Jeremy Millar

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Black Sun over Herisau (for Robert Walser) (Page: 1/2)
2009

Ink on vintage postcard, 8x13cm

Robert Walser (1878–1956) was a Swiss writer much admired by contemporaries such as Hermann Hesse, Robert Musil, and Franz Kafka; indeed, when Musil first read Kafka's work, he proclaimed it 'a peculiar case of the Walser type'. Despite his reknown, Walser was never able to support himself through writing alone, and was forced to take numerous low-paid jobs, some of which later appeared in his writings.

His precarious existence is thought to have contributed to a nervous breakdown, and in 1929 he entered a sanitorium, after confessing to hearing voices. He was later moved to another sanitorium in Herisau, in his home canton, and it was at this point he stopped writing. As he told his friend Carl Seelig, that he was there to be crazy, not to write. Instead he took numerous long walks in the area and it was on one of these, on 25 December 1956, that he suffered a fatal heart attack, and was found dead in a snowy field, an image foreseen in his first novel, Geschwister Tanner (The Tanners, 1907).

In honour of Walser's life and work, a black sun was added to a vintage postcard of Herisau, the town