The first English-language biography of one of the great literary talents of the twentieth century, written by his award-winning translator Finalist for the 2021 NBCC Award for Biography "[An] authoritative, moving biography. . . . Walser made of his own multiform solitudes a gift to the outside world, offering readers an existential sympathy of a kind for which only he could find the appropriate literary expression."--Paul Binding, Times Literary Supplement
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 twentieth century European history, she provides illuminating analysis of his extraordinary life and work, bearing witness to his "extreme artistic delight."