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Selected Stories

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  1,141 Ratings  ·  100 Reviews
How to place the mysterious Swiss writer Robert Walser, a humble genius who possessed one of the most elusive and surprising sensibilities in modern literature? Walser is many things: a Paul Klee in words, maker of droll, whimsical, tender, and heartbreaking verbal artifacts; an inspiration to such very different writers as Kafka and W.G. Sebald; an amalgam, as Susan Sonta ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published January 31st 2002 by NYRB Classics (first published 1916)
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These stories are delightful but you must have a penchant for the wistful and the highly discursive to engage with them. W.G. Sebald said that Walser's sentences seem to disappear from the mind as you read them. Susan Sontag adored him, especially his novel Jakob von Gunten, such is the buoyancy of his prose, his admirably light touch.

Those who read mysteries and cop stories all the time probably will not be able to abide Walser. For there's no plot, just character. Moreover, as Walser himself
PGR Nair
Jan 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites

(Warning: This is a pretty long review; more of a labour of love than a love of long-windedness)

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. - Marcel Proust

If I were asked which writer in 2015 should get the maximum attention among serious classic readers, I would name ROBERT WALSER. So let me declare at least to myself 2015 as the year of Reading Robert Walser. It was couple of months ago, during my bath room reading of Elias Canetti’s amazing bo
Vit Babenco
Apr 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“My name is Helbling and I am telling my own story because it would probably not be written down by anybody else. With mankind become sophisticated, there can be nothing curious nowadays about a person, like me, sitting down and starting to write his own story. It is short, my story, for I am still young, and it will not be completed, for I shall probably go on living for a very long time. The striking thing about me is that I am a very ordinary person, almost exaggeratedly so. I am one of the m ...more
Jun 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
From the author’s bio on the inner front cover:

Robert Walser (1878-1956) was born in Switzerland. He left school at fourteen and led a wandering and precarious existence while producing essays, stories, and novels. In 1933 he abandoned writing and entered a sanatorium—where he remained for the rest of his life. “I am not here to write,” Walser said, “but to be mad.”

Meet the first book I’ve read in a long time worthy of five stars.

Robert Walser’s Selected Stories is, quite simply, a jaw-dropping
Stephen P
Apr 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Those who have not read it.
Recommended to Stephen by: Ben Winch
He has in writing explicitly invited us along with him. He acknowledges that as a writer he is afraid of the reader and often apologizes to us throughout this fine collection of stories, notes, fragments. It is an interesting relationship between Walser and his reader. As a reader have we also become an Other to him, which signifies the possibility of criticism, humiliation, as when writing in his room he has become an Other to himself. When he leaves his writing room, if in this book he ever ha ...more
Jun 05, 2012 rated it it was ok
I just don't get Robert Walser. I want to. I really do. I mean, I've read a lot of the other reviews on this site (most of which should come with a mop and some wetnaps), and apparently anybody who ever reads this thing ascends immediately into the heavens with a pure, beatific light emanating from the nucleus of his soul while a thousand choirs erupt in a song so rapturous that its very vibrations elicit a cataclysmic orgasm in all its listeners. (In other words... I'll have what they're having ...more
Sarah Etter
Jun 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
the thing is, i love robert walser. the first six or seven stories in this collection ripped my guts apart. so did the last two. the middle sort of slumped for me, but overall, i'm shocked more people aren't screaming walser's name off of mountain tops.

it's easy to drop kafka's name every five minutes, especially if you're in any sort of MFA program. but walser is the spine.

"response to a request" is one of my favorite stories ever written - whenever i read it, i end up writing something new. i
Nora Dillonovich
Nov 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Robert Walser's shortshort stories made me want to do the following things:
take long long walks in the country
rent a room in the home of an aging woman (preferably Ursula Le Guin)
lay down in the woods, the left side of my face upon a patch of moss
pick wildfllowers, slowly
write a letter
go to a mueseum with old art, watch the paintings, see them slowly
Feb 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I overuse 'sublime' when writing about writing. Walser is actually sublime. Calm, playful, wistful, odd, ineffable. Sebald said Walser's lines dissolved off the page, effervessed. Here is a High Modernist of (Swiss) German lit that should be shelved beside Mann, Kafka, Musil, Broch -- Borges and Woolf in their fictionish nonfictions.
Nov 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Might I confess to finding that it is exquisite to be of two minds regarding works of art? To find fault with something that I welcome on the whole, how nice I find this!

These are quiet, quirky stories. Some are very funny. Some are very modest, not even stories, just sketches, just thoughts captured in a weird head. Most end not with a bang, but with a whimper. But this is a good thing, in the hands of Walser. These stories are meant to be read really slowly, I think, not in the hurry that we a
Sep 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
this is a remarkable collection. there is a deceptive simplicity to walser that belies his authorial prowess. these stories elicit a lasting effect not unlike strolling amid a snowfall: a sense of enchantment, breathtaking beauty, and dazzling serenity countered by fragility and potential devastation. refined, resplendent, and slightly rueful.

of all these exceptional stories, "kleist in thun," "helbling's story," "the little berliner," and "the walk" shine brightest.

