“With all my ideas and follies I could one day found a corporate company for the propagation of beautiful but unreliable imaginings.”
- Robert Walser
“Walser’s fictions are charged with compassion: awareness of the creatureliness of life, of the fellowship of sadness. He is a truly wonderful, heartbreaking writer.”
- Susan Sontag
One of the most remarkable and truly singular artists of the twentieth century, Robert Walser (1878-1956) has had a huge influence on a long list of literary, artistic and philosophical figures from Franz Kafka to Walter Benjamin and Herman Hesse, from W.G. Sebald to J.M. Coetzee; inspiring musicians such as Heinz Holliger, contemporary visual artists like Fischli & Weiss, Tacita Dean and Billy Childish, and filmmakers, like Percy Adlon and the Brothers Quay.
“A clairvoyant of the small.”
- W.G. Sebald
Walser worked as a bank clerk, a butler in a castle, and an inventor's assistant, producing nine novels and more than a thousand stories. In 1929 he checked himself in to the asylum at Waldau, where he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. He remained in mental health institutions for nearly thirty years until his sudden death in 1956, whilst walking in field of snow near the asylum.
“A bewitched genius”
Translated into English comparatively recently, international interest in Walser's work has generated a wealth of new writing, artwork and critical discussion which continues to explore Walser’s unusual legacy. That his writing appears to exist between disciplines is due to his wholly idiosyncratic use of language; it could be argued that the work sits somewhere between Erik Satie, Franz Kafka and the paintings of Paul Klee.
- J.M. Coetzee
- Microscripts (New Directions Publishing, 2010), translated by Susan Bernofsky, ISBN 978-0811218801
- The Tanners (New Directions Publishing, 2009), translated by Susan Bernofsky, ISBN 978-0811215893
- The Assistant (New Directions Publishing 2007), translated by Susan Bernofsky, ISBN 978-0-8112-1590-9
- Speaking To The Rose: Writings, 1912-1932 (University of Nebraska Press, 2005), translated by Christopher Middleton, ISBN 0-8032-9833-1
- Selected Stories (Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, 1982; New York Review Books Classics, 2002), translated by Christopher Middleton, ISBN 0-940322-98-6
- The Robber (University of Nebraska Press, 2000), translated by Susan Bernofsky, ISBN 0-8032-9809-9
- Jakob von Gunten (University of Texas Press, 1970; New York Review Books Classics, 1999), translated by Christopher Middleton, ISBN 0-940322-21-8
- Masquerade and Other Stories (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990), translated by Susan Bernofsky, ISBN 0-8018-3977-7
- Robert Walser Rediscovered: Stories, Fairy-Tale Plays, & Critical Response Including the Anti-Fairy Tales, Cinderella & Snow White (University Press of New England, 1985) ISBN 0-87451-334-0
- Berlin Stories (New York Review Books Classics, 2012) translated by Susan Bernofsky ISBN 978-15901-745-48
- Oppressive Light (Black Lawrence Press 2012) translated by Daniele Pantano.