About the book
Published in 1908, the novel is a notebook, a boy?s impressions of life at the school for servants run by the brother and sister Benjamenta. The lesson of the school is humility and the rejection of power and ambition. It is a lesson that the narrator, Jakob von Gunten, learns well. From his vantage point, he is able to see through the absurd posturings of his fellow students. Like his creation Jakob von Gunten, Robert Walser understood of the attractions of infinitesimal smallness and kept well away from the corruptions and temptations of literary life. An outsider who spent his last twenty-seven years in an asylum, Walser was a writer?s writer whose work was much admired by Kafka, Hesse and Mann. His voice appeals to all those who savour silence in an epoch of deafening noise. Now a major feature film directed by the Quay Brothers, Institute Benjamenta is Walser?s masterpiece. Ninety years after its first publication, this edition offers the chance to read a truly extraordinary classic.
This novel and Musil's Torless and Rilke's Malte Laurids Brigge should be recognized for what they are: not books ahead of their time but of it and in it, revelations which our slow senses are only just beginning to perceive. Torless and Malte Laurids Brigge are extraordinary works; Institute Benjamenta surpasses them in clarity of prose and ruthless, ironic purpose. It is a rare wonder, a transparent transformation, the mask which suddenly reveals what the human face was trying to hide
If he had a hundred thousand readers, the world would be a better place