In Kafka one also catches echoes of Walser’s prose, with its lucid syntactic layout, its casual juxtapositions of the elevated with the banal, and its eerily convincing logic of paradox.
It is not possible to read Robert Walser without thinking of how he may have influenced Kafka. The quote above comes from a superb article on Walser by J. M. Coetzee. Coetzee eclipses any maundering of mine on both Walser and the artistry that is Jakob Von Gunten.
Thus, read the Coetzee article if you need any encouragement to read Walser, then read Jakob Von Gunten, then finish with more Walser. A final Coetzee quote:
As a literary character, Jakob von Gunten is without precedent. In the pleasure he takes in picking away at himself he has something of Dostoevsky’s Underground Man and, behind him, of the Jean-Jacques Rousseau of the Confessions.
I read Jakob von Gunten a couple of years ago and loved both the unpredictability of the title character and the unpredictable vibrancy of the narrative itself. Now have Walser’s short stories here as a consequence, but I have yet to read them. Thanks for the tip on the Coetzee piece, which I shall save for later this week for a reading break at work.
Richard, I also loved The Assistant, equally unpredictable.