From My Commonplace Book - 38

The Job Application

by Robert Walser

Esteemed gentlemen,

I am a poor, young, unemployed person in the business field, my name is Wenzel, I am

seeking a suitable position, and I take the liberty of asking you, nicely and politely, if

perhaps in your airy, bright, amiable rooms such a position might be free. I know that

your good firm is large, proud, old, and rich, thus I may yield to the pleasing

supposition that a nice, easy, pretty little place would be available, into which, as into a

kind of warm cubbyhole, I can slip. I am excellently suited, you should know, to occupy

just such a modest haven, for my nature is altogether delicate, and I am essentially a

quiet, polite, and dreamy child, who is made to feel cheerful by people thinking of him

that he does not ask for much, and allowing him to take possession of a very, very small

patch of existence, where he can be useful in his own way and thus feel at ease. A

quiet, sweet, small place in the shade has always been the tender substance of all my

dreams, and if now the illusions I have about you grow so intense as to make me hope

that my dream, young and old, might be transformed into delicious, vivid reality, then

you have, in me, the most zealous and most loyal servitor, who will take it as a matter

of conscience to discharge precisely and punctually all his duties. Large and difficult

tasks I cannot perform, and obligations of a far-ranging sort are too strenuous for my

mind. I am not particularly clever, and first and foremost I do not like to strain my

intelligence overmuch. I am a dreamer rather than a thinker, a zero rather than a force,

dim rather than sharp. Assuredly there exists in your extensive institution, which I

imagine to be overflowing with main and subsidiary functions and offices, work of the

kind that one can do as in a dream? I am, to put it frankly, a Chinese; that is to say, a

person who deems everything small and modest to be beautiful and pleasing, and to

whom all that is big and exacting is fearsome and horrid. I know only the need to feel at

my ease, so that each day I can thank God for lifes boon, with all its blessings. The

passion to go far in the world is unknown to me. Africa with its deserts is to me not

more foreign. Well, so now you know what sort of a person I am. I write, as you see,

a graceful and fluent hand, and you need not imagine me to be entirely without

intelligence. My mind is clear, but it refuses to grasp things that are many, or too many

by far, shunning them. I am sincere and honest, and I am aware that this signifies

precious little in the world in which we live, so I shall be waiting, esteemed gentlemen,

to see what it will be your pleasure to reply to your respectful servant, positively

drowning in obedience.


Robert Walser (Swiss, 1878-1956) worked at many clerical jobs during his life. At one point he trained to be a servant and got a position in a castle of Dambrau in Upper Silesia. He also tried unsuccessfully to become an actor and at other times struggled to make a living as a freelance writer.

Although Robert Walser's writing was admired by Franz Kafka, Walter Benjamin, and Hermann Hesse, his work was "lost" for decades, very likely because he spent his final years, starting in 1929, confined to mental institutions. His work was rediscovered in the 1970s and continues to influence contemporary writers.

Christopher Middleton translated "The Job Application."


Hello all.

Does double-spacing a long block of text make it easier to read, or do you find that formatting annoying?
That's delightful Merry, and I do hope he found his ease, modest haven and small patch of existance at last. If Hermann Hesse admired doubly so do I - a favourite author - especially "Siddharta" and can well feel the connection.

Delightful - thank you very much for this introduction.
Hi, Enid.

This is, at the moment, my favorite prose piece by Robert Walser. More to read. I identify with the personality of Wenzel. I so desire to find a "quiet, sweet, small place in the shade," etc.

Hermann Hesse's "Siddharta" was popular when I was at university, and I read it then. I liked it and read more by Hermann Hesse at that time but nothing since. So many years ago.

Thanks for your comments, Enid.

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