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Alte Meister

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  1,383 Ratings  ·  104 Reviews
Das Durchbrechen einer jahrzehntealten Gewohnheit führt in dem 1985 zuerst erschienenen Prosaband mit dem Untertitel »Komödie« von Thomas Bernhard dazu, daß der Privatgelehrte Atzbacher und der Musikphilosoph Reger sich an zwei aufeinanderfolgenden Tagen im Wiener Kunsthistorischen Museum treffen. Atzbacher nimmt diese außergewöhnliche Verabredung zum Anlaß, den in seine B ...more
Paperback, 310 pages
Published 1988 by Suhrkamp (first published 1985)
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If I were to start by saying that this book is one very long paragraph most of which consists of an intemperate rant, written in reported speech but without quotation marks, about Austria and the arts more generally, I suspect that would sound like hard work. Despite all of that, this book is quite readable, entertaining and full of interesting perspectives.

Ostensibly this is a tale of a friendship between two old men, and we learn very little about one of them, the narrator Atzbacher, who is m
Jeff Jackson
"I pulled out several drawers and several chests and looked into them and kept taking out pictures and writings and correspondence of my wife and put everything on the table, one item after another, and progressively inspected everything, and because I am an honest person my dear Atzenbach, I have to admit that I wept while doing so. Suddenly I gave my tears free reign, I had not wept for decades and suddenly I gave my tears free reign, Reger said. I sat there, giving my tears free reign, and I ...more
MJ Nicholls
Breathtaking rancour
spewed with wicked humour and
touches of pathos.
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 historian
This is the first Bernhard book that I didn't love, and which I only moderately enjoyed. It's watered down Bernhard, de-fanged Bernhard, a Bernhard rant that is not so different from an internet spew on a well-written blog, or a particularly insightful and nasty Jon Stewart segment. But the magic wasn't there. The bile, the dark and funny hatred towards the world is diffused and feels rote. Perhaps it's because Bernhard is a one-note writer and after I read the first two, which seemed so fresh a ...more
Biron Paşa
Bir Mutsuzluk Anında Thomas Bernhard'ı Okumak

Yirmi yaşındayken hayatım şirazesinden çıktı. Bir anda olmadı ama; yavaş yavaş kendim yaptım. Aslında sıradan bir genç gibi üniversitede okuyup para kazanabileceğim bir meslek sahibi olacaktım. Ev ve araba almak için yaşayıp sonra da ölüp gidecektim. Ama öyle olmadı, önüne ne koyulursa yiyen iyi huylu insanlar gibi, önüne çıkan engelleri sadece birer engel olarak görüp sabreden insanlardan değildim ve bunu sorguladım. Her şey de böyle başladı. Birka
An old man realizing that, at the end, what matters is not how much art we've seen, even if we're very very passionate about it; nor how much beautiful music we've listened to; nor how many great philosophy books we've read. What matters most is that one person we loved so much -- but we only realize that after we lose her. And it's only human touch that helps, no matter how much we love other things.
João Reis
Mar 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bernhard uses, as usual, mostly a monologue to rant on everything under the sun, from art and politics to lavatories. He does not give a good image of Austria and Austrians (in some brilliant thoughts one might also apply to Portugal and the Portuguese) with his critical approach which, written in 1985 (the year I was born), is valid still today. The result is an excellent and sarcastic novel with a melancholic touch.
My first Bernhard book and through the first three quarters I didn’t think I really got it. It's very short, but still difficult to read in one setting, it took me many short sessions to digest the book.

At one point in my early life I thought I could have some tendencies to be a misanthrope, but Bernhard showed that at my best (or maybe my worse) I was only a rank amateur. Bernhard presented page after page of rantings about everything and everyone – from great artists, composers, writers, and
Read about half of this - it is a self-parody (as the subtitle suggests: "a comedy"), and so is less compelling. There are some fascinating passages, such as the passage on life (and art) as fragment (rather than as whole), which can serve as a set-piece for 'modernism'.

Still, not my favorite Bernhard, and I'm going to move on.
Ferda Nihat Koksoy
Aug 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy, novel
THOMAS BERNHARD, Yazar, ALM-1985, TR-2002 (3.baskı: 2013), YKY Yayın, Çeviri: Sezer Duru, 151 sf.
*30 yıl boyunca Viyana Sanat Tarihi Müzesi'ne (Kunsthistorisches Museum) gidip, Tintoretto'nun BEYAZ SAKALLI ADAM resmini izleyerek düşünen ve sanat üzerine Times için yazılar yazan bir Avusturyalının yorumları.
*İtalik yazılar, yazara aittir.

