Ademption's Reviews > Jakob von Gunten

Jakob von Gunten by Robert Walser
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May 03, 2008

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bookshelves: classics, novels, german-literature

Jakob von Gunten is a neurotic ode to modesty and minimalism. I loved the book as much as I frustrated with it.

The titular character is a runaway blue-blood, who being the mischievous contrarian he ceaselessly claims that he is, enrolls himself in a sketchy school for servants.

The novels is structured as Jakob's first-person diary filled with vignettes and impressions. About half of the book is concerned with Jakob's admiration for a stern, obedient classmate named Kraus. The other half focuses on conversations with school staff, and Jakob's maturation as a pupil.

Not much happens. Jakob isn't half the shit he thinks he is. There are plenty of brilliant humane observations amid the neuroses.

The book reminded me of Hotel Chevalier (2007) by Wes Anderson. Short, strange, full of fascinating objects, and yet frustratingly empty when seen on its own. Empty cleverness playing with itself, and yet very beautiful. The works are precious in both senses: gorgeous and fey.

I have yet to see the film version, "Institute Bejamenta," by the Brothers Quay. I need to let the book fade from my memory a bit before diving back into something that promises more neurotic tableaux.
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