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Speaking to the Rose: Writings, 1912-1932

Speaking to the Rose: Writings, 1912-1932

By Robert Walser
Translated by Christopher Middleton

“Middleton translates to perfection both the text and the spirit. . . . Walser’s central themes of self-effacement, the primacy of the imagination, the liberating aim of creative play are richly displayed in the new volume. You’ll find both the Walser deadpan . . . and his pratfall. . . . . Walser’s lightness is lighter than light, buoyant up to and beyond belief, terrifyingly light. At times, he seems closer to writers like the French poet Francis Ponge than to his 'weightier' peers such as Musil, Broch, or Mann. Both Ponge and Walser, through an almost phenomenological parsing and shedding of received notions, reveal the uniqueness of insignificant things. In his insignificance, Walser was among the sovereign.”—Bookforum

The Swiss writer of whom Hermann Hesse famously declared, “If he had a hundred thousand readers, the world would be a better place,” Robert Walser (1878–1956) is only now finding an audience among English-speaking readers commensurate with his merits—if not with his self-image. After a wandering, precarious life during which he produced poems, essays, stories, and novels, Walser entered an insane asylum, saying, “I am not here to write, but to be mad.” Many of the unpublished works he left were in fact written in an idiosyncratically abbreviated script that was for years dismissed as an impenetrable private cipher. Fourteen texts from these so-called pencil manuscripts are included in this volume—rich evidence that Walser’s microscripts, rather than the work of incipient madness, were in actuality the product of desperate genius building a last reserve, and as such, a treasure in modern literature.

With a brisk preface and a chronology of Walser’s life and work, this collection of fifty translations of short prose pieces covers the middle to later years of the writer’s oeuvre. It provides unparalleled insight into Walser’s creative process, along with a unique opportunity to experience the unfolding of his rare and eccentric gift. His novels 
The Robber (Nebraska 2000) and Jakob von Gunten are also available in English translation. 

Paperback
134 pages
Bison Books, 2005
6 x 0.3 x 9 inches
ISBN 9780803298330     
Swiss Writer, Modernism

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