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The Loser

4.09 of 5 stars 4.09  ·  rating details  ·  3,168 ratings  ·  261 reviews
Thomas Bernhard was one of the most original writers of the twentieth century. His formal innovation ranks with Beckett and Kafka, his outrageously cantankerous voice recalls Dostoevsky, but his gift for lacerating, lyrical, provocative prose is incomparably his own.
One of Bernhard's most acclaimed novels, "The Loser" centers on a fictional relationship between piano virt
Hardcover, 189 pages
Published August 27th 1991 by Knopf (first published 1983)
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A single paragraph. One breathless monologue. Genius. Failure. Perfection. Obsession. Friendship. Death.

The Genius, the Philosopher, the Loser.

The musical genius of Glenn Gould, the pinnacle of art, is what serves as the reference defining all three of their lives. Werthemier - the titular Loser - finds himself woefully dwarfed by the perfection of Gould as a piano artist. The frustration of recognizing his worthlessness and knowing that he will never be able to reach the top leads him to give
"everything is ridiculous if one thinks of death."

This is what Bernhard said as a part of his acceptance speech for the Austrian State Prize for Literature. So, Yeah! That’s the kind of man he was.

Along with many other writers, I discovered Bernhard through Goodreads only. The next step is usually checking out the author’s profile, from where I found the following description:

Thomas Bernhard was an Austrian author, who ranges among the most distinguished German speaking writers of the second h
Grey – The color that most of the characters created during large part of twentieth century and whole of twenty-first century till date, are painted in. Cruelly banishing the evergreen Black and all-star White to secondary positions, Grey has risen in ranks to be the heroic hue of all ‘famous’ characters. The modern reader in me haughtily merges this contemporary thought into her conversations and discusses the ‘grey’ shades of the latest literary protagonist she has encountered. But the convent ...more
Recommended soundtrack for this review.

Of course Thomas Bernhard's The Loser covers some of the usual Bernhardian terrain -- misanthropy, madness, death, all the fun stuff really -- but failure is the real star of this show. The 'Loser' of the title, named Wertheimer, was unfortunate enough both to have been a gifted piano player and to have studied contemporaneously with piano legend Glenn Gould, whose life and genius -- albeit in a somewhat fictionalized form -- haunt Wertheimer until he is at
Feb 07, 2012 Mariel rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Hansi Hinterseer
Recommended to Mariel by: Der Leiermann
"Again and again we picture ourselves sitting together with the people we feel drawn to all our lives, precisely these so-called simple people, whom naturally we imagine much differently from the way they truly are, for if we actually sit down with them we see that they aren't the way we've pictured them and that we absolutely don't belong with them, as we've talked ourselves into believing, and we get rejected at their table and in their midst as we logically should get after sitting down at t ...more
This book should be hidden inside the dust jackets of all the self help books out there. You don't need help once you realize that helplessness is the basic condition that surrounds us. Helplessness of a genius to be that way and of the Loser to struggle against this helplessness.

Bernhard is amazing. And I think my suicide gets delayed, until I have finished reading all what he has written.

Lets understand suicide before committing to it.
Oct 06, 2011 Lee rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: favorites
Funnier and nastier and less full of shit than anything I've ever read. More laughs per ten pages than Sedaris etc, but with WAY MORE suicide! Awesome Austrian lit. Glenn Gould, the one true piano genius. One paragraph for 155 pages! Zero pretension. Few sentences extended over the course of the book in fugue state. Sort of like lame-ass literary fiction if you removed every standard literary convention (plot, dialogue, setting, scenes) and just freakin' mainlined the narrator's consciousness: I ...more
MJ Nicholls
We all know hasbeens who never were, so are really hasn’tbeens. My first wife, Mary Quattro, played the spoons in the Intergalactic Pipe Cleaners, a polka and celtic disco band who kept audiences enthralled with their wild interpretations of traditionals in the style of Ottawan and other disco groovers. She was forever in the shadow of Niles Vee, a percussionist of rare merit, who was at home on maracas and spoons. This outrageous two-instrument skill was impossible for poor Mary to beat, so she ...more
‘…he said, I thought…’

