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Authors: Thomas Bernhard

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Frost: A Novel

BOOK: Frost: A Novel
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Frost: A Novel
Thomas Bernhard
Vintage (2010)
Rating: ★★★★☆
Tags: Literature & Fiction, Literary, Contemporary Fiction
Literature & Fictionttt Literaryttt Contemporary Fictionttt

Visceral, raw, singular, and distinctive,
is the story of a friendship between a young man at the beginning of his medical career and a painter who is entering his final days.

A writer of world stature, Thomas Bernhard combined a searing wit and an unwavering gaze into the human condition.
follows an unnamed young Austrian who accepts an unusual assignment. Rather than continue with his medical studies, he travels to a bleak mining town in the back of beyond, in order to clinically observe the aged painter, Strauch, who happens to be the brother of this young man’s surgical mentor. The catch is this: Strauch must not know the young man’s true occupation or the reason for his arrival. Posing as a promising law student with a love of Henry James, the young man befriends the mad artist and is caught up among an equally extraordinary cast of local characters, from his resentful landlady to the town’s mining engineers.

This debut novel by Thomas Bernhard, which came out in German in 1963 and is now being published in English for the first time, marks the beginning of what was one of the twentieth century’s most powerful, provocative literary careers.

From the Hardcover edition.



Thomas Bernhard

Thomas Bernhard was born in Holland in 1931 and grew up in Austria. He studied music at the Akademie Mozarteum in Salzburg. In 1957 he began a second career writing plays, poems, and novels. The winner of the three most distinguished and coveted literary prizes awarded in Germany, he has become one of the most widely translated and admired writers of his generation. His novels published in English include
The Loser, The Lime Works, Correction, Concrete, Woodcutters
, and
Wittgenstein’s Nephew;
a number of his plays have been produced off Broadway, at the Tyrone Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis, and at theaters in London and throughout Europe. The five segments of his memoir were published in one volume,
Gathering Evidence
, in 1985. Thomas Bernhard died in 1989.

Gathering Evidence
The Lime Works
The Loser
Wittgenstein’s Nephew


Translation copyright © 2006 by Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc

All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Vintage Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, and in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto. Originally published in German as
by Suhrkamp Verlag, Frankfurt, Germany, 1963. Copyright © Insel Verlag, Frankfurt am Main, 1963. This translation originally published in hardcover in the United State by Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, in 2006.

Vintage is a registered trademark and Vintage International and colophon are trademarks of Random House, Inc.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents, either are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

The Library of Congress has cataloged the Knopf edition as follows:
Bernhard, Thomas.
[Frost. English]
Frost / Thomas Bernhard ; translated from the German by Michael Hofmann.
p. cm.
I. Hofmann, Michael, 1957 Aug 25. II. Title.
PT2662.E7F713 2006
833′.914—dc22 2006040886

