Girlfriends, Ghosts, and Other Stories brings together 81 brief texts spanning Walser's career, from pieces conceived amidst his early triumphs to later works written at a psychiatric clinic in Bern. Many were published in the feuilleton sections of newspapers during Walser's life; others jotted down on slips of paper that were all but forgotten. Together they string together small nutshells of consciousness, idiosyncratic and vulnerable, genuine in their irony, wistful in their humor. The portraits and landscapes here are observed with great tenderness and from a place of great anxiety. Some dwell on childish or transient topics: carousels, the latest hair styles, an ekphrasis of the illustrations in a picture-book; others, the grand themes of nature, art, and love. But they remain conversational, almost lighter than air. Every emotion ventured takes on the weight of a sincerity that is imperiled as soon as it comes into contact with the outside world--which retains all of the velty it had in childhood, and all of the danger. Walser's speakers are attuned to the silent music of being; students of the ineffable and neighbors to madness, they are w exhilarated, w paralyzed by frequencies inaudible to less sensitive ears.
Robert Walser (1878-1956) was born into a German-speaking family in Biel, Switzerland. He left school at fourteen and led a wandering, precarious existence while writing his poems, novels, and vast numbers of the prose pieces that became his hallmark. In 1933 he was confined to a sanatorium, which marked the end of his writing career. Among Walser's works available in English are A Schoolboy's Diary and Berlin Stories (available as NYRB Classics), The Tanners, Microscripts, The Assistant, The Robber, Masquerade and Other Stories, and Speaking to the Rose: Writings, 1912-1932. Tom Whalen is a novelist, short story writer, poet and critic who has written for Agni, Bookforum, Film Quarterly, the Washington Post and other publications. Co-editor of the Robert Walser Number of The Review of Contemporary Fiction, he has translated and written extensively on Walser's work. His books include Winter Coat, Dolls, Elongated Figures, The Birth of Death and Other Comedies: The Novels of Russell H. Greenan, and The President in Her Towers. He teaches film at the State Academy of Art and Design in Stuttgart, Germany. Nicole Kongeter is a freelance translator and teacher of English and German in southwest Germany. Annette Wiesner's translations of Robert Walser have appeared in Connecticut Review, Kestrel, and Witness. She works as project manager for a software company in Weilimdorf, Germany.
Annette Wiesner, Nicole Kongeter, Robert Walser, Tom Whalen