Something about Robert Walser

(I see WordPress have updated their site so that it’s slower and far less usable. – I wonder how long it will take me to figure out how to do accents).

I hardly read anything in the second half of the month. One thing I have started reading in French is Robert Walser’s La Rose. Walser sounds much the same (and just as distinctive) in French as in English, but in almost every instance I prefer his French. (His English often sounds bad and clumsy – perhaps he was not very good at it). Sometimes he even seems to be saying completely different things when he’s speaking in French.

For instance, in his L’Idiot de Dostoievski, he writes in French:

Je ne recherche rien aussi ardemment qu’une Aglaia. Mais helas elle en prendrait un autre.

which I’d take to mean:

I seek nothing as ardently as an Aglaia. But alas, she would take another.

(Just to check myself, this is also what google translate takes this to mean).

But in English, he writes, completely differently:

I’m not searching for someone as lively as an Aglaya. Unfortunately, she would, of course, take someone else.

I prefer my interpretation here of his French. Walser characters would always want to go out with someone like Aglaya Ivanovna, and would always fail. They basically all have the same naive viewpoint as Dostoevsky’s idiot. The second sentence seems a bit odd in English, although I suppose we could suppose that the only reason he doesn’t seek for someone as lively as Aglaya is that he already considers she will reject him (which would be Walserian enough).

Maybe though, if we could find a third language which Walser wrote in and compare it with the other two, we might be able to decide which is true.

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