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Concrete (Vintage International) Paperback – August 10, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Certain books—few—assert literary importance instantly, profoundly. This is one of those—a book of mysterious dark beauty.”
Los Angeles Times

“A masterpiece. . . . [Bernhard’s] world is so powerfully imagined that it can seem to surround you like little else in literature.”
The New Yorker

“Something of a tour-de-force.”
The Washington Post
 
“Where rage of this intensity is directed outward, we often find the sociopath, where inward, the suicide. Where it breaks out laterally, onto the page, we sometimes find a most unsettling artistic vision.”
—Sven Birkerts, The New Republic

Language Notes

Text: English, German (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage International
  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (August 10, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400077575
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400077571
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #354,250 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By thomas.turvey@harpercollins.com on October 6, 1997
Format: Paperback
Thomas Bernhard is a little-known Austrian writer who, during his life, won every major literary award save the Nobel Prize. Concrete is, in my view, his best work. The tone of this novel, like a Bach concerto, is intertwined and unrelenting. A singular shower of first-person philosophies and opinions from someone quite obviously conflicted. There are no chapters (there aren't any in Bernhard's work) as the text reads like you're inside someone's thought process as they are wrestling with an idea. Some claim Bernhard is a misanthrope and a sexist but this is a very thin reading of him. His wild assertions and outlandish remarks are, in large part, meant to be self-mocking and in that there is great humor. The subtext is as if coming from someone not entirely trustworthy when he speaks which, of course, makes you want to listen. Bernhard is not for everyone. But if you try him and you already are taken with writers like Henry Miller or H.L. Mencken, chances are he will appeal to you on several levels.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 28, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Thomas Bernhard's "Concrete" is a concentrated, excessive and disturbing stream-of-consciousness monologue by Rudolf, a reclusive, wealthy Viennese music critic who lives alone in a large country house. Rudolf suffers from sarcoidosis, a disease not described in the narrative, which is characterized by inflammation of the lymph nodes, lungs, liver, eyes, skin, and other tissues. Physically miserable and obsessively fearful of death, he also is a man paralyzed by his misanthropic, conflicted, exhaustingly relentless thoughts. Trapped in his own mind, Rudolf is a literary creation directly descended from Dostoyevsky, Kafka and Beckett.
Rudolf has been working for ten years on a biography of Mendelssohn, yet has failed to write even the first line of his work. "I had been planning it for ten years and had repeatedly failed to bring it to fruition, but now had resolved to begin writing it on the twenty-seventh of January at precisely four o'clock in the morning, after the departure of my sister." It is an intention to begin writing that recurs again and again throughout Rudolf's narrative, an intention to begin writing at a specific time in a specific location after the completion of specific preparatory tasks. And in each instance, Rudolf fails to begin, a sign of procrastination bred by obsession or of extreme writer's block or of extreme mental imbalance.
When Rudolf's sister leaves the house, he still cannot begin to write. Despite her departure, her aura remains: "Although she had gone, I still felt the presence of my sister in every part of the house. It would be impossible to imagine a person more hostile to anything intellectual than my sister.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By "elljay" on September 8, 2001
Format: Paperback
A terminally ill writer has spent the last ten years trying to write the FIRST SENTENCE of his masterpiece, and, failing that, spends this book-length monologue venting his outrage at everything and everyone--including himself--he holds responsible for his plight. This is one of the best examples of the stream of consciousness technique I've ever come across; despite the absence of chapters or paragraph breaks, the prose is extremely readable. It's a bitterly funny book (the rant about how domesticated dogs are destroying the world is the most hilarious thing I've read in some time), but it's the genuinely unsettling finale that puts this book into the top tier of modern novels. An absolutely first-rate book; don't let Bernhard's reputation as a difficult "experimental" writer scare you away from it.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By W. Wilson on March 28, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Leave it to Bernhard to come up with the ultimate writer's irony: failing to write the first sentence of his masterpiece, even after the most meticulous planning (as you'll see when you read the book), and naturally failing to write the book he intended, a musicologist ends up with a 150-page masterpiece about...failing to write the first sentence of his masterpiece. Of course, there's more to it than that. Especially memorable are the musicologist's stinging meditations on his sister.

I've read all of Bernhard's novels, and I always recommend this one to those unfamiliar with him. I've read it twice; it's short enough to be read in an afternoon, and the effect after reading it is, "I have to read this again!"

I like his other novels for other reasons, and will even concede that Correction is probably his most masterful work, requiring immense concentration, but Concrete and Woodcutters are about his best for plain grousing.

Reading Concrete, you feel that there is a kind of stillness of air that's hard to describe.

It's too bad that this book has apparently gone out of print again. Definitely check this one out if you see it somewhere.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By "botatoe" on April 21, 2002
Format: Paperback
Thomas Bernhard's "Concrete" is a concentrated, excessive and disturbing stream-of-consciousness monologue by Rudolf, a reclusive, wealthy Viennese music critic who lives alone in a large country house. Rudolf suffers from sarcoidosis, a disease not described in the narrative, which is characterized by inflammation of the lymph nodes, lungs, liver, eyes, skin, and other tissues. Physically miserable and obsessively fearful of death, he also is a man paralyzed by his misanthropic, conflicted, exhaustingly relentless thoughts. Trapped in his own mind, Rudolf is a literary creation directly descended from Dostoyevsky, Kafka and Beckett.
Rudolf has been working for ten years on a biography of Mendelssohn, yet has failed to write even the first line of his work. "I had been planning it for ten years and had repeatedly failed to bring it to fruition, but now had resolved to begin writing it on the twenty-seventh of January at precisely four o'clock in the morning, after the departure of my sister." It is an intention to begin writing that recurs again and again throughout Rudolf's narrative, an intention to begin writing at a specific time in a specific location after the completion of specific preparatory tasks. And in each instance, Rudolf fails to begin, a sign of procrastination bred by obsession or of extreme writer's block or of extreme mental imbalance.
When Rudolf's sister leaves the house, he still cannot begin to write. Despite her departure, her aura remains: "Although she had gone, I still felt the presence of my sister in every part of the house. It would be impossible to imagine a person more hostile to anything intellectual than my sister.
Read more ›
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