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4.28 of 5 stars 4.28  ·  rating details  ·  1,631 ratings  ·  121 reviews
Fiercely observed, often hilarious, and “reminiscent of Ibsen and Strindberg” (The New York Times Book Review), this exquisitely controversial novel was initially banned in its author’s homeland.

A searing portrayal of Vienna’s bourgeoisie, it begins with the arrival of an unnamed writer at an ‘artistic dinner’ hosted by a composer and his society wife—a couple he once admi
Paperback, Vintage International, 192 pages
Published August 10th 2010 by Vintage Books (first published 1984)
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Ok, let’s just cut to the chase. This work, this novel, this brilliantly flowing diatribe of comic vitriol, is a work of pure consummate genius. The writing, the pacing, the internal dialogue, the word choice, and probably the translation, too (though that is only a guess)—it is all perfect, perfect, perfect. You people will think I’m joking when I say this, but I am telling you: this book is a freaking page-turner.

Woodcutters is the first-person narrative of an over-the-hill, acrimonious gentle
Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
Aug 24, 2013 Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Can’t think of anyone at the moment – need some time…
Recommended to Florence (Lefty) by: Jason Morais
“I eagerly crack open the book and can feel myself getting smarter as I turn the first few pages. At first, even though it is really depressing, this book excites me because it deals with mental health the arts, a subject I am very interested in.”

Do you consider yourself an eclectic reader? Willing to broaden your horizons, now and then explore one of those slightly obscure but much-admired novels? On top of that do you find it next to impossible to abandon a book? Well try this one on for size
In a prominent, well-trafficked gallery of the Bad Dinner Guest Hall of Fame we should logically expect to find the (unnamed) narrator of Thomas Bernhard's excoriating masterpiece Woodcutters, who not only isolates himself from the other guests, preferring a lone wing chair in the entryway to their generally detestable company, but also spends the better part of the evening mentally dissecting, dismantling, and disparaging everyone who is unlucky enough to fall under his gaze. At the long-antici ...more
Brilliant, bilious, hilarious, unsettling, a breathlessly intense, sustained novelistic experience that leaves you smiling and strained on the outside, nicked and nourished beneath the skin. By this point in his literary output Thomas Bernhard was a master craftsman, and the narrative voice he conjures for the unnamed—but immensely Bernhardian—writer whose interiority serves as the driving force of this little human engine that couldn't ranks among his very best. Personally, and has always prove ...more
Mar 07, 2012 Mariel rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: I find your gun
Recommended to Mariel by: Bernhard 05
The artistic life. The artistic world.

Writing feels fake to me. Not other people's writing. I mean that me writing doesn't feel natural to me. The more articulate I try to be the worse it gets. This "You're such a fake" voice and a rising of stupidity blush on the back of my neck (my ears get it the worst, in the end). I do it anyway. I like thinking about stuff. I pretty much have to have it or I'll feel even more doldrums and pointless circles than ever. It's the trying to say it all together
MJ Nicholls
This excellent monologue combines the acid wit of Sorrentino’s Imaginative Qualities of Actual Things to another book whose title escapes me for the moment but will be added to the review upon remembering. A melancholic and hilarious novel sans para breaks (first Bernhard for me—assuming all of them are similar) told from the perspective of an embittered writer in his twilight years reflecting (after the death of a friend) upon the odious Austrian demi-monde he has been trapped in for too long. ...more
Thomas Bernhard’s Woodcutters is a fascinating, claustrophobic (er, in a good way) book. The novel’s narrator sits in the corner of a party and comments on the attendees, their shared history, the nature of the Vienna art scene, and the subtle, hegemonic nuances of action and motivation.

The party’s ostensible purpose is twofold. First, a celebrated actor, fresh from a triumphant performance in an Ibsen play, is invited but holds up dinner by failing to arrive until late in the evening. Second,
You’ve always lived a life of pretense, not a real life – a simulated existence, not a genuine existence. Everything about you, everything you are, has always been pretense, never genuine, never real.

Bernhard's satire of Viennese petit bourgeois society is one long frantic, hateful, angry, and at times even nostalgic internal monologue. It’s narrated as if it’s one deep exhale by an aging writer who has returned to Vienna after several decades away and has reunited with people he “didn’t like 3
Woodcutters is surprisingly engrossing. Bernhard is clearly some sort of genius as I listened to the narrator, a miserable old goat, spellbound for 181 pages.

The narrator is a thinker and spends most of the book ranting to himself about how unfortunate and overwhelming it is to have found himself at an ‘artistic’ dinner party, hosted by former friends. Brought together again after 30 years by the suicide of their mutual friend, Joana, on the eve of her funeral, the narrator reflects, well, on j
Cada vez son menos las obras de Thomas Bernhard que me quedan por leer, es por ello que me las voy racionando, porque después ya sé que no habrán nuevas obras de mi admirado Bernhard por leer, y sólo me quedará releer sus obras. Crítica severa de la sociedad artística y cultural de Viena, y crítica despiadada de la propia Viena, ‘Tala’ (1984) es un monólogo interior, desde su sillón de orejas, de un narrador y protagonista que ha sido invitado a una cena artística por los Auersberger, a los que ...more
Nov 10, 2015 Josh rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Josh by: Mary
Shelves: 2015, fiction
This is a winged chair:

Nothing spectacular. Just a chair.

