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I am a kind of artisan novelist A writer of novellas I certainly am not If I am well disposed, that s to say, feeling good, I tailor, cobble, weld, plane, knock, hammer, or nail together lines the content of which people understand at once If you liked, you could call me a writer who goes to work with a lathe My writing is wallpapering One or two kindly people venture to think of me as a poet, which indulgence and manners allow me to concede My prose pieces are, to my mind, nothing nor less than parts of a long, plotless, realistic story For me, the sketches I produce now and then are shortish or longish chapters of a novel The novel I am constantly writing is always the same one, and it might be described as a variously sliced up or torn apart book of myself.ROBERT WALSER, Eine Art Erz hlung, 1928 29Loved Kleist in Thun , which beautifully and thoughtfully lets us see the inner world of German writer Heinrich von Kleist through lenses focused on the Swiss town of Thun Briefly then Kleist made himself comfortable in the three rooms which, at an astonishingly low price, were assigned to him A charming local Bernese girl keeps house for me A beautiful poem, a child, a heroic deed these three things occupy his mind Moreover, he is somewhat unwell Lord knows what is wrong What is the matter with me It is so beautiful here He writes, of course From time to time he takes the coach to Berne, meets literary friends, and reads to them whatever he has written Naturally they praise him to the skies, yet find his whole person rather peculiar He writes The Broken Jug But why all the fuss Spring has come Around Thun the fields are thick with flowers, fragrance everywhere, hum of bees, work, sounds fall, one idles about in the heat of the sun you could go mad It is as if radiant red stupefying waves rise up in his head whenever he sits at his table and tries to write He curses his craft He had intended to become a farmer when he came to Switzerland Nice idea, that Easy to think up, in Potsdam Poets anyway think up such things easily enough Often he sits at the window.Possibly about ten o clock in the morning He is so much alone He wishes there was a voice beside him what sort of voice A hand well, and A body But what for Out there lies the lake, veiled and lost in white fragrance, framed by the bewitching unnatural mountains How it all dazzles and disturbs The whole countryside down to the water is sheer garden, it seems to seethe and sag in the bluish air with bridges full of flowers and terraces full of fragrance Birds sing so faintly under all the sun, all the light They are blissful, and full of sleep His elbow on the windowsill, Kleist props his head on his hand, stares and stares and wants to forget himself The smells of human bodies filter through their clothes, out of the inns there pour the sounds of carousal, dancing, and eating All this uproar, all the freedom of the sounds Sometimes coaches cannot pass The horses are completely hemmed in by trading and gossiping men And the sun shines dazzling so exactly upon the objects, faces, cloths, baskets, and goods Everything is moving and the dazzle of sunlight must of course move nicely along with everything else Kleist would like to pray He finds no majestic music so beautiful, no soul so subtle as the music and soul of all this human activity He would like to sit down on one of the steps which lead into the narrow street He walks on, past women with skirts lifted high, past girls who carry baskets on their heads, calm, almost noble, like the Italian women carrying jugs he has seen in paintings, past shouting men and drunken men, past policemen, past schoolboys moving with their schoolboy purposes, past shadowy alcoves which smell cool, past ropes, sticks, foodstuffs, imitation jewelry, jaws, noses, hats, horses, veils, blankets, woolen stockings, sausages, balls of butter, and slabs of cheese, out of the tumult to a bridge over the Aare, where he stops, and leans over the rail to look down into the deep blue water flowing wonderfully away Above him the castle turrets glitter and glow like brownish liquid fire I am not alive, he cries out, and does not know where to turn with his eyes, hands, legs, and breath A dream Nothing there I do not want dreams In the end he tells himself he lives too much alone He shudders, compelled to admit how unfeeling is his relation to the world about him Weeks pass, Kleist has destroyed one work, two, three works He wants the highest mastery, good, good What s that Not sure Tear it up Something new, wilder, beautiful..he wants to abandon himself to the entire catastrophe of being a poet He has in writing explicitly invited us along with him He acknowledges that as a writer he is afraid of the reader and often apologizes to us throughout this fine collection of stories, notes, fragments It is an interesting relationship between Walser and his reader As a reader have we also become an Other to him, which signifies the possibility of criticism, humiliation, as when writing in his room he has become an Other to himself When he leaves his writing room, if in this book he ever has, he takes