“Detective Novel” — Robert Walser

“Detective Novel”

by

Robert Walser

translated by Tom Whalen


HE PRETENDED to possess technical expertise. Anyway, the title seemed quite brilliant. I resolved to learn more and started reading him, but he left much to be desired. Both he and his author lacked a certain finesse. He seemed to have no place to call home. How can I cuddle up to someone who isn’t comfortable with himself? His sentences were laborious paths for those who tread on them. I remember far more beautiful rambles and gladly admit this, since I gain by this admission. He was viewed quite kindly. An attempt to create interesting situations was discovered with delight. Already the first chapter stretched out to the most accommodating length imaginable. Each paragraph elicited from me a grateful yawn. By the way, I think the time of the detective novel is over. The puzzling disappearance of refined, charming people doesn’t seem very fresh these days. Authors have operated more than enough with chemicals and the like. I did my best to succumb to his charms, but alas I failed in this endeavor. Perhaps I lack the openness, I said, smiling at one of those persons (I mean myself) unsympathetic to some new releases. In fact, I find it aggravating to say yes to everything. In the course of the events he let me gaze into a Russian female. It may be that I’m expressing myself a bit sloppily here. All in all, for what he was, I found him unable to live up to himself. I hold his father responsible that I’m pained by his existence. My contemporaries may note his innocuousness. But can a detective novel be innocuous? Doesn’t he fail when, instead of arousing suspense, he allows us to be bored in his presence? Ambitious lackey, it would be best if you vanished. That you were published was your misfortune. Whoever reads you pities you. Whoever investigates you has to laugh at you, though, alas, alas, you’re innocent! In any case, you’re not what you should be. What you could be if things had turned out right you aren’t, because things didn’t turn out right. Fare thee well, unwarranted detective novel.

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