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Microscripts
     

Microscripts

by Robert Walser, Susan Bernofsky (Translator), Walter Benjamin (Other)
 

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Robert Walser wrote many of his manuscripts in a highly enigmatic, reduced form. These narrow strips of paper, covered with tiny antlike pencil markings a millimeter high, came to light only after the author's death in 1956. At first misconstrued as secret code, the microscripts were eventually found to be a form of German script so radically miniaturized that an

Overview

Robert Walser wrote many of his manuscripts in a highly enigmatic, reduced form. These narrow strips of paper, covered with tiny antlike pencil markings a millimeter high, came to light only after the author's death in 1956. At first misconstrued as secret code, the microscripts were eventually found to be a form of German script so radically miniaturized that an entire story might fit on the back of a business card.

Selected from the six-volume German original, these twenty-five short pieces address schnapps, rotten husbands, small-town life, elegant jaunts, the radio, swine (and how none of us can deny being one), jealousy, and marriage proposals. This is the first English translation of Walser's work to be accompanied by facsimiles of the original microscripts and the original German texts.

Swiss writer Robert Walser (1878-1956), one of the major European writers of the early twentieth century, worked as a bank clerk, a butler in a castle, and an inventor's assistant before writing as many as seven novels and more, than a thousand stories. Forcibly hospitalized in 1933 with a now much disputed, diagnosis of schizophrenia, he spent the final twenty-three years of his life in an institution.

Editorial Reviews

Benjamin Kunkel - The New Yorker
“[These] painstakingly transcribed texts brought to light some of Walser’s most beautiful and haunting writing . . . . The incredible shrinking writer is a major 20th-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.”
Walter Benjamin
“One of the profoundest products of modern literature.”
John Ashbery
“Incredibly interesting and beautiful.”
The Boston Globe

"Walser vaulted new heights of expression with miniscule means."

The Times Literary Supplement
“The use of throwaway scraps and pencil also seems part of a deliberate espousal of the small and modest, an attention to the unnoticed, and the microscripts are, as this edition lets us see, objects of beauty, the pencillings precisely filling their allotted space, the different texts neatly fitted together on the same piece of paper like some kind of intricate insect construction whose purpose is absolutely necessary.... Walser has in recent years regained some of the status he enjoyed in the 1920s. Instead of Kafka and Benjamin, we have Sebald and Lydia Davis championing him. But we still don't know where we stand with him. Are we dealing with pure literature,the vagaries of the everyday, jokes, or empty fancies? The writing is radical and elegant enough to encompass all these possibilities and many more. Is it the stuff of life? Perhaps.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780811218801
Publisher:
New Directions Publishing Corporation
Publication date:
05/25/2010
Pages:
160
Product dimensions:
6.60(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.80(d)

Meet the Author

Robert Walser (1878–1956) was born in Switzerland. He left school at fourteen and led a wandering and precarious existence working as a bank clerk, a butler in a castle, and an inventor's assistant while producing essays, stories, and novels. In 1933 he abandoned writing and entered a sanatorium—where he remained for the rest of his life. "I am not here to write," Walser said, "but to be mad."

Susan Bernofsky is the acclaimed translator of Hermann Hesse, Robert Walser, and Jenny Erpenbeck, and the recipient of many awards, including the Helen and Kurt Wolff Prize and the Hermann Hesse Translation Prize. She teaches literary translation at Columbia University and lives in New York.

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