"we don't need to see anythin
Apr 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
It would be easy to list all of the writers who were influenced by Walser. The author himself seems to hover above the time line of writers who came before him, for the most part unaware of his position in history. This guy is fucking brilliant- so pure, so slow, so incredibly soulful. This is a bit morbid but- if you know Walser you know about his gentle mysterious death- check out the Billy childish painting of that famous photograph of him lying in the snow. His final rest.
Jun 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing

"What are you?" the lady asked.
"A poet!" I replied.
She went away without a word.

Spoiler alert....

That lady came to a bad ending.
M. Sarki
I finally finished the complete book. I did like it. But I really do believe Susan Bernofsky makes Walser come alive in ways that Middleton, the translator of this particular book, for one reason or another, is unable to accomplish. I would love to re-read a Bernofsky translation of this same book, however. She did translate "The Walk" which is also included in this selection and it is very very good.
Jun 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
A wise man once said "If Kafka and David Foster Wallace met at a bar and had a contest to see who could make the other laugh or cry first, their stories would sound like Robert Walser’s." and right he was.

What a subtle and brilliant man.
Dec 06, 2007 rated it really liked it
The early 20th century Swiss author Robert Walser might be described as an outsider artist of the literary sort; he was also I gather a writer’s writer, appreciated by the likes of Kafka and Hesse. He ultimately wound up having himself committed in a sanatorium. Whatever he was or became, his various jottings and elocutions take the reader to a distinctly different mental space. I’m inclined to compare him to Samuel Beckett, although the effect is different. Many people find Beckett terribly sad ...more
Odd, scattershot, brief, ultimately absolutely lovable. There's such an immense emotional range, from the cascading, poetic pieces that seem to grasp perception at the rarefied Woolf/Sebald level, to portraits of Germanic blowhards of the sort that Kafka so thoroughly skewered (see "The Walk," or as I have subtitled it in my head "Portrait of the Pompous Ass as a Young Man"). But somehow, I feel like I'm not describing anything about Walser well-enough. Again (like Kafka)(the comparisons are ine ...more
Dec 31, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I can't believe it took me as long as it has to find Walser. The stories in this book are so perfect in style and temperament that I don't know how I survived without them. I love stuff like this: "I sit down somewhat reluctantly at my desk to play my piano, that is to say, to begin to discourse on the potato famine" and "Perhaps one can say that tact is the point from which powerlessness spreads more and more into the male world."

This book solidified Walser's place in my own personal pantheon a
Mar 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: stories, nyrb, 2014
Oscar Wilde is not the only writer to have made the paradox into a kind of art form. Walser walks a line in these very short stories between looking inward and outward, happiness and sadness, connection and loneliness. In a sketch called "Nervous" a sentence that begins "I am not old, not in the least..." leads to the next one where he reflects "Quite definitely I am a little old and used up."

Walser's touch is always light enough that this endless negotiation inside the self doesn't become nave
Feb 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Amazing! I have discovered so many gems in the short time I've been on Goodreads. I can't believe Robert Walser flew under my radar for so long. I don't think I had heard of him before, but 'The Walk' should be essential reading. No verbal pyrotechnics for the sake of being verbally pyrotechnical (like some postmodernists). I never doubted the honesty of his observations. There wasn't a story I didn't thoroughly enjoy. I will always look at trousers a little differently.
Oct 07, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Walser is like no one I have read before. His writing walks a perfect balance between the absurd, the beautiful, the meloncholy and the tragic all in sometimes 3 pages or less. Walser's stories imaginitively reinvent the world with a strange innocence that appreciates simplicities of life but can also make the most mudane trivialities facisnating, wonderous and sometimes heartbreaking.
Ben Winch
Dec 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I have read many Walsers since but this was the first, and it contains my favourite story (so far) in all of world literature: “Kleist in Thun”. Just on this basis the book is worth five stars. Does it matter if, at the time I read it, I didn’t really comprehend most of the other (mostly autobiographical, occasionally drole and often very short) pieces in this book? When later I better understood Walser I came to like the long title story, and to enjoy the warm-hearted, lightly mocking humour of ...more
Apr 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great collection of stories by a great writer.
Jess A
Jun 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is the first time I was introduced to Robert Walser, neither from my friends' recommendations nor from any lists of top books to read; but out of curiosity why Susan Sontag has foreworded this collection of his stories.

