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, November 7, 2015

The Tanners by Robert Walser (1907, translated by Susan Bernofsky)

I am grateful to Max ü for the provision of an Amazon Gift I used to acquire this book.

I am estatic to once again be able to Participate in German Literature Month, elegantly and lovingly hosted by Lizzi's Literary Live and Beauty is a Sleeping Cat. This is my fourth year as a participant.   On the host blogs you will find the particularities of the event but the basic idea is to read literature first written in German (translated or not) and share your thoughts.  I began accumulating works for the event soon after the event ended last year and I began reading for it in mid-September.  

Works Read for G L V So Far

1.  Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada. A brilliant recreation of life in Nazi Germany. 

2.  Ostend, Stefan Zweig, Joseph Roth and the Summer Before the End by Volker Weidermann. A fascinating social history 

3.  Buddenbrook Ths Decline of a Family by Thomas Mann.  Must reading 

4.  "The Governess" by Stefan Zweig

5.  Demian:  The Story of Emil Sinclair's Youth by Herman Hesse.  Read the major works first.

     Robert Walser 1878 to 1956, born in Bern, Switzerland 

Last year during GL IV I posted on a novel by Robert Walser, Jacob Von Gunten and his reflections on The Idiot by Fyodor Doestoesky.  I was inspired to reread The Idiot by his piece and I think this reading did significantly deepen  my understanding of the book.  I also read after GL IV closed Walser's "Kleist in Thun", a work which simply stunned me with the depth of feeling and beauty in the work. If a short story can reach the category of "High Art", this does. Additionally I have read a few of his many other short stories.

Anyone who has maintained a book blog for years, posting almost daily for years,  will know what I mean when I say I am doing this post just to keep going on.  Tommorow I will be better, I hope.

The Tanners is about five members of a family, the Tanners, there are four brothers, one is in a mental hospital and barely mentioned and a sister,   There is little traditional plot.  The primary focus is on Simon and his various jobs.   Part of the focus of the work of Walser is on  reflections on the meaningless of of most jobs.  There is a long segment  in which Simon talks about his work as a copiest, a very common office job in the days before copy machines and laser printers which perfectly captures the dynamics of office work, with its petty routines and little kings.  Copiests had to be educated men but they were performing totally meaningless work.  I was reminded of Melville's great short story, "Bartleby the Scrivener" as well as Gogol's foundational story  "The Overcoat" while reading this segment.  Tiny Tim's father was also a copiest!

The Tanners covers numerous jobs and periods of unemployment of Simon and his romances.  Much space is also devoted to the life of the sister.  

Simon is set off from his brothers, one is a sucessful business man, one an established artist and one is locked in a mental hospital.  It was impossible for me drive from the forefront of my consciousness the thought that Walser would spend the last twenty five years of his life so confined.  

I am very glad to have read this book.  It comes with an essay by W. G. Sebald.

I have two collections of Walser short stories and will be reading them all eventually, I hope.  

The book feels as if came directly from Walser's stream of consciousness.  

It is often said that Robert Walser was the favorite writer of Franz Kafka.  

Mel ü

1 comment:

Lisbeth said...

Lovely post as always. It does not seem to be a post, just for posting. I admire your stamina to post everyday, and read almost a book a day it seems. I always enjoy reading your posts.