Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Robert Walser's The Microscripts
Walser was only moderately successful in his lifetime and, as a deeply troubled person, spent most of his later years in a sanitarium, having been diagnosed with schizophrenia. He was also said to be a huge influence on Franz Kafka.
Uusally preceeding the microscripts are the slips of envelopes or book covers or torn-off triangles of drawing paper Walser used to write his stories on. These reproductions are a colorful texture to the book, giving the reader a glimpse of Walser's handwriting and, in a larger sense, his attempts to write smaller and smaller stories (Walser wrote his final novel, The Robbers, first in microscript format). The back of the book also contains the untranslated stories.
The stories contained in The Microscripts concern all sorts of things: alcohol abuse, marriage, pigs, jealousy, love and lust. What struck me was the juxtaposition of Walser's tiny script and the "big" ideas contained therein. I think he wanted to say as much as possible with as little as possible. In this way, Walser was a Romantic, perhaps hopelessly so. As he writes in the microscript New Year, "The story keeps on going, and the beauty of a context is revealed."