Robert Walser’s Response to a Request ends with the chilling lines,”Only one of your hands is to be seen, reaching up from the smoking ruins. The hand is still moving a little, then the curtain descends.” Walser’s curious short story takes the form of an experienced thespian offering advice to an aspiring actor. The mental image of the reaching hands bring to mind Keat’s disturbing poem This Living Hand:
This living hand, now warm and capable
Of earnest grasping, would, if it were cold
And in the icy silence of the tomb,
So haunt thy days and chill thy dreaming nights
That thou wouldst wish thine own heart dry of blood
So in my veins red life might stream again,
And thou be conscience-calmed—see here it is—
I hold it towards you.
My version of Walser’s Response to a Request is the first story in Serpent’s Tail edition of The Walk collection. The picture above shows the more recent Paul North translation titled Answer to an Inquiry which comes in a numbered and signed edition, with a limited edition letterpress print from Friese Undine’s Walser series.