A Biography of Robert Walser

Joy Williams at Bookforum:

ROBERT WALSER WAS A SWISS WRITER of the early twentieth century who wanted very much to be a German writer. He walked and walked more than he wrote and wrote, covering thousands of miles in his lifetime, albeit within limited territory. In the beginning his garb was clownish—“a wretched bright yellow midsummer suit, light dancing shoes, an intentionally vulgar, insolent, foolish hat”—near the end a motley of patched rags, and at the very end a shabby but proper suit and overcoat, his death duds when he collapsed in 1956 in the snow near the mental asylum where he had resided for twenty-three years, years in which he wrote nothing.

Walser had more or less committed himself to institutional life after a series of self-described Chittis (shit fits) in restaurants and an incident in which he asked his latest landlords, two sisters, to marry him: when they demurred, he threatened them with a knife. The clinic’s psychiatrist noted on admission, “Patient has always been peculiar.”

more here.