Early 20th century Swiss novelist
Known best for his works of short prose, Robert Walser was a Swiss writer who has been called the missing link between Kleist and Kafka. He grew up in Biel, Switzerland and later moved to Berlin where he wrote his first three novels to much acclaim. Often adopting the voice of a poor flaneur, Walser wrote about the city of Berlin and its varied characters in a playful manner. He wrote nine novels and thousands of prose pieces which came to be his hallmark. Despite his successes, he was unable to make a living through his writing alone and worked a series of odd jobs as a bank clerk, butler, copyist, and an inventor’s assistant. Walser also served in the military during World War I and wrote about his experience in a way that is surprisingly absent of a depiction of the war itself. He was admired by Robert Musil, Hermann Hesse, Stefan Zweig, Walter Benjamin and Franz Kafka and is considered a significant contributor to literary modernism. Walter suffered from anxieties, hallucinations, and depression throughout his life and was institutionalized in 1933 after he had a nervous breakdown. Walser spent some of his time in various sanatoriums writing microscripts, coded works written in miniscule print, but 1933 was essentially the end of his writing career. He died in 1956.
“The incredible shrinking writer is a major twentieth-century prose artist who, for all that the modern world seems to have passed him by, fulfills the modern criterion: he sounds like nobody else.”
“A clairvoyant of the small.”
— W.G. Sebald on Robert Walser's
“Walser vaulted new heights of expression with miniscule means.”
— The Boston Globe on Robert Walser's