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The Assistant by Robert Walser
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The Assistant (1908)

by Robert Walser

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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» See also 8 mentions

English (9)  German (1)  Catalan (1)  All (11)
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
Non credo che questo commento sarà utile a nessuno per farsi un'idea del libro, ma lo scrivo lo stesso per comunicare con i lettori della community.
Walser e i suoi personaggi sono proprio in sintonia con me. Oziosi che si perdono in fantasie, che godono a mischiarsi nella folla, che se ne sbattono di fare carriera, che si preoccupano di essere comprensivi, che ascoltano. Persone tranquille che non nuocciono a nessuno e che spesso sono di aiuto a molti. Gente bizzarra e che ama stare in armonia con la natura...TUTTI quanti si riconoscano in questo elenco di caratteristiche godrebbero nel leggere le opere di questo grande scrittore.
E' tutto. ( )
  downisthenewup | Aug 17, 2017 |
Der Gehülfe, written in Berlin in 1907, was Walser's second published novel (Geschwister Tanner was the first; in between he wrote another that was never published, apparently a fantasy set in Asia). It's his most conventional work of fiction, and was relatively popular during his own lifetime.

Apparently very closely autobiographical in its details, it's an account of a radically alienated young man, Josef Marti, who spends a few months working as a live-in secretary/bookkeeper for the inventor Karl Tobler (sadly, none of his inventions is chocolate-related!) at his villa in a small town on the shores of Lake Zürich. Josef has been unemployed and in poverty for some time, and he's sucked in by the seductive middle-class comfort of the Tobler family despite seeing very clearly how hollow it all is - Tobler is squandering his inherited capital recklessly on luxuries with an unreasonable confidence in his distinctly lacklustre inventions; he is splashing out hospitality to buy his way into local society, there are serious problems in the Toblers' marriage and their relationship with their children; the beautiful house and garden are shoddily built, etc., etc. Even the countryside into which Josef escapes for his Sunday walks is seen to be an illusion compared to the hard reality of the big city...

Interesting, especially since it turns out to be much more Swiss in its language and references than you might have guessed, and it has some very beautiful - and very funny - passages, but I tend to agree with all the people who say that it feels like a wildly original book that falls short of what it could have been through being shoehorned into a traditional format - in that sense it reminded me rather of Virginia Woolf's The Voyage Out. Of course, that's because we all read the later Jakob von Gunten first... ( )
  thorold | Mar 19, 2017 |
There are the classic Walserian descriptions of nature, awkward social interactions, and a main character whose drive and ambition fluctuate in relation to the amount of daydreaming that occurs on any given day. Still, as a character, Joseph Marti was not quite as developed as I was hoping for him to be. There is also less humor in the book than in either The Tanners or Jakob von Gunten. Still, it's Walser and I like everything he wrote, at least to some degree. This one just not as much as others.

P.S. This is a terrible review. I'm sorry, Robert...you deserve better. ( )
1 vote S.D. | Dec 21, 2014 |
I feel like Walser and I are off to a bit of a rocky start. What interests me most about The Assistant and Walser’s approach to the main character, Joseph, are precisely the problems I found with the novel. When Walser is writing an incisive and bleak psychological portrait of a borderline sociopath, his prose is stunning and his observations often poignant; however, Walser mixes his psychological portraiture with an iterative and boring bourgeois narrative that places Joseph in a classed subject position repeatedly, ad nauseam.



Perhaps The Assistant might have worked better as a short story or novella—these repetitions become cumbersome and detract from Walser’s more intriguing character study. I often felt, too, that Walser wants us as readers to be far removed from the characters: the way that he’s able to create such a phenomenal narrative distancing is truly astounding here, but with the repetition and cumbersome, often cliched plotting, the distancing causes more rupture than interest, creates more of a rift between the reader and the book itself than the reader and the characters.



I do look forward to reading more Walser, but I suspect it will be some time before I feel ready to tackle another of his books. ( )
1 vote proustitute | Jul 17, 2014 |
Another amazing work by both Walser and Bernofsky. Read my review here:

http://mewlhouse.hubpages.com/t/306451 ( )
  MSarki | Mar 31, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
Although Walser satirizes this quintessential predicament of the bourgeoisie, there is a delicacy to his activity. One gathers that the author’s reproof against the foibles of keeping up appearances is offset by his awareness that a reprieve from struggle is merely that.
 

» Add other authors (12 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Walser, RobertAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Böhmer, GunterCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bernofsky, SusanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Charvát, RadovanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Monton, RamonTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zollinger, AlbinIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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One morning at eight o'clock a young man stood at the door of a solitary, and it appeared, attractive house.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0811215903, Paperback)

The Assistant by Robert Walser—who was admired greatly by Kafka, Musil, Walter Benjamin, and W. G. Sebald—is now presented in English for the very first time.

Robert Walser is an overwhelmingly original author with many ardent fans: J.M. Coetzee ("dazzling"), Guy Davenport ("a very special kind of whimsical-serious-deep writer"), and Hermann Hesse ("If he had a hundred thousand readers, the world would be a better place"). Charged with compassion, and an utterly unique radiance of vision, Walser is as Susan Sontag exclaimed "a truly wonderful, heart-breaking writer."

The Assistant is his breathtaking 1908 novel, translated by award-winning translator Susan Bernofsky. Joseph, hired to become an inventor's new assistant, arrives one rainy Monday morning at Technical Engineer Karl Tobler's splendid hilltop villa: he is at once pleased and terribly worried, a state soon followed by even stickier psychological complexities. He enjoys the beautiful view over Lake Zurich, in the company of the proud wife, Frau Tobler, and the delicious savory meals. But does he deserve any of these pleasures? The Assistant chronicles Joseph's inner life of cascading emotions as he attempts, both frantically and light-heartedly, to help the Tobler household, even as it slides toward financial ruin. Tobler demands of Joseph, "Do you have your wits about you?!" And Joseph's wits are in fact all around him, trembling like leaves in the breeze—he is full of exuberance and despair, all the raptures and panics of a person "drowning in obedience."

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:00:27 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Joseph, hired to become an inventor's new assistant, arrives one rainy Monday morning at Technical Engineer Karl Tobler's splendid hilltop villa: he is at once pleased and terribly worried, a state soon followed by even stickier psychological complexities. He enjoys the beautiful view over Lake Zurich, in the company of the proud wife, Frau Tobler, and the delicious savory meals. But does he deserve any of these pleasures?… (more)

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