Ugly Duckling Presse

Answer to an Inquiry
Answer to an Inquiry

Robert Walser

translated by Paul North

illustrated by Friese Undine

| $20 $16
Out of Stock

"You ask me if I have an idea for you, sir, you ask me to draft a sketch, a play, a dance, a pantomime, or something else that you could use, that you could abide by...."

The Swiss author Robert Walser’s Answer to an Inquiry is a short work written in the form of a letter. Walser assumes the voice of a great man of the theater responding to an aspiring actor’s request for advice. The young actor is given very simple, practical suggestions on how best to perform absolute anguish. This new edition, featuring a new translation accompanied by more than 40 drawings is a collaboration between translator Paul North and artist Friese Undine. Answer to an Inquiry should serve as a practical handbook for anyone wanting to convey deep suffering.


Excerpt ˇ


Remember what I told you once before, namely, that it is possible to perform fearsomeness, beauty, mourning, or love, or whatever else you want merely by opening or closing one eye in one way or another.

Close ˆ

About the Author

Robert Walser
Born 1878 in Switzerland, Robert Walser was at various times in his life a bank teller, office clerk, scribe, house servant, machinist's assistant, and archivist. Although he wrote four novels and some poetry, his production consisted mainly of hundreds of small prose pieces. Being small was a key concern. His writing got smaller and smaller until, before he ceased writing altogether, he wrote a tiny script with letters about one millimeter high. By this time he had committed himself to a sanitarium where he remained for 27 years, mostly not writing. Always an avid taker of walks, Walser died in a snowdrift while out for a walk in 1956.

About the Translator

Paul North

Paul North writes literary and cultural critique, focused on post-Enlightenment German literature and critical thought. He is the author of The Problem of Distraction (forthcoming), a study of a radical break in the continuity of mind. He has also published on Hannah Arendt, Franz Kafka, and Johann Nestroy.

Other Contributors

Friese Undine
Friese Undine was born in Los Angles but now lives in New York. While primarily a painter, Friese also produces three-dimensional pieces and has written and performed works for theater. His work has been exhibited in the USA and internationally.

Advance Praise

Never has the self-destructive nature of the artist been amplified with such ferocity … this new publication carries on the legacy of one of literature's unique voices.—The Brooklyn Rail