Author Topic: Gargoyles  (Read 863 times)

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Silenus

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Gargoyles
« on: March 10, 2021, 03:47:15 pm »

Gargoyles by Thomas Bernhard

"The only attainable goal of study is death."


Quote from:  L.A. Review of Books, "Between the Rare Oases of Thought: On Thomas Bernhard and the Mind"
One of Thomas Bernhard’s earliest published works was a novel called Gargoyles, which came out in 1967. For its first 80 pages, Gargoyles is a more-or-less conventionally realistic book, if also a rather bleak one. Set somewhere in rural Austria, it is narrated by a gloomy teenager, whose father, a “difficult district’s” sole doctor, has taken him along on his rounds through the mountainous countryside. The denizens of this countryside are not the noble peasants you’d expect from sentimental 19th-century fiction. In fact, the doctor’s patients are unanimously — though diversely — deformed, perverse, brutish, grotesque, and given, as he puts it, “to violence as well as insanity.” Take, for example, the pissdrunk miner who without “the slightest provocation” interrupts his alcoholic revelry to strike the innkeeper’s wife on the head with a bottle. Or the industrialist who lives in incestuous isolation with his half-sister. Or the brothers who pass their time strangling exotic birds.

This section seems “conventionally realistic” because Bernhard conjures his Hobbesian world using the standard realist’s toolkit: physical descriptions, distinct characters, a narrator with interiority, and so forth. Gargoyles’s second section, on the other hand, is unlike anything I’ve ever encountered. Titled “The Prince,” section two is ostensibly meant to describe the doctor’s visit to Prince Saurau, a minor local aristocrat. Instead of submitting himself to the usual physical exam, the prince embarks on crazed, grating, repetitive rant. His rant covers the castle’s day-to-day management, the political threat to his rule, the ineluctable problems of loneliness and death. More strikingly, it interrupts, overtakes, and finally consumes the book’s narrative. “Covers” doesn’t quite do the rant justice. Saurau’s monologue is more a physical or biological phenomenon than an expression of thought. His mind isn’t interested in these topics; it feeds off them in that way an incinerator feeds off garbage.


Quote from:  Monologue of Prince Saurau
Listen to me, Doctor, all my life I have seen nothing but sick people and madmen. Wherever I look, the worn and the dying look back at me. All the billions of the human race spread over the five continents are nothing but one vast community of the dying. Comedy!” the prince said. “Every person I see and everyone I hear anything about, no matter what it is, prove to me the absolute obtuseness of this whole human race and that this whole human race and all of nature are a fraud. Comedy. The world actually is, as has so often been said, a stage on which roles are forever being rehearsed. Wherever we look it is a perpetual learning to speak and learning to walk and learning to think and learning by heart, learning to cheat, learning to die, learning to be dead. This is what takes up all our time. Men are nothing but actors putting on a show all too familiar to us. Learners of roles,” the prince said. “Each of us is forever learning one (his) or several or all imaginable roles, without knowing why he is learning them (or for whom). This stage is an unending torment and no one feels that the events on it are a pleasure. But everything that happens on this stage happens naturally. A critic to explain the play is constantly being sought. When the curtain rises, everything is over.” Life, he went on, changing his image, was a school in which death was being taught. It was filled with millions and billions of pupils and teachers. The world was the school of death. “First the world is the elementary school of death, then the secondary school of death, then, for the very few, the university of death,” the prince said. People alternate as teachers or pupils in these schools. “The only attainable goal of study is death,” he said. His son had told him that in London he sometimes woke up and dressed and tore out of the house and down Oxford Street imagining that at the end of Oxford Street there would be the Ache, from which Hochgobernitz can be seen. “All people are more or less crazy, of course, even my son,” the prince said. Actually, he went on, his son’s madness must be extraordinary “if it is true that he tears down Oxford Street believing he’ll find the Ache at its end. If you wish, you can look into the Ache always and everywhere,” the prince said. “Every man has his own Ache, every man has a different Ache. I myself,” he said, “often wake up and dress and go down into the yard and out through the gate to the inner or the outer wall, and am in reality going through Brussels.” Inside every human head is the human catastrophe corresponding to this particular head, the prince said. It is not necessary to open up men’s heads in order to know that there is nothing inside them but a human catastrophe. “Without his human catastrophe, man does not exist at all,” the prince said. Man loves his misery, he said, and if he is without his misery for a moment, he does everything he can to return into his misery. “When we look at people, they are either in their misery or seeking their misery. There are no individuals who are free of human misery,” he said. Man exists continually in an extremely dangerous state, the prince said, but he is not conscious of the fact that he continually exists in an extremely dangerous state, forever opposed to himself. This is the basis of his existence, but this is also the basis of his sickness. “All dying,” the prince said. “Probably children are begotten by their parents out of sheer malice and dragged into the world out of the greatest imaginable inconsiderateness. When we seek a person,” the prince said, “it is as if we go about in a vast morgue looking for him.”

