walser

A Robert Walser story

Mon, 2011-11-28 19:00

I just finished reading Selected Stories, a book of stories by Robert Walser, translated by Christopher Middleton. This is my favorite one:

The Man With the Pumpkin Head, by Robert Walser

Once there was a man and on his shoulders he had, instead of a head, a hollow pumpkin. This was no great help to him. Yet he still wanted to be Number One. That's the sort of person he was. For a tongue he had an oak leaf hanging from his mouth, and his teeth were cut out with a knife. Instead of eyes, he had just two round holes. Back of the holes, two candle stumps flickered. Those were his eyes. They didn't help him see far. And yet he said his eyes were better than anyone's, the braggart. On his pumpkin head he wore a tall hat; used to take it off when anyone spoke to him, he was so polite. Once this man went for a walk. But the wind blew so hard that his eyes went out. He wanted to light them up again, but he had no matches. He started to cry with his candle ends, because he couldn't find his way home. So now he sat there, held his pumpkin head between his hands, and wanted to die. But dying didn't come to him so easily. First there had to come a June bug, which ate the oak leaf from his mouth; there had to come a bird, which pecked a hole in his pumpkin skull; there had to come a child, who took away the two candle stumps. Then he could die. The bug is still eating the leaf, the bird is pecking still, and the child is playing with the candle stumps.