Thomas Bernhard

Nicolaas Thomas Bernhard (; 9 February 1931 – 12 February 1989) was an Austrian novelist, playwright, poet and polemicist who is considered one of the most important German-language authors of the postwar era. He explored themes of death, isolation, obsession and illness in controversial literature that was pessimistic about the human condition and highly critical of post-war Austrian and European culture. He developed a distinctive prose style often featuring multiple perspectives on characters and events, idiosyncratic vocabulary and punctuation, and long monologues by protagonists on the verge of insanity.

Born in the Netherlands to his unwed Austrian mother, for much of his childhood he lived with his maternal grandparents in Austria and in boarding homes in Austria and Nazi Germany. He was closest to his grandfather, the novelist Johannes Freumbichler, who introduced him to literature and philosophy. As a youth, he contracted pleurisy and tuberculosis and lived with debilitating lung disease for the rest of his life. While recovering in a sanatorium he began writing poetry and stories and met Hedwig Stavianicek, a wealthy heiress who supported his literary ambitions and whom he later described as the most important person in his life.

After his breakthrough novel ''Frost'' (1963), he established himself over the next twenty years as a leading novelist and playwright in German. His major works include the novels ''Correction'' (1975) and ''Extinction'' (1986) and his memoirs ''Gathering Evidence'' (1975-82). George Steiner called him: "at his best, the foremost craftsman of German prose after Kafka and Musil." He influenced the Austrian vernacular and a younger generation of Austrian writers including Elfriede Jelinek.

Bernhard was controversial in Austria for his public polemics against what he saw as his homeland's post-war cultural pretensions, antisemitism, provincialism and denial of its Nazi past. While critics labelled him a ''Nestbeschmutzer'' (one who fouls his own nest), he described himself as a troublemaker. He died of heart failure in his apartment in Gmunden, Upper Austria, in February 1989. Controversy extended beyond his death when it was revealed that his will sought to prohibit the publication or performance of his works in Austria for 70 years. Provided by Wikipedia
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