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Clairvoyant of the Small: The Life of Robert Walser

Clairvoyant of the Small: The Life of Robert Walser

by Susan Bernofsky


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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 European society—his pronounced interest in everything inconspicuous and modest 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. In this immaculately researched and beautifully written biography Susan Bernofsky sets Walser in the context of early twentieth century European history, establishing him as one of the most important modernist writers. 

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780300220643
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication date: 05/25/2021
Pages: 392
Sales rank: 685,045
Product dimensions: 9.40(w) x 6.30(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Susan Bernofsky is associate professor of writing at Columbia University School of the Arts and director of the literary translation program in Columbia’s MFA Writing Program. She has translated more than twenty books.

Table of Contents

Introduction Searching for Robert Walser l

1 Behind the Toy Shop (1878-1894) 11

2 From the Bank to the Stage (1885-1896) 27

3 The Young Poet (1896-1899) 39

4 Drama (1899-1900) 63

5 The German Cities (1900-1903) 83

6 The First Published Book (1903-1905) 97

7 A Berliner and a Novelist (1905-1906) 110

8 The Balloon Ride (1907-1908) 126

9 The Fall (1908-1913) 141

10 The Return to Switzerland (1913-1914) 159

11 A Walk in Wartime (1915-1917) 178

12 The Aftermath of War (1917-1920) 194

13 The Secret Novel (1921-1925) 219

14 The Unraveling (1925-1929) 246

15 The Quiet Years (1929-1956) 272

Epilogue 307

Appendix: Robert Walser's Known Addresses 311

Notes 315

Acknowledgments 355

Credits 357

Index 359

Illustrations follow page 184

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