The book maps Walser's outer and inner wanderings in various narrative modes, including essaylets, fables, idylls, tales of comedy and horror, monologues, travelogues, prose pieces realistic and of an otherworldly artificiality.
Walser concentrated now on small, strange, intimate—what, exactly? Stories? Essays? Fables? Memoirs? Travel writings? In his translator’s note, Tom Whalen, who has selected sixty-nine pieces (only three have appeared in English before), lists all of these genres and more: a mischievous diversity, held together by a uniform but highly ambiguous tone. All miniatures, the longest running to ten pages, the shortest half a page ... A doubt pursues the reader of Walser’s fragments: maybe all of his narrators are unreliable. On the one hand, he is a writer of pastoral idylls of quite bewitching calm, pitched between medieval dream poem and Romantic interlude.
A new collection of Walser’s short prose presents fresh angles from which English-language readers may puzzle over the influential but enigmatic Swiss modernist ... All pulse with Walser’s organic observations, his melancholic dreaminess, and his relentless wandering. In their brevity but also their urgency, they resemble today’s flash fiction. It’s tempting to view these short works as test-runs for longer explorations or even fragments of a polyphonic, unfinished biographical novel; indeed, Walser himself suggests as much ... Flitting as he does from one small portrait to the next, Walser hints at strong feelings, kept at a distance through constant motion.
This charming edition of his short stories and essays by the Swiss writer Walser (1878-1956), selected and translated by Whalen ... In reading these short pieces, translated with mastery and attention to emotional nuance, one is struck by the author’s abiding good nature and boundless sympathy for his milieu. Walser enthusiasts will find much to love here.