the liberty to take an ironic, critical stance with others the bookkeeper, banker, a gigantic unhappy man passing him on a country road But generally the opening onto and opening himself to the country road is an extraordinary liberation in many of these pieces, of Walser freeing himself from himself So floridly, sensually, done he even explains how to be there, to dedicate ourselves to this beloved scenery, nature, to surrender ourselves, so we too can partake in his overflowing joy, in his imagination, on the country road, or at the train station looking out on the verdant valley with its inviting small cottages Walser is no simple pedestrian here He is the explorer and at times the conquerer of the soul and its disparate parts coming together as one, where there is no Other.In this collection Others abound Sifting about him they act as both a source of desire and a source of fear.These conflictual feelings paralyze him, kindling his desolate loneliness and copious forms of isolation and depression What is someone to do especially during these years This paralysis is not a passing abstract concept Walser indeed cannot make a decision, take a step forward A shuffle in place is the most he hopes for The early stories speak of little hope Thun, is a story in itself worth reading the entire book its ending as sad as anything I ve read, along with, The Walk In order to live with such a sadness we find Walser speaking his stories, cataloging his life with words of whimsy, a mirth which does not seem out of place or stylized but comes from a capricious stance in a life constructed for survival It is respected as such At the same time its slight slice of irony makes it entertaining, touches our own need to laugh at our foibles, even horrors, to shape them diminutive and thus within the possibility of being able to be handled Walser opens his individual soul yet clearly spreads it across the universalI would have given this book a full fledged 5 star rating but too many notes and fragments were included weighing the book down for me in the middle So, a 4.5 This is the only collection of Walser s shorter works, many only one or two pages long, that I have read Middleton has not only translated but made his selections and placed them in a chronological order shaping the work I have no way of comparing this to other collections and translator s It seems that the stories in the second half show a facile optimistic Walser who though still with problems has accepted his conflicts, obsessions, and thus is somewhat at peace with himself.It is fitting the book ends with Walser s notes on Cezanne A piece where the artist s life and ways of obsession are clearly scored Walser seems to be coming to terms with his own artistry and accomplishments Is he as proud as what he has done with his mind as Cezanne deserves to be with his hands This same year he admitted himself into the sanitarium If nothing else this ended his incessant battle between the desire to participate in life vs the lack of desire or inability to be part of something he saw as the thin veneer of what was real Unfortunately four years later declared as officially insane he was shipped off to a psychiatric institution Perhaps he said already everything he had to say in that deviously simple, ironic, flutter of words buoyed by whimsy, an understanding of pain, loneliness, and cornered by emotional paralysis that the world can understand If not he and we missed out on much.4.5 5 My name is Helbling and I am telling my own story because it would probably not be written down by anybody else With mankind become sophisticated, there can be nothing curious nowadays about a person, like me, sitting down and starting to write his own story It is short, my story, for I am still young, and it will not be completed, for I shall probably go on living for a very long time The striking thing about me is that I am a very ordinary person, almost exaggeratedly so I am one of the multitude, and that is what I find so strange Robert Walser is very rich in characters there are many of every kind He sympathizes with the men living purposeful and spiritual life and he ridicules the empty ones who are nothing but passersby in this world And Robert Walser is always capable to see the most curious sides of life and human nature he is ironic and but he is kind Sundays Kleist likes, and market days also, when everything ripples and swarms with blue smocks and the costumes of the peasant women, on the road, and on the narrow main street There, on this narrow street, by the pavement, the wares are stacked in stone vaults and on flimsy stalls Grocers announce their cheap treasures with beguiling country cries And usually on such a market day there shines the most brilliant, the hottest, the silliest sun Kleist likes to be pushed hither and thither by the bright bland throng of folk Everywhere there is the smell of cheese Into the better shops go the serious and sometimes beautiful countrywomen, cautiously, to do their shopping Many of the men have pipes in their mouths Pigs, calves, and cows are hauled past To see and to understand the entire world it is quite enough to have a short walk, one