The Problem of Motivational Force

The mistake of most moralists has always been to consider man as an essentially reasonable being. Man is a sensitive being, who consults solely his passions in order to act, and for whom reason serves only to palliate the follies his passions lead him to commit.

Rousseau
Collected Writings
[via Simon Critchley: The Faith of the Faithless]

Jakob Von Gunten by Robert Walser

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.