As intrusive as this interjection might appear, in Thomas Bernhard’s The Loser it (and other permutations) serves as a sort of cadence or metered pause between lines of enjambment, fusing the sentences of the book together into one extended run-on thought, turning and twisting tortuously through the aggressive machinations of three stubbornly wilful human beings, whose central difference might be the amount of insecurity each manifests in the face of the others' achievement
Ever wondered if you were a genius? Or desperately wanted to be one? I think that most people of a certain level of intelligence (or prowess at a given art/sport/etc.) have done both, but The Loser will make you think twice.

Plenty of novels have been written about genius from its own perspective; Ratner's Star and Infinite Jest are a couple of examples, though by no means the best ones. They ask what it's like to be a genius, what truly makes a genius tick. And in the cases of both those exampl
I am writing this review whilst listening to Glenn Gould perform the Goldberg Variations here:

He is truly amazing, and if nothing else, ‘The loser’ led me to this virtuoso.
Bernhard never knew Glenn Gould, of course, but he zeroed in on him as the perfect instrument with which to ply his vitriolic satire directed at his fellow Austrian: the nation known for nurturing some of the greatest composers of all time is subjected to the waxilirical adulation of a
Chiara Pagliochini
«Voleva essere artista, a lui non bastava essere l’artista della propria vita, benché questo concetto racchiuda tutto ciò che può rendere felice qualsiasi persona lungimirante, pensai. Wertheimer insomma si era innamorato, o addirittura era rimasto ammaliato dal proprio fallimento, pensai, e in questo fallimento si era incaponito fino alla fine. In effetti potrei dire perfino che pur essendo certamente infelice nella sua infelicità, sarebbe stato ancora più infelice se dall’oggi al domani avesse ...more
Con questo libro Bernhard ha riscritto le regole del classico Dreiecksdrama e ha stravolto anche il concetto di Doppelgänger. Certo con lui è proprio inutile mettere il quadro in soffitta ad invecchiare. O selezionare l’ego che più ci aggrada bevendo improbabili pozioni magiche.
È un po’ come la copertina di Ummagumma dei Pink Floyd: fotografie/specchi come scatole cinesi che amplificano la realtà rendendola ricorsiva, eppure sempre diversa. Un gioco autoreferenziale che probabilmente potrebbe a
Mike Ingram
I keep reading books described as "darkly funny" only to be disappointed when they're either not all that dark, or (worse) not all that funny, more like "mildly amusing" or "kooky" or "worthy of the occasional chuckle," the kind of laughs you indulge in while watching a movie in the theater, but only because laughing out loud is part of the communal moviegoing experience, rather than the kind of spontaneous out-loud laughter you can't hold in, even if (like me) you're on an airplane, which laugh ...more
Bernhard certainly is an intense one. The Loser is a cerebral and methodical dissection of genius, perfectionism, obsession, and music- in short: Glenn Gould. The writing is schizophrenic and enraging at times; Bernhard was never content to tell an easy story in an easy manner, and in fact, he makes it about as difficult as possible for the reader, with frequent, feverish bouts of repetition, little character development, and ideas about everything that just seem to leap out and then vanish back ...more
Vit Babenco
Loser is an irrational tale told by an irrational man about his irrational friend – a triumph of paranoia.
“The so-called intellectual consumes himself in what he considers pathbreaking work and in the end has only succeeded in making himself ridiculous, whether he’s called Schopenhauer or Nietzsche, it doesn’t matter, even if he was Kleist or Voltaire we still see a pitiful being who has misused his head and finally driven himself into nonsense. Who’s been rolled over and passed over by history.
Hayatın, dünyanın katlanılmazlığını tüm kitaplarında işleyen Thomas Bernhard, son dönem eserlerinden Bitik Adam'da da bu konuyu ele almış. Bu defa ünlü, dahi ama sıradışı karakterde olan piyanist Glenn Gould'un, onunla birlikte Salzburg'da yine bir başka müzik efsanesi Horowitz'den kurs alan Wertheimer (Bitik Adam) ile anlatıcımızın hayatları üzerindeki etkileri temelinde ilerliyor hikaye, tabii buna hikaye denebilirse. Bernhard'ın tüm unsurlarıyla Avusturya toplumuna, Viyana'ya, Salzburg'a öfke ...more
Marcello S
“Per non togliersi la vita ci vuol davvero una gran forza di volontà”.