"And the strict master Death bids them dance."

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Holden

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Re: Gargoyles
« Reply #1 on: March 11, 2021, 03:55:42 am »
Mr.Silenus,

That appears to be a very interesting book.Thanks for the message. I hope you are doing fine and that your employers are not creating any difficulties for you.

Take care.
La Tristesse Durera Toujours                                  (The Sadness Lasts Forever ...)
-van Gogh.

The Indignant One

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Re: Gargoyles
« Reply #2 on: March 13, 2021, 12:16:07 am »
Quote
Probably children are begotten by their parents out of sheer malice and dragged into the world out of the greatest imaginable inconsiderateness.

I have witnessed the audacity of parents, and I am not just speaking of my own.
Things They Will Never Tell YouArthur Schopenhauer has been the most radical and defiant of all troublemakers.

Gorticide @ Nothing that is so, is so DOT edu

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The Indignant One

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Re: Gargoyles
« Reply #3 on: March 30, 2021, 07:15:59 pm »
I have been reading Gargoyles by Thomas Bernhard.  It is somewhat depressing, but that is just the nature of the brute facts revealed, such as the fact that country folk can be even more brutal than city folk.   The way the owner of the tavern/hotel mourns his wife's murder as though he has lost livestock/slave, not a "life partner" ...  The way the patron who knocked her with a bottle did not even recall having committed the act ...

How does the "sensitive soul" traverse through such landscapes?

While reading it, I am reminded of the unpleasant natures of my fellow human animal creatures  --- and of the deep well of pain beneath the surface ready to erupt should my own Creaturely Presence be threatened in any way.

I have not been able to stay calm long enough to read very much (restlessness), but I sense this evening I may be able to summon the calmness required to be content to simply BE.   

Schopenhauer said that the best way to show one's contempt or disdain for those who torment you is to have nothing to do with them.

How do these novelists transform the pain and anguish and brutality we experience in this life into literature?
Things They Will Never Tell YouArthur Schopenhauer has been the most radical and defiant of all troublemakers.

Gorticide @ Nothing that is so, is so DOT edu

~ Tabak und Kaffee Süchtigen ~

The Indignant One

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Philosophical Friendship
« Reply #4 on: March 30, 2021, 09:04:11 pm »
It is interesting to note that the mother is dead.  In Steve Toltz's "A Fraction of the Whole," he mentions this is often the case in novels.

Toltz also explains in that novel how all literature is commentary on previously existing literature.   In Gargoyles, Thomas Bernhard has the doctor (the protagonist's father) carrying around a few books ... Kant, Nietzsche, etc ... [I sure hope he gets to Schopenhauer!].   ;D

Reading this forces me to confront the absence of "philosophical friendships" in my actual monkey-sphere.   I must never take this message board for granted. 

I do not take my philosophical friendships on this message board for granted.

It may be our tragic fate - that our outsider status in our respective societies is part of some kind of natural aristocracy, and that we are destined to be very lonely men, especially in the company of others.   Our isolation is of a spiritual nature.

