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The Walk

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Robert Walser, The Walk [Frauenfeld; 1917]

This is the first Robert Walser I've read, and I was unprepared for how discursive, mock-flowery, and just involved his sentences were. A novella which follows a writer taking a walk in the countryside outside Walser's hometown of Biel, Switzerland, and what he sees, thinks about, and says to the people he meets, it's both barren of incident and tightly packed with surprising jewels of writing. Apparently a transitional work between Walser's early satirical Berlin novels and his shorter, more cryptic fiction of the 1920s and beyond, it surprised me by how keenly, well, gemütlich it all was, in a cozy Germanic tradition which I know better from leafing through the popular magazines of the era than from its fiction, where austere modernism tends to have survived better. I read the bulk of it on a nighttime bus while drifting in and out of sleep, so a second, more clear-headed reading will probably be necessary before I decide whether it really is one of my favorite novellas of the period, but for now it's up there.

November 18, 2017