It’s been five years since W.G. Sebald died. Many things to many people, he is to Smyth the most moving reader of Walser, even more so than Smyth’s Patron’s Patron Saint’s Saint, Seelig, whose book Sebald also read with wonder (In English, see the prescient preface to A Natural History of Destruction). In a masterful assessment of Sebald’s literal forefathers in the present Bookforum, Mark M. Anderson reminds us that Sebald’s masterpiece, “Le promeneur solitaire”, awaits its homemade remaker (Translator Jones, are you any taker?):
In Sebald’s last book of highly personal essays, the still untranslated Logis in einem Landhaus (Lodging in a Country House, 1998), where his life-into-literature tendency is in full swing, Sebald describes his grandfather as a kind of literary guide, the person who in language and sensibility opened the door to nineteenth-century regional writers from the “deep South” like Johann Peter Hebel, Gottfried Keller, and Adalbert Stifter. And in his essay about the Swiss writer Robert Walser, he dwells at length on the similarities between him and his own grandfather in physical appearance, dress, and daily habits; they both died in 1956, Egelhofer following a late snowfall in April, Walser during an evening walk on Christmas Day. “Perhaps for this reason, when I think back to my grandfather’s death (which I have never gotten over), I still see him lying on the horned sled on which they put Walser’s body . . . and brought him back to the asylum.”
And now, the first (annual?) Robert Walser commemerative (dead?) giveaway: the fiftieth (or first, whichever comes) reader who can tell us all whence Sebald takes the title for his Walser essay (”Le promeneur solitaire”) and the book where it’s buried (Logis in einem Landhaus), will take home a souvenir from the city which ties the two together. If fifty readers can name the city, wäre die Welt besser.