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Chances are you’ve read Susan Bernofsky. If, like John Ashbery, Benjamin Kunkel, J.M. Coetzee, or a number of other writers and readers, you’ve been delighted by the renaissance of Robert Walser’s writing in English, then you’ve most certainly read Susan Bernofsky. 

Bookforum

Susan Bernofsky

Susan Bernofsky, co-chair of the PEN Translation Committee, is the translator of six books by the great Swiss-German modernist author Robert Walser as well as novels by Jenny Erpenbeck, Yoko Tawada, Hermann Hesse, Gregor von Rezzori and others. The recipient of the 2006 Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator’s Prize and awards from the PEN Translation Fund, the NEA, the NEH, the American Council of Learned Societies and the Lannan Foundation, she is currently working on a biography of Robert Walser and writing a novel set in her hometown, New Orleans. Susan’s website and blog.


The End of Days

Fiction by Jenny Erpenbeck

translated by Susan Bernofsky

The End of Days, by the acclaimed German writer Jenny Erpenbeck, consists essentially of five “books,” each leading to a different death of the same unnamed woman protagonist. How could it all have gone differently? the narrator asks in the intermezzos. The first chapter begins with the death of a baby in the early twentieth-century Hapsburg Empire. In the next chapter, the same girl grows up in Vienna, but her strange relationship with a boy leads to death. In the next scenario, she survives adolescence and moves to Russia with her husband. Both are dedicated Communists, yet our heroine ends up in a labor camp. But her fate does not end there….

A novel of incredible breadth yet amazing concision, The End of Days offers a unique overview of twentieth-century German and German-Jewish history by "one of the finest, most exciting authors alive" (Michael Faber).



A Little Ramble

Fiction by Robert Walser

translated by Christopher Middleton and Susan Bernofsky

 A Christine Burgin co-publication

A Little Ramble: In the Spirit of Robert Walser is a project initiated by the gallerist Donald Young, who saw in Walser an exemplary figure through whom connections between art and literature could be discussed anew. He invited a group of artists to respond to Walser’s writing. A Little Ramble is a result of that collaboration.The artists have chosen stories by Robert Walser as well as excerpts from Walks with Robert Walser, conversations with the writer recorded by his guardian Carl Seelig. Much of this material appears in English for the first time. Accompanying these pieces are over fifty color artworks created specifically for this project, a preface by Donald Young, and an afterword by Lynne Cooke.

Original art by Peter Fischli & David Weiss, Thomas Schütte, Moyra Davey, Tacita Dean, Mark Wallinger, Rodney Graham, Rosemarie Trockel, and Josiah McElheny

Image credit: Thomas Schütte Walser’s Drawing from A Little Ramble.

Rodney Graham Sunday Sun from A Little Ramble



Microscripts

Fiction by Robert Walser

translated by Susan Bernofsky
with a contribution by Walter Benjamin

A Chirstine Burgin co-publication
Now in paperback, with newly translated, additional microscripts and full-color paintings by Maira Kalman.

Robert Walser wrote many of his manuscripts in a highly enigmatic, shrunken-down form. These narrow strips of paper (many of them written during his hospitalization in the Waldau sanatorium) covered with tiny ant-like markings only a millimeter or two high, came to light only after the author’s death in 1956. At first considered a secret code, the microscripts were eventually discovered to be a radically miniaturized form of a Germanic script: a whole story could fit on the back of a business card. Selected from the six-volume German transcriptions from the original microscripts, these twenty-five short pieces are gathered in this gorgeously illustrated co-publication with the Christine Burgin Gallery. Each microscript is reproduced in full color in its original form: the detached cover of a trashy crime novel, a disappointing letter, a receipt of payment. Sometimes Walser used the pages of small tear-off calendars (but only after cutting them lengthwise and filling up each half with text). Schnapps, rotten husbands, small town life, the radio, pigs (and how none of us can deny being one), jealousy, Van Gogh and marriage proposals are some of Walser’s subjects. These texts take strength from Walser’s motto: "To be small and to stay small."



