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Summary

The first English-language biography of one of the great literary talents of the 20th century, written by his award-winning translator

The great Swiss-German modernist author Robert Walser lived eccentrically on the fringes of society, shocking his Berlin friends by enrolling in butler school and later developing an urban-nomad lifestyle in the Swiss capital, Bern, before checking himself into a psychiatric clinic. A connoisseur of power differentials, his pronounced interest in everything inconspicuous and modest-social outcasts and artists as well as the impoverished, marginalized, and forgotten-prompted W. G. Sebald to dub him "a clairvoyant of the small." His revolutionary use of short prose forms won him the admiration of Franz Kafka, Walter Benjamin, Robert Musil, and many others.

He was long believed an outsider by conviction, but Susan Bernofsky presents a more nuanced view in this immaculately researched and beautifully written biography. Setting Walser in the context of early 20th century European history, she provides illuminating analysis of his extraordinary life and work, bearing witness to his "extreme artistic delight".

©2021 Susan Bernofsky (P)2022 Tantor

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  • Annie Armstrong
  • 30-01-22

Brilliant. Gorgeous. Intimate.

Loved it. Well researched and compellingly written book, and gorgeously narrated. Her voice sucked me into the journey of his life in a way that touched me to the core and felt divinely intimate. She seamlessly went between languages (German and English) with a linguistic narrative skill I’ve rarely heard. The author and narrator dynamic duo did a beautiful job making me feel intimately connected with Robert in such a way that I will never read his work the same way again, and feel like I know and love him not just as a great writer, but as a friend and beloved. Thank you.