Frost, by Thomas Bernhard

The opening paragraph of this novel is one of the best I've read, and is so humorous and sets the tone so well that I had to read the book. The narrator, a young medical intern, is given an unusual assignment to stay with, and observe his superior's brother, a reclusive painter named Strauch, and …

The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum, by Heinrich Böll

The opening page of this novella comes with a little hint as to what the contents will be like: “The characters and action in this story are purely fictitious. Should the description of certain journalistic practices result in a resemblance to the practices of Bild-Zeitung, such resemblance is neither intentional, nor fortuitous, but unavoidable.” Bild-Zeitung …

The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, by Yukio Mishima

In this beautiful and dark novel, we read about a young man's obsession with the famous Golden Temple in Kyoto, Japan. Mizoguchi, who is unpopular and ostracized for his stuttering, is introduced to the temple by his father, and eventually becomes an acolyte there. After seeing the temple every day, he becomes more and more …

The Train Was On Time, by Heinrich Böll

In another war novel by Böll that does not feature battle or action, a young soldier, Private Andreas, boards a train and is immediately overcome with the certainty that he will soon die. As the train rolls on, Andreas' certainty grows, and he even begins to narrow down exactly the time and place that he …

The Loser, by Thomas Bernhard

The rambling, obsessive, internal thoughts of a bitter loser... who'd have thought they'd make such good reading? The Loser is about three piano virtuosos who meet in their early 20s at a music school. All three have great talent, but one of them is Glenn Gould (a real piano virtuoso--this story mixes some fact in …

On the Natural History of Destruction, by W.G. Sebald

In World War Two, 131 German cities and towns were bombed by the Allies, and many were entirely destroyed, leaving over seven million homeless, and 600,000 dead--twice the number of all American casualties in the war. The subject of this book is to ask, given the sheer scope of this destruction, why did rarely any …

The influence of Dostoevsky

I've been reading The Idiot, and the same as with Crime and Punishment, I am now seeing its influences on everything. I will share just one example, early in the novel. Prince Myshkin, the protagonist and titular 'idiot,' is a very open and guileless person, which leads many people who encounter him to doubt his …