Robert Walser: Jakob von Gunten (Jakob von Gunten)

The latest addition to my website is Robert Walser‘s Jakob von Gunten (Jakob von Gunten). This was an unusual novel for the time, as it is told inside the head of the protagonist, a young man who fantasises, has strange dreams, is full of contradictions and may be an unreliable narrator. Like Walser himself, Jakob leaves his well-to-do family and enrols (at his own expense) in a school that is concerned with educating future servants. Jakob does not really fit in, clashing with the headmaster, quarrelling with the faithful knight, Kraus, a fellow student who is much more obedient than Jakob and is nominally his best friend, and wondering what is going on as the teachers do not teach and the instruction that we enjoy consists mainly in impressing patience and obedience upon ourselves. Jakob rebels and adapts as well, accepting at times his own worthlessness but then challenging it. The novel was clearly ahead of its time, as Walser’s reputation only really came after his death.

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