Summary by Robert Walser

Paul Cézanne


Paradidatic summary of a short story by Robert Walser

(Part I)

don't waste time
reading these degrading lines,
go straight to the story[I]
as for me, the impression
that made me blue
like the indecisions in life.
a hard blow
he bestowed on this reader,
stunned as much as he was
with the death of Mrs. Wilke.

She rented him a room —
one of many that he and his
characters lived for rent.
It wasn't a garret, it was the ruin
of an ancient nobility,
the room and the whole building.
The floor and stairs reeked.
and refined but outdated sound.
So he felt he could settle in
well in this house. She was happy: it was a corner
suitable, and in it took turns darkness
brighter and darker darks.

The curtain was worn, but the quality
of fabric and draping showed
the cheeky elegance of yesteryear
(the nobleman who did not become wreckage
it's expensive, it's unfeasible —
no path she designed
for pedestrians like Walser,
and if you offered one, well, he would see
the ugly bottom of your pomp,
and would soon run to the road).

For those who love beauty
with an empty pocket, the ruinous refinement is
a contrast that makes you dream —
in him we feel a certain moral strength;
compassion and respect is what inspires.

So he took the room.
That's when Mrs. Wilke asked her
what he did for a living. “I am a poet!”, she replied,
and she left in silence — that's what I
would too.
Why the exclamation point? Why the enthusiasm?
What a vexation for this emphatic answer.

Well, that's all he actually did:
write, write, write
what more could you say?
Which had also been created,
(alias an earl),
banking and bookkeeping,
that I have certainly said a thousand times,
a thousand times in two months,
(because more than that
did not stop employee)
I'd rather not!, I'd rather not,
hammering like a bird?

Strictly speaking he was a poet –
but since he was not ashamed,
Didn't you resort to mincing words?
Didn't he say, "I work with this, I work with that"?
In the 20s of the 20th century
presenting himself like that no longer passed unscathed.
I just concluded that it should be
pure insolence, who knows mockery
and a little contempt.

Tonio Kröger, checking into the hotel,
tasked a "writer?" in the field profession
he was not unaware that the dignity
of the writer was extinguished.
The question asked:
is this still valid? that you recognize
as a decent breadwinner?
Can I say it out loud?
Well, I, a famous writer, don't know anymore,
I don't put my hand in the fire for me...
Between me and a delinquent
not a stretch, no.

turning your back,
perhaps Mrs. Wilke thought:
“Ah I'm fried, harboring a poet, imagine -
certainly lives, as I [we would soon know],
from hand to mouth; that when there is a hand
to put in your mouth”.
But your reaction wasn't for him
a cold water bath,
for he soon amended with himself:
“In this room I might as well
live a baron”.

So high, so low!
Baron, poet and empty pocket —
oh and melancholy, which dulled him
and collapsed in bed for days.
He tells us about it, concisely,
by the simplest and most ancient word.
your thought went down
the mount of the sublime,
it got narrow, repetitive:
the world is evil, the world is unfair.
For my part I thought: you have
a saved money, Walser?
Any rear?

In any case, the forests I crossed
brought him back to life
whispering with family concern:
Hey Robert, leave that acedia,
so for us and other wonders
isn't it worth being alive?
Come see us more often,
Nature wants you well.

Mrs. Wilke one hour,
maybe without knocking on the door,
most frankly exhorts him
getting out of bed:
“I don’t like any of these things,
I don't want in my house
a man who just lies down!”.
Practical thinking succeeds sometimes
with those who lack such thoughts...

[Then I associated, I couldn't help it:
wow, that's almost what they said, but
without effectiveness, to Samsa, to Gregor,
who never got out of bed!]

Walser did not misjudge the old woman.
— one of two: either he wanted to pass for a good guy
leaving us the dirty work of badmouthing her,
or he barely cared about it.
Or could it be that a fact yet to narrate
has been changing what he
I already took it for granted.

Then he got out of bed
and screwed up at work, as they say —
I don't know if it was said then.
I'll let you know about the rest of the story.
in the second part. This rest deserves
as much attention as we are capable of.

*Priscila Figueiredo is a professor of Brazilian literature at USP. Author, among other books, of Matthew (poems) (well i saw you).



[I] “Mrs. Wilke”, competently and sensitively translated by Sergio Tellarolli for the collection Absolutely nothing (publisher 34, 2014).

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