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Wittgenstein's Nephew

4.14 of 5 stars 4.14  ·  rating details  ·  1,874 ratings  ·  141 reviews
It is 1967. In separate wings of a Viennese hospital, two men lie bedridden. The narrator, named Thomas Bernhard, is stricken with a lung ailment; his friend Paul, nephew of the celebrated philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, is suffering from one of his periodic bouts of madness. As their once-casual friendship quickens, these two eccentric men begin to discover in each other ...more
Hardcover, 100 pages
Published January 15th 1989 by Knopf (first published 1982)
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A highly readable work of dazzling intensity. The novella is based in part on a true story: author Bernhard's friendship with philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein's grand nephew, Paul. Prepare yourself for a blast of intellectually dense but very compelling--and funny--writing. The book is at bottom a great howl of rage against death. Bernhard in his day (1931-1989) was perhaps Austria's most controversial novelist/playwright. The narrator, based on Bernhard, and his familiar, Paul Wittgenstein, shar ...more
Paquita Maria Sanchez
Fick! What started out as the cause of me once again whining under my breath about Bernhard's head-clubbing repetition slowly evolved into a rewarding, mist upon the eyes causing, scrupulous bloodletting of Bernhard's personal guilt, nostalgia, and self-reflection resulting from the passing of his closest friend, literally Wittgenstein's nephew, Paul Wittgenstein. Paul was, as Bernhard and various Mental Health Professionals proclaimed, a certifiable Madman. However, Paul argued he was at least ...more
A quickie review, so put on your non-porous splash suit and buckle yourself in. Eschewing his emblematic deranged, run-on style, Bernhard serves up Wittgenstein's Nephew as both a eulogy of his friend Paul Wittgenstein, the famed philosopher's mentally unbalanced nephew, and a bleak rumination on death -- or more pointedly, the slow, surreptitious death that constitutes life. If you know someone who is despairing about about his or her physical deterioration and impending death, do not be so tho ...more
Making sense of the world is difficult stuff. Whether you start from the cosmos and work your way back to the self, or vis-versa, the thought of how things happen or why things exist at all remains insolubly complex. Most of us are either too caught up in the everyday exigencies of life or simply can't be bothered to give the mysteries our full attention. But what if you couldn’t stop thinking about such things? What if you were constantly, manically shifting the focus away from the humdrum and ...more
M. Sarki

This is one of those Bernhard books that most devotees say they loved but speak little about why or how it happened. Those who do are predictable in their comments regarding Bernhard's plot, his friendships, judgments, and in general, death. Nothing wrong with either approach, but it just doesn't get the uninitiated where she needs to be. This particular Bernhard tale is quite unlike anything else he has written. Almost easier to stomach the vitriol and ra
Bernhard likes very few things, especially people. To paraphrase his narrator, who at a certain instance in the novel ruthlessly points out, one doesn't even have to use all the five fingers of one hand to count the things or ideas or ideals of the society he is in good terms with. A sample of his raw judgement:

