Born in 1931, the illegitimate child of an abandoned mother, Thomas Bernhard was brought up by an eccentric grandmother and adored grandfather. Tormented as a young student in a right-wing, catholic Austria, Bernhard ran away from home aged fifteen. At eighteen he contracted pneumonia. Placed in a hospital ward for the old and terminally ill, he observed with unflinching acuity protracted suffering and death. From the age of 21, everything he wrote was shaped by the urgency of a dying man's testament - his witness, the quintessence of his life and knowledge - and where this account of his life ends, his art begins.