Berlin Stories, Paperback Book
3.5 out of 5 (5 ratings)

Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 144 pages
  • Publisher: The New York Review of Books, Inc
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Historical fiction
  • ISBN: 9781590174548

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Reviews

Showing 1 - 5 of 5 reviews.

Review by
3

Robert Walser was an early 20th c. Swiss writer who traveled to Berlin to live with his brother, who was a successful set designer in the theater world. This is the first English translation of his "Berlin Stories", which first appeared in lit mags and newspapers, although to call them stories is a bit of a stretch; they are sketches, observations of the streets, galleries, theaters, markets, parks and transportation systems of the city. Walser is an enthusiastic, if somewhat quirky guide through the city, and these pieces read well as verbal set pieces. They are often funny, sometimes satirical, and generally engaging, although to the modern reader they may feel a bit two-dimensional, a bit repetitive. The time period is that prior to the upheavals the Weimar Republic and so there is much optimism and joie de vivre, which can't help but leave a slightly ironic taste on the tongue, since the reader is much aware of subsequent events. One can't help but wonder what might have been if history had taken a different trajectory.

Review by
3

A collection of essays, newspaper columns, and short stories praising and gently mocking (and sometimes not so gently mocking) the city of Berlin in the late Imperial years. <br/><br/>At times, he is almost gushing about his time in the theater or the street markets, and in others he is vicious. God most be the opposite of Rodin, he says, for who else would willingly create something so ugly and strange as people? And here he shows us strange, piteous, and somewhat sad creatures. <br/><br/>This collection is a strange hodgepodge. There are some brilliant pieces here, but some are the dullest conventions that would not even grace the best-seller list of the New York Times or <u>Reader's Digest</u>. Is this deliberate? Is this really the same author which made Kafka howl in laughter?

Review by
4

I will leave the reviewing to readers better suited to deconstruct Walser than I am. I simply like the fellow. I believe he was extremely clever and interesting. I enjoy reading all of his work, but especially the four novels that have survived. There is something so childlike and simple about his work, but still sophisticated and never boring though he revisits his subjects constantly. That is pure talent.

Review by
4

Oh, Walser. I'm woefully behind in reviews, and yet more people need to read you; at the same time, I'm not sure that any words can adequately convey the experience of reading your prose.<br/><br/>This collection of stories and critical essays compiles the work that Walser produced during his time in Berlin. One can feel the allure of the city, the possibilities and dreams that Walser felt in every fiber of the city—from the parks and gardens, to the people congregating on the streets, from the theatre to the literary life—and yet one can also sense an underlying melancholy, a growing sense of malaise as the pieces progress chronologically, not seeing Walser fulfill his goals, forced to return to Switzerland just on the bring of a world war.<br/><br/>In her introduction to <i>Microscripts</i>, Susan Bernofsky notes that we can't know for sure when Walser began writing in microscript form. Many of these pieces here in <i>Berlin Stories</i> read like some of his microscript stories, but these are more like vignettes than stories: they run together to create a full portrait of Walser's Berlin, its inhabitants, its pace of life, and his own precarious position in the city as both an outsider and an artist. <br/><br/>The simplicity of Walser's writing is balanced equally by his deft approach to a humanistic view of society and our individual responsibilities to others: his moral approach to life—even something as simple as traipsing through a park and chancing upon a woman reading or a lone bird—suggest that art is as much an every day sentimentality as it is setting thoughts to paper. <br/><br/>This collection ends with Walser examining his own critical output, looking back to his previous work and criticism with a sense of self-exile but also a sense of having accomplished what he set out to do. Hermann Hesse said of Walser: "If he had a hundred thousand readers, the world would be a better place." And so it would.

Review by
4

Oh, Walser. I'm woefully behind in reviews, and yet more people need to read you; at the same time, I'm not sure that any words can adequately convey the experience of reading your prose.<br/><br/>This collection of stories and critical essays compiles the work that Walser produced during his time in Berlin. One can feel the allure of the city, the possibilities and dreams that Walser felt in every fiber of the city—from the parks and gardens, to the people congregating on the streets, from the theatre to the literary life—and yet one can also sense an underlying melancholy, a growing sense of malaise as the pieces progress chronologically, not seeing Walser fulfill his goals, forced to return to Switzerland just on the bring of a world war.<br/><br/>In her introduction to <i>Microscripts</i>, Susan Bernofsky notes that we can't know for sure when Walser began writing in microscript form. Many of these pieces here in <i>Berlin Stories</i> read like some of his microscript stories, but these are more like vignettes than stories: they run together to create a full portrait of Walser's Berlin, its inhabitants, its pace of life, and his own precarious position in the city as both an outsider and an artist. <br/><br/>The simplicity of Walser's writing is balanced equally by his deft approach to a humanistic view of society and our individual responsibilities to others: his moral approach to life—even something as simple as traipsing through a park and chancing upon a woman reading or a lone bird—suggest that art is as much an every day sentimentality as it is setting thoughts to paper. <br/><br/>This collection ends with Walser examining his own critical output, looking back to his previous work and criticism with a sense of self-exile but also a sense of having accomplished what he set out to do. Hermann Hesse said of Walser: "If he had a hundred thousand readers, the world would be a better place." And so it would.

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