Sunday, 17 November 2013

writers on cylinders: Robert Walser

The third in the phonograph series pays homage to the Swiss writer Robert Walser, whose exquisitely tortuous playfulness in prose is unmatched. For all of the loneliness and doubt behind his words, their presiding characteristic is good humour and one rarely leaves it not feeling at least a little uplifted. Rambling is a consistent theme in Walser's writing (I've given him a song title of 'How splendid to wander in the bright summer air!' - 'vocal; unaccompanied' of course). His sentences also resemble the act: characteristically they find him striding out, stumbling a little perhaps but then finding something fascinating by the wayside to take his attention; mixing extraordinary expostulation with simple-hearted delight and tremulous uncertainty, he doubles back, heads forward again, turns round and admires the view, exclaims 'how delightful all this is!' - and then ends with a question mark that puts the whole into doubt. There is no-one quite like him. There's a quote of his on the bottom of the phonograph: 'We don't need to see anything out of the ordinary. We already see so much.'

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