Selected Stories (Magill's Literary Annual 1983)
Swiss author Robert Walser’s prolific writing career (four novels and ten collections of short fiction) came to an abrupt end in 1933, the year he was forcibly transferred from the Waldau mental hospital in Berne, where Walser, a schizophrenic, had voluntarily committed himself four years earlier, to Herisau, where he remained until his death in 1956. The twenty-three years of literary silence at Herisau have, for the most part, been followed by an equally long period of posthumous and undeserved neglect (the pioneering work of Christopher Middleton, Walser’s translator, being the most notable exception). The causes of this literary neglect are not difficult to determine: Walser’s self-imposed silence, his being overshadowed by writers such as Franz Kafka (whom he seems to have influenced), and the protean oddity of his comic and anecdotal yet deeply disturbing prose. Although his stories are distinctly “Walserian,” they encompass a broad range of narrative modes. There is the wayward realism of “The Walk,” the patent fantasy of “Two Strange Stories,” the brilliantly exaggerated satire of “The Monkey” (something of a cross between Richard Harding Davis and Donald Barthelme), as well as imaginative reconstructions of actual events, as in “Kleist in Thun” (based on the life of the German writer Heinrich von Kleist), which anticipate Guy Davenport’s recent “assemblages of fact and necessary fiction” in Tatlin! (1974) and Da...
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1983)
Library Journal. CVII, September 1, 1982, p. 1678.
Nation. CCXXXV, October 12, 1982, p. 312.
The New York Times Book Review. LXXXVII, October 24, 1982, p. 14.
Newsweek. C, November 1, 1982, p. 84.
Publishers Weekly. CCXXII, July 16, 1982, p. 63.
Time. CXX, September 20, 1982, p. 76.
Times Literary Supplement. November 19, 1982, p. 1268.
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