terrific and calm and thoughtful translation. Nothing happens and little is revealed; it is mostly talk and remembered talk, and thought and remembered thought.

(LRB 4 November 2010)

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