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Cover for The Walk (New Directions Pearls)

The Walk (New Directions Pearls)

Robert Walser, Susan Bernofsky (Translated by)


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Robert Walser's preferred alternate version of his classic tale. In a new translation by Susan Bernofsky, The Walk is an elegant consideration of walking and the philosophical musings it engenders.

A pseudo-biographical “stroll” through town and countryside rife with philosophical musings, The Walk has been hailed as the masterpiece of Walser’s short prose. Walking features heavily in his writing, but nowhere else is it as elegantly considered. Without walking, “I would be dead,” Walser explains, “and my profession, which I love passionately, would be destroyed. Because it is on walks that the lore of nature and the lore of the country are revealed, charming and graceful, to the sense and eyes of the observant walker.” The Walk was the first piece of Walser’s work to appear in English, and the only one translated before his death. However, Walser heavily revised his most famous novella, altering nearly every sentence, rendering the baroque tone of his tale into something more spare. An introduction by translator Susan Bernofsky explains the history of The Walk, and the differences between its two versions.

Praise For The Walk (New Directions Pearls)

Incredibly interesting and beautiful.
— John Ashbery

One of the most profound products of modern literature.
— Walter Benjamin

The Walk is a good place to start reading Walser, and offers a kind of bridge between the novels and the microscripts.... The walk is a search for freedom, is an act of freedom itself, and the writing feels free to launch into invective, or drape itself in courtesy, as it pleases. It is an attempt to approximate writing to life, to subject it to circumstance and chance encounter, but for all its overt artificiality the story is deeply affecting.

— The Times Literary Supplement

Walser’s project is mirrored and echoed by modernity’s general obsession with interiority and exploring new forms of subjectivity. We should understand Walser’s poetics of smallness as being as grandiose as anything that modernity has produced.
— The Quarterly Conversation

The hope that shines forth in the moments of self-knowledge, transcendence, and grace Walser describes is anything but meager: on the contrary, it is exultation the writer feels when he perceives the sublime in the tiniest details of everyday life.
— The Brooklyn Rail

New Directions, 9780811219921, 96pp.

Publication Date: May 23, 2012

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.