« Last Edit: March 30, 2021, 09:10:30 pm by Sticks and Stones »
Things They Will Never Tell YouArthur Schopenhauer has been the most radical and defiant of all troublemakers.

Gorticide @ Nothing that is so, is so DOT edu

~ Tabak und Kaffee Süchtigen ~

The Indignant One

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The Futility of Having a Life
« Reply #5 on: October 22, 2021, 12:20:38 am »
Quote from: I
Schopenhauer said that the best way to show one's contempt or disdain for those who torment you is to have nothing to do with them.

How do these novelists transform the pain and anguish and brutality we experience in this life into literature?

In ‘Beyond the Novel’, Cioran examines our self-conscious age with regard to what helped constitute it – the novel.   Cioran wonders what is the point of writing more than one novel of absence:

    “[the] implicit conception of this sort of art opposes to the erosion of being the inexhaustible reality of nothingness. Logically valueless, such a conception is nonetheless true affectively (to speak of nothingness in any other terms than affective one is a waste of time). It postulates a research without points of reference, an experiment pursued within an unfailing vacuity, a vacuity experienced through sensation, as well as a dialectic paradoxically frozen, motionless, a dynamism of monotony and emptiness. Is this not going around in circles? Ecstasy of non-meaning: the supreme impasse.”

Narrating death was important to the understanding of absence, separation, and displacement in an industrial and destabilized culture.  The essay develops out of the idea that the novel grew out of metaphysical poverty.

From Spike Magazine, E.M Cioran: To Infinity And Beyond:

Cioran gives him [the novelist] the benefit of the doubt. “Is [the novel] really dead, or only dying? My incompetence keeps me from making up my mind … I leave it to others, more expert, to establish the precise degree of its agony.”

Instead of only railing against repetitious failure, Cioran gives us the guidelines to which potential writers must abide if they are to create an art for the wilderness. In Kafka’s words, this is the help going away without helping. ‘Beyond the Novel’ adds to the demands of genuine creation, and thus the unexpected joy of what has been and might be achieved. Instead of postmodern cacophony – its sloppy apologia borne on positive negativism – we get to hear the silence behind the noise. One thinks of Beckett, of course, and the equally great Thomas Bernhard. To confirm this, Cioran pulls up in a lay-by and, in a passage one might describe as uncharacteristic, seems to hold back from hopelessness and bitter regret:

    “Let us not be needlessly bitter: certain failures are sometimes fruitful … Let us salute it, then, even celebrate it: our solitude will be reinforced, affirmed. Cut off from one more channel of escape, up against ourselves at last, we are in a better position to inquire as to our functions and our limits, the futility of having a life.”

Cioran tells us not to worry about those who are excessively self-pitying, because an excess of self-pity preserves reason.

    “This is not a paradox … for such brooding over our miseries proceeds from an alarm in our vitality, from our reaction of energy, at the same time that it expresses an elegiac disguise of our instinct of self-preservation.”

note:  ELEGY = "a poem of serious reflection, typically a lament for the dead"


Also see The anguishes of E.M. Cioran by Roger Kimball.
« Last Edit: October 22, 2021, 12:25:09 am by The Idiot »
Things They Will Never Tell YouArthur Schopenhauer has been the most radical and defiant of all troublemakers.

Gorticide @ Nothing that is so, is so DOT edu

~ Tabak und Kaffee Süchtigen ~

The Indignant One

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Re: Gargoyles
« Reply #6 on: October 22, 2021, 07:07:22 am »
“There was a time when the artist mobilized all his defects to produce a work which concealed himself; the notion of exposing his life to the public probably NEVER occurred to him. We do not imagine Dante or Shakespeare keeping track of the trifling incidents of their lives in order to bring them to other people’s attention. Perhaps they even preferred giving a false image of what they were.” ~ Emile M. Cioran
Things They Will Never Tell YouArthur Schopenhauer has been the most radical and defiant of all troublemakers.

Gorticide @ Nothing that is so, is so DOT edu

~ Tabak und Kaffee Süchtigen ~