The Walk

by Robert Walser

translated by Susan Bernofsky and Christopher Middleton
with a contribution by Susan Bernofsky

A pseudo-biographical "stroll" through town and countryside rife with philosophic musings, The Walk has been hailed as the masterpiece of Walser’s short prose. Walking features heavily in his writing, but nowhere else is it as elegantly considered. Without walking, "I would be dead," Walser explains, "and my profession, which I love passionately, would be destroyed. Because it is on walks that the lore of nature and the lore of the country are revealed, charming and graceful, to the sense and eyes of the observant walker." The Walk was the first piece of Walser’s work to appear in English, and the only one translated before his death. However, Walser heavily revised his most famous novella, altering nearly every sentence, rendering the baroque tone of his tale into something more spare. An introduction by translator Susan Bernofsky explains the history of The Walk, and the difference between its two versions.



Visitation

Fiction by Jenny Erpenbeck

translated by Susan Bernofsky

A forested property on a Brandenburg lake outside Berlin lies at the heart of this darkly sensual, elegiac novel. Visitation offers us the stories of twelve individuals who make their home here. The narrative weaves in and out of history and time, shimmering through the public and secret spaces of a magical little house and showing us the passions and fates of its inhabitants. Elegant and poetic, Visitation presents a literary mosaic of the last century in Germany, tearing open wounds and offering moments of reconciliation with its dramatic stories and its exquisite evocation of a landscape no political upheaval can truly change.



The Tanners

Fiction by Robert Walser

translated by Susan Bernofsky

The Tanners, Robert Walser’s amazing 1907 novel of twenty chapters, is now presented in English for the very first time, by the award-winning translator Susan Bernofsky. Three brothers and a sister comprise the Tanner family — Simon, Kaspar, Klaus, and Hedwig: their wanderings, meetings, separations, quarrels, romances, employment and lack of employment over the course of a year or two are the threads from which Walser weaves his airy, strange and brightly gorgeous fabric. “Walser’s lightness is lighter than light,” as Tom Whalen said in Bookforum: “buoyant up to and beyond belief, terrifyingly light.” Robert Walser — admired greatly by Kafka, Musil, and Walter Benjamin — is a radiantly original author. He has been acclaimed “unforgettable, heart-rending” (J.M. Coetzee), “a bewitched genius” (Newsweek), and “a major, truly wonderful, heart-breaking writer” (Susan Sontag). Considering Walser’s “perfect and serene oddity,” Michael Hofmann in The London Review of Books remarked on the “Buster Keaton-like indomitably sad cheerfulness [that is] most hilariously disturbing.” The Los Angeles Times called him “the dreamy confectionary snowflake of German language fiction. He also might be the single most underrated writer of the 20th century... The gait of his language is quieter than a kitten’s.” “A clairvoyant of the small” W. G. Sebald calls Robert Walser, one of his favorite writers in the world, in his acutely beautiful, personal, and long introduction, studded with his signature use of photographs.



The Naked Eye

Fiction by Yoko Tawada

translated by Susan Bernofsky

A precocious Vietnamese high school student — known as the pupil with “the iron blouse” — in Ho Chi Minh City is invited to an International Youth Conference in East Berlin. But, in East Berlin, as she is preparing to present her paper in Russian on “Vietnam as a Victim of American Imperialism,” she is abruptly kidnapped and taken to a small town in West Germany. After a strange spell of domestic-sexual boredom with her lover-abductor — and though “the Berlin Wall was said to be more difficult to break through than the Great Wall of China” — she escapes on a train to Moscow . . . but mistakenly arrives in Paris. Alone, broke, and in a completely foreign land, Anh (her false name) loses herself in the films of Catherine Deneuve as her real adventures begin. Dreamy, meditative, and filled with the gritty everyday perils of a person living somewhere without papers (at one point Anh is subjected to some vampire-like skin experiments), The Naked Eye is a novel that is as surprising as it is delightful — each of the thirteen chapters titled after and framed by one of Deneuve’s films. “As far as I was concerned,” the narrator says while watching Deneuve on the screen, “the only woman in the world was you, and so I did not exist.” By the time 1989 comes along and the Iron Curtain falls, story and viewer have morphed into the dislocating beauty of both dancer and dance.



