The Translators’ Roundtable Forum

By The Editors

Post your thoughts on Walser or The Assistant below. Comments are moderated, and will appear after a very short delay, so avoid posting twice if you notice that your post doesn't appear immediately.

In the Translators' Roundtable, Damion Searls, Tom Whalen, Millay Hyatt and Mark Harman spoke about discovering and translating Walser. Post your responses to their thoughts over here.



I had read a couple of pieces in “Atlas Anthology 3”, translated by James Kirkup, mid eighties, I think, and Mike Hart, a (late) friend who was in charge of the Modern Literature section in Compendium Books in London, pushed me in the direction of other available works, which weren’t many, (mid eighties). I had to wait till the publication of “The Walk and other stories” by Serpents Tail, until I found a good collection…this was in the days before it was easy to find books over the internet. Then the Dalkey Archive publication, and Mark Harmans’ edited “Rediscovering Robert Walser”, followed by “Masquerade…”. Needless to say, I was hooked from there on, still am, and hungry for more.
COMMENT: Kirkup - that’s great!  Of those pieces - “Ovation,” “Tableau Vivant,” “Sketch for a Curtainraiser,” and “Two Little Fairytales,” only the first two have been published in book form.  The others are found only in the impossible-to-find 1985 issue of Atlas. 

Tableau and Sketch are quite surreal - similar to the Two Strange Tales that start the Selected Stories volume.  I may be wrong, but that particular chord seems relatively rare in Walser’s work - the only pieces I know like that were written in the two or three years following the publication of The Assistant.


Speaking of Kirkup, I happened to notice in the May 9 TLS that his volume of poems, An Island in the Sky (2004), has been reissued this year to mark his ninetieth birthday.
COMMENT: After reading your comments I broke out the Atlas Anthology and typed in the two otherwise unavailable Walser sketches. They’re up at my blog, at least temporarily.


No dates are given.
COMMENT: Thanks so much, Will!  I didn’t realize that Kirkup had a website.  I also missed the comments Kirkup provided in the contributors column, so thanks for that too.  And of course the images of Walser’s brother Karl and the house from The Assistant are wonderful as well.
COMMENT: Speaking of hard-to-find items, Mark Harman mentions in his roundtable response that one of his favorite stories is “Green,” which he translated a dozen years ago and which hasn’t been published in book form. 


I found it, and it’s astonishing that we haven’t seen it before:


“It’s incomprehensible, mind boggling, terrifying. It’s uncanny, almost overpowering. íWhat the point,ë one asks. It’s almost pointless. It’s deadening, makes one dizzy. It hurts ones eyes, one’s heart, leaves one’s soul distressed and dismayed. Color, color. No other color has as much color, perhaps. None is as dazzling. Green, green. Wherever one looks, green.”


I also loved:


“It’s on fire.  Green: on fire.”


More here:
COMMENT: Fascinating to read how the four translators came upon Walsers’ work and later came to translate pieces of it for the benefit of the rest of us. I shall be eternally grateful.
When I read Mark Harmans’ piece on “Green”, I thought WTF….LOL, because it’s a piece that I hadn’t seen before; that came out of the blue, (green came out of the blue….er…sorry).
The two Kirkup pieces are indeed uncharacteristically surreal, still with that playful, gradually darkening edge though.
COMMENT: Georgia Review still has copies of the issue with “Green” for $10: Summer 1991 issue (Volume XLV Issue No. 2).


If outside the US you’ll have to choose “foreign rate” and select “$15” for the shipping.
COMMENT: Audio from the recent “Tribute to Robert Walser” in New York, May 3rd is available here… it’s about 1hr 25 mins mp3 audio.
DATE: 06/27/2008 6:04:28 PM

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