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Holzfällen

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  4,216 ratings  ·  402 reviews
Holzfällen ist die Geschichte einer "Erregung", die Geschichte eines "künstlerischen Abendessens" in Wien, in der Gentzgasse. Der Ich? Erzähler, ein Schriftsteller, sitzt auf dem Ohrensessel und beobachtet die Gesellschaft die, auf den Schauspieler des Burgtheaters wartet, der versprochen hatte, gegen halb zwölf zu diesem Essen zu kommen. Während seiner Beobachtungen besch ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published 2001 by Suhrkamp (first published 1984)
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Average rating 4.20  · 
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İntellecta
Jun 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book is excellently readable, and in my opinion this makes it a very good entry for people who have not read Bernhard yet. But it contains everything that makes the books of Bernhard so readable: repetitions, cynicism, polemics and yet a certain sense of humor.
Steven Godin
Feb 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: austria, fiction

As I sat in my chair after reading of a man sat in a chair, I thought, what an odd, darkly comic and nihilistically cold book this was. The only thing I am sure of is I haven't read anything quite like it before. I wouldn't have minded going for a drink with Mr Bernhard, but if this is his idea of a dinner party, I would decline the invitation and stay at home with a good book and some takeaway noodles. The novel takes place over only a couple of hours, but is told with large chunks of flashback
...more
Jason
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
...more
Vit Babenco
Jul 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Woodcutters is a story about the ruination of artistic hopes – it is a complex, multilayered and caustic tale of life in the world of arts.
People hated me and everything I wrote, and ganged up against me in the most vicious fashion whenever they saw me. But ever since my return from London I had been on my guard against them, against all the people I had known previously, but above all against these so-called artistic figures from the fifties, and especially those who had come to this artistic d
...more
TBV (on semi-hiatus)


This is a wing chair. Look carefully, and you may just see an unnamed writer sitting in a wing chair - there are 222 occurrences in 145 pages of him seated in his wing chair - which is slightly behind the door where he can observe, without being observed for the most part, the guests at this “artistic dinner” (on the day that a mutual friend was buried) held in honour of an actor who is yet to appear and has already kept everyone waiting for what seems to be hours, particularly as dinner has not
...more
David
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
Manuel Antão
Dec 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
Before the year 2012 was out, I needed my usual fix of Thomas Bernhard... I've picked my favourite: Holzfällen" (meaning literally "Lumbering").

I've read this in German a long time ago. This time round I wanted to tackle him through an English translation.

I've chosen the McLintock translation, due to the raving reviews, and I must say it never felt I was reading a translation. At the end of this English version, I wanted to read again the German version, just to feel the flow of reading a book
...more
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
Meike
May 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: austria, 2018-read
English: Woodcutters
Bernhard would have turned 90 this month (2/2021)

Thomas Bernhard is the Shakespeare of grumpy ramblings, fiercely holding his ground while embracing contradictory emotions. Almost 30 years after his death, his literary importance doesn’t fade, on the contrary: Bernhard has become a postmodern classic, and just recently, author Benjamin von Stuckrad-Barre (who is extremely famous in German-speaking countries) maintained that “Woodcutters” was the best novel ever written.

One of
...more
Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
Jul 27, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  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
...more
Josh
Aug 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Josh by: Mary
Shelves: 2015
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
...more
Szplug
Feb 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mariel
Nov 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
...more
Maria
Aug 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In a big, old chair at a late night dinner party, the main character sits and rages silently over his hosts, their art snobbery and the general state of the culture scene in Vienna. Half hidden behind a door, he observes the other guests and reminisce on events from the past. He regrets accepting the invitation to this "late night artistic dinner" with old acquaintances he obviously loathes. My Norwegian translation has a subtitle that can be translated as "An agitation", which is very fitting. ...more
Agnieszka

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 that way 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
...more
William2
Mar 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The great paradox of this Bernhard narrator, like so many others, is his hypercritical nature, which is often in conflict with itself, and, for the entire book, his utterly static physical presence. Indeed, he never moves during the narration, which occurs at a dinner party, except to go to the next room and back. The action, if it can be called that, for most is reminiscence, takes place during a single day. The phase he uses constantly is: "I thought, sitting in the wing chair. . ." The unname ...more
Mary
Mar 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015, austria, fiction
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
...more
Hugh
Aug 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thus is my third experience of reading Bernhard, and after Old Masters and Correction, I had a pretty good idea what to expect. Once again this book is largely an intemperate rant against Austrian society written in a single long paragraph full of repetitions but this time I picked up on more of the humour.

The unnamed narrator is a writer who has returned to Vienna after a long period in London. He is invited to an artistic dinner by his one time friends, the petit bourgeois Auersbergers, after
...more
Jessica
Mar 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Yu
May 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: german-austrian
This is the first Bernhard I read. I like how through satire and irony, it gives a superb depiction of the spiritual decay of Austria, and of Western culture in general. In the setting of a party held and attended by Vienna's intellectual and artistic elites, the narrator observes the stupid sentimentality and moral weakness of the guests, and gradually pursues his sense of contempt and hopelessness to the extreme. Bernhard's language is humorous and musical. He both attacks mercilessly and addr ...more
RandomAnthony
Nov 15, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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,
...more
Lee Klein
May 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: re-read, favorites
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
Janice
Jun 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Trish
Mar 23, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  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
...more
Eddie Watkins
Sep 07, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: austrian-fiction
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
...more
Mark Hebwood
Oh dear. What can I say about this? Well, for one thing, I am glad I survived the experience of reading this novel. After 200 pages of violent, angry rants against the Viennese art establishment, and attacks on myself (as the book is written by an I-narrator) I feel physically exhausted, and in need of counselling.

But I am jumping ahead. The first thing I would like to do is recommend an edition. I can only recommend buying the hardcover edition in Thomas Bernhard's Complete Works, recently comp
...more
Jonathan
Oct 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
knig
Feb 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nate D
Apr 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Kevin Adams
Sep 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My first Bernhard. ABSOLUTELY NOT my last. Brilliant.
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Which translation is "better"? 5 29 Jan 13, 2014 09:18AM  

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Thomas Bernhard was an Austrian writer who ranks 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 are often at work on a lifetime and never-ending major project while they deal with themes such as suicide, madness and obsession, and, as Be
...more

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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.” 101 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.” 20 likes
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