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Fairy Tales: Dramolettes


If he had a hundred thousand readers, the world would be a better place.

— Hermann Hesse

Four mini-plays by the German wunderkind and asylum-dweller

Translated from German by James Reidel and Daniele Pantano

With a contribution by Reto Sorg

Fairy Tales gathers the unconventional verse dramolettes by the Swiss writer Robert Walser. Narrated in Walser’s inimitable, playful language, these theatrical pieces overturn traditional notions of the fairy tale, transforming the Brothers Grimm into metatheater, even metareflections.

Snow White forgives the evil queen for trying to kill her. Cinderella doubts her prince and enjoys being hated by her stepsisters; The Fairy Tale itself is a character who encourages her to stay within the confines of the story. Sleeping Beauty, the royal family, and its retainers are not happy about being woken up their sleep by an absurd, unpretentious Walser-like hero. Mary and Joseph are taken aback by what lies in store for their baby Jesus.

Walser’s fictions are charged with compassion: awareness of the creatureliness of life, of the fellowship of sadness. He is a truly wonderful, heartbreaking writer.

— Susan Sontag

One of the most profound creations and one that is enough on its own to explain why the most powerful of all writers was a favorite author of the merciless Franz Kafka.

— Walter Benjamin


ROBERT WALSER (1878-1956)–admired by Kafka, Musil, and Sebald–was born in Biel, Switzerland, and spent the last twenty-five years of his life in a psychiatric hospital. DANIELE PANTANO and JAMES REIDEL are both poets and translators of works by Robert Walser and Georg Trakl. RETO SORG is the director of the Robert Walser Centre in Bern.


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