-DAHİ ve Avusturya sözcükleri birbirleriyle uyuşmaz, Avusturya'da söz söyleyebilmen ve ciddiye alınman için ORTA KARAR OLMAK zorundasın, yeteneksizliğin ve taşra
Feb 03, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary-fiction
I had rated this 3 stars up to one hour before finishing the novel and I had to suddenly change that to 4 stars. Similar to the third act turn that takes place in Woodcutters, the prose rattles on as a sort of rant which suddenly takes a very dramatic and surprising turn within just a few pages of the end. In this novel, the rant is heightened to a level of almost self-mockery; it seems like he is satirizing his own style. Just when I feel, with Morrissey, that that joke really isn't funny anymo ...more
Rhomboid Goatcabin
Found this novel very distasteful and deterring, unfortunately. In my humble opinion, an unstructured rant masquerading as a legitimate novel. I am told all of Bernhard's novels are very much alike. I can hardly imagine anyone should have the courage to stand through more than one.
Apr 25, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012-read
If I were to write this novel in three lines:
In the Kunsthistorische Museum, an old man rants in front of a painting of an old man.
Railing against the debased society, art that does not heal,
Mourning his wife.

As I read this novel, a thought passed through my mind. Why would anyone want to read this? It is a rant, yes, at times humorous, but still a rant. And like rants listened to in life, one can barely hang around for more than a few pages at a time. It took me some time to get through this
Nov 21, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
'Our greatest pleasure, surely, is in fragments, just as we derive the most pleasure from life if we regard it as a fragment, whereas the whole and the complete and perfect are basically abhorrent to us. Only when we are fortunate enough to turn something whole, something complete or indeed perfect into a fragment, when we get down to reading it, only then do we experience a high degree, indeed a supreme degree, of pleasure in it. Our age has long been intolerable as a whole he said, only when w ...more
Marcello S
Aug 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Una mattinata al Kunsthistorisches Museum di Vienna, per la precisione nella cosiddetta Sala Bordone di fronte all’Uomo dalla barba bianca di Tintoretto, persi per un’ora tra i pensieri di Atzbacher in attesa del suo incontro col vecchio Reger che gli deve dire qualcosa di importante.

In una parola, micidiale.
In un'altra, rassicurante.
Perchè alla fine in tutto questo delirio di ripetizioni ti lasci cullare e trasportare come Atreyu attaccato alle orecchie di Falcor. [76/100]

Sono anni ormai che
Mr. Robbie
Painfully longwinded. Reger, the main character, says something, and then spends the better part of a page more-or-less repeating himself. Repeat until you question Bernhard's sanity, and you've got at least half the content of the book on your hands. The whole thing reads like a bad first draft.

The ideas and characters the work does get around to exploring might be worth it. My big takeaway, to spoil what the entire book builds up to for you, is that the great works of the old masters (great ar
Apr 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Più leggo Bernhard e più mi convincono che, oltre Bernhard, tutto è un niente privo di fondamento.

Il prima e il dopo Bernhard, senza eccezione, era ed è un pozzo nero di ridicolaggine, di insensati e volgari espedienti per sopravvivere, per sbrogliarsela da noi stessi, da questo mondo e dalle sue avversità.

Camminiamo per la strada e ci addentriamo nell'abiezione, null'altro che scandalosa abiezione, indecente indolenza e ipocrisia e malvagità e menzogna e falsità e autoinganno, tutto abborraccia
Jul 03, 2015 added it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
Old Masters was the last published volume of Thomas Bernhard's so-called Trilogy of the Arts (1983-1985), an otherwise arbitrary grouping of successively published books that include The Loser and Woodcutters (or Cutting Timber). In this concluding volume, he at least arrived at the unity of the arts, at a hard-won consilience.

My full blog post at:
Jim Elkins
Oct 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: german, austrian
Sadly, I didn't review this when I first read it. I might have been hypnotized. It is spectacular, from the first weirdness to the last pitiful joke. It is the only fictional book on fine art that I can stand to read. (Everyone else worships. Bernhard is interested in how art provokes disgust and other much more interesting reactions.)
Apr 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mitteleuropa
Il libro è grande dalla prima all'ultima pagina, com'è del resto ovvio trattandosi di Bernhard.
Voglio qui trascrivere soltanto un brano su Heidegger, "quel ridicolo filisteo nazionalsocialista coi pantaloni alla zuava". Una vera goduria per quanti, come me, detestano (real) visceralmente questo "imbonitore della filosofia" , oltretutto umanamente miserrimo, opportunista e vile.

