Author: Thomas Bernhard
Review by: Oliver Gorf, executive director, Goethe-Zentrum Atlanta
It required a pandemic to encourage enough soul searching to finally make me read this novel by the great Austrian writer Thomas Bernhard. For decades I had kept my distance from his work, shying away from it for fear it could affect me too much.
But 2020 was the year it had to happen — a year of detachment, disconnection, isolation and pain. There were two ways to deal with it: ignore it, or go down the rabbit hole and take a real, raw look at the human condition. I chose the second way and picked up Frost. And yes, the title matches the book’s frigid atmosphere.
Bernhard describes us as individual, disconnected from each other, fragmented. And as terrible as these words may sound, in the hands of a master of language, this diagnosis brought with it the medicine to accept COVID situation as one I could deal with — we could deal with — because it is part of our nature.
In that way, the story of a medical student trying to figure out a painter enduring self-imposed isolation became a warm tale about what we as people are able to endure and still retain our humanity.
Fittingly for me, after finishing the novel in April, life in the times of COVID-19 became better. Ultimately, I even found my new calling as director of the Goethe-Zentrum, and a new favorite city: Atlanta.
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