just must learn to observe every tiny detail But this wonderful skill is available only to the most subtle artists, poets and thinkers Snowdrops whisper all kinds of things They bring back to mind Snow White, who in the mountains found a friendly welcome from the dwarfs They remind one of roses because they are different Everything always reminds one of its opposite Just wait The good will come Goodness is always closer to us than we think Patience brings roses This old, good saying occurred to me when recently I saw snowdrops For those who can see through the nature of the trivial things happiness is easy From the author s bio on the inner front cover Robert Walser 1878 1956 was born in Switzerland He left school at fourteen and led a wandering and precarious existence while producing essays, stories, and novels In 1933 he abandoned writing and entered a sanatorium where he remained for the rest of his life I am not here to write, Walser said, but to be mad Meet the first book I ve read in a long time worthy of five stars.Robert Walser s Selected Stories is, quite simply, a jaw dropping revelation Walser is both aware of the ridiculousness of social interaction and his own place in the world and at the same time respectful or at least ambivalent concerning the idea that not everyone may share his perceptions He is the kind of person who could probably size up a room in thirty seconds but would be polite enough to avoid blurting out his perceptions for everyone to hear Then he would cut out the back door, head to his cheap room, and write I LOVE this guy Most of the stories run three or so pages but a few run as many as fifty Also included is a conversation about love between a stork and a porcupine I m not kidding.The longest stories, particularly The Walk , involve the narrator s extensive solo wanderings through town and country That story evidences both his humor and his darkness The narrator enters a bookstore and asks the clerk to see the book everyone is reading before rejecting said book as unworthy of his time A bank gives him, out of nowhere, 1,000 francs, and he tries to convince a woman she could be a famous singer Later, however, the walk ends as darkness falls with visions of an old forsaken man and flowers falling out of the narrator s hand Kleist in Thun documents Kleist s descent into madness I don t want to make Walser sound like a crazy ranter he s not He s like a guy who knows too much and communicates what s just below the surface in those of us who can relate but manage to function in daily life better than Walser could The first time I heard The Smiths, at fourteen, I felt less alone in the world I felt like the scripts running in my mind were slightly validated because some guy in Manchester, England sang lyrics that spoke to what I was trying to say but couldn t articulate And people were listening And since people were listening I thought there must be people like me out there and maybe what I m feeling and thinking is not useless, aberrant, and deathly. Without that experience and I know some of you hate The Smiths, so feel free to insert your favorite band here I doubt I would have emerged from high school with any sense of self or future I haven t had that feeling, the feeling I got when I first heard The Smiths, in a long time, probably since first experiencing eels Electro Shock Blues And how often does that feeling occur when you re nearing forty Walser revitalized me, and that s a gift Thank you, Mr Walser, thank you Reading Walser is rewarding hard work He leans towards long sentences, piling on prepositional phrases, so be prepared to read some pages over a few times Some stories, esp near the end, left me feeling I missed something important This book requires multiple readings I felt tired by the time I finished.If you need a contextual touchstone, well, go with Kafka Apparently Walser influenced Mr K., and the same outsider, isolated perspective permeates both authors work While Kafka focused on the dead air of offices and small rooms, Walser walks out in the open and pretty much gives up on the office except in The Job Application and Helbing s Story both of which lead directly to Kafka s world Let me put it this way If Kafka and David Foster Wallace met at a bar and had a contest to see who could make the other laugh or cry first, their stories would sound like Robert Walser s.I need to play the I can t do justice to this book card in this review And I also need to thank Young Matthew for pointing me in Walser s direction I owe you big time Matty the thing is, i love robert walser the first six or seven stories in this collection ripped my guts apart so did the last two the middle sort of slumped for me, but overall, i m shocked people aren t screaming walser s name off of mountain tops.it s easy to drop kafka s name every five minutes, especially if you re in any sort of MFA program but walser is the spine response to a request is one of my favorite stories ever written whenever i read it, i end up writing something new i want to compete with that story, that s how beautiful it is and how much it challenges me remember what i told you before namely and you ll know it