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Berlin Stories (New York Review Books Classics)

Berlin Stories (New York Review Books Classics) [Kindle Edition]

Robert Walser , Jochen Greven , Susan Bernofsky
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Product Description


His light humour and charisma shine through wherever he turns his levelling gaze.

(Observer )

Paperback of the week: In this unbelievably delightful and timeless collection of short pieces, we can recover the delight of ordinary, uncondescending appreciation, places where the vacant-minded stroller can take 'peculiar pleasure'.

(Guardian )

Product Description

A New York Review Books Original

In 1905 the young Swiss writer Robert Walser arrived in Berlin to join his older brother Karl, already an important stage-set designer, and immediately threw himself into the vibrant social and cultural life of the city. Berlin Stories collects his alternately celebratory, droll, and satirical observations on every aspect of the bustling German capital, from its theaters, cabarets, painters’ galleries, and literary salons, to the metropolitan street, markets, the Tiergarten, rapid-service restaurants, and the electric tram. Originally appearing in literary magazines as well as the feuilleton sections of newspapers, the early stories are characterized by a joyous urgency and the generosity of an unconventional guide. Later pieces take the form of more personal reflections on the writing process, memories, and character studies. All are full of counter-intuitive images and vignettes of startling clarity, showcasing a unique talent for whom no detail was trivial, at grips with a city diving headlong into modernity.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 304 KB
  • Print Length: 160 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics (24 Jan 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #232,519 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Measures of zeitgeist 11 Jun 2012
By Zaroff
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Unlike other Walser novels or collections, the effect of a completely Berlin orientated prose collection could easily have felt like an historical series of newspaper articles, worthy in their factual detail. But lets's not forget this is Robert Walser. And in no way could it be simply said 'this was Berlin at the time', or perhaps 'Walser was at these times precisely like this'. Walser has, as a part or as a whole, stepped outside of history with his style. As ever he has effusive commentary, detached, almost Sherlock Holmes attention to details, waylaid with absolutely no ambition whatsoever to come across as superior to his material.

There is a journalistic feel to the pieces of work, at varying periods, some reflective & from a distance. Taken piecemeal, the pieces may register as glimpses of the times, but of course Walser's rendering is both expressionist and impressionist. The resulting overview from this Berlin state of being, if i may be so bold, reflects and renders clearer his swiss and very personal flavour, even going so far as putting him in sharper relief.

And why read Walser at all, even if German bourgeois critique is not your bag?...This is not the best place to start for Walserianness, but any appreciation of his style, his sheer enthusiasm & enjoyment in the minutae of everything, his mood sways (more dance than swing), all accumulate to form an honest & pleasant human whose efforvescent expression could scarce be limited by paper borders or history itself. A keen observer & incisive outsider, should appeal to same.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Uneven but never tedious 28 Jan 2013
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Most of these pieces started life as 'feuilleton' essays in Berlin papers, and are impressionistic sketches of various aspects of life in the city early in the twentieth century, As such they often contain insights into the corners of life in urban Germany seen form the perspective of a sensitive and witty provincial lad from Switzerland, in awe perhaps of the bright lights and artistic celebrities he came into contact with, but also paradoxically unimpressed by the posers and braggarts. There are also some fascinating short pieces of fiction, told from a range of points of view: delicate, poised and slightly strange.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Quirky 9 Jun 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Fascinating but strangely unemotional until you get to near the end when he forms attachments with old ladies. No hint of upcoming war, more the gay life of Berlin in the early 20th century...
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.0 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Any new Walser is welcome 11 Mar 2012
By Ivar Zeile - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Fans of Robert Walser can rejoice in another translation that brings more of his work to light. Berlin Stories has numerous terrific moments, the unique context of his time spent in Berlin is fascinating and like all of his writing, it resonates fully across the generations. My favorite quote from the first essay sums up Walser's beautiful insight into humanity: "What has become of us as a people that we can possess the beautiful only in dreams." It's a book worth reading over and over and worth sharing amongst friends.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Story selection a disservice to Walser 6 Dec 2012
By King Size Homer - Published on
Most of these "stories" are actually very short newspaper columns written by Walser. Unfortunately, the book doesn't make clear where or in what form each piece was originally published. Many of the pieces here do not translate well to a modern reader; Kafka may have laughed his head off reading "Mountain Halls" but without any context it's impossible for me to see why.

