The Assistant – Robert Walser (Part 2)

Book: The Assistant – Robert Walser
Status: Still reading

Here’s the second part of quotes and passages from this wonderful book. I’m thoroughly enjoying it!

“And now, Mr. Clerk, or however you prefer to be addressed, you are back in the Villa Tobler, make no mistake, and, in the guise of a bird beating its wings about your apparently rather poetically-minded head, the Advertising Clock is hurtling back and forth. Sunday, that softest of days, is over now, and the hard, rugged workday has just grabbed hold of you; you’ll have to puff yourself up to full height to have any chance to withstand its powerful waves.”

“This morning, Joseph’s hair appeared extraordinarily difficult to brush and comb. His toothbrush recalled bygone days. The soap with which he wanted to wash his hands slipped from his grasp and shot beneath the bed, and he had to bend down and retrieve it from the farthest corner. His collar was too high and too tight, although it had fit perfectly the day before. What marvels. And how tedious this all was.”

“Half a year before, he had experienced just such a hat scenario. It had been a quite good normal hat of moderate height, the sort that “better” gentlemen are in the habit of wearing. Joseph, however, felt nothing but distrust for this hat. A thousand times he placed it upon his head, standing before the mirror, only to set it back on the table. Then he moved three steps away from this charming eyesore and observed it in the way an outpost observes the enemy. Nothing about it was in any way objectionable. Hereupon he hung the hat up on its nail, and there it too appeared quite innocuous. He tried putting it on his head again – oh horror! It seemed bent on trying to split him in two from top to bottom. He felt as if his very personality had become a bleary, caustic, bisected version of itself. He went out onto the street, and found himself reeling like a despicable drunkard – he felt lost. Stepping into a place of refreshment, he took of his hat: saved! Yes, that had been the hat scenario. He had also experienced collar scenarios in his lifetime, as well as coat and shoe scenarios.”

“Herr Tobler always waited at the Sailing Ship for trains that were arriving and departing. Today, too, he was ‘just waiting for  his train.’ The restaurant was right next to the train station. But Tobler missed his trains rather often nonetheless; one might, if one were an innkeeper, almost suspect him of missing them on purpose. Whenever this happened, he was in the habit of grumbling: ‘Now that idiotic train has left without me again.’”

“Approximately one hour later, he watered the garden. He found it so agreeable to watch the thin, silvery stream of water slice through the air and to hear the water strike the leaves of the trees.”

“They laugh using their back teeth where other people and nations laugh only with their lips, they make conversation more with their pricked-up ears than with their  unabashed mouths, they are lovers of silence, but sometimes they will set about boasting like proper sailors, as if all of them had been born with mouths destined for public houses.”

“Autumn was arriving, everything appeared to be sitting down, somewhere something was coming to a standstill, nature seemed at times to be rubbing its eyes.”

Taken from ‘The Assistant’ by Robert Walser, Translated by Susan Bernofsky.
Available from Amazon UK:


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