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.
Robert Walser was born in Switzerland in 1878 and worked as a bank clerk before becoming a writer. In 1929 he was diagnosed as 'schizophrenic' and lived the last twenty years of his life in hospital. His novels include Jakob von Gunten and The Assistant. Robert Walser died in 1956.