Author(s): Thomas Bernhard
The narrator, a scientist working on antibodies and suffering from emotional and mental illness, meets a Persian woman, the companion of a Swiss engineer, at an office in rural Austria. For the scientist, his endless talks with the strange Asian woman mean release from his condition, but for the Persian woman, as her own circumstances deteriorate, there is only one answer. . .
Thomas Bernhard was one of the few major writers of the second half of this century.--Gabriel Josipovici, "Independent."
With his death, European letters lost one of its most perceptive, uncompromising voices since the war.-- "Spectator" Widely acclaimed as a novelist, playwright, and poet, Thomas Bernhard (1931-89) won many of the most prestigious literary prizes of Europe, including the Austrian State Prize.
With its pages-long sentences, fugue-like structure, claustrophobic physical and mental space and relentlessly tightening interiority, Yes is the (disconcertingly pleasurable) literary equivalent of a Chinese burn. In the first of the novel's two paragraphs, the narrator, who has moved (twenty years ago) to an unappealing rural district to write a work on antibodies (what else?) that he will never accomplish, is 'saved' from his hopelessness and depression, which have brought him at last to the point of suicide, by meeting a Persian woman, the partner of a Swiss engineer, at the house of a local real estate agent, and taking a walk with her in the forest, during which no actual conversation takes place but in which the narrator develops a feeling of deep affinity with the Persian woman. In the second paragraph, which I increasingly came to read as taking place entirely within the narrator's head, we 'learn' of the entirely upright dealing of the real estate agent in selling the Swiss a piece of long-unsaleable waterlogged meadow for a high price, of the developing relationship between the narrator and the Persian woman, first into obsession and then disgust (a masterfully rendered portrayal of projection (we, and the narrator (if I read correctly) actually know nothing of the Persian woman)), the history of the Swiss/Persian couple which has led the Swiss to build an oppressive house in an oppressive place as an act of spite, and of the eventual suicide of the Persian woman (to which the Yes of the title refers) as a sort of surrogate for the narrator. As the narrator states on page 65: “If such a thought is present, it must be thought through to the end.”