Wednesday 15 April 2020

'Walk I definitely must...'

Or we could take a walk with the German-Swiss writer Robert Walser (born on this day in 1878), but it would be a very strange kind of walk, as readers of his best-known book, The Walk, will attest. Walser, sometimes described as the missing link between Kleist and Kafka, was a compulsive walker who spent the last third of his life in a sanatorium, writing 'microtexts' in tiny, barely legible script, following a mental breakdown. He took his last walk on Christmas Day, 1956, collapsed, and was found lying dead in the snow.
  At one point in The Walk, the narrator, a flaneur and writer, has a difficult interview with a tax official. When the official points out that, rather than getting on with his writing, he seems to be out walking all the time, the narrator launches into an impassioned explanation of how important his daily walks are to his business as a writer:

'Walk I definitely must, to invigorate myself and to maintain contact with the living world, without perceiving which I could neither write the half of one more single word, not produce a poem in verse or prose. Without walking, I would be dead, and would long since have been forced to abandon my profession, which I love passionately.'

Though I wouldn't put it quite that strongly myself, I know just what he means.

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