Robert Walser's Microscripts

Robert Walser's Microscripts

The exhibition opened on 14 June 2013 and ended on 16 Oktober 2015.

The “Microscripts” were discovered after Robert Walser’s death in 1956. The existant selection of 526 pages (of various kinds and sizes), which, deciphered, equals almost six thousand printed pages, contained, in addition to prose pieces, poems and dramatic sketches, a complete novel. Walser developed his “pencil system” during the 1920s in Bern. This adventurously miniature pencil script, and the occasional use of wastepaper, was Walser’s reaction to a profound crisis in his writing, and it enabled him to overcome his “pen-weariness.”

Walser’s strange micrography was at first deemed some kind of secret code. Only Jochen Greven (19322012), and then Bernhard Echte (born in 1958) and Werner Morlang (born in 1949), learned over many years of examination how to decipher this special script. They discovered that Walser had not used Old German script but rather strongly modified it by extreme miniaturization as well as by unsystematic omissions and elisions.

To enable publishers, editors and typesetters to read the texts he wanted to publish—such as “Bleistiftskizze”—Walser had to rewrite them in ink and in normal size. This “method of transcription” allowed Walser to bridge the divide between his own writing world and that of the feuilletons.

One of the first posthumous publications from the “Bleistiftgebiet” (pencil area) was the novel The Robber (published in 1972), which Walser wrote in 1925 while living on Gerechtigkeitsgasse 29 in Bern.

All microscripts shown in this exhibition are from Robert Walser: Mikrogramme, transcribed by Bernhard Echte and Werner Morlang, selected on behalf of the Robert Walser Center, and with an afterword by Lucas Marco Gisi, Reto Sorg and Peter Stocker (Berlin: Suhrkamp, 2011).