There are gems hidden within this collection: "Fire," "Frau Wilke," and "Frau Scheer" are all well worth your time. Sadly, there are many more stories that should have remained in the scholarly archive, and offer nothing to a casual reader, including most of the "Theater" section. Bizarrely, right after "Frau Scheer" we are given "The Millionairess" which is simply a short outline (rough draft?) of the preceding story.

It is fascinating to watch the almost comically hyperbolic optimism of the early newspaper pieces collapse into the black hole of the two late stories, "Frau Wilke" and "Frau Scheer," which are both excellent and unrelentingly bleak. However, despite some worthwhile stories, this is definitely not the best introduction to Walser.
2.0 out of 5 stars Vignettes not stories, and bland ones at that 23 Jun 2014
By Victoria G. - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
I feel like I stumbled across a journal someone’s accidentally dropped on Friedrichstrasse, and rather than leave it on the sidewalk to be tripped over and stomped on, I picked it up, thought, why not? could be amusing, and took it home.
The thing is, a journal in its natural state is a rambling, self involved, unedited, scraggly little creature that more often than not would do better to stay latent in the boxy confines of one’s top night table drawer than parade about in the open, flailing its arms and declaring insistently, “Lookee here! Aren’t I clever?”

Berlin Stories is predominantly short observations of Walser’s surroundings. It’s reflective and doesn’t so much tell a story as park itself on a bench and gaze off eager and misty-eyed into the world, hoping to capture a place and people’s essence in a brisk vignette. Calling this a collection of “stories” seems like a glaring misnomer.

Many of these 1-2 page “stories” are bland and trivial, in spite of the author’s exuberance. Yet again, the comparison stands: Journal writing begins with the fantasy that every string of thought that passes through the writer’s mind in the course of a day is not only interesting but deserving of inscription (I’ll attest: It takes the sobering experience of reading one’s own journal perhaps 3 or 4 years gone to realize this is emphatically not the case...).

I had never heard of Walser before reading this, but I suspect I am not reading his best here. A better, more sensitive and eloquent writer showed up to pen the last 4 stories, and I was equal parts annoyed and impressed. “Frau Wilke” is moving; “Frau Scheer” is a perceptive and intimate portrait of a lonely woman; and the last, “A Homecoming in the Snow” seemed like the only truly personal and sincere account of the writer himself. If those stories are an indication of Walser’s other work, I’d be happy to read more. I mean, this is beautiful:

“There I saw on the bed the things which the poor lady had till recently worn, her dress, her hat, her sunshade, and her umbrella, and, on the floor, her small delicate boots. The strange sight of them made me unspeakably sad, and my peculiar state of mind made it seem to me almost that I had died myself, and life in all its fullness, which had often appeared so huge and beautiful, was thin and poor to the point of breaking. All things past, all things vanishing away, were more close to me than ever. For a long time I looked at Frau Wilke’s possessions, which now had lost their mistress and lost all purpose, and at the golden room, glorified by the smile of the evening sun, while I stood there motionless, not understanding anything anymore.”
3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as Jakob von Gunten 9 Nov 2012
By David McAllister - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I expected to be hypnotized by this book, as I was by Jakob von Gunten, but alas it did not happen. The stories are disappointingly conventional, compared to the vast imagination found in the novel.
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Popular Highlights

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Since arriving in Berlin, I’ve lost the habit of finding humanity laughable. &quote;
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That is what is so miraculous about a city: that each person’s bearing and conduct vanishes among all these thousand types, that everything is observed in passing, judgments made in an instant, and forgetting a matter of course. Past. What’s gone past? A façade from the Empire period? Where? Back there? &quote;
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Up above is a narrow strip of sky, and the smooth, dark ground below looks as if it’s been polished by human destinies. &quote;
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