This is a man in a winged chair:

He is the observer; the archetype of neurosis.

Neither are authentic to the story of ‘Woodcutters’, but are significant in nature. A man possibly perceived as having a sense of ubiquity mocks his old acquaintances, but also mocks 19th century Viennese bourgeoisie society. As this non-forgiving, self-deprecating curmudgeon sits in his winged chair he displays his angst of the past and his hatred for the hypocr
Mar 12, 2015 Jessica rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: statler & waldorf
Recommended to Jessica by: daniel
Shelves: groups-of-people
There are many writers who have written books and most of them are crap, but that is not the case with Thomas Bernhard, who is a great writer, and his books are not crap. Thomas Bernhard writes great books, that is to say, he did write great books, and he was a great writer, but now, I am pretty sure, Thomas Bernhard is dead. Considering that he is dead, it is no longer accurate to say that Thomas Bernhard writes great books; however, it is still wholly accurate to say that his books are great. ...more
Have you ever existed within the periphery of a group of friends, or maybe classmates in school? You’re never truly accepted by them. Maybe they use you for your access to pharmaceuticals or because you’re careless/generous with money. They belittle you; you are the butt of all of their jokes, they’re only nice to you when you have something to offer. Then you grow up and move on. You realize these people are shit. That they’re not as smart, as funny, as charming as you thought. You resent them ...more
Novel "Woodcutters" takes place during one evening through so-called artistic dinner given by a couple of narrator’s former friends.A pretext for the dinner is a visit of known actor, but the real reason is a suicidal death of their mutual friend, unfulfilled artist Joana . And so a celebration for the actor transforms into a funeral reception .What would come of it?Nothing good except a gripping writing.

Narrator,an uncompromising observer hidden in the shadow,sitting in the wing chair with cont
Wherein a man attends a dinner and demolishes a country without leaving his chair (or even opening his mouth); then, high on his own splenetic vituperation, falls in love with it all over again.

But this new "love" is at once sincere, ironic, and deeply conflicted.

Add to this the circular nature of the narrative - the narrator at the end is in a rush to write the book you just read, which makes of the book a verbal maelstrom - and you have one fascinating and fantastic book.

Key quote - Although I
Just re-read after 8+ years: not nearly as funny as I remembered, which isn't what I was expecting, since I re-read it to prep for an essay on Bernhard's humor: hmmm. Laughs at first may have come in part from initial exposure to his intoxicating/detoxifying technology in prose. It's not all bile at all -- the moments of tenderness for his friends and Vienna really stood out this time, as when he shifts into generalizing "we" mode. The style isn't totally refined yet either. I'd almost be tempte ...more
Feb 09, 2013 knig rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2013
A five star which I folded, halfway through. Difficult decision but so it goes. There is absolutely nothing to complain about: in fact I felt cocooned in a security blanket quilted with the reassuring monotone of neurotic repetitive obsessiveness: ‘as I sat in that arm chair’, intones Bernhard over and over again, until its languid whisper acquires the sensual sussurance of a Buddist mantra; chair or ‘Om’, the effect is equally hypnotic and lulling. But. I’m crossing over to the camp who claim B ...more
May 06, 2015 Trish rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Trish by: Karl Ove Knausgaard
In one of his many interviews Karl Ove Knausgaard praised the work of Thomas Bernhard, an Austrian writer (1931-1989) of whom I had never heard. His work was placed in the canon of great 20th Century literature. He wrote in German. Scrolling through the list of titles translated into English I chose Woodcutters to get an idea of his work. First published in 1984, it was translated and published in English by Knopf in 1987. It references the atmosphere of the 1950s or perhaps the early 1960s.

A m
Jennifer (aka EM)
Sep 27, 2013 Jennifer (aka EM) marked it as abandoned-for-now
monomaniacal curmudgeon aka unreliable narrator whom I think doth protest too much spews hate from a wing chair.

lots of words, no point. also no chapter breaks, no dialogue, no plot, no relief in sight. mind-numbingly repetitive - the perfect before-bed soporofic.

this is highly rated and lauded by my very smart friends who've read it - so what am I missing? does it get better? does it get different? is there a reason to pick this up again?


ETA: To clarify, I have put this on my "abandon
One of the best of his, no doubt about it. The structure is perfection itself, and the musicality of it (even in this excellent translation) is a wonder.
Justin Evans
It says something about modernity that Austria chose to ban this Bernhard novel, the one that ends (spoiler alert, but really, this is a Bernhard novel, and you're not reading for plot) with a (for Bernhard) grand affirmation of the worthwhileness of human and specifically Viennese existence, to wit, everything is worth hating, but everything is also worth loving.