The Book of Words

Fiction by Jenny Erpenbeck

translated by Susan Bernofsky

In The Book of Words, Jenny Erpenbeck captures with amazing virtuosity the inner life of a young girl who survives the totalitarian regime of a curiously unnamed South American country (most likely Argentina during its "dirty war"). Raised by parents whose real identity ends up shocking her, the girl comes of age in a country where gunshots are mistaken for blown tires, innocent citizens are dragged off buses, and tortured and disappeared friends and family return to visit her from the dead.



The Assistant

Fiction by Robert Walser

translated by Susan Bernofsky

Robert Walser is an overwhelmingly original author with many ardent fans: J.M. Coetzee ("dazzling"), Guy Davenport ("a very special kind of whimsical-serious-deep writer"), and Hermann Hesse ("If he had a hundred thousand readers, the world would be a better place"). Charged with compassion, and an utterly unique radiance of vision, Walser is as Susan Sontag exclaimed "a truly wonderful, heart-breaking writer." The Assistant is his breathtaking 1908 novel, translated by award-winning translator Susan Bernofsky. Joseph, hired to become an inventor’s new assistant, arrives one rainy Monday morning at Technical Engineer Karl Tobler’s splendid hilltop villa: he is at once pleased and terribly worried, a state soon followed by even stickier psychological complexities. He enjoys the beautiful view over Lake Zurich, in the company of the proud wife, Frau Tobler, and the delicious savory meals. But does he deserve any of these pleasures? The Assistant chronicles Joseph’s inner life of cascading emotions as he attempts, both frantically and light-heartedly, to help the Tobler household, even as it slides toward financial ruin. Tobler demands of Joseph, "Do you have your wits about you?!" And Joseph’s wits are in fact all around him, trembling like leaves in the breeze—he is full of exuberance and despair, all the raptures and panics of a person "drowning in obedience."



The Old Child & Other Tales

Fiction by Jenny Erpenbeck

translated by Susan Bernofsky

The Old Child & Other Stories introduces in English one of Germany’s most original and brilliant young authors, Jenny Erpenbeck. Written in spare, highly concentrated language, "a sustained feat of verbal economy" (Die Zeit), the one novella and four stories in The Old Child go beyond the limits of the expected, the real. Dark, serious, often mystical, these marvelous fictions about women’s lives provide glimpses into the minds of outcasts and eccentrics, at the same time bearing out Dostoevsky’s comment that hope can be found so long as a man can see even a tiny view of the sky.



Where Europe Begins

Fiction by Yoko Tawada

translated by Susan Bernofsky

Where Europe Begins presents a collection of startling new stories by Japanese writer Yoko Tawada. Moving through landscapes of fairy tales, family history, strange words and letters, dreams, and every-day reality, Tawada’s work blurs divisions between fact and fiction, prose and poetry. Often set in physical spaces as disparate as Japan, Siberia, Russia, and Germany, these tales describe a fragmented world where even a city or the human body can become a sort of text. Suddenly, the reader becomes as much a foreigner as the author and the figures that fill this book: the ghost of a burned woman, a woman traveling on the Trans-Siberian railroad, a mechanical doll, a tongue, a monk who leaps into his own reflection. Tawada playfully makes the experience of estrangement--of a being in-between--both sensual and bewildering, and as a result practically invents a new way of seeing things while telling a fine story.



The Walk

by Robert Walser

translated by Susan Bernofsky and Christopher Middleton
with a contribution by Susan Bernofsky

A pseudo-biographical "stroll" through town and countryside rife with philosophic musings, The Walk has been hailed as the masterpiece of Walser’s short prose. Walking features heavily in his writing, but nowhere else is it as elegantly considered. Without walking, "I would be dead," Walser explains, "and my profession, which I love passionately, would be destroyed. Because it is on walks that the lore of nature and the lore of the country are revealed, charming and graceful, to the sense and eyes of the observant walker." The Walk was the first piece of Walser’s work to appear in English, and the only one translated before his death. However, Walser heavily revised his most famous novella, altering nearly every sentence, rendering the baroque tone of his tale into something more spare. An introduction by translator Susan Bernofsky explains the history of The Walk, and the difference between its two versions.