Radicale, ripetitivo, ossessivo.
A tratti devastante.
Un labirinto claustrofobico di vie nuove ed altre già percorse che tornano fin quasi allo sfinimento, senza soluzione.

L’arte assoluta, il genio, il fallimento, il suicidio.
L’equilibrio mentale in disgregazione.
Le Variazioni Goldberg.

E’ il mio primo approccio con TB.
Avendo letto un paio di libri di Vitaliano Trevisan - autore vicentino che si rifà a Bernhard quasi completament
Bernhard doesn't really seem to write "novels" as much as he makes voices. Bitter, misanthropic, death-obsessed, repetitious, cynical voices. Yet for as bleak as his narration is, as much as it constantly circles around failure, disgust for his native Austria, and a general sense of life's ridiculousness, his writing is also shot through with these razor sharp little moments of irony and black-humor.

The mind at work here is fiercely, angrily alive and willing to throw shit in the face of anythi
Un vortice di tetraggine e cupezza e dimostrazione di che cosa vuol dire incentrare la propria storia su un soccombente, uno di quelli che "falliti" lo sono per davvero e proprio perché tali, non riusciranno mai a uscirne. Glenn Gould è il genio tra i tre virtuosi, anzi, ma che fra i tre, il campo di confronto lo vede vincitore su una fascia estremamente più larga. Ciò però fa male per chi, purtroppo, genio non è: uno può anche reagire in modo dignitoso, come il narratore senza nome: abbandonare ...more
Bernhard is a great writer. If he keeps this up, he'll be one of my favorite writers. He really has an individual style, and reading reviews on here and elsewhere comparing him to salinger, beckett, joyce, kafka, dostoyevsky etc. All are lacking and completely puzzling comparisons to me. His obsessions are completely different from those great writers and his style is completely different. I laughed hard at this book. So far I've read Wittgenstein's Nephew and this. I liked WN more. I thought th ...more

At one point I was reading this at the bar in a diner at, like, a little past midnight and this foreign-sounding guy came up to me and said "You're reading that?...Zee fevvorite..."! and kissed the tips of his fingers like you do.

I already wrote some of my feelings about Mr. Bernhard in my review of his "Wittgenstein's Nephew" so I'll just post some Glenn Gould vids in lieu of another blathering review...

Goldberg variations:

Beethoven: http:/
Emilian Kasemi
Fondamentalmente siamo capaci di qualsiasi cosa, e altrettanto fondamentalmente siamo destinati a fallire in ogni cosa, pensai. A un’unica frase ben riuscita sono stati ridotti i nostri grandi filosofi e i nostri massimi poeti, la verità è questa, spesso ricordiamo solamente una cosiddetta tonalità filosofica, non ricordiamo nient’altro, pensai. Noi studiamo un’opera colossale, l’opera di Kant per esempio, e col passare del tempo essa si riduce alle piccole pensate di un filosofo della Prussia o ...more
This is the funniest book I have read in months. Whether you also find this book funny will be a crucial factor, I think, in whether or not you enjoy it/finish it/refrain from ripping it into pieces. Because I thought The Loser was funny - hilarious, in fact - I had a hard time understanding all the hype about its supposed difficulty. However, if you don't think the book is funny, then its endless repetitions and obsessive-compulsive reiterations of dark themes might be hard going. It's a monolo ...more
Thomas Bernhard is one twisted brilliant guy. A novel about the nature of guenius - and with the great genius piano player Glenn Gould, one has a subject matter that is both fascinating and slightly scary. The intense nature of doing something well, something that others can't do well - and the relationship between artist and everyone else is a heady subject matter. Bernhard by his nature, doesn't flinch in front of a difficult subject. A work of genius, really!
This book is simply a masterpiece. Whether or not Bernhard is a one-trick pony, as someone suggested -- THIS little pony is beyond belief. The Afterword, by Mark Anderson, is also a must read.

