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Berlin Stories: New York Review of Books (New York Review Books Classics) [Paperback]

Robert Walser , Susan Bernofsky
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

8 Mar 2012 New York Review Books Classics

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 including the Berliner Tageblatt, the Vossische Zeitung, and the Frankfurter Zeitung, 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.

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Berlin Stories: New York Review of Books (New York Review Books Classics) + Amsterdam Stories (New York Review Books) + The Man Who Walked Through Walls (Pushkin Collection)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics (8 Mar 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590174542
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590174548
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 7.9 x 0.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 239,535 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


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


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'.


About the Author

Robert Walser (1878-1956) left school at fourteen and led a wandering, precarious existence while producing poems, 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." His Selected Stories and novel Jakob von Guten, are available as NYRB Classics.

Susan Bernofsky, co-chair of the PEN Translation Committee, is the translator of six books by the great Swiss-German modernist author Robert Walser as well as novels by Jenny Erpenbeck, Yoko Tawada, Hermann Hesse, Gregor von Rezzori and others.

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Customer Reviews

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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
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.3 out of 5 stars  3 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.
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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