What a weird little book. I hated it.
I’m afraid that i’m ill-suited to be the reader for this particular work. I’d read a few pages, only to have a nasty, unsettled feeling cloak me. It could be bitterly funny, weirdly incisive in its observations, but too much in one sitting meant having to perceive the world through Jakon von Gunten’s weirdly mundane vision.1 After finishing the book, i settled into a horrible depression for nearly a week, as Walser’s vision infected my own. It was most unwelcome.
Walser did indeed remind me of Kafka, but he also reminded me of Bruno Schulz and Danilo Kîs (especially Garden, Ashes.) The difference was that Schulz and Kîs can make the mundane wondrously ineffable. Walser made me feel like a cog in the machine, that rebellion is futile. There seemed to be no way out of the labyrinth. Walser doesn’t seem insane to me, only horribly, miserably frustrated. I know that the end of Jakob von Gunten is supposed to be triumphant in its peculiar way, but it felt false. Jakob von Gunten was the monster.
I was excited about Vila-Matas’ Doctor Pasavento, especially since he’s the one who turned me onto Walser in the first place, in Montano’s Malady, but now i have an aversion to Walser, no matter how sympathetic a character he himself is.
- It makes perfect sense that the Brother Quay did a film adaptation of this novel. [↩]