The Center for the Art of Translation presents renowned translator Susan Bernofsky in this celebration of her long-awaited biography of the modernist writer Robert Walser, Clairvoyant of the Small (Yale UP). Susan will be joined in conversation by Kate Zambreno.
“Robert Walser is the perfect pathetic poet: pithy, awkward, drinks too much, sibling rivalrous, ambitious, broke, and mentally ill. Was he proto queer or trans, this red headed writer who next to Gertrude Stein might be the most influential writer of our moment? Riveting and heart-breaking, this biography kept me drunk for days.”—Eileen Myles
This event will be streamed on our Crowdcast channel.
About Clairvoyant of the Small: The Life of Robert Walser
The great Swiss-German modernist author Robert Walser lived eccentrically on the fringes of society, shocking his Berlin friends by enrolling in butler school and later developing an urban-nomad lifestyle in the Swiss capital, Bern, before checking himself into a psychiatric clinic. A connoisseur of power differentials, his pronounced interest in everything inconspicuous and modest—social outcasts and artists as well as the impoverished, marginalized, and forgotten—prompted W. G. Sebald to dub him “a clairvoyant of the small.” His revolutionary use of short prose forms had an enormous influence on Franz Kafka, Walter Benjamin, Robert Musil, and many others.
He was long believed an outsider by conviction, but Susan Bernofsky presents a more nuanced view in this immaculately researched and beautifully written biography. Setting Walser in the context of early twentieth century European history, she provides illuminating analysis of his extraordinary life and work, bearing witness to his “extreme artistic delight.”
About Susan Bernofsky and Kate Zambreno
Susan Bernofsky is associate professor of writing at Columbia University School of the Arts and director of the literary translation program at Columbia’s MFA Writing Program. She has translated over twenty books.
Kate Zambreno is the author of eight books, most recently Drifts (out now in paperback from Riverhead Books) and To Write As If Already Dead, a study on Hervé Guibert (Columbia University Press). She is at work on an essay collection, The Missing Person, to be published by Riverhead, and a novel, Foam. She is the Strachan Donnelley Chair in Environmental Writing at Sarah Lawrence College, and teaches in the graduate nonfiction program at Columbia University. She is a 2021 Guggenheim Fellow in Nonfiction.