Extracts from Robert Walser’s novella, The Walk (1917)
Courtesy of Profile Books Limited
Later I arrived at all sorts of public houses, which produce consequences which everyone knows. Even the most virtuous person cannot dispute the fact that he is never master of certain improprieties. Luckily, however, one is of course – human, and as such easily pardonable.
I stood and listened, and suddenly there came upon me an inexpressible feeling for the world, and, together with it, a feeling of gratitude, which broke powerfully out of my soul.
With the utmost love and attention the man who walks must study and observe every smallest living thing. The highest and the lowest, the most serious and the most hilarious things are to the walker equally beloved, beautiful and valuable.
Do you think it quite impossible that on a gentle walk I should meet giants, do business with booksellers, dine at noon with intelligent ladies, stroll through woods, dispatch dangerous letters, and come to wild blows with spiteful, ironic master tailors? All this can happen, and I believe it actually did happen.
So then everything, everything, all this rich life, the friendly thoughtful colours, this delight, this joy and pleasure in life, all these human meanings, family, friend and beloved, this bright, tender air full of divinely beautiful images, houses of fathers, houses of mothers, and dear gentle roads, must one day pass away and die, the high sun, the moon, and the hearts and eyes of men.
Biography of Robert Walser
Robert Walser was born in Biel, Switzerland in 1878 and during his career produced nine novels and more than a thousand stories. During his most intense creative period, this truly original author wrote The Walk (1917). Diagnosed as a schizophrenic, he entered a psychiatric hospital in 1933 where he remained until his death in 1956. During his life Walser was greatly admired by his contemporaries; Kafka, Musil, and Walter Benjamin. However, it was only after his death that his work has been widely recognised for its brilliance. W. G. Sebald described him as “a clairvoyant of the small” and Susan Sontag called him “a major, truly wonderful, heart-breaking writer”.