still, i hope that it is possible for one eye alone, open or closed, to achieve an effect of terror, beauty, grief, or love, or what have you it doesn t take much to show love, but at some time or another in your, praise god, disastrous life you must have felt, honestly and simply, what love is and how love likes to behave it is the same, naturally, with anger also how do you compete with that paragraph it is a punching bag of words stuffed with so many ideas that your fists will wear down to the bone before you can beat every meaning out of it my other favorites here so i ve got you, stork and porcupine, trousers a little bit barthelme , nervous mortars have mortared me to bits , and the honeymoon.these stories are sharp little shards of smartness, challenging but easy to read, mind bending but wise what i want to say is if walser isn t on your shelf, i don t know if i can be your friend. I just don t get Robert Walser I want to I really do I mean, I ve read a lot of the other reviews on this site most of which should come with a mop and some wetnaps , and apparently anybody who ever reads this thing ascends immediately into the heavens with a pure, beatific light emanating from the nucleus of his soul while a thousand choirs erupt in a song so rapturous that its very vibrations elicit a cataclysmic orgasm in all its listeners In other words I ll have what they re having So I sit there, reading this book, and and I don t know any other way to put it I m actually pressing my mind into it with an almost physical force I can feel myself exerting all of my being almost grunting, in fact in a vain attempt to decipher that miraculous je ne sais quoi that makes everyone soil their trousers Where is it Where the fuck is it I start to panic but no I will not panicThis is all a practical joke, right Allen Funt, come out from your hiding place but not if you re dead, okay I don t know how to concentrate on these words any harder and make them come alive I feel as if my eyes are bulging out of my head like Barbara Bush s I hope nobody s watching me I mean they ve got to be kidding, right The JFK conspiracy, and now this The Walser conspiracy It s not that Walser is even or especially bad that would actually be interesting It s just that he s almost nothing A dandelion puff, scattered to the four winds or how ever many winds there are But here I am, still waiting for my orgasm And waiting Whom can I sue I m feeling litigious. Sometimes when I finish a book there s a feeling in my mind of pure nullity, where I couldn t say a single thing about the text even if I wanted to It s not often however that this feeling extends for weeks or even months I suspect that some people who read Robert Walser will go the rest of their lives not sparing a single synapse about him after they finish, let alone a word or a sentence I myself was going to relegate my opinion or lack thereof to this near universal silence at least maybe until I read Jakob von Gunten , when inexplicably today the rest of this review sprang nearly fully formed into my head at once There s something about his prose pieces that slip right between the cracks of the brain, or lend themselves to the feeling of hanging on the precipice with one hand over the abyss of pure incomprehension, like reading every story is a struggle between your conscious mind and the demon of negation and nonexistence Whatever ideas can be extracted from his stories I sincerely say our young art of literary criticism has not yet the tools for, merely blind thrusts in the dark It s not morals, emotions, or even philosophical crumbs that should be extracted from his stories with this highly specialized yet nonexistent literary scalpel that is not to be used for something as imprecise and brutal like surgery, but for the extraction of an art without beginning or end that exists and dies wholly in a void but is intermittently rescued by select members of posterity who themselves have not the foggiest the nature of what they have rescued or its worth other than its being unique Even what Walser himself says about his works, that they are like a part of a larger story which is himself, is no than itself a piece of inventive prose and completely unverifiable Here the parallel to Kafka is the greatest, where he makes these innocuous comments about his own stories that can throw the futile act of interpreting them off the track for years, if however there were any interpreters of Walser like there were of Kafka Highly recommended for strollers, connoisseurs of the small, and fans of Walter Benjamin, with no guarantees of a single coherent thought after you finish, naturally, but maybe an increased sense of appreciation for the strange and unknown, or the awareness that the literature farthest from our regular sensibilities are by their essence the only ones that can communicate to us thoughts that would not normally occur on our relaxed plane of easy comprehension. Robert Walser s shortshort stories made me want to do the following things take long long walks in the countryrent a room in the home of an aging woman preferably Ursula Le Guin lay down in the woods, the left side of my face upon a patch