Walser’s writing cunningly masquerades irony with self-effacement, and vice-versa; embodied in the figure of the bedraggled walker/poet, an almost baroque politesse spills over into the incongruous, the obsequious, and the disconcerting. Articulated in a language of hallucinatory virtuosity, the narrator’s soliloquies reveal a social awkwardness that makes it difficult for him to navigate his environment unharmed. His basic underlying state is fear, and his writing a compulsive flight from that fear. Endless elaborations are delivered with a decorousness W.G. Sebald terms “anarchistic”; they serve to buy time, to delay the inevitable—for while he remains at a safe-enough distance from nearly every individual he encounters, disdain and humiliation always seem close at hand, potential threats ready to pounce on him and blot him out.
Andrea Scrima review Robert Walser’s The Walk. [via The Rumpus]