On the occasion of the publication of the edition of Robert Walser's letters by Suhrkamp Verlag, the Robert Walser Centre in Bern is showing the exhibition Walser's Letters.
The 951 documents, of which more than half are being published for the first time in book form, offer insight into Robert Walser's lifestyle and the conditions of his writing career.
Of particular interest are Robert Walser's correspondences with women. The largest group consists of the letters to Frieda Mermet, with whom he maintained a kind of “correspondence and promenade marriage” (Peter von Matt). A second, significant group consists of the sometimes subtle, sometimes frivolous letters that Walser wrote to Therese Breitbach, a young admirer of his works. The Robert Walser Centre was able to acquire these 20 letters thanks to the Ursula Wirz Foundation. In the exhibition Walser's Letters, for which the artist Yves Netzhammer was jointly responsible, they will be shown publicly for the first time.
Robert Walser wrote the letters to Therese Breitbach in the years of 1925 to 1932. The 17-year-old had taken a liking to the novel Geschwister Tanner (The Tanners) and expressed this to the author. The resulting correspondence has been preserved unilaterally, since Walser - unlike Breitbach - never kept letters.
During the period of this correspondence, Robert Walser's life changed drastically. His last book, Die Rose (Speaking to the Rose), was published in 1925. Extremely productive years followed, during which he honed his mysterious micrographic writing technique and published countless short texts in newspapers and magazines. In 1929 he entered the Waldau sanatorium in Bern. To Breitbach he remarked: “I am completely healthy and at the same time very seriously or seriously ill.” (Letter no. 850) Transferred to Herisau against his will in 1933, he ceased to be a writer.
Therese Breitbach married, became a mother and emigrated to Brazil in 1934, where she died in 1996. She took the letters she had received from Robert Walser with her on her journey.
The letters on display are part of a new edition of letters: Robert Walser: Briefe. Edited by Peter Stocker and Bernhard Echte, with the collaboration of Peter Utz and Thomas Binder. Berlin: Suhrkamp 2018 (Werke; 1-3).
The exhibition was kindly supported by:
Gesellschaft zu Ober-Gerwern, IttenBrechbühl AG and Pro Scientia et Arte.
Concept: Reto Sorg
Design: Peter Erismann
Wall drawings: Yves Netzhammer
Partner: Swiss Literary Archives of the Swiss National Library.