Walks with Robert Walser
by Carl Seelig
Translated from the German by Marion Graf Afterword by Lucas Gloor, Reto Sorg and Peter Utz
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Of the twenty-three years that Robert Walser spent at the Waldau nursing home, one testimony has come down to us, the account of the journalist and editor Carl Seelig (1894-1962) who played for him the role of Max Brod with Kafka and without which his work would no doubt not have reached us. From 1936 until his death, Seelig met Walser for long walks, lunches and especially long conversations. Walser tells him about his life at the hospice where, like the characters in his fictions, he willingly performs odd jobs, sorts lentils, beans, chestnuts, glues paper bags. And then, he talks a lot about literature, of the refusals of his publishers, of his world which, he says, “Was destroyed by the Nazis”, of Dostoyevsky, Byron, Kleist, of Hölderlin whom he thinks he should not have been very unhappy for the last thirty years of his life: “Being able to dream in your own corner … it’s not really martyrdom …” Rich words, lucid reflections where one searches in vain for signs of mental illness.