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

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Jacob Von Gunten by Robert Walser (1909, translated and introduced by Christopher Middleton, 1965)


Robert Walser (1878 to 1956, Switzerland) is a unique author.  I have previously read and posted on a few of his short stories and you can find some background on him in those posts.  Susan Sontag said that the basic theme of Walser was a refusal of obedience and the consequences of trying to be autonomous in increasingly controlling societies. Jacob Von Gunten is the first novel by Walser I have read.  The talent and discernment behind this work transcends my ability to describe.  It basically is the first person narrative of a young man, Jacob Von Gunten, going to school to learn to be a servant.  The school appears to do nothing other than try to impart an attitude of slavish obedience in their students.  Combined with a description of school activities and his interactions with students and teachers we also are presented a journal of the thoughts of Jacob.  You must wonder what unshown traumas could have pushed a young man of evident high intelligence to wish to be a servant with his whole life dictated by others.  There is a great depth of irony in this work.  I think this would be an exellant class room work for high school and college students.

  Kafka was an avid reader of Walser and I think you will become one also if you give him a try. 

Mel u


jolanda said...

I'm happy to see you like a swiss autor! j;-)

Unknown said...

I have to give this a try Mel. It sounds emotionally it?
I dont know if I want to pull out tissues.