For let us not deceive ourselves: most of the minds we associate with are housed in heads that have little more to offer than overgrown potatoes, stuck on top of whining and tastelessly
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
Had this not been part fiction I would have unhesitatingly called its author, Thomas Bernhard, insane. Or, at the very least, a difficult, incomprehensible eccentric. He writes here about his friend Paul Wittgenstein, a nephew of the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein whose philosophy of language I studied in college but never understood. To Thomas Bernhard both Ludwig and Paul were mad philosophers, the only difference between them being that Ludwig was published and became famous while Paul never ...more
Vit Babenco
Wittgenstein's Nephew is about friendship but in some strange way it reminded me of The Castle by Franz Kafka
Between a man and freedom there is always a wall of bureaucracy…
“Paul’s mind quite simply exploded because he could not discard his intellectual fortune fast enough. In the same way Nietzsche’s mind exploded, just as all the other mad philosophical minds exploded, because they could no longer sustain the pace. Their intellectual fortune builds up at a faster and fiercer rate than the can
this is the first Bernhard book I've read. I was made aware of him by listening to an interview of W.G. Sebald. in it he mentioned that Bernhard was his mentor. if he helped Sebald find his voice, he must be special or maybe not. I was not disappointed . this is a raw-honest telling of his relationship with Paul Wittgenstein, nephew of Ludwig. it is about facing death, the cruel reality of aging, and the frailty of our minds and bodies. sounds like a real bummer of a book, eh. yet it is not, tot ...more
a 100 page book consisting of 1 paragraph should not be this enjoyable to read (I read it in a day), especially without any kind of intriguing plot, flashy language or the like. But Bernhard's subtle writing style draws you in, always interesting and often hilarious, without appearing like he is trying all that hard to be. Most of all, it's the line of thought in this book that is the most impressive to me, the way it moves from thought to thought like a very good poem. I will definitely read mo ...more
مقتطف/ صداقة
قلت لنفسى وأنا أجلس فوق دكة فى منتزه المدينة، إن هذه ربما تكون آخر مرة أرى فيها صديقى. لم أكن اعتقد أن جسدا بهذا الوهن، خبت فيه جذوة الحياة وانطفأت شعلة الإرادة، سيتحمل أكثر من بضعة أيام. زُلزل كيانى لرؤيته هكذا يعانى الوحدة فجأة، هذا الإنسان الذى هو بسليقته إنسان اجتماعى، كما يقولون، منذ مولده وحتى بلوغه، وظل اجتماعيا إلى أن أمسى كهلا ثم شيخا. ثم خطر على بالى كيف تعرّفت إلى هذا الإنسان الذى أضحى بالفعل صديقى، الذى طالما أسعدَ وجودى غاية السعادة، هذا الوجود الذى لم يكن با
Oct 10, 2008 John rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: readers who like a laugh, a shock, a challenge
Recommended to John by: maybe Donald Barthelme
Call it the contra-convalescent novel, in which laughter is the worst medicine & yet we can't help sticking out our arms for a fresh shot, because anyway it hurts more to be up on your feet than laid out in a hospital. Or is this a novella? WITTGENSTEIN'S NEPHEW has no chapter breaks, anyway, nor paragraph breaks either. As its shaggy-dog cynicism & worldliness spools out, the work may even rise to the technical challenge of carving out a new late-20th-Century form. This thing of darknes ...more

I picked this up because I'd read Berhard's "The Loser" already and the same friend who had leant it to me suggested I check out another Berhard joint.

Part of the reason he interests me is because he is so consistently praised and oohed and ahhed over by (at least what I see of) the current literary establishment. So many people suggest that he is (or, more specifically, was) one of the very best of contemporary world writers that I suppose it would be poor form to neglect his work.

Plus, it
Parecería que el susceptible e inefable Thomas Bernhard se hubiese despertado de una pesadilla durante una madrugada cualquiera en la cual estuviese soñando con la muerte, con su tortuosa vida y con su difunto amigo Paul Wittgenstein y en ese momento se hubiese puesto a escribir, de un solo tirón, un texto acerca de estos temas que le habrían provocado una profunda impresión y que permanecían todavía muy vívidos en su interior y latiendo en su mente mientras terminaba su texto, mismo que hubiese ...more
Bernhard with a smile... of sorts. This is almost Bernhard-lite. There's still the one-paragraph-book, still the despair, anguish, hatred for humanity (which includes, of course, Bernhard), focus on the base elements of our nature, and the bile, the endlessly spewing bile. But it is all leavened by the nature of the story, which is about Bernhard's brilliant and doomed friend who is Wittgenstein's nephew and equally as brilliant as Ludwig Wittgenstein, even if he never put his brilliant thoughts ...more
Sep 04, 2007 Rob rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who think it's funny to hate life
Shelves: fiction
this book consists of a single paragraph. it's only 100 pages long, but that's still a pretty long paragraph.

it's kind of a prose poem, so it's sort of interesting that i actually enjoyed it in translation, since i often don't like translations at all. He uses a lot of repetition, and some people might find the style annoying, but i liked it.