His stories are majority short, unstructured but mimic the ordinary life. As someone who loved long, solitary and random strange walks, Walser wrote not with his pen and hands but with his eyes and feet. Of his stories, I tremendously enjoyed The Walk (1917), So I've Got You
Jun 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
Walser combines a good command of poetic language with simple, everyday language......He is way under appreciated. He supposedly was admired by Kafka a lot, but Walser is less surreal as Kafka and focuses more on realistic thingys...which I like more.... No wonder Herman Hesse stated "If he (Walser) had a hundred thousand readers, the world would be a better place."..........I dont know who Herman Hesse is, nor do I know what that quote means.... but I guess he was some important person.... and ...more
Sep 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
Walser es un autor que, según nos dicen en el prólogo y el postscript de esta edición, recibió elogios de Walter Benjamin. Esto para mí es una señal de alerta, ya que preaununcia la caricatura de un estilista solipsista, un antiburguesismo más o menos observante de las ortodoxias prerrevolucionarias y una impermeabilidad a la trama en el nivel narrativo. Afortunadamente Walser no es una caricatura de nada, a pesar de ser un obsesivo del estilo y un cultor del relato plotless.

Algunos de los rela
Nov 26, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
last night. coming home to the dark. flipping on an old lamp with weak light and patting the dogs i sat down with a cup of tea against the cold and turned the pages. i turned the pages to this:

"If I am well-disposed, that's to say, feeling good, I tailor, cobble, weld, plane, knock, hammer, or nail together lines the content of which people understand at once. If you liked, you could call me a writer who goes to work with a lathe. My writing is wallpapering. One or two kindly people venture to t
أحمد الحقيل
Oct 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing

Walser is one of the most authentic writers of his generation.

As you read "Kleist in Thun" and "the walk" you will notice the most important element: the profound presence of the surroundings, the fragmented vast city soaking in a river of movement, "the music of human activity" as he calls it. You will recall a mixture of Kafka and Chekhov, the vital tenderness of a lively environment covered with a deep mysterious feeling of savory sadness. That's why all this beauty did not prevent Kleist fro
Oct 18, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I would describe this collection of short stories first and foremost as "lovely." Some are quite sad and some very funny or childlike. Almost all are relatively simple, not usually driven by plot, but more by inner reactions and revelations. Sometimes the character is just going for a walk and describing the scenes he encounters, sometimes he talks about a book he has read, and other times we hear about the observations of a specific relationship, but no matter how sparse the subject, the langua ...more
Jan 22, 2011 rated it liked it
Really quite perplexed about this. I was led by other reviews to expect a collection of small masterpieces - and was sorely disappointed. There were some here that I did enjoy - Balloon Journey, Kleist In Thun, The Job Application, Helbling's Story, Winter, A Village Tale, and Masters And Workers. The remainder though I'm afraid left me with a feeling of what I can only describe as numbness.

The Walk, in particular - possibly owing to it being the lengthiest story here - I found a struggle to get
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Goodreads Librari...: Selected Stories-Robert Walser 3 132 Sep 12, 2016 10:57AM  
NYRB Classics: Selected Stories of Robert Walser 1 8 Oct 30, 2013 12:47PM  
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Robert Walser, a German-Swiss prose writer and novelist, enjoyed high repute among a select group of authors and critics in Berlin early in his career, only to become nearly forgotten by the time he committed himself to the Waldau mental clinic in Bern in January 1929. Since his death in 1956, however, Walser has been recognized as German Switzerland's leading author of the first half of the twent ...more
More about Robert Walser...
“Houses, gardens, and people were transfigured into musical sounds, all that was solid seemed to be transfigured into soul and into gentleness. Sweet veils of silver and soul-haze swam through all things and lay over all things. The soul of the world had opened, and all grief, all human disappointment, all evil, all pain seemed to vanish, from now on never to appear again. Earlier walks came before my eyes; but the wonderful image of the humble present became a feeling which overpowered all others. The future paled, and the past dissolved. I glowed and flowered myself in the glowing, flowering present. From near and far, great things and small things emerged bright silver with marvelous gestures, joys, and enrichments, and in the midst of this beautiful place I dreamed of nothing but this place itself. All other fantasies sank and vanished in meaninglessness. I had the whole rich earth immediately before me, and I still looked only at what was most small and most humble. With gestures of love the heavens rose and fell. I had become an inward being, and walked as in an inward world; everything outside me became a dream; what I had understood till now became unintelligible. I fell away from the surface, down into the fabulous depths, which I recognized then to be all that was good. What we understand and love understands and loves us also. I was no longer myself, was another, and yet it was on this account that I became properly myself. In the sweet light of love I realized, or believe I realized, that perhaps the inward self is the only self which really exists.” 17 likes
“It doesn't take much to show love, but at some time or another in your, praise God, disastrous life you must have felt, honestly and simply, what love is and how love likes to behave.” 8 likes
More quotes…