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, which marked the end of his writing career. Among Walser’s works available in English are Jakob von Gunten and Berlin Stories (available as NYRB Classics), The Tanners, Microscripts, The Assistant, The Robber, Masquerade and Other Stories, and Speaking to the Rose: Writings, 1912–1932.
Walser is the champion of the small, the insignificant, and the overlooked. This original collection shows just how much breadth, though, he brought to his characteristic subject, ranging from some of his very first works, the “Fritz Kocher” sequence—the “collected works” of a boy who died young—to tales of the Swiss countryside, love triangles, and memoirs of his WWI–era military service.
Robert Walser lived in Berlin from 1905 to 1913. This newly translated collection brings together his alternately celebratory, droll, and satirical sketches of the bustling German capital, from its theaters, cabarets, painters’ galleries, and literary salons, to the metropolitan street, markets, the Tiergarten, rapid-service restaurants, and the electric tram.
Largely self-taught and altogether indifferent to worldly success, the Swiss writer Robert Walser wrote a range of short stories and essays, as well as four novels, of which Jakob von Gunten is widely recognized as the finest.