Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Thursday, November 14, 2013

"Response to a Request" by Robert Walser (1907) and "Walser's Voice" by Susan Sontag

From "Robert Walser Voice" by Susan Sontag

"The moral core of Walser's is the refusal of power, of domination."  Susan Sontag.

I am really glad I decided to once again participate in 
German Literature Month November 2013.  I thank Caroline and Lizzy for hosting this great reading event.

So far I have read and posted on these works, all but Kafka are new to me writers. 
The Tin Drum-by Gunther Grass
"The Judgement" by Franz Kafka
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque -very powerful war novel 
"A Letter from an Unknown Woman" by Stefan Zweig. 
The Death of the Adversary by Hans Klein - a work of genius
"The Job Application" by Robert Walser 
Chess Game by Stefan Zweig-I will read much more of his work
"The Battle of Sempach" by Robert Walser
I have also listed to podcasts of "Basta" and "Frau Wilkes" by Robert Walser
The March of Radetsky by Joseph Roth I hope to read all his work

Memoirs of an Anti-Semite by Gregor von Rezzori amazing work of art.

"Flypaper" by Robert Musil

"Mendel the Bibliophile" by Stefan Zweig - I totally love this story.

"The Dead are Silent" by Arthur Schnitzler an entertaining work from 1907

"There Will Be Action" by Heinrich Boll a very good short story by Nobel Prize Winner

German Literature Month is turning into a great voyage of discovery for me.  I am finding  one after the other new to me writer whose collected works I now want to read.  My reading is restricted to works available either online or as translated Kindle editions so that is what I mean when I say that.  Robert Walser is for sure now on my read everything he wrote list.  I was glad to see a preface by Susan Sontag, (say what you will  but they do not come much smarter than Sontag) included with The Walk and Other Stories by Robert Walser.  

I have already done several posts on short stories by Walser.  (You can read Sontag's essay and "Response to a Request" by downloading a sample of The Walk and Other Stories).  There is great sadness and loneliness in the stories of Walser.  There was a time when people compared Kafka to him, now it is the other way around.  Sontag and W. C. Sebald both verify this.  Sontag calls Walser "a kind, gentle tempered Beckett".  Walser's stories seem to me about the struggle to keep the self a life in a world where blind obedience is the norm.  By shrinking himself or his characters down to as little as possible he is saying "we can survive".  "Response to a Request"  (four pages) is a monologue by either an actor or a stage director. It starts out mild and closes on a mad scream.  The sheer violence and anger in this story overwhelmes us from the Walserian persona.  

This story was translated by Christopher Middleton who labored for many years to make Walser available in English.  

1 comment:

Kathleen Jones said...

I've been off-line for five days Mel, but just wanted to say that my thoughts are with you after the appalling disaster - such terrible images of suffering.
Interesting blogs on GErman literature - I find it very hard. My partner Neil likes Gunther Grass and Thomas Mann, but I struggle with their very masculine view of the world. But I do love Christa Wolf's novels. Have you tried them?