A Note from Composer David Lang
“Suicide calculated well in advance, I thought, no spontaneous act of desperation.”
So begins Thomas Bernhard’s novel The Loser. The narrator, who is never named in the book, retells the story of his friend Wertheimer, who has just committed suicide, and in the process he reveals everything about himself. They both had been promising concert pianists in their youth, among the best in the world, but they had the misfortune of meeting each other as students in a master class of Vladimir Horowitz, in which the young Glenn Gould had also been a participant. The knowledge that they were never going to be as great as Gould wrecked their lives forever.
The story is not at all about Gould, Horowitz, or classical music. On one level the novel is an intense tour-de-force of character development, as the narrator tells you more and more about himself and his world, with all the details revealed in no particular order. In its own confrontational and strangely beautiful way, however, it is also about perfectionism, hard work, optimism or lack of, how we justify our lives to ourselves, and how we learn to appreciate beauty and become alienated from it at the same time.—David Lang
The Loser by Thomas Bernard used by permission of SuhrkampVerlag AG, Berlin. Translated by Jack Dawson. This translation used by permission of The Knopf Doubleday Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC