The Walk and Other Stories, by Robert Walser
Reviewed by Sarah Gilmartin
The Walk and Other Stories
“The world of thought and of feeling was jumbled and chaotic. Everything dead, empty and hopeless to the heart.” Robert Walser’s stories show a deep knowledge of the human psyche, full of contradiction and unease. Underappreciated in his own lifetime, Walser is a writer’s writer, counting Kafka, Herman Hesse and Susan Sontag among his admirers. Sontag’s foreword to this collection, republished this summer, praises the depressive’s understanding of stasis, the “excruciating modulations” in Walser’s work that render mental ruin with such clarity. From one-page allegories to fantastical animal chat to longer, plotless novellas, the stories that comprise The Walk take us on a rambling journey over the peaks and through the troughs of everyday life: job applications, precocious children, men who want nothing to do with anything, women who make nothing at all for dinner. Walser’s subjective tone guides the reader through the banalities, at times playful, at times lyrical, but always sympathetic to his outsider protagonists.