The Voice Imitator

Patty Osborne

A thin little book, The Voice Imitator (University of Chicago Press) by Thomas Bernhard, translated by Kenneth J. Northcott, made me laugh out loud in the dark as I sat propped up in bed, my reading light clipped to the back cover, while everyone else slept. In 14 very short stories, Bernhard—an Austrian playwright, novelist and poet who is, according to the front flap, "acknowledged as among the major writers of our times"—writes about a rich Italian who wants to marry a mannequin, a hairdresser who decapitates a duke and, in the title story, a voice imitator who can mimic everyone's voice but his own.

The writing here is astounding, the wit superb, and the use of italics in odd places delightful—and contagious. The stories are so short that descriptions of them would be longer than the stories themselves, so please just search out this book and experience it yourself.

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