of mosspick wildfllowers, slowlywrite a letter go to a mueseum with old art, watch the paintings, see them slowly Warning This is a pretty long review of a labour of love than a love of long windedness The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. Marcel ProustIf I were asked which writer in 2015 should get the maximum attention among serious classic readers, I would name ROBERT WALSER So let me declare at least to myself 2015 as the year of Reading Robert Walser It was couple of months ago, during my bath room reading of Elias Canetti s amazing book The Human Province Well, this is that has solidly stayed with me for 20 years and one which I constantly return to that I read a short reference to Robert Walser I would like to reproduce a part of it below Robert Walser s special characteristic as a writer is that he never formulates his motives He is the most camouflaged of all writers He is always well off, he is always delighted by everything But his enthusiasm is cold, since it leaves out one part of himself, and that is why it is sinister For him, everything is external nature, and the essential thing about it, its innermost being, fear, was something he denied all his life.His writings are an unflagging attempt at hushing his fear He escapes everywhere before too much fear gathers in him his wandering life , and to save himself, he often changes into something subservient and small His deep and instinctive distaste for everything lofty , for everything that has rank and privilege, makes him an essential writer of our time, which is choking on power One hesitates calling him a great writer according to normal usage, nothing is so repugnant to him as greatness It is only the brilliance of greatness to which he submits, and not its demand His pleasure is to contemplate the brilliance without taking part in it One cannot read him without being ashamed of everything that was important to one in external life, and thus he is a particular saint, not one according to outmoded and deflated prescriptions. Imagine the shame a serious reader has when he discovers Kafka for the first time at the age of 50 and that is what I felt when I read Robert Walser How come none of my trusted literary friends ever spoke to me about him Are they also equally ignorant about this writer as I am I am now in a feverish state of mind to devour everything he has written to make up for the lost time I started with Berlin Stories and then immediately moved to this collection, which I believe is the best introductory book for anyone who wants to have a flavor of this truly great and original writer Robert Walser 1878 1956 was born into a German speaking family in Biel, Switzerland He left school at fourteen and led a wandering, precarious existence while writing his poems, novels, and vast numbers of the prose pieces that became his hallmark In 1933 he was confined to a sanatorium, falsely diagnosed as schizophrenic, and he lived there for the rest of the 23 years till his death on a snow track while out on one of his usual long walks, on Christmas Day, in 1956 During his stay in the sanatorium, Robert Walser continued to write many of his manuscripts in a highly enigmatic, shrunken down form written with tiny ant like pencil markings a millimeter high, came to light only after the author s death The microscripts were in time discovered to be a radically miniaturized form of antique German script a whole story was deciphered on the back of a business card Christopher Middleton and Susan Bernofsky, two ardent proponents of Walser, painstakingly translated most of his stories including the microscripts during this decade This selection of stories, fluidly translated by the poet Christopher Middleton, carries an elegant introduction by Susan Sontag Perhaps the following statement of Sontag marks the right place for Walser in the literary history Anyone seeking to bring Walser to a public that has yet to discover him has at hand a whole arsenal of glorious comparisons A Paul Klee in prose as delicate, as sly, as haunted A cross between Stevie Smith and Beckett a good hud, sweet Beckett And, as literature s present inevitably remakes its past, so we cannot help but see Walser as the missing link between Kleist and Kafka, who admired him greatly.Most of the stories in the story fall half way between essay and fantasy Instead of using plot, Walser links events, transforming everything and anything into an art best described as a kind of tamed surrealism Dreamlike juxtapositions and humorous asides abound to suggest the discontinuity of both the character s and the author s personality and the world Right after the preface by Susan Sontag, there is a quote by Walser about what kind of writer he is I am a kind of artisan novelist A writer of novellas I certainly am not If I am well disposed, that s to say, feeling good, I tailor, cobble, weld, plane, knock, hammer, or nail together lines the content of which people understand at once If you liked, you could call me a writer who goes to work with a lathe My writing is wallpapering One or two kindly people venture to think of me as a poet, which indulgence and manners allow me to concede