It seems to me, after reading Correction, that Thomas Bernhard only wrote one novel. I have read his yes, old masters too and intend to read a few others. But if I start comparing the loser with Correction and with yes, then I am actually forced to come to this conclusion.
The Benhardian oeuvre, if there is something like that, is repetition - the style, the substance, the theme, the story. There is almost no difference between Correction and The loser.
In both novels, Bernhard's themes are suicide, a destructive, repetitive obsession and an unhealthy lack of perspective on the protagonist's part. The suicide has happened before the story begins. If in one it is Wertheimer, in the other Roithaimer. Notice the almost similar name. Both these men are almost in incestuous relations with their respective sisters. Wertheimer even kills himself in front of his sisters house, while Roithaimer kills himself inspite of her.
In the loser, the obsession is with the Goldberg varaition whilst in Correction it is with the cone. The style of both novels is similar,the repetitive pattern the same, so Wetheimer, so Roithaimer, so.
The narrator is a friend of the supposed hero, now dead. The narrator speaks to us, so we can assume he is alive or chooses to be so.
I think the major difference between the two novels is in that while the loser is infinitely more funny and makes one laugh, Correction is not so. Both books are well written but similarly written.
My other point is this: how is the reader supposed to know that to know the loser we must know who Glenn Gould is and we must know Wittgenstein to try to understand the cone in correction. Why should the reader bother so much? Are not our lives convoluted enough without these games?
What then is the purpose of Bernhard's obsessive style?
As a way of writing, it is fantastic. But what is the message? That Bernhard did not end his own life means that the suicides in his novels are acts perhaps of men without hope, lost in their unhappy unhealthy obsessions, detached from the opinions and rules with which others want to live.The main characters fail to inspire confidence. They do not even pretend to be metaphysically ill. Their rhetoric is nauseating. They are narcissistic. I do not trust them.
As caricatures of society, the novels will definitely live. As everlasting art, I mean really great literature, I fail to understand how and why. There are usually comparisons between Kafka and Bernhard. Kafka's heroes are usually perplexed because they cannot understand what is going on, while in Bernhard, the hero thinks he knows too much. In Kafka, the problems arise from the surroundings into the protagonist, whilst in Bernhard the problems arise from the heroes into the surroundings. Apart from the fact that both wrote in German, any other comparison is superfluous.
Bernhard is a great novelist, poet. But one must ask oneself....do I actually know any Wertheimer in real life?