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Frost: A Novel (Vintage International) Paperback – January 8, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A student's increasingly erratic dispatches over 27 days comprise this obsessive first novel by Bernhard (1931–1989), published to European acclaim in 1963. An unnamed medical student is sent from Vienna by his supervisor, an eminent surgeon named Strauch, to undertake "precise observation" of the surgeon's brother, a famous painter who has suddenly left the city for the "dismal" village of Weng. After "systematically inveigling" himself into the company of the painter under the pretense of being a vacationing law student, the student slowly feels his own mood and mental attitudes being subsumed by the painter's paranoid outbursts and disjointed monologues. Weng itself, located in a grim valley still bearing the grisly traces of WWII, is a hotbed of murky scandal: the landlady sleeps with the village knacker (handyman), while her husband, against whom she testified in a murder trial, sits in jail; a traveling show appears in the village displaying "deformed women and deformed animals"; a barn is torched. All are dutifully reported by the disintegrating student. Bernhard's glorious talent for bleak existential monologues is second only to Beckett's, and seems to have sprung up fully mature in his mesmerizing debut. (Oct. 19)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Austrian Bernhard's first novel, which appeared in German in 1963, is being published in English for the first time in a translation that finely captures Bernhard's bitter, acerbic prose. The story follows an unnamed young medical student who is sent by a colleague to watch over an elderly painter named Strauch. What follows is roughly 300 pages of a dying, demented man spewing relentless bile and invectives against, well, everything. The modern world is a rotting chaos, the natural world a threatening lunacy, and memory and imagination nothing more than symptoms of the malignant disease of life. The younger man's mind, predictably, soon becomes infected by the elder man's corrosive diatribes. Bernhard, who died in 1989, would go on to achieve distinction as a playwright, poet, and novelist, but his first book is more an extended, free-association tirade than a novel, mapping out Bernhard's assured examinations into the language of isolation, paranoia, and futility. For readers who find Beckett too glib and Kafka a mere fusspot. Ian Chipman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage International
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (January 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0002236435
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400033515
  • ASIN: 1400033519
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #956,081 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on October 21, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Following WW II in Vienna distinguished Dr. Strauch sends his underling to a remote village Weng that the renowned surgeon assumes is a dump filled with peasants. He tells his employee to look into the mental state of his brother, a famous painter who abruptly left civilization in Vienna to rusticate.

Pretending to be a law student, the young man befriends the painter and begins sending to his employer correspondence involving the mental health of the artist. However, the newcomer becomes somewhat frightened by the painter's paranoid temper fits and schizoid discussions as if he is talking to himself. He also reports the village is filled with scandal as he realizes his landlady sleeps with the village knacker while her spouse resides in jail on a murder conviction in which his wife testified against him. As the writings of the "spy" turn unreasonable bordering on the insane, a traveling troupe arrives with a show of deformity that he sends in graphic detail to the surgeon. After spending four weeks in Weng, the outsider seems on the verge of a breakdown; that is if he has not already gone over the edge.

Mindful of Camus' The Stranger, this translation by Michael Hofmann of a 1963 classic is a terrific look at a person falling apart over the course of four weeks. Readers will observe the mental collapse of the unnamed outsider from his increasingly irrational writings that he dutifully sends to his employer. Fans who want something different will want to read the late Thomas Bernhard's compelling and profound existential look at a man seemingly falling apart as he fails to adapt to this alien environs.

Harriet Klausner
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9 of 15 people found the following review helpful By W. Wilson on September 27, 2007
Format: Hardcover
_Frost_ is not a place to begin for those unfamiliar with Thomas Bernhard. The various university presses and publishers were smart to leave this as one of the last, if not the last, of Bernhard's works to be published in English.

_Frost_ is not Bernhard's best novel, no, not by a longshot; so to give it 4 or 5 stars is overly generous. (Should other, better-crafted novels [such as _Correction_ or _Concrete_ or _Woodcutters_] get 7 or 8 stars?)

