The Robber by Robert Walser, translated by Susan Bernofsky / ISBN 9780803298095 / paperback from Bison Books.
The Robber, Robert Walser's last novel, tells the story of a dreamer on a journey of self-discovery. It is a hybrid of love story, tragedy, and farce, with a protagonist who sweet-talks teaspoons, flirts with important politicians, plays maidservant to young boys, and uses a passerby's mouth as an ashtray. Walser's novel spoofs the stiff-upper-lipped European petit bourgeois and its nervous reactions to whatever threatens the stability of its worldview.
Robert Walser (1878–1956), the Swiss-German master of high modernist prose, was once so well known that the novelist Robert Musil, reviewing Franz Kafka’s first book of stories, described Kafka as “a special case of the Walser type.”