‘The Walk’ by Robert Walser, translated by Christopher Middleton et al

I have to report that one fine morning, I do not know any more for sure what time it was, as the desire to take a walk came over me, I put my hat on my head, left my writing room, or room of phantoms, and ran down the stairs to hurry out into the street.

So begins Walser’s long short story ‘The Walk’. There is so much to love about this piece of autofiction: Walser narrates a day’s worth of physical and psychic travel through the city and its environs. We encounter his ambitions, his pleasures, his frustrations; the things that draw him and repel him. It is a discursive, playful, sometimes Rabelaisian ramble. It seems to be written for the joy of consciousness itself. There is also something delicious about the way Walser addresses his readers, vacillating between formality and intimacy, sometimes as spectators, sometimes participants in a private discourse. Nothing is fixed. The story starts where he starts it and ends where he decides it must end. Reading it is like entering a fugue – wonderful.

First published in German as ‘Das Spaziergang’, Huber, 1917. First published in English in The Walk and Other Stories, Calder, 1955. Now available in various editions, including Selected Stories, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1982. Also available from Serpent’s Tail, 1992 and 2013

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