My prose pieces are, to my mind, nothing nor less than parts of a long, plotless, realistic story For me, the sketches I produce now and then are shortish or longish chapters of a novel The novel I am constantly writing is always the same one, and it might be described as a variously sliced up or torn apart book of myself Robert Walser What attracts the reader to even the smallest pieces in this collection is that you find a gleam of truth in many sentences that is borne out of a torrid exposure and observation of life Like a sponge, he absorbs and reproduces the quirky behavior of his fellow beings with utmost candor and clarity Never does he attempt to grumble or taint his observations with abstruse philosophical meanderings and irony is rarely encountered The erratic oddity of his comic and anecdotal yet deeply disquieting prose is felt from the beginning The book opens with an interesting expressionistic piece titled, Response to a Request It is a monologue by a pantomime actor which starts out mild and closes on a mad scream Walser worked as a bank clerk, a butler in a castle, and an inventor s assistant before discovering what William H Gass calls his true profession His frustration with clerkly existence is evident in the deadpan but thoroughly hilarious story Job Application Esteemed Gentlemen,I am a poor, young, unemployed person in the business field, my name is Wenzel, I am seeking a suitable position, and I take the liberty of asking you, nicely and politely, if perhaps in your airy, bright, amiable rooms such a position might be free Large and difficult tasks I cannot perform, and obligations of a far reaching sort are too strenuous for my mind I am not particularly clever, and first and foremost I do not like to strain my intelligence overmuch Assuredly there exists in your extensive institution, which I imagine to be overflowing with main and subsidiary functions and offices, work of the kind that one can do as in a dream I am, to put it frankly, a Chinese that is to say, a person who deems everything small and modest to be beautiful and pleasing, and to whom all that is big and exacting is fearsome and horrid.Walser is adept in switching from sweetness to sarcasm and back to sweetness again as in the case above I had thought that the most expressive expression of angst begins with Kafka It is now a well known fact that Kafka was deeply influenced by Walser and perfected it in many of his wonderful novels and stories Perhaps such anxiety, as seen in Walser, must be embedded in our DNA, in the memory of our blood, as the ancient response to the grand pulse of life.What is distinctive about this artless artist is his sharp observation of the inconsequential He is not only a chronicler of the ordinary but one who sees extraordinary merits in the mundane things and derives a peculiar pleasure from it His writings are unpretentious to the core and every sentence carries a whiff of oxygen As William Gass said To his eye, everything is equal to his heart, everything is fresh and astonishing to his mind, everything presents a pleasant puzzle Diversion is his principal direction, whim his master, the serendipitous substance of his daily routine Walser spent a good deal of his life on foot and in no hurry The Walk , the longest story of about 43 pages, is a cardinal piece in this collection and is a marvelous piece of writing I have come across in recent times The reader can perhaps start right away with this piece as it contains all the characteristic traits and techniques of Walser As Bernofsky remarks, The Walk is an episodic comedy with darkness at the edges, its gravity becoming apparent only gradually as one follows the narrator s perambulations The Walk starts as a normal walk through a rustic country side in a provincial Swiss town Along the way he encounters a professor, a foremost authority and incontrovertible power in person whose mouth is juridically clamped tight a bookseller who offers him, upon request, a universally admired, thunderously applauded masterpiece a bank clerk who informs him that a group of benefactors has credited his account with a considerable sum, an alleviation of a delicate nature , that he most assuredly needs an encounter with a gaudy Bakery shop which he describes as such golden inscriptional barbarities, which impress upon our rustic surrounds the seal of greed, moneygrubbing, and a miserable coarsening of the soul He then bumps into a giant named Tomzack who crosses his path, an outcast from whose eyes there broke a glare of grief from underworlds and overworlds, and indescribable pain spoke from each of his slack and weary movements He then takes a halt at his benefactress Frau Abei s home who serves him with an overabundant lunch and, in an absurd scene that reminds one of Ionesco, continues to press and finally threaten to eat even after he s well past the bursting point, assuring him that there is no possibility that you will leave this table before you have eaten up and polished off everything that I have cut, and will cut, off for you This is followed by a stop at post office to send a mail filled with diatribe to an important personality He then visits his