Apparently, Werthheimer is modeled to some real extent on Wittgenstein (the uncle, not the nephew...).

Magnificent little book!
Anastasja Kostic
''Nesreća ljudskih bića je u tome što ne žele da pođu svojim putem , uvek žele da pođu nekim drugim. Bore se i teže nečem sasvim drukčijem od onoga što su . Svako je izuzetna ličnost, bilo da kreči, ili čisti ulice, ili piše, ili... ali ljudi uvek hoće nešto drugo. To je nesreća ovog sveta.''

Ova rečenica mada je preuzeta iz biografije na kraju knjige u potpunusti opisuje njenu sadržinu. Sva trojca su upisala akademiju želeći da steknu slavu, Glen Guld je oduševio svet svojom virtuoznošću , ali
L’insicurezza dell’essere umano è parte integrante della sua natura e della sua disperazione

Il soccombente di Thomas Bernhard è la storia di tre pianisti: il narratore, Glenn Gould e Wertheimer. Quest'ultimo, musicista talentuoso è il soccombente. Che significa? Il talento e la volontà di fronte alla genialità sono destinati a soccombere, questo sembra suggerire il narratore. Di fatti, dei tre, solo Glenn Gould si affermerà perché gli altri due preferiranno essere qualsisi altra cosa piuttosto c
First off, please listen as author Claire Messud, a guest on NPR's "All Things Considered," tells us why "You Must Read This." She speaks so eloquent, having found the way to convey just what her heart knows to be true, finding the means to describe such a complex mix of words, character, structure, book, creativity, obsession, genius. [Well, okay, she IS a writer : ) ]

This book and the reviewing of it has been in the forefront of my mind, the back of my mind, the middle, top, never forgotten, o
The Loser is a deep and personal meditation on the notions of genius, so precisely executed that the form of the text, which unfolds like a fugue, embodies all of the complexities of the subject. It is neurotic and disturbing but also hilarious and passionate, and Bernhard’s ability to strike a kind of balance, to offer this text as a witty and strange piece of counterpoint, is proof of his brilliance and singularity. This tale, which obsesses about misery, suicide, and failure is also a love le ...more
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Thomas Bernhard was an Austrian author, who ranges among the most distinguished German speaking writers of the second half of the 20th century.
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“In theory we understand people, but in practice we can't put up with them, I thought, deal with them for the most part reluctantly and always treat them from our point of view. We should observe and treat people not from our point of view but from all angles, I thought, associate with them in such a way that we can say we associate with them so to speak in a completely unbiased way, which however isn't possible, since we actually are always biased against everybody.” 28 likes
“Again and again we picture ourselves sitting together with the people we feel drawn to all our lives, precisely these so-called simple people, whom naturally we imagine much differently from the way they truly are, for if we actually sit down with them we see that they aren't the way we've pictured them and that we absolutely don't belong with them, as we've talked ourselves into believing, and we get rejected at their table and in their midst as we logically should get after sitting down at their table and believing we belonged with them or we could sit with them for even the shortest time without being punished, which is the biggest mistake, I thought. All our lives we yearn to be with these people and want to reach out to them and when we realize what we feel for them are rejected by them and indeed in the most brutal fashion.” 8 likes
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