The Robert Walser Society was founded on 29 November 1996 in Zurich as an independent literary and academic society. The rate of new memberships grew surprisingly quickly, and today the Society counts over three hundred individual and corporate members from over fifteen countries.
The Robert Walser Society's main aim is to support the research (documentation, analysis, publication) and dissemination of Robert Walser’s work. It does so on the conviction that Robert Walser is one of the most important German-speaking writers of modern literature. Robert Walser spent much of his life on the margins of literary life, and only over the past few decades has his almost forgotten work been (re-)discovered and fully recognized. It therefore requires a special kind of care and protection.
The Robert Walser Society aims to provide a forum for the exchange of information for anyone with a keen interest in Walser’s work. The Society’s annually published report, which offers updates on new discoveries, recent and forthcoming events and a continually updated bibliography, serves to support this aim. Furthermore, the Society's annual general meeting is linked to a conference program (presentations, discussions, exhibitions, excursions, etc.). From time to time, the Society also publishes information regarding annual donations/gifts and other general announcements.
The Robert Walser Society considers it very important to acquire any Walser manuscripts or letters that appear in rare manuscript collections or literary estates. In order to make these documents available to the general public, the Society shall deposit these documents in the Robert Walser Archive at the Robert Walser Center, where they will be stored safely, placed under conservatorial care and made available for scientific study, evaluation and publication.
The most important acquisition to date was the Society’s 1999 purchase of the late Jörg Schäfer’s Walser collection, which, aside from prose pieces and letters, includes the complete manuscripts of Robert Walser’s novels The Tanners and The Assistant. The main collection is complemented by a collection of rare first editions as well as a comprehensive portfolio of graphics and book illustrations by Robert Walser’s brother, Karl Walser. The manuscripts are deposited in the Swiss Literary Archive at the Swiss National Library in Bern; they are available in digital form at the Robert Walser Center.
According to the means at its disposal, the Robert Walser Society produces its own publications and offers support and financial assistance for research and translation projects that could otherwise not be completed. Moreover, it encourages and, where necessary, supports the organization of conferences, exhibitions and other events about Robert Walser and his work.
The Robert Walser Society is open to anyone wishing to share and, through mutual exchange with others, deepen his or her particular affection for Walser’s work. In addition, the Society offers its members the chance, via its membership fees, to actively support the acquisition of manuscripts and biographical materials that surface on the market and should be purchased for the Archive.
Shortly after it was founded, the Society succeeded in acquiring the important Walser collection of the Zurich-based antiquarian Jörg Schäfer, who had died in 1997. Schäfer’s collection included, among other things, the original manuscripts for The Tanners and The Assistant. This acquisition was made possible by a generous donation by our members, financial support from the Canton of Zurich, the Swiss Seigniorage Fund, as well as various cultural foundations.
In 2002, the Society also succeeded in purchasing a selection of previously unknown letters by Robert Walser.
As far as possible, the Robert Walser Society aims to raise the financial means needed to purchase such manuscripts internally. However, Robert Walser’s manuscripts are considered some of the most sought after and expensive rarities on the antiquarian book market. As a result, the Society also approaches other cultural institutions, foundations and patrons for financial support.
On 29 November 1996, the Statutes were accepted and adopted by the statutory meeting of the Robert Walser Society in Zurich, and extended by general meetings on 4 October 1997 in Zurich, on 14 November 1998 in Biel, and on 8 September 2011 in Zurich.
Statutes (in German)
Jochen Greven, whose passionate commitment was evident not only in editorial but also organizational matters, served for five years as the founding president of the Robert Walser Society. In October 2001, he was replaced by Wolfram Groddeck. Kerstin Countess von Schwerin, the current president, was elected via the general meeting in 2009.
The executive committee of the Robert Walser Society consists of three to six members who are normally elected for a period of two years, as well as a representative of the Robert Walser Foundation Bern, and a Director of the Robert Walser Archive. The current executive committee members are:
- Dr. Kerstin Countess von Schwerin, President (Hamburg)
- Gelgia Caviezel (Basel)
- PD Dr. Sabine Eickenrodt (Berlin)
- Lukas Gloor, Representative Robert Walser Archive (Olten)
- Susanna Kessler-Jung (Zurich)
- Caroline Socha-Wartmann (Basel)
- Dr. Reto Sorg, Representative Robert Walser Foundation Bern (Bern)
- Dr. Ulrich Weber (Bern)