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This publication brings together Robert Walser’s microscripts and Emily Dickinson’s poem manuscripts for the first time. Although Walser, who was born shortly before Dickinson died, was most likely unaware of her work, both writers were obsessively private as well as peculiarly attentive to the visual dimension of their texts. Walser wrote in tiny, inscrutable script on narrow strips of paper using an antiquated German alphabet that was long considered indecipherable. Only recently have these scripts been shown to consist of early drafts of the author’s published texts. Similarly, Dickinson fitted her poetic fragments to carefully torn pieces of envelope or stationery, which were discovered among her posthumous papers. (W.G. Sebald called Walser a "clairvoyant of the small," and this description might apply to Dickinson as well.) Rarely in literature has the manner in which words are made been so integral to the way they might be read.
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Robert Walser (1878 1956) was born in Switzerland. He left school at fourteen and led a wandering and precarious existence working as a bank clerk, a butler in a castle, and an inventor's assistant while producing essays, stories, and novels. In 1933 he abandoned writing and entered a sanatorium where he remained for the rest of his life. "I am not here to write," Walser said, "but to be mad."
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