“Ghosts” — Robert Walser

“Ghosts”

by

Robert Walser

translated by Tom Whalen


I don’t know if it can be to my advantage to review a kind of dime novel in which, as far as I can remember, there stood in a pretty little town a haunted tower.

In my opinion ghosts are very modern. It seems to me it’s become fashionable to believe, with a certain persistent willfulness, in inexplicable appearances.

One must admit this takes courage. As for me, I lived temporarily, if I dare say so straight out, in a bright, wide, two-windowed room. One night I awoke in bed and saw, on one of the armchairs or stools that came with the room, someone sitting.

Something nonexistent was existent, for when I had gone nearer to inspect or examine the place, the something (undoubtedly I was dealing with a ghost here) had evaporated.

To return to my little booklet in which, among other things, a young woman danced: it’s been quite some time since I perused this work, which dealt mainly with an ingenious Hans who, in all innocence and innocuousness, pulled off, as it were, a stroke of genius.

The landscape seemed to me delightfully sketched; the subject matter revolved as much around money as around love. A little river that stretched around the town the author had charmingly entrusted to blab mysterious things. The brooklet in this regard proved to be immensely talented, since it busily burbled and babbled night and day.

Attentively I listened in on the engaging story. Roles were swapped, young sophisticated girls sat in the pleasing interiors of music stores, into which one glanced in passing.

Hans proved to be a complications-disentangler.

I like to imagine my up-to-the-minute diction as tabloidish. I hope this will be judged kindly.

A beautiful woman sat interestingly ghostlike, I mean conspicuously thin, thus in fashion, at a window. Hans bestowed upon her his interest. In his eyes lay so much justifiable or baseless melancholy that the woman leapt up in bewilderment.

These and similar events occurred in the little volume whose author I don’t name because he hardly wishes it. There are little books we read as if we’re eating something delicious. We quickly forget them. After a certain amount of time, perhaps we recall them again. They’re like people we’re capable of loving because they’re not difficult. I also wish this for what I have written here.

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