Gargoyles by Thomas Bernhard / ISBN 9781400077557 / 224-page paperback from Vintage
A personal favorite of his books
The playwright and novelist Thomas Bernhard was one of the most widely translated and admired writers of his generation, winner of the three most coveted literary prizes in Germany. Gargoyles, one of his earliest novels, is a singular, surreal study of the nature of humanity.
One morning a doctor and his son set out on daily rounds through the grim mountainous Austrian countryside. They observe the colorful characters they encounter—from an innkeeper whose wife has been murdered to a crippled musical prodigy kept in a cage—coping with physical misery, madness, and the brutality of the austere landscape. The parade of human grotesques culminates in a hundred-page monologue by an eccentric, paranoid prince, a relentlessly flowing cascade of words that is classic Bernhard.
Thomas Bernhard was born in Holland in 1931 and grew up in Austria. He studied music at the Akademie Mozarteum in Salzburg. In 1957 he began a second career, as a playwright, poet, and novelist. The winner of the three most distinguished and coveted literary prizes awarded in Germany, he has become one of the most widely translated and admired writers of his generation. He published nine novels, an autobiography, one volume of poetry, four collections of short stories, and six volumes of plays. Thomas Bernhard died in Austria in 1989.