Communication and hope in Thomas Bernhard's later prose writings
The aim of this study is to make an original contribution to the body of scholarship on the Austrian writer Thomas Bernhard (1931-89) by presenting a text-based investigation of his five-part autobiographical cycle (Die Ursache (1975), Der Keller (1976), Der Atem (1978), Die Kälte (1981), and Ein Kind (1982)), and the prose narratives, Beton (1982) and Auslöschung (1986). In the Introduction, I detail the method adopted to construct the argument of the thesis, after discussing pertinent aspects of Bernhard criticism and its reluctance to approach the prose fiction from a textual perspective. Chapter I examines specific stylistic devices and themes found in the autobiographies and relates them to the emergence of a greater narratorial desire to communicate with the reader and a nascent sense of personal hope. After the tortuous narratives of the sixties and early seventies which made Bernhard's reputation as a nihilistic, negative writer, the autobiographical pentalogy gives evidence of a lighter, more direct expression. The second chapter, on Beton, focuses on a number of themes (human contact, perfectionism, and music and literature) which reveal a more positive outlook in the aftermath of the autobiographical project. The third chapter, on Auslöschung, concentrates on a protagonist who has achieved considerable personal fulfilment and who manages to overcome the emotional and psychological obstacles which his predecessors in Bernhard's prose were unable to surmount. The aim of the thesis, to expose and analyse the aspects of communication and hope recurrent in Bernhard's prose works after 1975, is achieved through close reading reinforced by pertinent biographical and literary evidence. It is hoped that, by undertaking a critical examination of selected narratives, this thesis fills a critical lacuna in the substantial secondary material on Bernhard.