Lime Works A Novel

ISBN-10: 1400077583

ISBN-13: 9781400077588

Edition: N/A

Authors: Thomas Bernhard

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For twenty years, Konrad has imprisoned himself and his crippled wife in an abandoned lime works where he's conducted odd auditory experiments and prepared to write his masterwork, The Sense of Hearing. As the story begins, he's just blown the head off his wife with the Mannlicher carbine she kept strapped to her wheelchair. The murder and the bizarre life that led to it are the subject of a mass of hearsay related by an unnamed life-insurance salesman in a narrative as mazy, byzantine, and mysterious as the lime works, Konrad's sanctuary and tomb. "A masterfully dense set of esthetic, social and political metaphors about contemporary life, about art, about obsessive commitment to anything....The book is a jungle of meaning, the opposite of simplistic allegory, and a major achievement."--William Kennedy, "The New Republic"
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Book details

List price: $19.00
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 3/9/2010
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 256
Size: 5.25" wide x 8.50" long x 1.00" tall
Weight: 0.594
Language: English

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.

.... when Konrad bought the lime works, about five and a half years ago, the first thing he moved in was a piano he set up in his room on the first floor, according to the gossip at the Laska tavern, not because of any artistic leanings, says Wieser, the manager of the Mussner estate, but for relaxation, to ease the nervous strain caused by decades of unremitting brain work, says Fro, the man in charge of the Trattner estate, agreeing that Konrad's piano playing had nothing to do with art, which Konrad hates, but was just improvisation, as Wieser says, for an hour first thing early in the morning and another late at night, every day, spent at the keyboard, with the metronome ticking away, the windows open ...
... next, Konrad bought a lot of guns, partly from fear but also because he had a passion for firearms, second-hand rifles mostly but in prime working order, from the estate of Forestry Commissioner Ulrich who died last year, well-known makes like the Mannlicher etc., which Konrad, an extremely shy man (Wieser), full of apprehension that tended to grow into panic ever since the landowners Mussner and Trattner were mysteriously murdered not so long ago, felt he needed to protect the lime works against burglars and in general against what he called outsiders ...
... Konrad's wife, whose maiden name was Zryd, a woman almost totally crippled by decades of taking the wrong medications, and who had consequently spent half her lifetime hunched over in her custom-built French invalid chair, but who is now, as Wieser puts it, out of her misery, was taught by Konrad how to use a Mannlicher carbine, a weapon the otherwise defenseless woman kept out of sight but always within reach, with the safety off, behind her chair, and it was with this gun that Konrad killed her on the night of December 24-25, with two shots in the back of the head (Fro); two shots in the temple (Wieser); abruptly (Fro) putting an end to their marital hell (Wieser). Konrad had always been quick to fire at anything within range of the house, they say at Laska's, and as everyone knows he did shoot the woodcutter and game keeper Koller who was passing by on his way home from work one evening about four and a half years ago; quite soon after Konrad had moved in, carrying his knapsack and a hoe, and catching it in the left shoulder because Konrad mistook him for a burglar; for which shooting Konrad was in due course sentenced to nine and a half months at hard labor. The incident brought to light about fifteen previous convictions of Konrad's, mostly for libel and aggravated assault, they say at Laska's. Konrad served his time in the Wels district prison, where he is being held again right now ...
... apart from the exceptional few who found his eccentric though quite inconspicuous personality interesting, people began little by little to cut him dead; even those who wanted his money preferred to have nothing to do with him. When I myself ran into him a few times on the road to Lambach, or Kirchham, and a couple of times walking through the high timber forest, he'd nail me every time by starting to talk without let-up on some topic of a medical or political or scientific kind, or a mixture of all three; more about that later ...
... at Lanner's the word is that Konrad killed his wife with two shots; at the Stiegler place, with a single shot; at The Inglenook, with three; and at Laska's with several shots. Obviously nobody really knows except, presumably, the police experts, how many times Konrad pulled that trigger ...
... but the trial, set for the 15th, should cast some light-even if only in the legal sense, as Wieser says-on the mystery of this shooting, a mystery that only gets darker as time goes on ...
... at Laska's they say that Konrad had tried at first to drag the corpse out to the upstairs vestibule, which has a window overlooking the water; like every man who has just killed someone, Konrad thought, says Wieser, that he could get rid of the victim, and the first thing that naturally occurred to him was to drag the body to that window and then, after weighting it with some good-sized object of iron or stone, as Fro thinks, simply drop it out the window where there happened to be, right under the sill, two marble blocks intended as door posts but left unused by Hoerhager, Konrad's cousin and the former owner of the lime works, who had decided to use tuffstone instead; Fro feels sure that those two marble blocks will playa part in the course of the trial. Anyway Konrad soon realized that he could not drag the body to the window overlooking the water, because he simply did not have the strength, besides which it may have dawned on him that it would not make sense to throw the body into the water that way, because even a medium-bright flatfoot would soon have seen through so clumsy a way to dispose of the victim, as Wieser says; malefactors always began by thinking up the craziest ways to cover their tracks, and what could have been crazier in this case than to toss the Konrad woman out the window. So when Konrad had dragged her about midway he gave up the idea, possibly he decided at that point not to get rid of the body at all is Fro's guess, but in any case he dragged it right back, the blood pouring from it harder all the time, dragged it all the way back to her room and somehow he mustered the strength to prop her up in her chair again, as the police reconstructed what happened; they say Konrad admitted that his dead wife kept slipping through his arms to the wooden floor as he tried to get her back into the chair, it took him over an hour to get the heavy, lifeless woman's body that kept slipping down on him back into that chair. When he finally made it he was so exhausted that he broke down beside the chair ...
... immediately after the murder, he is alleged to have told them, he began to run around inside the lime works as if he had gone completely crazy, he ran around from top to bottom and back again, and it was when he finally stopped to lean on the window seat overlooking the water in the upstairs vestibule, that it occurred to him to throw the dead woman out that window into the water. In fact there were blood tracks throughout the lime works that show exactly where and how Konrad ran allover the place, his statements, easy enough to check, were true, and Fro believes that Konrad had no reason not to tell the truth, actually it was characteristic of Konrad to be a fanatic about telling the truth, and still is. At The Inglenook they were saying that Konrad shot the woman in cold blood from behind, made sure she was dead, and then instantly went to give himself up. At Laska's the word was that the woman's head was shattered by a bullet fired into her left temple. When they're discussing which temple it was, some keep saying it was the left temple and others that it was the right temple. At Lanner's there were some who said that Konrad had killed his wife with an ax and then shot her with the carbine only after she was already dead, plain evidence of insanity. At Laska's they said that Konrad held the muzzle of the gun to the back of his wife's head and did not pull the trigger for a minute or two, so she knew when she felt the gun at her head that he was going to do her in this time, but made no move to defend herself. Probably he shot her at her own request, they say at the Stiegler, her life was hell and getting more agonizing every day, and it was just as well that the poor soul-which is the way people almost always referred to her everywhere-was out of it. Still, they do say that Konrad should have shot himself after shooting his wife, because all he had to look forward to now was the inescapable horror of prison or else the madhouse for life ...
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