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Thursday, September 06, 2007

Robert Walser

Before his death in 1956 Robert Walser spent many years in a sanatorium. As he got older his writing got smaller and smaller, until finally it could only be deciphered by microscope. When asked by a visitor if he was able to work in the sanatorium he answered, ‘My business here is not to write, but to be mad.’ One anecdote offered as evidence of his maladjustment is that, on meeting Lenin in Zurich in 1917, the only conversational topic he could think of was whether or not Vladimir Ilyich enjoyed Glarner Birnbrot (a local pearcake), which seems like a fair enough question to me. He loved long solitary walks (and made sure to die on one too), and the opportunity they gave him, in Susan Sontag’s phrase to ‘turn time into space.’

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