Robert Walser
New Directions, New York, 2010, 2012, English
ISBN: 9780811220330

From the Publisher. Robert Walser wrote many of his manuscripts in a highly enigmatic, shrunken-down form. These narrow strips of paper, covered with tiny ant-like pencil markings a millimeter high, came to light only after the author’s death in 1956. At first considered random restless pencil markings or a secret code, 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. These twenty-five short pieces address schnapps, rotten husbands, small town life, elegant jaunts, the radio, swine, jealousy, and marriage proposals.

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Thomas Girst

Robert Walser (1878–1956) loved to take long walks. One day, coming down a hill in the forest surrounding the small Swiss village Herisau, he sank onto the ground, into the soft snow, never got up again and thus passed away. For almost the last three decades of his life, Walser had been confined to mental homes. While many thought he had stopped writing altogether, Walser composed entire novels in tiny letters (no larger than five millimeters or one-seventh of an inch) written by hand with a pencil. Deciphered only after his death, most of the prose and poetry contained on hundreds of single sheets of paper was published posthumously, 30 years later.

Walser, his works brimming with child-like wonderment, is the wildest, most subtly erotic, humorous, and intelligently confusing writer one can think of—a contemporary of Kafka with whom he shares a sense of alienation and a fascination for slightly altered realities. Certainly not intentionally, his “micrograms” are a visual testimony to the possibilities at the faraway outskirts of the written language.

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