basically, it's about his friendship with Paul Wittgenstein, who was the nephew of Ludwig Wittgenstein. He talks a lot about paul's madness and his own lung
Ben Eldridge
I can't believe this has such a high average rating... Wittgenstein's Nephew is one of the most pretentious - and dull - books I have encountered in my travels through art and life. It's a novella written in one 100-page paragraph that acts as a semi-autobiographical eulogy to Thomas Bernhard's friend - Ludwig Wittgenstein's nephew - Paul Wittgenstein. The majority of the book is horrendously repetitious, and the unchecked privilege and pomposity of Bernhard (the character) is really hard to swa ...more
Stephen Durrant
The power of Thomas Bernhard's repetitive, obsessed, hard-driving prose enthralls me. Entering his novels, almost always written as a single paragraph, is to enter a disturbed but incredibly rich mind. Usually the narrator of his works seems not far removed from the author himself, and in this case, where the narrator is actually named "Thomas Bernhard," one seems squarely in the realm of autobiography. This is a story of friendship between two sick people: Thomas Bernhard, who has a serious pul ...more
Juan Pablo
Feb 26, 2012 Juan Pablo rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Juan Pablo by: Conrado
En pocas páginas Bernhard desarrolla un relato extraordinario sobre su particular amigo Paul Wittgenstein, vástago descarriado de esta famosa familia, internado recurrentemente por sus síntomas de locura. Entre otras cosas, nos hace reflexionar sobre varias cosas: la esttrecha línea que nos separa de la locura, el valor de una amistad (la fidelidad de los verdaderos amigos aún cuando todo el resto de la sociedad onos da la espalda), los pequeños momentos que pueden justificar soportar toda la vi ...more
I really disliked this book. It was like being at a cocktail party and getting stuck talking to someone who is really really really smug and self-satisfied, mainly because they know someone who was related to someone, and then just keeps emphatically insisting that the person they knew was just so terribly interesting and crazy and really emphatically interesting, and how terribly much they had in common with each other, but doesn't even give one single interesting story or description. And then ...more
شادي  عبد العزيز
من الصعب وصف توماس برنهارد بالإنسان المحبب أو الإنسان البسيط، ومن الصعب حُب إنسان يصيح في أذنك طيلة الوقت: هذا قرف، هذا قرف، هذا قرف، حتى وإن كانت تعيش حقيقةً في مزبلة، ولكن الحقيقة أن الكتاب نفسه كتاب مكتوب بجمال، ولو كان موضوعه كل هذا القرف، وكل هذه العقد النفسية للكاتب وصديقه، وقد أحببت الكتاب جداً.

الترجمة كذلك من أجمل الترجمات التي طالعتها في الفترة الأخيرة، شكراً سمير جريس.
justin louie
bernhard rules. concrete is still my favorite but this one is probably his most concise and genuinely moving, despite being typically (and awesomely) sardonic.

also, it's the one that dawned upon my feeble brain the genius of his use of music as a motif; the one paragraph structure of (most of) his novels are huge, dynamic movements, and he'll utilize a frustrating cyclical thought process in the narrative that serves as repetition to lull you into a trance or even bore you before hitting a pock
Would have been five stars, but nothing excuses a 100-page long paragraph.
Emotional instability has a strong genetic component.
Brutal, brilliantno words can do this justice. ...more
the key to all of Bernhard is on the last page.
Fascinating little book
Brad Lyerla
WITTGENSTEIN’S NEPHEW is an eccentric little book that is difficult to categorize. The poet, playwright and novelist Thomas Bernhard intended it as a memoir of his friendship with the Austrian bon vivant Paul Wittgenstein. But the book is more than that. It is a commentary on the vapidness of Austrian Society in the later part of the 20th Century, including a personal rant from Bernhard concerning the failure of his play Hunting Party. And it is a lament of our natural timidity in facing the dea ...more
A longue monologue by Bernhard himself about his former best friend Paul Wittgenstein, passed away a few years earlier, and cousin of the famous philosopher Ludwig. It's a kind of a funeral speech, with a very personal portrait of Paul, rather harsh in his depiction of the sickness and deprivation at the end, but very fragmented and diffuse, so that you can have doubts about their friendship. Bernhard asks himself the same question, but nevertheless he must conclude that Paul had a very wholesom ...more
Esta es la historia de una amistad, la de Thomas Bernhard y Paul Wittgenstein. Thomas conoció a Paul a través de Irina, una amiga mutua, y pronto se vio que compartían opinión sobre muchos temas, como por ejemplo su amor por la música, de la que Paul es gran experto, sobre todo en óperas. Un momento importante en esta relación fue cuando ambos supieron que estaban ingresados en el mismo hospital, pero en distintos pabellones. Thomas estaba en el pabellón Hermann, dedicado a los enfermos de pulmó ...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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“I avoid literature whenever possible, because whenever possible I avoid myself...” 18 likes
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