However, to be fair, it is his first novel, and in many respects is remarkably good and portends greatness. Themes that would be explored more fully in later writings -- the seeming meaninglessness of existence; ambivalence if not contempt for post-World War II Austria and Catholicism; Bernhard's fascination with newspapers; Pascal's _Pensees_--are dealt with here too, but what's lacking in _Frost_ is any humor, even dark humor, which makes for a grim, unrelenting slog through 300+ pages.

At times I felt the novel should have been titled _Heavy Wet Snow._

What's lacking in _Frost_ is that all-important first sentence that grabs the reader in the same way the first few notes of a composition grab the listener.

What's lacking in _Frost_ is a well-thought-out, believable plotline. At the end of the book there are loose ends aplenty, leaving one wondering (SPOILER WARNING)

- what happened when the landlady's husband finally got out of jail?
- how did Strauch (the painter's) brother, the surgeon, react to the dispatches sent by the unnamed narrator?
- did Strauch the painter kill himself, or was he done in by the patrons of the inn?

Another reviewer noted that the philosophical observations by Strauch the painter are "truths, if you will.
Read more ›
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By HarukiMurakamFan603 on December 11, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Thomas Bernhard is an interesting author. Bernhard has a very existential world view, all of his novels have minimal usage of plot events and imagery, his writing style is very dense, and he puts more emphasis on the heavy philosophies that his characters harbor towards their lives than any other element present in his very depressing narrative works.

VICE magazine has done a couple of well written summaries of Bernhard's heavy and existential literary works thats worth finding online if your thinking of getting into him. "Frost," is a good entry into Bernhard's works.

FUN FACT - Along with Robert W. Chambers's "The King in Yellow," Thomas Ligotti's "The Conspiracy Against the Human Race," and the misogynistic detective stories of James Ellroy, the creator of HBO's True Detective, Nic Pizzolatto, was clearing heavily influenced by Thomas Bernhard. In fact, a lot of what comes out of the character Rustin Cohle's (Matthew McConaughey) mouth in season 1 of "True Detective," feels like almost every other line in Bernhard's novel "Frost."
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Junis R on March 21, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Although not pretty, this is an important book, one very well worth the effort to read. Strauch, the painter, the primary character, is undeniably insane. Nonetheless, he is a font of philosophical observations - truths if you will - often exposing the dark side of the human condition. The relationship developed between Strauch and the anonymous young medical student who leaves his work to observe Strauch is engaging and psychologically astute. While extremely "raw", FROST is unforgettable.
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0 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Armchair Interviews on January 31, 2008
Format: Paperback
To the literary community, the name "Frost" conjures up thoughts of the beloved poet, Robert Frost. Gentle, intuitive poetry flowed forth from Frost, poetry that speaks to the essence of the human soul. However, the mere mention of the word "frost" can also bring thoughts of winter chill and cold ponderings. The latter frost is the frost we are confronted with in the novel Frost by Thomas Bernhard.

Seething in its depths of visual acuity and disturbing reality, Frost explores the friendship between a young man just starting his medical career and a painter who is in his ending days. The young man has accepted an odd assignment: travel to a mining town in order to examine and report upon his mentor's brother, the painter known as Strauch. Strauch, a hermit in his own right, is meticulously observed by the student, posing here as a law student in order to gain the trust of this eccentric painter.

The first line of the story says it best: "A medical internship consists of more than spectating at complicated bowel operations, cutting open stomach linings, bracketing off lungs, and sawing off feet...." These words are a fitting introduction to the rest of the young man's adventure in a difficult reality experienced by those on the brink of madness.

The poet Frost once wrote: "It's when I'm weary of considerations/And life is too much like the pathless wood/When your face burns with the tickle of cobwebs/Broken across it, and one eye is weeping...." This simple excerpt from Frost's Birches succinctly expresses the emotion one is left with in this literary exploration of human nature.

Armchair Interviews says: Thought-provoking read.
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