As much as I love literature, I have always felt that it has the tendency to mislead and subsequently create victims of society. Especially in the early years of one’s life – when the mind is full of thirst and inquisitiveness, literature can do a lot of harm. Fairytales for example – what an absurd world of fakeness, full of princesses who scrub floors and their Robin Hoods who pass their days in a drunken daze. Yes, literature often instills unrealistic expectations of life and love into a virgin mind.
And this is where Walser’s prose comes as a breath of fresh air. He doesn’t mask his ideas within the narrative; he doesn’t insinuate his visions. His madness is out there in plain sight, and it is so refreshingly delightful and inspiring. It is so down-to-earth and logical.
Walser puts on the table the question of purpose and makes you chew on it until your jaw aches and your stomach churns and you realise it will never feed you. Fairytales, on the other hand, offer the answer served regally in a five-gang menu – the purpose is to be good, to fight the bad, to marry well, to have children and to live happily ever after - until you are full of shit and empty of substance.
Robert Walser passed away during one of his walks in the snow one day. Just like that. I can't help but think that this is the only way I imagine Jakob von Gunten leaving behind the world he never felt he belonged to – a black exclamation mark on a white page.