The Swiss writer Robert Walser is one of the quiet geniuses of twentieth-century literature. Largely self-taught and altogether indifferent to worldly success, Walser wrote a range of short stories, essays, as well as four novels, of which Jakob von Gunten is widely recognized as the finest. The book is a young man’s inquisitive and irreverent account of life in what turns out to be the most uncanny of schools. It is the work of an outsider artist, a writer of uncompromising originality and disconcerting humor, whose beautiful sentences have the simplicity and strangeness of a painting by Henri Rousseau.
The moral core of Walser’s art is the refusal of power; of domination…. Walser’s virtues are those of the most mature, most civilized art. He is a truly wonderful, heartbreaking writer.
— Susan Sontag
If he had a hundred thousand readers, the world would be a better place.
— Hermann Hesse