Friday, July 25, 2014

From Robert Walser

To people sitting in a blustering automobile I always present an austere face. Then they believe that I am a sharp-eyed, malevolent spy, a plainclothes policeman, delegated by high officials to spy on the traffic, to note down the numbers of vehicles, and later to report them to the proper authorities. I always then look darkly at the wheels, at the car as a whole, but never at its occupants, whom I despise, and this in no way personally, but purely on principle, for I never shall understand, how it can be called a pleasure to hurtle past all the images and objects which our beautiful earth displays, as if one had gone mad and had to accelerate for fear of despair.

Robert Walser, The Walk, trans. Christopher Middleton with Susan Bernofsky (New York: New Directions, 2012).
The Walk (Der Spaziergang) was published in 1917 and again, revised, in 1920. Susan Bernofsky has revised Christopher Middleton’s translation to incorporate Walser’s revisions.

Other Robert Walser posts
Microscripts : “The most unimportant things” : On reading : On stationery stores : On staying small : On youth

[I suspect that Daughter Number Three and l’astronave will enjoy this post.]

comments: 3

JuliaR said...

I've lately been musing about the human scale of things and how, when we go past that, since our brains are not wired to be able to absorb a non-human scale, maybe we are changed and not for the better. I also have a theory that, the faster one can go in a motorized vehicle, the more impatient one tends to get. People who drive slow vehicles like backhoes, tend to be more patient out on the road.Thirdly, I have a theory about why people are poor drivers: they sit behind the wheel, as if on a couch in their living room, and stare at the windshield as if it were a big tv and all that is happening out there is not real and doesn't relate to them. I have noticed that many people don't put their foot on the brake at the sight of potential obstacles, even while I am pressing on that very pedal in the car behind them, seeing the same obstacle.

It is instructive that Walser was writing this over 100 years ago.

Fresca said...

Let me confirm your suspicion: I totally enjoyed this post! It made me grin big. :)

Michael Leddy said...

Julia, your words remind me of something I tell my students — that if you listen to Homer being read aloud, everything is going by at the right pace. Like walking instead of driving.

Fresca, I’m glad.