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The Microscripts Hardcover – May 31, 2010


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions / Christine Burgin; 1 edition (May 31, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811218805
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811218801
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 0.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,064,359 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“[These] painstakingly transcribed texts brought to light some of Walser’s most beautiful and haunting writing . . . .  The incredible shrinking writer is a major 20th-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.” (Benjamin Kunkel - The New Yorker)

“One of the profoundest products of modern literature.” (Walter Benjamin, author of Illuminations: Essays and Reflections)

“Incredibly interesting and beautiful.” (John Ashbery, author of Planisphere: New Poems)

About the Author

Robert Walser (1878–1956) was born in Switzerland. He left school at fourteen and led a wandering and precarious existence working as a bank clerk, a butler in a castle, and an inventor's assistant 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."

Susan Bernofsky is the acclaimed translator of Hermann Hesse, Robert Walser, and Jenny Erpenbeck, and the recipient of many awards, including the Helen and Kurt Wolff Prize and the Hermann Hesse Translation Prize. She teaches literary translation at Columbia University and lives in New York.

Walter Benjamin was a German-Jewish Marxist literary critic, essayist, translator, and philosopher. He was at times associated with the Frankfurt School of critical theory and is the author of Illuminations, The Arcades Project, and The Origin of German Tragic Drama.

More About the Author

Robert Walser (1878-1956) worked as a bank clerk, a butler in a castle, and an inventor's assistant before discovering what William H. Gass calls his "true profession." From 1899 until he was misdiagnosed as a schizophrenic in 1933 and institutionalized for the rest of his life, Walser produced nine novels and more than a thousand stories.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Ivar Zeile on June 11, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a publishing event to be celebrated for the ages, not only is Walser one of the most unique figures in contemporary thought and literature, but a writer of such worldly knowing his work is simply in a class of its own. The package is elegant, a perfect complement and homage to an underground artist whose understood the complexities of life and was driven to stand outside them in all facets. His reflections are sublime, and the context of the microscripts will bring joy to existing fans of his work while potentially gaining more who I only hope will read the translations of his full-length novels. His work makes more sense now than it ever could have while he wrote.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Steiner VINE VOICE on March 2, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This brief collection was gathered from Walser's "micro" period, during which he wrote his stories in unintelligibly small script on the backs of post cards and other scraps of paper. For years these scripts were neglected-they were considered simply curious byproducts of Walser's insanity. But subsequent scholars have devoted years transcribing and deciphering these little gems of German prose. Walser's approach is deliberately oblique, poetic, hermetic. Together this collection encapsulates the methods of an artist devoted to the literary transmission of languaged observation. They are miraculous microcosms of literariness. An invaluable book. Includes beautiful facsimilies from the original scripts as well as the German texts for each piece. Also, a very interesting essay about Walser by Walter Benjamin.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Kevin G. Mccann on December 31, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I don't necessarily think that Walser's late-period writing is for everyone. It is very eccentric and dense. I came to this book having already reread The Robber several times, and Microscripts reads much like outtakes from that novel. That said it is a joy to read, and even a joy to look at. It is alarming how many paperbacks that will only survive one reading are still being produced in a world with e-readers and libraries, but this book makes the case for the publishing industry going forward. It is solidly constructed, tightly bound, and beautifully (if plainly) arranged. The size of my bookshelf is dwindling as I shift to e-readers, but this book will never leave it.
Also, I can't praise the translation of Susan Bernofsky enough. I cannot attest to its accuracy, but as with her translations of the Robber and Masquerade, this is delightful to read.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Giordano Bruno on August 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
... whether any reader could or should remain non-committal for more than five pages of Robert Walser's prose, in this or any other of his books, in the original German or in translation. You'll get it or you won't. I could label his typical story/sketch as gnomic, hermeneutic, oracular, whimsical ... or trivial, picayune, infantile, coy ... but you still wouldn't know what to expect. So I think the only way to review Walser's Microscripts is to quote one at some length; here's the beginning of one:

""He numbered, as might well have been true of many others, among the good. Perhaps it is an error to go about considering oneself good with no further ado. One might naturally also refer to him as a refined individual, since all good people believe they are very refined, and because all beautiful people are virtually incapable of relinquishing the illusion that they are good. Once he founded a sort of enterprise, counting on the support of all the other nice, good, devout. joyous refined persons. Was there not a certain recklessness in this sort of calculation? Be that as it may. these good people left him utterly in the lurch, and the completeness with which they abandoned him might appear in itself to possess great worth. The good man was, at some point or other, good enough not to attribute particularly much importance to a beautiful woman. Moreover, thsi good fellow had brown hair, and when he began to think of something, his train of thought was brown. His blood was of the brownest brown. With his doe eyes he gazed -- as one might possibly be permitted to say -- in headwaiter fashion, perusing some Vienna Choir heights that can scarcely have existed, where the most stalwart acts of laziness were being performed.""

The Good Man has a wife, Mrs. Brown, and an adversary, Mr.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By D. J Penick on September 1, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a wonder cabinet. Strange bits of coded texts concealed on scraps of everyday detritus are here elegantly presented, beautifully reproduced, skillfully de-coded and lovingly translated. All with such care that the mysteriousness remains as Walser points at a world flowing precipitously just beneath the surface of perception and language but made of them.
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