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The Assistant

The Assistant

The Assistant

By Robert Walser
Translated by Susan Bernofsky

“A Paul Klee in prose—as delicate, as shy, as haunted. A cross between Stevie Smith and Beckett.”—Susan Sontag

The Assistant
is Robert Walser's breathtaking 1908 novel, translated by award-winning translator Susan Bernofsky.

Joseph, hired to become an inventor's new assistant, arrives one rainy Monday morning at Technical Engineer Karl Tobler's splendid hilltop villa: he is at once pleased and terribly worried, a state soon followed by even stickier psychological complexities. He enjoys the beautiful view over Lake Zurich, in the company of the proud wife, Frau Tobler, and the delicious savory meals. But does he deserve any of these pleasures? The Assistant chronicles Joseph's inner life of cascading emotions as he attempts, both frantically and light-heartedly, to help the Tobler household, even as it slides toward financial ruin. Tobler demands of Joseph, "Do you have your wits about you?!" And Joseph's wits are in fact all around him, trembling like leaves in the breeze—he is full of exuberance and despair, all the raptures and panics of a person "drowning in obedience."

320 pages
New Directions, 2007
Originally Published in 1908
5.1 x 0.8 x 7 inches
ISBN 9780811215909

$18.95 $18.95