Robert Walser Died on Christmas Day

In 1956, the great Swiss author Robert Walser went out for a walk in the snow after eating Christmas lunch at the sanatorium in Herisau where he had been a resident patient for 23 years. He apparently suffered a fatal heart attack while ascending a hill, and he was found there some time later by two children out walking their dog. I won’t reproduce the photograph of his body lying in the snow, since I wish that distressingly ubiquitous image had never been made public. Every time I look at it, I feel I am participating in a shameful violation of privacy, of the right to be dead unscrutinized, unobserved. But I will share an image created by the great artist and Walser-lover Maira Kalman which beautifully captures the sad mystery of the death in that snow-covered landscape, the sense that the image of the great writer in death conceals more than we can ever know.

I would also like to invite you to participate in a celebration of Walser’s life and work on the anniversary of his death, an event that will be held in various locations in and around Amherst and Hadley, Massachussets on Christmas day and will include readings by various hands and, yes, a walk in the snow.

P.S. We got written up in the local paper!

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