tailor who stitches , in his opinion, a disproportionate coat and describes him as a tailor completely saturated with a sense of his own efficiency All through this walk, he pleads the reader to be patient and excuse him for his long winded dialogues There is a kind hypersensitivity in many of his comments and reactions evoked during the walk The funny thing is that the narrator who vents a fulsome dialogue can immediately shrink into a mouse and plead with groveling humility and self effacement I cite the following passage when he enters the bookshopMay I, I asked with diffidence, take a moment to acquaint myself with, and taste the qualities of, the most sterling and serious, and at the same time of course also the most read and most quickly acknowledged and purchased, reading matter You would pledge me in high degree to unusual gratitude were you to be so extremely kind as to lay generously before me that book which, as certainly nobody can know so precisely as only you yourself, has found the highest place in the estimation of the reading public, as well as that of the dreaded and thence doubtless flatteringly circumvented critics, and which further has made them merry You cannot conceive how keen I am to learn at once which of all these books or works of the pen piled high and put on show here is the favorite book in question, the sight of which in all probability, as I must most energetically suppose, will make me at once a joyous and enthusiastic purchaser My longing to see the favorite author of the cultivated world and his admired, thunderously applauded masterpiece, and, as I said, probably also at once to buy the same, aches and ripples through my every limb May I most politely ask you to show me this most successful book, so that this desire, which has seized my entire being, may acknowledge itself gratified, and cease to trouble me Certainly, said the bookseller The Walk There is great sadness and loneliness in the stories of Walser and in the midst of an animated narrative, he can suddenly slip in heart breaking prose The Walk itself takes a somber turn towards the end when the narrator himself ponders on his wasted life at the end his walk, which is metaphorically a walk through his life I felt the need to lie down somewhere, and since a friendly, cozy little place by the lakeside was nearby, I made myself comfortable, somewhat tired as I was, on the soft ground under the artless branches of a tree As I looked at earth and air and sky the melancholy unquestioning thought came to me that I was a poor prisoner between heaven and earth, that all men were miserably imprisoned in this way, that for all men there was only the one dark path into the other world, the path down into the pit, into the earth, that there was no other way into the other world than that which led through the grave So then everything, everything, all this rich life, the friendly, thoughtful colors, this delight, this joy and pleasure in life, all these human meanings, family, friend, and beloved, this bright, tender air full of divinely beautiful images, houses of fathers, houses of mothers, and dear gentle roads, must one day pass away and die, the high sun, the moon, and the hearts and eyes of men For a long time I thought of this, and asked those people whom perhaps I might have injured to forgive me For a long time I lay there in unclear thought, until I remembered the girl again, who was so beautiful and fresh with youth, and had such soft, good, pure eyes I vividly imagined how charming was her childish, pretty mouth, how pretty her cheeks, and how with its melodious sweetness her bodily form had enchanted me, how I had asked her a question a while ago, how in her doubt and disbelief her lovely eyes had looked away, and how she had said no when I asked her if she believed in my sincere love, affection, surrender, and tenderness The situation had obliged her to travel, and she had gone away Perhaps I would still have had time to convince her that I meant well with her, that her dear person was important to me, and that I had many beautiful reasons for wanting to make her happy, and thus myself happy also but I had thought no of it, and she went away Why then the flowers Did I pick flowers to lay them upon my sorrow I asked myself, and the flowers fell out of my hand I had risen up, to go home for it was late now, and everything was dark.The second most impressive piece that I would rate in this collection is titled, Kleist in Thun In this one, the narrator imagines to himself how the Prussian writer Heinrich von Kleist, then twenty five, might have lived during the spring and summer of 1802 in a villa on a small island in the Aar River near the town of Thun Susan Sontag in her introduction states, Wasler often writes from the point of view of a casualty of the romantic visionary imagination Kleist is overwhelmed and disturbed by his own response to what appears to him as the artificiality of his surroundings, as though it were from a photo album The changes in the weather and the seasons are portrayed as Kleist struggles with his own historical writings which he is forced to destroy over and over This piece portrays with