"What is extraordinary about Bernhard is that his relentless pessimism never seems open to ridicule; his world is so powerfully imagined that it can seem to surround you like little else in literature." -- New Yorker
The story is strikingly simple, a doctor has to visit his patient in a neighboring city. He has to walk through a dense forest at night, in the middle of winter, with deep snow covering the mountains and forests the doctor is crossing the ridge from Traich to Föding to see him. He stumbles over a body in the darkness. He discovers it is not a corpse, it's Victor Halfwit, legless but still very much alive. This fellow's wooden legs are broken as he was trying to hurry through the forest. Thanks to the doctor Halfwit wins the bet, he will be able to buy the new boots that he longed for. But is it a happy end?
Victor Halfwit may have originally been viewed as an absurd fable for children, but Berhard's masterly embrace of the overlap of tragedy and comedy renders this a story for all ages. European literary critics keep advocating that Thomas Bernhard is certainly one of the most influential writers of any era, any country! "Enormously influential, unremittingly bleak and pessimistic but never without a sense of humor, his style evolved into single-paragraphed philosophical rants extending hundreds of pages,..." His books have been translated and published for decades, by a variety of Publishers from the major Knopf to the tiny ones allover Europe, with many of them out of print for long stretches.
First published in German in 1967, written at the same time as Bernhard's early novels, they display the same obsessions, restlessness, and overwhelming mastery. The dialogues in A Winter's Journey, developed loosely around WWII, and decades later, are categorized as intimate intellectual biography. Since Bernhard childhood, was lived in, "the turmoil of a heavily bombed, wartime Nantes to maturity in a crisis space, neither entirely militarized nor yet fully civilian, but somewhere in between." In the course of these conversations, critics ultimately find hope that in understanding the events of the last century and the cultural responses echoed by them, could create a more humane era that is furthermore adept at handling the transformations of its technology and culture.