A Schoolboy’s Diary and Other Stories

by Robert Walser, Damion Searls, Ben Lerner

This new collection of more than seventy stories by the iconic modern writer Robert Walser, includes stories that have appeared in Harper’s Magazine, n+1 online, Vice, andelsewhere.

  • ebook
  • Pages: 208 pages
  • Average Rating: 4.04 out of 5
  • Published September 3rd 2013 by NYRB Classics
  • ISBN: 1590176928 (ISBN13: 9781590176924)

This new collection of more than seventy stories by the iconic modern writer Robert Walser, includes stories that have appeared in Harper’s Magazine, n+1 online, Vice, and elsewhere. Also included is the complete “Fritz Kocher’s Essays,” the “collected works,” so to speak, of a boy who died young, consisting entirely of classroom writing assignments on themes such as “Music,” “Christmas,” and “The Fatherland.” As the opening title sequence of Walser’s first book, this was a brilliant way to frame and introduce his unique voice, oscillating wildly as it does between naïveté (the ludicrous teacher wearing “high boots, as though just returning from the Battle of Austerlitz”), faux-naïveté, and faux-faux-naïveté (“Factories and the areas around them do not look nice. I don’t understand how anyone can be around such unclean things. All the poor people work in the factories, maybe to punish them for being so poor”).  A Schoolboy’s Diary and Other Stories is centered around schoolboy life—the subject of his greatest novel, Jakob von Gunten—and dispatches from the edge of the writer’s life, as Walser’s modest, extravagant, careening narrators lash out at uncomprehending editors, overly solicitous publishers, and disdainers of Odol mouthwash. There are vignettes that swoon over the innocent beauties of the Swiss landscape, but from sexual adventures on a train, to dissecting an adulterous love triangle by “wading knee-deep into what is generally called the Danish or psychological novel,” to three stories about Walser’s service in the Swiss military during World War I, the collection has an unexpected range of subject matter.