A Schoolboy’s Diary brings together more than seventy of Robert Walser’s strange and wonderful stories, most never before available in English. Opening with a sequence from Walser’s first book, “Fritz Kocher’s Essays,” the complete classroom assignments of a fictional boy who has met a tragically early death, this selection ranges from sketches of uncomprehending editors, overly passionate readers, and dreamy artists to tales of devilish adultery, sexual encounters on a train, and Walser’s service in World War I. Throughout, Walser’s careening, confounding, delicious voice holds the reader transfixed.
Everyone who reads Walser falls in love with him.—Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian
A Paul Klee in prose, a good-humored, sweet Beckett, Walser is a truly wonderful, heartbreaking writer. In Walser’s fictions one is always inside a head, but this universe— and this despair—is anything but solipsistic. It is charged with compassion: awareness of the creatureliness of life, of the fellowship of sadness.—Susan Sontag
Was Walser a great writer? If one is reluctant to call him great, said Canetti, that is only because nothing could be more alien to him than greatness.—J. M. Coetzee, The New York Review of Books
Robert Walser moves me more and more… . He is truthful without making a frontal attack on the truth, he becomes truth by walking around it.—Elias Canetti
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.—William Gass
If he had a hundred thousand readers, the world would be a better place.
The magnificently humble. The enormously small. The meaningfully ridiculous. Robert Walser’s work often reads like a dazzling answer to the question, How immense can modesty be? If Emily Dickinson made cathedrals of em dashes and capital letters and the angle of winter light, Walser accomplishes the feat with, well, ladies’ feet and trousers, and little emotive words like joy, uncapitalized.
—Rivka Galchen, Harper’s Magazine
A writer of considerable wit, talent and originality … recognized by such impressive contemporaries as Kafka, Brod, Hesse and Musil … [and] primarily known to German literary scholars and to English readers lucky enough to have discovered [his work] … [Walser’s tales] are to be read slowly and savored … [and] are filled with lovely and disturbing moments that will stay with the reader for some time to come.
—Ronald De Feo, The New York Times
A clairvoyant of the small.
—W. G. Sebald
The incredible shrinking writer is a major twentieth-century prose artist who, for all that the modern world seems to have passed him by, fulfills the modern criterion: he sounds like nobody else.
—Benjamin Kunkel, The New Yorker