Suicide as a National Folk Art (Thomas Bernhard’s Correction)

Suicide, Luc Tymans

In this passage from Thomas Bernhard’s Correction we can see the strange, bleak, black humor that characterizes the novel:

It’s a folk art of sorts, I said to Hoeller, always longing to kill oneself but being kept by one’s watchful intelligence from killing oneself, so that the condition is stabilized in the form of lifelong controlled suffering, it’s an art possessed only by this people and those belonging to it. We’re a nation of suicides, I said, but only a small percentage actually kill themselves, even though ours is the highest percentage of suicides in the world, even though we in this country hold the world’s record for suicide, I said. What mainly goes on in this country and among these people is thinking about suicide, everywhere, in the big cities, in the towns, in the country, a basic trait of this country’s population is the constant thought of suicide, they might be said to take pleasure in thinking constantly, steadily, without allowing anything to distract them, about how to do away with themselves at any time. It is their way of keeping their balance, I said, to think constantly about killing themselves without actually killing themselves. But of course the rest of the world doesn’t understand, and so whatever they think about us and regardless of what they say about us and of how they always and invariably treat us, every single one of us, they are all wrong. It’s a simple fact, I said, that our country is misunderstood, no matter how well intentioned the rest of the world may appear, what it sees when it looks at Austria and its people is total madness as a stable state of mind, a constant.

(For those interested: Austria currently ranks 24th in the world in suicide per capita)


Charles Frazier’s Nightwoods (Book Acquired, 6.14.2012)


Charles Frazier’s Nightwoods, new in trade paperback. From Randy Boyagoda’s NY Times review:

“Nightwoods,” Frazier’s new novel, is a departure from its predecessors in some respects. It’s set in the early 1960s rather than the 19th century, and it involves no literary or historical elements of comparable grandeur and gravity. Indeed, based on its premise, the new book feels remarkably stripped down: a young woman named Luce, the caretaker of an old lodge in small-town North Carolina, becomes the guardian of the twin children of her murdered sister. In turn, she must defend them from Bud, their former stepfather, who killed their mother while they watched, and who believes the traumatized children know the location of some stolen money. As a setup, this promises suspense and mystery, to which Frazier adds family tension (when Luce’s lawman-cum-drug-addict father buddies up with Bud) and romance (after the shy, handsome grandson of the lodge’s deceased owner visits his inheritance and falls for Luce).