The Assistant – Robert Walser

Book: The Assistant – Robert Walser
Status: Still reading

I have a little method of moving from author to author; which is not a new method at all, really..
but it keeps me happy in my own little way! When I like an author, I find out who they were influenced by and who they themselves influenced. Wikipedia can be great for that..
When you do that, you have at least twenty new authors to explore.
As you can see, I’d recently discovered Franz Kafka, and my first exploration in who influenced him brought me to an author called Robert Walser.
What magic Walser wrote. His work is very beautiful; sometimes melancholy, but very positive.
Walser seemed to be able to take in the world around him, and every happening in the novel is linked to the weather, the seasons, the surrounding nature. I can’t help but smile when I read this.
I’ve not yet finished this book, but I foresee a lot of quotes from it.. So here is a large-ish selection begin with.

The Assistant

“’It almost surprises me,’ the one standing there thought, ‘that I’m carrying an umbrella.’ In earlier years he had never possessed such a thing.”

“Joseph descended a flight of stairs that seemed to have been made more for chickens than for people..”

“For Joseph, that sloppy ‘eh’ at the end of the sentence had a contemptuous ring to it. A stump of a word like that doesn’t exactly sound like a friendly caress, after all.”

“Glances like these make one shiver in the warmest sunshine, they pierce the soul with their coldness and loiter coldly within it for a while before departing just as they arrived.”

“’Will I be good enough?’ Joseph thought. It was at least helpful that he would be permitted to smoke while performing difficult tasks. Without the cheroot, he would honestly have started to doubt whether his brain was properly put together.”

“In this, too, he was hanging by a thread, just a button that no-one took the trouble to sew back on again, just as the jacket itself no longer had much wear in it. Yes, his existence was nothing more than a hand-me-down jacket, a suit that didn’t quite fit.”

“Cheeks were gleaming just as brightly as the looks in people’s eyes.”

“Tobler sat there like the very image of a suppressed cloudburst and indulged in unlovely and blasphemous curses.”

“In her earnest attempt to carry out the orders of this oppressive tyrant, the child had to rise to the toes of her small feet each time she removed something from the table, using  both hands to grip a bowl, a plate or a few pieces of cutlery, and in this way she carried everything, piece by piece, meekly and with caution, keeping her eyes on the kitchen virago, out to the place where the washing-up would be done. She did this as though she were carrying in her little arms and hands a small, thorny, damn crown, the crown of irrevocable childhood sorrow that she had cried shimmering wet with her own tears.”

“The figures you invented yourself, drawn from a distant and close circle of acquaintances, were quietly whispering, they were saying something or perhaps only making faces while their eyes were speaking a profound, intimate language of their own. Feelings were stepping forward naked and courageous, and even the most delicately perceived sensation was met with a secret understanding suffused with longing. Lips and thoughts, requiring neither epochs nor roads on which to pass through life, kissed as soon as they recognised one another; you could see the joy burning upon these lips, and a friendly melancholy was singing from the thoughts that accorded well with brook, bushes and woodland silence.”

“Unhappiness appeared to be banished from this cozy little corner, and so a joyousness was whispering and sighing within each blade of grass upon this small secluded woodland meadow, and a friendly belief in every fir needle.”

“The Tobler house, how it stood there, solid and at the same time dainty, as though it were inhabited only be grace and contentment.”

Taken from ‘The Assistant’ by Robert Walser, Translated by Susan Bernofsky.
Available from Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Assistant-Penguin-Modern-Classics/dp/0141189282/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1250249824&sr=1-1

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