Gathering evidence : a memoir

by Thomas Bernhard

Hardcover, 1985




New York : Knopf, 1985.


Written with a dark pain and drama that recalls the novels of Dickens, Gathering Evidence is a powerful and compelling memoir of youth by one of the twentieth century's most gifted writers. Born in 1931, the illegitimate child of an abandoned mother, Thomas Bernhard was brought up by an eccentric grandmother and an adored grandfather. Tormented as a young student in rightwing, Catholic Austria, Bernhard ran away from home aged fifteen. At eighteen, he contracted pneumonia. Placed in a hospital ward for the old and terminally ill, he observed with unflinching acuity protracted suffering and death. From the age of 21, everything he wrote was shaped by the urgency of a dying man's testament - his witness, the quintessence of his life and knowledge - and where this account of his life ends, his art begins.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member JimElkins
This is my fifth and just possibly my last book by Bernhard. He is stupendous, but the problem he raises for me is: When is it time to stop reading him? I haven’t got a clear idea about that, but I think it might hinge on whether or not you laugh when you read him. When he piles impossible disaster on implausible condemnation, when each sentence pronounces a verdict more tar-black, more hopeless, more sweeping, more disconsolately angry than the last, do you laugh? I do. I do not think he intends me to. I laugh because after all, how could a twentieth-century writer go on as if he were Jeremiah? Or as if he were Zola, railing against the suffering of the working classes? Or even as if he were Beckett, but burdened with memories Beckett never had, and crippled with an incurable disease, and with an imagination sharpened by an even more shriveled sense of anything outside of complete disaster? So I laugh when the next sentence outdoes the one before. I keep reading, and I am swept along, but still some little damage is done by each laugh. Because if you laugh enough, even tidal waves of half-drowned despair and bile become ridiculous. And after an entire book, or several books, the cascading unstoppable sulphuric vitriol starts sounding a little silly. It doesn’t sound wrong or misguided (and in particular it does not sound insane) but it sounds, simply, a little bit silly.
That has something to do with why I feel like I’m finished reading him, But he is stupendous. There has to be a good reason to stop reading such a person.
… (more)



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