By Robert Walser, Susan Bernofsky
A brand new York overview Books OriginalIn 1905 the younger Swiss author Robert Walser arrived in Berlin to hitch his older brother Karl, already a major stage-set clothier, and instantly threw himself into the colourful social and cultural lifetime of town. Berlin tales collects his alternately celebratory, droll, and satirical observations on each point of the bustling German capital, from its theaters, cabarets, painters’ galleries, and literary salons, to the metropolitan road, markets, the Tiergarten, rapid-service eating places, and the electrical tram. initially showing in literary magazines in addition to the feuilleton sections of newspapers, the early tales are characterised by means of a joyous urgency and the generosity of an unconventional consultant. Later items take the shape of extra own reflections at the writing procedure, stories, and personality reviews. All are packed with counter-intuitive photographs and vignettes of startling readability, showcasing a different expertise for whom no element was once trivial, at grips with a urban diving headlong into modernity.
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Work and pleasure, vices and wholesome drives, striving and idleness, nobility and malice, love and hate, ardent and scornful natures, the colorful and the simple, poverty and wealth all shimmer, glisten, dally, daydream, rush, and stumble here frenetically and yet also helplessly. A fetter unlike any other restrains and subdues passions here, and countless allurements lead straightaway to appealing temptations, such that failure’s sleeve cannot help but brush against the back of gratified desires and insatiability is inevitably left to gaze with smoldering eyes into the wise, peaceful eyes of a person who finds satiation within himself.
He left school at fourteen and led a wandering, precarious existence while writing his poems, novels, and vast numbers of the “prose pieces” that became his hallmark. In 1933 he was confined to a sanatorium, which marked the end of his writing career. Among Walser’s works available in English are Jakob von Gunten (available as an NYRB classic), The Tanners, Microscripts, The Assistant, The Robber, Masquerade and Other Stories, and Speaking to the Rose: Writings, 1912–1932. JOCHEN GREVEN is the author of first German-language PhD dissertation on Robert Walser and the editor of Walser’s collected works in German.
1911 In the Electric Tram Riding the “electric” is an inexpensive pleasure. When the car arrives, you climb aboard, possibly after first politely ceding the right of way to an imposing gentlewoman, and then the car continues on. At once you notice that you have a rather musical disposition. The most delicate melodies are parading through your head. In no time you’ve elevated yourself to the position of a leading conductor or even composer. Yes, it’s really true: the human brain involuntarily starts composing songs in the electric tram, songs that in their involuntary nature and their rhythmic regularity are so very striking that it’s hard to resist thinking oneself a second Mozart.
Berlin Stories by Robert Walser, Susan Bernofsky
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