Tuesday, July 05, 2005

"The Monkey" by Robert Walser

For those fortunate enough to have read John Collier's absolutely stunning novel, His Monkey Wife, the territory may sound familiar: an intelligent simian in love with a homo sapiens, desperately trying to express that passion. In this case, a monkey woos an elegant woman who may--or may not--give in to his advances.

Like many other great writers, Robert Walser ended his life in an insane asylum, having given up on writing but not on long walks through the countryside. He had already written over a thousand short works of prose, several novels (half of which have been lost), and numerous poems--so we know what influenced Kafka and why Hesse was envious. Susan Sontag's introduction to his Selected Stories, translated chiefly by Christopher Middleton, calls the Swiss native "a Paul Klee in prose ... A cross between Stevie Smith and Beckett ... the missing link between Kleist and Kafka." He reminds us of another unique Swiss "outsider" artist, the painter and composer Adolf Wolfi, who also ended his life in an asylum. Maybe now you're beginning to sense that this is a very interesting writer, indeed.

Another very interesting writer is Patricia Powell, a native of Jamaica who now makes her home in the United States. Her novels to date are: Me Dying Trial, A Small Gathering of Bones, and The Pagoda; we are anxiously awaiting her fourth. She has won so many awards and received so many accolades it would be impossible to list them all here, but get to your local bookstore posthaste and start scanning the stacks--you will find her.

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