Thomas Bernhard was born to Austrian parents in Holland and reared by his mother in the vicinity of Salzburg. His temperament and erratic health created difficulties for him as he grew up in a society governed by National Socialists. Bernhard found the alpine landscapes of his native Austria far more harsh than lyrical. The isolation of the characters in his novels is only slightly mitigated by friendship, generally only between men, and never by love. Yet many readers feel this lack of sentimentality gives Bernhard's work an epic power.
Kenneth J. Northcott is professor emeritus of German at the University of Chicago. He has translated a number of books for the University of Chicago Press.