eISBN: 978-0-307-77348-7




About the Author

Other Books by This Author

Title Page


First Day

Second Day

Third Day

Fourth Day

Fifth Day

Sixth Day

Seventh Day

Eighth Day

Ninth Day

Tenth Day

Eleventh Day

Twelfth Day

Thirteenth Day

Fourteenth Day

Fifteenth Day

Sixteenth Day

Seventeenth Day

Eighteenth Day

Nineteenth Day

Twentieth Day

Twenty-First Day

Twenty-Second Day

Twenty-Third Day

Twenty-Fourth Day

Twenty-Fifth Day

Twenty-Sixth Day

My Letters to Assistant Strauch

Twenty-Seventh Day

First Day

A medical internship consists of more than spectating at complicated bowel operations, cutting open stomach linings, bracketing off lungs, and sawing off feet; and it doesn’t just consist of thumbing closed the eyes of the dead, and hauling babies out into the world either. An internship is not just tossing limbs and parts of limbs over your shoulder into an enamel bucket. Nor does it just consist of trotting along behind the registrar and the assistant and the assistant’s assistant, a sort of tail-end Charlie. Nor can an internship be only the putting out of false information; it isn’t just saying: “The pus will dissolve in your bloodstream, and you’ll soon be restored to perfect health.” Or a hundred other such lies. Not just: “It’ll get better”—when nothing will. An internship isn’t just an academy of scissors and thread, of tying off and pulling through. An internship extends to circumstances and possibilities that have nothing to do with the flesh. My mission to observe the painter Strauch compels me to think about precisely such non-flesh-related circumstances and
issues. The exploration of something unfathomably mysterious. The making of sometimes very far-reaching discoveries. The way you might investigate a conspiracy, say. And it is perfectly possible that the non-flesh-related, by which I don’t mean the soul—that what is non-flesh-related, without being the soul, of which I can’t say for certain whether it exists, though I must say I assume it does, that this thousand-year-old working assumption is a thousand-year-old truth—but it is perfectly possible that the non-flesh-related, which is to say, the non-cell-based, is the thing from which everything takes its being, and not the other way round, nor yet some sort of interdependence.

Second Day

I took the earliest train at four thirty. Passed through sheer rock. When I boarded the train, I was shivering. Gradually I warmed up. Further, the voices of the workers coming home off the night shift. I felt for them right away. Men and women, old and young, but all with the same voices of utter exhaustion, from their heads and their breasts and their balls down to their boot soles. The men in gray caps, the women in red headscarves. They wrapped their legs in scraps of loden cloth; that’s the only way they know of keeping the cold at bay. I knew at once that they were a group of snow-shovelers who had got on at Sulzau. It felt as warm as in a cow’s belly: the air felt as if it was being pumped from
body to body with incredible pressure from some collective muscle. Doesn’t bear thinking about! I pressed my back hard against the wall of the compartment. Because I hadn’t slept all night, I dropped off. When I woke up, I saw again the trail of blood that trickled unevenly along the wet floor of the wagon, like a stream threading its way between mountains, ending up between the window and the window frame, under the emergency brake. It originated from a crushed bird that had been cut in half by a sudden jerk of the window. Maybe days ago. Shut so hard, there wasn’t the trace of a draft. The conductor, going by in performance of his dismal duty, had taken no notice of the dead bird. But he must have seen it. I knew that. Suddenly I heard the story of a lineman who had been asphyxiated in a snowstorm, which ended: “He never cared about anything.” I don’t know if it was my exterior, or something inside me, finding some expression, the aura of my thoughts, of my task, energetically preparing itself in me—but no one sat down near me, even though over time every seat became precious.

The train wheezed through the river valley. In my thoughts, I was once briefly at home. Then I was far away again, in some city I once walked through. Then I saw specks of dust on my left sleeve, which I tried to brush off with my right arm. The workers pulled out knives, and cut bread. They choked down great thick lumps of bread, and ate pieces of meat and wurst with them. Great chunks that no one would ever eat at a table. Only on their laps. They all drank ice-cold beer, and were evidently too enfeebled to laugh at themselves, even though they felt they were worth laughing at. They were so
tired, it didn’t even occur to them to do up their flies or wipe their mouths. I thought: When they get home, they’ll fall straight into bed. And at five in the afternoon, when everyone else knocks off, they’ll start again. The train rattled and plunged down, like the river running beside it. If anything, it seemed to be getting darker.

The room is as small and uncomfortable as my intern’s room in Schwarzach. If it’s the roar of the river that’s unbearable there, here it’s the silence. At my request, the landlady took down the curtains. (It’s always like that with me: I don’t like having curtains in rooms that frighten me.) The landlady is disgusting to me. It’s the same disgust I felt when I was a child and had to vomit outside the open doors of the slaughterhouse. If she were dead I would, today, feel no disgust—dead bodies on the dissecting table never remind me of live bodies—but she’s alive, and living in a moldy ancient reek of inn kitchens. Apparently she likes me, though, because she lugged my suitcase upstairs, and offered to bring me breakfast in bed every morning, which is absolutely at variance with her normal practice. “The painter’s an exception,” she said. He was another long-stay guest, and long-stay guests enjoyed certain privileges. Even though, as far as innkeepers were concerned, they were “more trouble than they were worth.” How had I happened to wind up at her inn? “By chance,” I said. I wanted to recuperate quickly, and return home, where a mountain of work was waiting for me. She seemed understanding. I told her my name and showed her my passport.

BOOK: Frost: A Novel
2.11Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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