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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780811220330
Publisher: New Directions Publishing Corporation
Publication date: 11/21/2012
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 160
Sales rank: 263,897
Product dimensions: 8.70(w) x 6.30(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About 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.

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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Microscripts 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
JimmyChanga on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Assuming I do not lie, she wept with joy, although quite possibly she did so for some other reason.("Assuming I do not lie" is the best clause to start off any sentence)Obviously, this work has hip-appeal and almost Herzog-like marketability with its back-story. In case you haven't heard it yet: Walser spent many of his waning years writing in a kind of tiny hieroglyphic code that only he understood on the back of slips, envelopes, napkins, strips of paper, and whatnot. It took them 35 years to decode (and they still haven't decoded them all), and the contents of this book is the result of those snippets translated PLUS beautiful facsimiles of the original pieces of paper each story was written on.The actual pieces are dizzying in the way they twist about. It is hard enough to follow one sentence of his, much less a whole sketch, which moves quickly from topic to topic. There is a sense that he tossed these off without much thought, although this casualness is coupled with his typical ornate overblown formality of style to a very strange effect. I find these pieces generally much more complicated and dense (on the sentence-level) than his early novels like [book:The Assistant|335333], there is a sense of over-crowdedness here.The casual manner in which I loved my beloved, who was forever distinguishing herself by her utter absence, resembled a soft-swelling, enchanting sofa.Walter Benjamin writes an afterword to this book, and it has some great insights which I will now share with you. Exhibit 1.For we can set our minds at rest by realizing that to write yet never correct what has been written implies both the absence of intention and the most fully considered intentionalityExhibit 2.Everything seems to be on the verge of disaster; a torrent of words pours from him in which the only point of every sentence is to make the reader forget the previous one.Exhibit3.The tears they shed are his prose. For sobbing is the melody of Walser's loquaciousness. It reveals to us where his favorite characters come from--namely, from insanity and nowhere else. They are figures who have left madness behind them, and this is why they are marked by such a consistently heartrending, inhuman superficiality.