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Jakob von Gunten

1999Robert Walser

2.4/5

The Swiss writer Robert Walser is one of the quiet geniuses of twentieth-century literature. Largely self-taught and altogether indifferent to worldly success, Walser wrote a range of short stories, essays and four novels, of which Jakob von Gunten is widely recognized as the finest. It tells the story of a seventeen-year-old runaway from an old family who enrolls in a school for servants. The Institute, run by the domineering Herr Benjamenta and his beautiful but ailing sister, is a deeply mysterious place: the faculty lies asleep in a single room. The students though subject to fierce discipline, come and go at will. Jakob, an irrepressibly subversive presence, keeps a journal in which he records his quirky impressions of the school as well as his own quickly changing enthusiasms and uncertainties, deliberations and dreams. And in the end, as the Institute itself dissolves around him like a dream, he steps out boldly to explore still-unimagined worlds.
Picture of a book: Jakob von Gunten

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