"Heidegger, il filosofo della Foresta Nera Heidegger, ha annegato nel kitsch la filosofia. (...) Heidegger, sulle cui or
Jan 27, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a masterpiece that must be read by everyone who wants to be a writer, musician, artist. The whole book (all 250 odd pages of it) is a single paragraph in a single place, events don't move forward, action doesn't move forward, people stay where they are (in an art-museum in Vienna). It is a literal piece of opinions, of Reger, the music-critic, on just about everything in music, art, politics, society and philosophy. No holy cows here, everything is ripped apart, vitriolic but humorous an ...more
May 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
311 Seiten Bernhard. 311 Seiten Rausch. 311 Seiten Geistesexzess, Nihilismus und Rage. Ich glaube immer mehr, einen Bernhard kann man nicht rezensieren oder kritisieren. Ich kann dazu also nichts sagen. Tschüss.
Lars Iyer
Frequently overrated. Somewhat Bernhard-by-numbers.
Christopher McQuain
Comedy dark as scorched earth, delivered via stream of consciousness dammed and channeled by strategic shifts in person that one-up even the famed instance in MADAME BOVARY, giving the ferocious, hilariously bilious/fed-up minds to which we're here exposed a successively-layered, Russian-doll aspect that really keep you off balance, in an unusual kind of suspense. The novel is exceptionally short, but even so, that Bernhard can so fleetly sustain the immersive intensity of tone and embodiment (o ...more
Darran Mclaughlin
A work of black humour, ranting against art, music, literature, critics, philosophers, the Proletariat, Vienna (including the state of its public toilets) and everything about Austrian society. It shares some similarity to the work of Samuel Beckett and Louis Ferdinand Celine.
[...] Lei capisce che cos'è il vuoto quando ad un tratto si ritrova tra migliaia e migliaia di libri e di scritti che l'hanno completamente abbandonata e che di colpo per lei non significano più niente, se non appunto questo vuoto atroce, così Reger. Quando lei ha perso la persona più vicina al suo cuore, tutto le sembra vuoto, dovunque lei guardi tutto è vuoto, e lei guarda e riguarda e vede che tutto è realmente vuoto, e lo sarà per sempre, così Reger. Così capisce che non sono gli spiriti mag ...more
Nov 06, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-books
Interesting, but a bit difficult to read since there are no chapters or text breaks so the whole book is one long text. This book is one of those where either you like it or you can't stand the way it's written, no breaks and a lot of repetitions, and the very negative world view both the characters and the author has, at least about Austria, its politics, culture and people. I liked it and found it rather amusing when the characters went on these long monologues about different writers, compose ...more
Aug 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
To live alone is the fate of all great souls.

Reger must be one of the best developed characters ever written, if characters are to be judged by their opinions on classical music and mid-twentieth century Austrian politics. In Old Masters, Bernhard employs his trademark style of run-on sentences with no breaks for paragraph or chapter, but his prose retains a certain rhythm that becomes insidiously addicting. I am rarely able to complete a book so quickly, but the repetitive style of Reger’s traj
Catherine Corman
Feb 11, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
you will not find a single so-called great painter, or let us say a so-called old master, who had a good character and good taste, and by good character I mean simply an incorruptible character...Everything they have painted and which is hanging here is repulsive to me...and yet for decades I have been unable to avoid studying it.

-Thomas Bernhard, Old Masters
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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.

Although internationally he's most acclaimed because of his novels, he was also a prolific playwright. His characters were oftenly working in a lifetime and never-ending major work while they deal with themes such as suicide, madness and obsession and, as B
More about Thomas Bernhard...

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“Art altogether is nothing but a survival skill, we should never lose sight of this fact, it is, time and again, just an attempt -- an attempt that seems touching even to our intellect -- to cope with this world and its revolting aspects, which, as we know, is invariably possible only by resorting to lies and falsehoods, to hyprocrisy and self-deception, Reger said. These pictures are full of lies and falsehoods and full of hypocrisy and self-deception, there is nothing else in them if we disregard their often inspired artistry. All these pictures, moreover, are an expression of man's absolute helplessness in coping with himself and with what surrounds him all his life. That is what all these pictures express, this helplessness which, on the one hand, embarasses the intellect and, on the other hand, bewilders the same intellect and moves it to tears, Reger said.” 43 likes
“The art historians are the real wreckers of art, Reger said. The art historians twaddle so long about art until they have killed it with their twaddle. Art is killed by the twaddle of the art historians. My God, I often think, sitting here on the settee while the art historians are driving their helpless flocks past me, what a pity about all these people who have all art driven out of them, driven out of them for good, by these very art historians. The art historians’ trade is the vilest trade there is, and a twaddling art historian, but then there are only twaddling art historians, deserves to be chased out with a whip, chased out of the world of art, Reger said, all art historians deserve to be chased out of the world of art, because art historians are the real wreckers of art and we should not allow art to be wrecked by the art historians who are really art wreckers. Listening to an art historian we feel sick, he said, by listening to an art historian we see the art he is twaddling about being ruined, with the twaddle of the art historian art shrivels and is ruined. Thousands, indeed tens of thousands of art historians wreck art by their twaddle and ruin it, he said. The art historians are the real killers of art, if we listen to an art historian we participate in the wrecking of art, wherever an art historian appears art is wrecked, that is the truth.” 11 likes
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