The WalkBook |
Take this sentimental journey.
An unnamed writer, exhausted from brooding over his work, leaves his studio to go for a walk. From this barely there premise comes The Walk, arguably the best work of the idiosyncratic Swiss writer, Robert Walser. Where the writer goes is hardly the point. As he elucidates in one of his many hyper-articulated, baroque monologues in this novella, writing is inextricably linked for him with walking, and functions for him as the physical correlative to his creative process of imagining. Though he appears to be on a simple stroll -- running mundane errands or dining with acquaintances -- he's really continuing his work, albeit in a different medium. Anything his eye lands on leads to a pseudo-philosophical thought which, as he develops it, more often than not detours into a kind of futile rage. There's a quiet hysteria burbling in Walser's walker which he regularly loses control of, and humbly apologizes to the reader for. The suggestion throughout seems to be that he's at pains to wrangle significance from the banality of his civilized world, but near the book's end a dormant hurt surfaces, a primary motivation for the walk is heartbreakingly revealed, and Walser's prose takes an unexpected turn to the sweetly lyrical and profoundly sad. Artists strive to make order out of existence and often only wind up making art. Robert Walser's art is a rare joy and this new translation of The Walk from New Directions is a rare book indeed.