This book goes in line with E. Jelinek not only by Austrian authorship. It is chronicle about megalomaniac "scientist" in middle Austria. Book is a kind of report, given by others in the village, about the main hero which one could gather going around and drinking beers in local inns with local people, chatting with them. So typical Austrian, and because of it also so Slovenian or North Croatian, also.
Konrad and his crippled wife live in seclusion of lime works, where he conducts series of everyday experiments on hearing, as he plans to write a book about Sense of Hearing. Plans. For ages.
Point is that he expects it to pop out from his head to paper. Looks like schizophrenic circle. But what Bernhard describes is in fact sheer madness, finishing with Konrad killing his wife from the riffle with few (or one? In inns things get so exagerrated...) shots.
It reminds, because of this crazy narrative, Canetti's 'Auto da fe' ("Die Blendung"), with its mono-thematic crazy Chinese professor (about his books). Society here is rather less important than in Canetti, but, paradoxically, Bernhard's Konrad is made of people's wording, not his own actions, when Canetti's K is real person. German mind can really twist the things sometimes!
I do not see much in Konrad, just a crazy failed persona, I can not even sympathize with him, so Austrian he is (would you ever find possible to sympathize with an primordial Austrian??? Never. The same as primordial Croatian). I am sure there is deeper 'explanation' for Konrad, but I am not interested in it.
Also, as I see so many reflections of Northern Croatia in it (as mindset is rather similar to Austrian) I probably felt the atmosphere of the book too close to what I know, that I could abstract it to more general level. Growing up in mountains, in similar seclusion, in the apartment above the local bar. There mother had to shift the beds in bedrooms every now and then, when miners (in coal mine) would get payed, as then they'd drink and play billiard and shoot from their riffles in the ceiling of the bar below our bedrooms. Sounds similar to Konrad, really.
How many similar failures I saw in these schnapps-washed locations (certain Ante coming to my mind, and his peculiar style. But, this guy is dead for ages already, why now he popped into my mind!) There is something peculiar about small mountains, close-by larger cities. Maybe it is the feeling of failure of staying there, when nearby there is "so many" possibilities of big city? Maybe. I do not know. Maybe it is genetics, too much schnapps affecting the genes of these hard working people? Or beautiful views, feeding some "higher" thoughts, too high for given possibilities? I would go for lethal combination of this all. But Konrad himself is not native of this forgotten place, he is Welt-wanderer, Konrads traveled all around the world, excessively even, living in many places, in search for conditions which would produce the egg of his book from his intestines. Weltschmerz, then? No, will not be, he is not so simple.
In fact, now I wrote 'Urbanchich method' in Google (this is the method of hearing exercises Konrad is subjecting his wife to through years, kind of sound torture), and I am even more positive I do not want to learn behind the symbols of this book. It was about New South Wales (Australia!) politycs, australiapolit :
"One of the matters raised in this article was the re-emergence, as a senior player in Liberal Party factional tussles, of the well-known anti-Semite and Nazi collaborator Lyenko Urbanchich. The article covered a meeting between a number of New South Wales Liberal Party factional heavies from the broad right wing of the party. Of course, that other well-known Australian citizen and Nazi, Conrad Kalejs, ..."
Coincidence? Sorry, I do not believe in such coincidences.
"Mr Urbanchich was known as the Little Goebbels of Lubiana. He was a highly placed official within the propaganda apparatus of the Nazi puppet-state of Slovenia. During the reign of this quisling regime, 90 per cent of Slovenia’s Jews were either killed or deported to the death camps, while Lubiana’s Jewish community was annihilated."
I do not want to make my hands dirty with it. Oh (g)ho(st)ly shit, why always one stumbles upon a heap of shit, however small it would not be?
few days later:
Bernhard's memoirs seem to be worth to read: "Gathering Evidence" (1985, memoir): Collects Die Ursache (1975), Der Keller (1976), Der Atem (1978), Die Kälte (1981) and Ein Kind (1982) , taken from Wikipedia.