The Assistant

By Robert Walser; Susan Bernofsky (Translator)
(New Directions Publishing Corporation, Paperback, 9780811215909, 301pp.)

Publication Date: July 2007

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Description
The Assistant is his breathtaking 1908 novel, translated by award-winning translator Susan Bernofsky. Joseph, hired to become an inventor's new assistant, arrives one rainy Monday morning at Technical Engineer Karl Tobler's splendid hilltop villa: he is at once pleased and terribly worried, a state soon followed by even stickier psychological complexities. He enjoys the beautiful view over Lake Zurich, in the company of the proud wife, Frau Tobler, and the delicious savory meals. But does he deserve any of these pleasures? The Assistant chronicles Joseph's inner life of cascading emotions as he attempts, both frantically and light-heartedly, to help the Tobler household, even as it slides toward financial ruin. Tobler demands of Joseph, "Do you have your wits about you? " And Joseph's wits are in fact all around him, trembling like leaves in the breeze he is full of exuberance and despair, all the raptures and panics of a person "drowning in obedience."



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."

The translator of Yoko Tawada, Franz Kafka, and Robert Walser, among others, Susan Bernofsky is currently working on a biography of Walser.
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