Austria, c'est nous: more worried about being personally offended than about rampant nihilism.

That aside, this is great. Not quite t
There's a grizzled New York street-book-vendor I call "Gangster." He's a fortissimo sforzando character, and despite (or perhaps because of) his occupation (book-selling) in the hipster capital of America (Williamsburg, Brooklyn) his tastes are a bit eclectic, and sometimes arcane (or it could be because he, like me, is an autodidact). Whenever he loves anything he'll claim, "they're a [insert following: great/fantastic/amazing/wonderful] stylist." "Matthew Gregory Lewis is an amazing stylist." ...more
pretty magnificent piece of misanthropy worthy of Swift. In Vienna a very bad dinner guest indeed pours bile (in his head, he hardly speaks and then only to insult or mumble incoherently before falling asleep) on the assembled guests, as they wait for the star actor from the Burgtheater and directly after the funeral of one of the 'artistic' crowd who has committed suicide. Venal, petty, pretentious: a typical bunch of artists and writers and actors, all vying for attention and praise. The narra ...more
Witness the vitriolic rantings of a misanthrope, not unlike those of the Underground man of Dostoevsky (this book could very well be the prolongation of the dinner party in Apropos of Wet Snow in Notes from the Underground).

Woodcutters is a masterfully paced book. Although you can see that the vitriol might be somewhat justified and also slightly exaggerated and distorted in the insistent victimization the narrator claims for himself, the book is so well paced that it is never too much to bear
Abimelech Abimelech
i'd had woodcutters somewhere high on my mental library awhile, then my physical library a while less, knew bernhard, knew what was going on with this book, and awoke at the crack of a dawn some velvet morning, recently, in a particularly furious mood. i was due into work at nine, no-called-no-showed, thereafter promptly to be fired, which began to trigger a sense of optimism in my almost terminal melancholia, my at-random lethargy taking place at this moment in life i speak of.

i am tempted to
Agnes Houston
I almost didn't finish this, it took me FOREVER but I did finish it! I'm so proud of myself. I never want to read another book like this again. Don't let me stop you from reading it though, I never claimed to have good taste.
Nate D
Utterly vitriolic dissection of so-called artistic society, compromise, and self-deception -- and yet, what keeps striking me is how funny, how entertainingly readable, Bernhard really is.
Some books are such products of their place that one simply cannot imagine them being produced in any other place. Only Vienna where institutions have reached fetishistic proportions matched by a paranoia that the city itself has fallen from its former imperial grandeur into provincial stagnancy could this novel have been spwaned. Thomas Bernhard`s loathing of Vienna, and a tiny bit of love, spills over into every page of this novel.

A novel maybe a misnomer, this is essentially a 192 page diatr
The great paradox of this Bernhard narrator is his hypercritical nature, which is often in conflict with itself, and, for the entire book, his utter static physical presence. Indeed, he never moves, except to the next room and back for the whole of the book, which takes place during a single day. The phase he uses constantly is: "I thought, sitting in the wing chair." This unnamed narrator has returned to Vienna for the first time in thirty years, from his self-imposed exile in London.

Since his
Europe's ultimate curmudgeon, Thomas Bernhard, sends his protagonist to a party held immediately after a funeral to sit in a wing chair in a corridor and begin his long tirade against the party guests/Vienna as a whole/the petit-bourgeoisie as a whole/humanity as a whole. If you've read any Bernhard before, you know the breaks, but if this is new territory, be prepared for some Fernet Branca-levels of bitterness. And guess what, I love me some Fernet Branca.
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Which translation is "better"? 5 18 Jan 13, 2014 09:18AM  
  • Fräulein Else
  • Die Strudlhofstiege oder Melzer und die Tiefe der Jahre
  • Jakob von Gunten
  • Geschichten aus dem Wiener Wald
  • Malina
  • The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick
  • Der Schüler Gerber
  • The Sleepwalkers
  • Vertigo
  • The Last World
  • The Torch in My Ear
  • The Lord Chandos Letter: And Other Writings
  • Der arme Spielmann
  • Memoirs of an Anti-Semite
  • Satantango
  • Brigitta
  • Job
  • Group Portrait with Lady
Thomas Bernhard was an Austrian author, who ranges among the most distinguished German speaking writers of the second half of the 20th century.
More about Thomas Bernhard...

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“You've always lived a life of pretense, not a real life-- a simulated existence, not a genuine existence. Everything about you, everything you are, has always been pretense, never genuine, never real.” 50 likes
“Träume und Märchen waren ihr eigentlicher Lebensinhalt, dachte ich jetzt. Deshalb hat sie sich auch umgebracht, dachte ich, weil ein Mensch, der nur Träume und Märchen sich zu seinem Lebensinhalt gemacht hat, in dieser Welt nicht überleben kann, nicht überleben darf, dachte ich.” 14 likes
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