It would, of course, be absurd not to be curious about Robert Walser, who is introduced as the great writer who influenced Kafka and wrote Jakob von Gunten.
Jakob von Gunten’s translation is excellent; it is so easy to read. The Swiss author Robert Walser, on the other hand, didn’t care if you loved his character or not. This is a book that should be on your shelves. Meet Jakob von Gunten and read his diary before it’s too late. This is no ordinary novel, be prepared to read something different and be as tolerant as you can. If you do this, you will enjoy it more.
Robert Walser is an interesting author. As he could not earn his living just by writing, he worked as an assistant and a butcher, also worked in many additional jobs with little income. Despite the early success of his literary career, the popularity of his works has diminished over time, and he has suffered a financial crisis and eventually has a nervous breakdown.
The author went on long walks and spent the rest of his life in sanatoriums. Somebody went to visit him in the hospital and asked him how his writing went. Robert Walser gave his famous answer: I’m not here to write, I’m here to be mad.
So it would be only wise to read what he wrote right? After all, he was more famous than Kafka at the time and admired by many famous authors such as Herman Hesse and Stefan Zweig. Enjoy!
Jakob von Gunten
The Swiss writer Robert Walser is one of the quiet geniuses of twentieth-century literature. Largely self-taught and altogether indifferent to worldly success, Walser wrote a range of short stories, essays, as well as four novels, of which Jakob von Gunten is widely recognized as the finest. The book is a young man’s inquisitive and irreverent account of life in what so turns out to be the most uncanny of schools. It is the work of an outsider artist, a writer of uncompromising originality and disconcerting humor, so whose beautiful sentences have the simplicity and strangeness of a painting by Henri Rousseau.
Robert Walser was a German-speaking Swiss writer. Walser is understood to be the missing link between Kleist and Kafka. “Indeed”, writes Susan Sontag, “so at the time [of Walser’s writing], it was more likely to be Kafka [who was understood by posterity] through the prism of Walser”.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: