Old Masters by Thomas Bernhard

I thought I was going to love this. Angry old man ranting about the world. When I started to become less amused I put it away and tried it in ever smaller doses. After all, one wouldn’t watch Grumpy Old Men for 24 hours on the trot. But it just stopped pleasing me to the extent that eventually I did no more than flick through the last fifty pages or more, hoping I’d spot enlightenment were it to appear.

It doesn’t.

The Art Historian
The art historians are the real wreckers of art. The art historians twaddle so long about art until they killed it with their twaddle…..The art historians’ trade is the vilest trade there is…

The Teacher
…teachers are miserable creatures whose mission seems to consist of barricading life

…is a gigantic state which, if we are honest, makes us sick each time we wake up.

Artists Rembrandt, Velasquez, Giotto, Dürer etc etc etc
Artists, the so-called great artists…are…the most unscrupulous of all people….Artists are the worst liars.

Same, same same.

Ditto, ditto, ditto

…a tasteless and readily digestible reader’s pudding for the mediocre German mind. A rant that goes on for pages.

Hell does not lie ahead, hell is behind us…because hell is childhood….My parents had to be dead for me to be able to live.

Artists of all types
…even if they are the most important ones and, as it were, the greatest, are nothing, except kitschy and embarrassing and ridiculous.

…obese smelly

Being late
Unpunctuality is a disease which leads to the death of the unpunctual.

Viennese toilets
…scandalous…A rant which goes on and on and on.

…there are no city-dwellers in Europe who are dirtier. A rant that goes on and on.

Viennese restaurants
I maintain that they are the dirties in all Europe…a rant that goes on and on. Getting the picture here?

Austrian government

Austrian politics

Austrian justice
…a perfidious machine for grinding human beings.

There is nothing more distasteful than a so-called poet’s reading…there is hardly anything I detest more…There is nothing more intolerable for me than a so-called poet’s reading.

Austrian music reached its low with Mahler.

And on he goes ad infinitum. Anybody who was able to maintain the discipline to read the repetitive eventually valueless tripe has my admiration. I was not up to it. I do not believe that we are supposed to be moved by the ending.

All in all, I’m disappointed because to begin with, during his hilarious rant about art historians ruining art, I was expecting more than the tedious repetitive trashing of everything. The style is nice, the non-stop relentless fury of it, but it isn’t enough to sustain it. Every one of the examples I’ve given above goes on and on AND on. Sometimes, relieved to discover he’s moved on from Rembrandt to toilets, one finds the reprieve merely temporary. Nothing can be relied upon to have been trashed to death until the bit on the last page that says








6 thoughts on “Old Masters by Thomas Bernhard

  1. You call that a rant? My GRANDMOTHER could rant better than that! Why you’re hardly worked up at all about how this worthless, badly translated piece of shit novel wasted days of your life you’ll never get back and even got you to invest more time penning a review. Pathetic.

    • Yes, I realise that one could have made a funny story out of reviewing it, but I didn’t have the patience, it would be like out of the frying pan.

  2. I had much the same take on Bernhard. I couldn’t finish him. The only reason I’d started was he was so highly regarded by Sebald. That didn’t turn out to be enough. Too bad.

    • Is this the one you started? Did you try any others? I’m inclined not to give up yet as I so expected to like Bernhard.

    • Actually, I’ve only just read about his horrific childhood and his inevitable stand on Austria. It makes me feel half bad about being cross when I wrote this. However, now that I’ve re-read it and see

      ‘Viennese…there are no city-dwellers in Europe who are dirtier.’ A rant that goes on and on.

      My feeling is he should have got out more. Vienna, now that I’ve visited, is very clean. Well, at least those parts tourists tend to see. And that isn’t to be taken for granted, comparing it say, with Rome.

      But I’m still going to read some more and I really don’t think it’ll all be so irritating.

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