After a period of near-obsession with the Austrian writer Thomas Bernhard, I visited Germany and Austria to find locations from his life and works. I returned with this gloomy photo essay. Is it evocative for readers of Bernhard, as I'd hoped? I don't know. If nothing else, it's a quiet look into contemporary Austria. Biographical details in the captions are from Bernhard's memoirs or The Making Of An Austrian, a biography by Gitta Honegger.
I first went to Ettendorf, Germany, where Bernhard's grandfather lived. Bernhard spent some of his childhood in Traunstein, on the other side of a small river.
Bernhard wrote in Gathering Evidence of trying to ride his bike from Germany to Salzburg when he was 8 years old. I took a train.
Bernhard later lived in Salzburg, where he left school to work as a grocer's apprentice.
In some of Bernhard's novels, strange things happen at inns. I met a stranger in one. This is Aleksei Martynov, a student from Russia.
Bernhard would listen to performances of the Salzburg Festival from the Mönchsberg, a mountain overlooking the city.
This man, Bruno, said to go to Bernhard's house in Ohlsdorf, and I went, expecting to find a humble farm house. Instead I saw the home of someone who had moved to the city, become enriched by it, and then bought a nice home in the country.
Music students practice at the Mozarteum, where part of The Loser is set. Bernhard was an acting student here.
I asked the students if they could play the Goldberg Variations, a Bach composition central to The Loser, and the students laughed and said no. Apparently it's a difficult piece.
This is the Salzach River, or how I imagine the Aurach Gorge in Correction might look. The real Aurach was no roaring river. It was a pleasant stream.
This is the hospital in Grafenhof where Bernhard was a tuberculosis patient. Many of Bernhard's characters suffer from a lung ailment, and his own troubled him until his brother, a doctor, assisted him in ending his life.
Bernhard met his life partner, Hedwig, while a patient at the Grafenhof sanitarium.
This is Hohenwerfen Castle, or how I imagine Hochgobernitz in Gargoyles might look. Hochgobernitz was inhabited by a malicious patriarch who wanted to end his family.
I wandered, though not too far from the road, into the Austrian Alps. I had Frost in mind, though I had not been sent to check up on someone's ailing relative.
The Kobernausser forest, site of the Cone dwelling in Correction. I walked toward what I thought would be the exact center of the forest before turning back. I didn't want to be lost.
This is the estate at Wolfsegg. In Extinction the narrator watches preparation for his parents' funeral from a window.
Bernhard once paid for his friend Paul Wittgenstein's three-hour taxi ride from Vienna to Gmunden, seen here.
Researcher Bernhard Judex works at the Thomas Bernhard Archive in Gmunden.
I drove and climbed the Aurach Valley looking for a hunting lodge on Mount Hochkreut. I read that it inspired the setting of Correction.
I wandered winding mountain roads. Entschuldigen, Hund. Wo ist Aurach Schloss?
But I could not find it, just this tree in a clearing. In Correction, the character Roithamer hangs himself from a tree in a clearing.
I did find the real-life shop of Hoeller, the taxidermist fictionalized in Correction.
I continued east to Vienna, where I saw a performance of Ibsen's The Wild Duck.
The narrator of Woodcutters spends most of his time watching and criticizing a dinner party whose star guest is an actor in a Vienna production of The Wild Duck.
I compared people I met to the Austrians of Bernhard's works. Were they recognizable? I wanted to think so, but I wasn't sure. This mad man asked me to call him Kafka.
This is the Steinhof hospital in Vienna, site of Wittgenstein's Nephew.
Bernhard's novel Old Masters features Tintoretto's White-Bearded Man at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.
In Old Masters, an aging man sits in front of White-Bearded Man every other day.
I left my wanderweg, or trail, at a restaurant in Vienna.