Frost by Thomas Bernhard: review by Serena Dandini

Serena Dandini (photo by Gianmarco Chieregato).

SWe are now in the second month of winter spring. Some say winter never came and those who assure us that in the north it was cold for an entire week, so much so that they raised the thermostat on the radiators, which however always remain on partly out of nostalgia and partly so as not to upset climate deniers.

Changing wardrobes will become an old grandmother’s custom and who knows what will happen to novels set in the snow that describe sub-zero scenes in which the protagonists’ teeth chatter and their mustaches are beaded with ice.

Bookshops will perhaps inaugurate new shelves of dystopian science fiction for future generations who will no longer see snow-covered landscapes if not in the video reconstructions of artificial intelligence.

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But frost is also a state of mind at least for Thomas BernhardAustrian writer, playwright and journalist even though in his will, given the manifest hostility towards his country, he had asked never to be represented in Austria again.

Frost is the title of his first novel from 1963 which is now back in bookstores in Italy by Adelphi after having been unavailable for years. Biographers have written a lot about Bernhard and his difficult, harsh and solitary character but precisely a man so pessimistic and full of obsessions, intolerances and animosities could, with a prose outside the canons, manage to penetrate the human soul in its darkest folds.

“Gelo” by Thomas Bernhard (Adelphi).

AND Frostalthough it is a novel that has just turned sixty, manages to be dramatically current and to capture the spirit of our contemporaneity.

It is the story of the painter Strauch, a difficult man who, after burning all his paintings, retired to live in Weng, a freezing and inhospitable village isolated in the mountains. He is joined, incognito, by a young doctor who has the task of understanding his brother’s state of health on behalf of his brother.

The artist’s apocalyptic ideas and his tragic vision of the world will capture the young guest, giving readers a dramatic glimpse of a world in which the senselessness of men, hatred, violence and the horror of war have exterminated all hope.

Nature is a stepmother and her cry of pain resembles a painting by Munch. A book perhaps not suitable for those looking for an escapist read but that doesn’t mean that facing the darkest description of humanity doesn’t help us reactivate our best feelings by reaction.

All articles by Serena Dandini.