sensitivity Kleist s struggle for the peaceful moments when he can feel again the outright happiness of a child The final passages in this story are deeply affecting.Some remarkable stories in this collection like A Little Ramble and She owl are limited to just a page Here is a short endearing piece where a she owl monologues on her lifePeople say I m ugly If they only knew what smiles I feel in my soul, they d not run from me in fright any Yet they don t see into the interior, they stop at the body, the clothes Once I was young and pretty, I might say, but that makes it sound as if I pine for the past, and that is not my way The she owl, who once practiced growing big, endures the course and change of time tranquilly, she finds herself in every present moment She owl Reading a piece like Helbling s Story suggests what in Walser Kafka must have found so intriguing I think that one listens to the murmur of the soul only because of boredom When I stand in the office, my limbs slowly turn to wood, which one longs to set fire to, so that it might burn desk and man, one with time The Ballon story is another arresting one One amazingly tender tale in this collection is titled Frau Wilke It is about the relationship between a poor young poet and an older woman who lets him a furnished room and shortly afterward falls ill The woman is completely alone, with nothing to eat, and no one to care for her The narrator comes to realize that he is her only link to humankind Very little happens Then she dies One afternoon soon after her death, I entered her empty room, into which the good evening sun was shining, gladdening it with rose bright, gay and soft colors There I saw on the bed the things which the poor lady had till recently worn, her dress, her hat, her sunshade and her umbrella, and, on the floor, her small delicate boots The strange sight of them made me unspeakably sad, and my peculiar state of mind made it seem to me almost that I had died myself, and life in all its fullness, which had often appeared so huge and beautiful, was thin and poor to the point of breaking All things past, all things vanishing away, were close to me than ever For a long time I looked at Frau Wilke s possessions, which now had lost their mistress and lost all purpose, and at the golden room, glorified by the smile of the evening sun, while I stood there motionless, not understanding anything any Yet, after standing there dumbly for a time, I was gratified and grew calm Life took me by the shoulder and its wonderful gaze rested on mine The world was as living as ever and beautiful as at the most beautiful times I quietly left the room and went out into the street Frau Wilke Although Walser s style is, at first glance, comic, even farcical, his comedy serves a double purpose It lightens the satirical thrust of his fiction and protects, in art if not in real life, his all too vulnerable characters from a world they perceive as a threat These characters are, like the stories themselves, odd and distinctly modern lot They are comical and mythical as if from a fairy tale His writes as if to obliterate every beautiful image that he carefully carves As Walter Benjamin said of Walser The moment he takes a pen to hand, he is seized by a desperado mood Everything seems lost to him, a gush of words comes pouring out in which each sentence has the sole purpose of rendering the previous one forgotten Herman Hesee remarked on Walser If he had a hundred thousand readers, the world would be a better place I cannot endorse it It is a pleasure to encounter such a humble genius as Walser who openly confesses that he breathes in the lower regions I pray the modern authors who pander power, popularity and publicity, including those in GR, listen to him. ^FREE PDF ⇔ Prosastücke ⇬ How To Place The Mysterious Swiss Writer Robert Walser, A Humble Genius Who Possessed One Of The Most Elusive And Surprising Sensibilities In Modern Literature Walser Is Many Things A Paul Klee In Words, Maker Of Droll, Whimsical, Tender, And Heartbreaking Verbal Artifacts An Inspiration To Such Very Different Writers As Kafka And WG Sebald An Amalgam, As Susan Sontag Suggests In Her Preface To This Volume, Of Stevie Smith And Samuel BeckettThis Collection Gathers Forty Two Of Walser S Stories Encompassing Everything From Journal Entries, Notes On Literature, And Biographical Sketches To Anecdotes, Fables, And Visions, It Is An Ideal Introduction To This Fascinating Writer Of Whom Hermann Hesse Famously Declared, If He Had A Hundred Thousand Readers, The World Would Be A Better Place Response To A RequestFlower DaysTrousersTwo Strange StoriesBalloon JourneyKleist In ThumThe Job ApplicationThe BoatA Little RambleHelbling S StoryThe Little BerlinerNervousThe WalkSo I Ve Got You Nothing At AllKienastPoestsFrau WilkeThe StreetSnowdropsWinterThe She OwlKnockingTitusVladimirParisian NewspapersThe MonkeyDostoevsky S IdiotAm I Dreaming The Little TreeStork And PorcupineA Contribution To The Celebration Of Conrad Ferdinand MeyerA Sort Of SpeechA Letter To Therese BreitbachA Village TaleThe AviatorThe PimpMasters And WorkersEssay On FreedomA Biedermeier StoryThe HoneymoonThoughts On Cezanne