Microscripts

Overview

Now in a gorgeous new paperback edition with full-color illustrations by Maira Kalman, Microscripts is a one-of-a-kind masterpiece.
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 ...

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Overview

Now in a gorgeous new paperback edition with full-color illustrations by Maira Kalman, Microscripts is a one-of-a-kind masterpiece.
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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Editorial Reviews

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.”
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.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780811220330
  • Publisher: New Directions Publishing Corporation
  • Publication date: 11/21/2012
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 160
  • Sales rank: 404,900
  • Product dimensions: 8.70 (w) x 6.30 (h) x 0.60 (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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Table of Contents

Secrets, Not Code: On Robert Walser's Microscripts Susan Bernofsky 9

Microscripts Susan Bernofsky

Radio 23

Swine 27

If I am properly informed 34

What a nice writer I ran into not long ago 35

The Songstress 36

The Demanding Fellow 38

Somewhere and somewhen 40

The Train Station (II) 42

Crisis 45

So here was a book again 49

Is it perhaps my immaturity 53

The Prodigal Son 54

Usually I first put on a prose piece jacket 59

My subject here is a victor 65

A will to shake that refined individual 69

He numbered, as might well have been true 71

Journey to a Small Town 75

The Marriage Proposal 83

Autumn (II) 87

A Sort of Cleopatra 91

The failure to prize the chance 95

As I was instructed by a book 99

Schnapps 101

New Year's Page 105

Robert Walser Walter Benjamin 109

About the Microscripts 115

About the German Texts 118

Original German texts transcribed Bernhard Echte Werner Morlang 119

Notes 155

Acknowledgments 159

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