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Speaking to the Rose: Writings, 1912-1932 [Paperback]

Robert Walser , C. Middleton

Price: 10.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

26 Oct 2005
The Swiss writer of whom Hermann Hesse famously declared, 'If he had a hundred thousand readers, the world would be a better place', Robert Walser (1878-1956) is only now finding an audience among English-speaking readers commensurate with his merits - if not with his self-image. After a wandering, precarious life during which he produced poems, essays, stories, and novels, Walser entered an insane asylum, saying, 'I am not here to write, but to be mad'. Many of the unpublished works he left were in fact written in an idiosyncratically abbreviated script that was for years dismissed as an impenetrable private cipher. Fourteen texts from these so-called pencil manuscripts are included in this volume - rich evidence that Walser's microscripts, rather than the work of incipient madness, were in actuality the product of desperate genius building a last reserve, and as such, a treasure in modern literature.With a brisk preface and a chronology of Walser's life and work, this collection of fifty translations of short prose pieces covers the middle to later years of the writer's oeuvre. It provides unparalleled insight into Walser's creative process, along with a unique opportunity to experience the unfolding of his rare and eccentric gift. His novels "The Robber" (Nebraska 2000) and "Jakob von Gunten" are also available in English translation. Christopher Middleton is David J. Bruton Junior Centennial Professor of Modern Languages, Emeritus, at the University of Texas at Austin. Besides being an eminent British poet, translator, and essayist, he was Walser's first translator into any language in "The Walk and Other Stories", "Jakob von Gunten", and "Selected Stories".

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"Journals (and the contemporary malady of journalishness) are full of solitude and feigned humility, as small as personal; Walser''s microtexts are the opposite. Or, small script = large human. Smallness makes text liquid, lose-able, ubiquitous. Walser is a scale explosion."--Trisha Donnelly, "Artforum International"--Trisha Donnelly "Artforum International "

About the Author

Christopher Middleton is David J. Bruton Jr. Centennial Professor of Modern Languages, Emeritus, at the University of Texas at Austin. Besides being an eminent British poet, translator, and essayist, he was Walser's first translator into any language in "The Walk and Other Stories," "Jakob von Gunten," and "Selected Stories."

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He no longer saw a future before him, and the past, however hard he tried to find some clarity in it, seemed a thing incomprehensible. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars why has no one reviewed this? 23 Nov 2005
By D. B. Visel - Published on Amazon.com
More Walser in English is ALWAYS a good thing - few pleasures can surpass going to the bookstore & discovering that a new volume is out, though it makes me unhappy that I heard nothing about this being published. Walser is somebody who matters. This is a collection of small pieces, some purely fictional, some not quite so fictional; some were published while he was alive & some are from his manuscripts. They're all over the place, but there are heartstopping moments of beauty scattered through him all - his short version of "The Robber" makes me deeply, deeply happy. Also includes a current (2005) bibliography of translations of Walser as well as some critical work on him. Thank you UNebraska Press for publishing this book.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A major writer of the 20th Century 12 April 2006
By Frank Sauce - Published on Amazon.com
Few writers have created such a unique voice that embeds within a reader the world of the writer's character(s) and their life/lives. The Walserian World as some have quiped, where the reader comes away from the work with a different world-view, as though the reader is looking at the world with Walserian eyes. Robert Walser is such an amazing, unique writer; whose writing exists at so many different levels with it's simpleton-clever-profundity. And Christopher Middleton translations of Walser's work is "A Species of Mime." Unfortunately, this book has been in print for over 6 months and I didn't even know about it. I just picked it up yesterday and read most of it last night. Makes the "flash poems" of today read like pathetic missives to an unknown reader.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Walser 26 Nov 2010
By Guttersnipe Das - Published on Amazon.com
Readers new to Robert Walser should start with 'Selected Stories' or 'Masquerade' but by Walser's devotees -- and it appears that, even in English, our numbers are finally growing -- this book will be joyfully devoured.

'Speaking to the Rose' contains dozens of uncollected Walser stories, some hermetic, others as deceptively plain as children's stories. All are lovely -- and unsettling.

In his brief introduction, Christopher Middleton writes, "As author and individual, Walser articulates a large and general cast of mind, such as strictly 'personal' writings seldom do. He can be considered a voice of the unvanquished downtrodden (in early work, of the employee) of people never quite small enough to slip through power's mesh, of the powerless who do not squirm but resist."

There are stories here that seem to me absolutely essential Walser. These include "The Story of the Prodigal Son" ("One of the two sons was distinctly easygoing, whereas the other's conduct was egregiously sound.") or "The Cave Man" ("Card games and bowling were virtually unknown to him." "It is no exaggeration to say that he read little.")

Everywhere there are sentences to copy out and swoon over.

"Frequently life seemed to me like a cramped little house on the edge of everything, because it was so insignificant; yet I loved it and tried to be warm with everyone." (27)

"She had a cage full of lions and tigers and tubs full of snakes. What had he got? Countless sins on his conscience. But at least he wasn't dull. That decided it." (32)

"The monotony to which the lions are doomed serves the tamer just as an active and capable assistant might." (43) (This piece alone, "An Essay on Lion Taming", will make the reader glad to have the book.)

"Fool that I am, I supposed the countess to be so tall that her feather hat, which she might have borrowed from the thirteenth century, touched the edge of heaven, I mean its infinitely inviting breath, which is indefinable for us and will probably remain so." (45)

There are also clues toward the mystery of Robert Walser. The piece "My Endeavors seems as strangely straight-forward as anything he ever wrote. "With books as with people I consider complete understanding to be somewhat uninteresting, rather than productive." And: "I crossed over in the past from book-composition to prose-piece writing because epic connections had begun, as it were, to get on my nerves. My hand became a sort of refusenik."

Speaking to the Rose includes 14 translations from 'The Pencil Region' the hundreds of pieces Walser wrote in a miniscule code. (Anyone fascinated by these will want to treat themselves to Bernofsky's newly translated "Microscripts", which includes images of the actual manuscripts, written on scraps, book covers and envelopes.)

These are sly and marvellous stories -- I hope that Bernofsky or Middleton will not make us wait too long before they hand over another volume. I'd camp out on their doorstep if I thought it'd help. ("I'll leave when you've translated another story! Short is fine! It's cold out here!")
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