The Tanners

By Robert Walser; Susan Bernofsky (Translator); Jo Catling (Translator)
(New Directions Publishing Corporation, Paperback, 9780811215893, 350pp.)

Publication Date: August 2009

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The Tanners, Robert Walser's amazing 1907 novel of twenty chapters, is now presented in English for the very first time, by the award-winning translator Susan Bernofsky. Three brothers and a sister comprise the Tanner family Simon, Kaspar, Klaus, and Hedwig: their wanderings, meetings, separations, quarrels, romances, employment and lack of employment over the course of a year or two are the threads from which Walser weaves his airy, strange and brightly gorgeous fabric. Walser's lightness is lighter than light, as Tom Whalen said in Bookforum: buoyant up to and beyond belief, terrifyingly light. Robert Walser admired greatly by Kafka, Musil, and Walter Benjamin is a radiantly original author. He has been acclaimed unforgettable, heart-rending (J.M. Coetzee), a bewitched genius (Newsweek), and a major, truly wonderful, heart-breaking writer (Susan Sontag). Considering Walser's perfect and serene oddity, Michael Hofmann inThe London Review of Books remarked on the Buster Keaton-like indomitably sad cheerfulness that is] most hilariously disturbing. The Los Angeles Times called him the dreamy confectionary snowflake of German language fiction. He also might be the single most underrated writer of the 20th century....The gait of his language is quieter than a kitten's. A clairvoyant of the small W. G. Sebald calls Robert Walser, one of his favorite writers in the world, in his acutely beautiful, personal, and long introduction, studded with his signature use of photographs.

About the Author
Robert Walser (1878 1956) was born in Switzerland. He left school at fourteen and led a wandering and precarious existence working as a bank clerk, a butler in a castle, and an inventor's assistant while producing 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."

Susan Bernofsky is the acclaimed translator of Hermann Hesse, Robert Walser, and Jenny Erpenbeck, and the recipient of many awards, including the Helen and Kurt Wolff Prize and the Hermann Hesse Translation Prize. She teaches literary translation at Columbia University and lives in New York.

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