Her Not All Her is, as the subtitle has it, a piece on/with Robert Walser, as author Elfriede Jelinek presents a short, dense text that is both an homage to and inspired by the peculiar Swiss master. It is a prose-text that is a performance piece — it has frequently been staged over the past fifteen years; the German audio-version (the piece as monologue …) was recorded by Bruno Ganz — but defies simple categorization and also has both essayistic and poetic qualities. Jelinek uses many of Walser’s own words, but the voice in this text she has fashioned is distinctly her own; it is a portrait of the artists that reveals layers of selves, from the simple facts (and words) of Walser to how Jelinek has understood them to Jelinek’s own creative identity. Jelinek shapes Walser here, in word and description — but clearly Walser has also shaped Jelinek, and that too emerges in this text, which is also one of the internalization of influence.
Note that 2013 is shaping up to be an excellent year for Robert Walser ephemera, as New Directions is publishing A Little Ramble: In the Spirit of Robert Walser. You should click over just to see the audacious cover they’ve given the book (I love how, in the catalog, they caption it, “Yes, this is the cover.”). Here’s the description:
A Little Ramble: In the Spirit of Robert Walser is a project initiated by the gallerist Donald Young, who saw in Walser an exemplary figure through whom connections between art and literature could be discussed anew. He invited a group of artists to respond to Walser’s writing. A Little Ramble is a result of that collaboration.
The artists have chosen stories by Robert Walser as well as excerpts from Walks with Robert Walser, conversations with the writer recorded by his guardian Carl Seelig. Much of this material appears in English for the first time.Accompanying these pieces are over fifty color artworks created specifically for this project, a preface by Donald Young, and an afterword by Lynne Cooke.
50 Full color illustrations
Now, please, more translations of the hundreds of pages of Walser writings that sit in wait in German.