The Nobel Prize by Robert Walser


Today, thank God, I’m back in the pink again, which I definitely deserve because I’m a nice person. How was it for me yesterday? I was emotionally ill. Full of thoughts, I ran about vehemently and at the same time galled. And why was that? I believed my colleague Hopeful had won the Nobel Prize in Literature. A notice in the paper had fooled me. How gullible I am! I took my countryman Highhope for the happiest person and myself in consequence for the unhappiest. I imagined all the pretty girls had already composed the most talented satirical poems about me. Yet nevertheless, with what strength, what grandeur I conducted myself! With what composure I strode forth: I can barely describe it. In any case I’m satisfied with myself. I had received an apparently hard blow, but inwardly I did not refuse, not even for a minute, to accept the perfidy of fate. This morning I checked and learned that Persistence, not Hopeful, had received the Nobel Prize. Persistence is someone whom I do not begrudge the honor. The sensations one has. Regarding my dear compatriot Hopejoy, I can calm myself. This pleases me, and since I’m full of joy, I can allow myself to be seen again. Yesterday I thought I had become impossible to my countrymen. Thankfully this unpleasant notion had to retreat. My friend Hopeful is at work. I want to be as well. I can now. I’m capable of this anew. To the same extent that Persistence was crowned with the Nobel Prize, I am crowned with the most cheerful serenity. Yesterday I was like a snapped-off plant, while today I’m a sturdy tree. What illusions can do to us! Brain power, you’re weird! Now that this Nobel Prize business no longer weighs on me, how noble I seem. Yes, the world is gay and serious.


(Translated from the German by Tom Whalen)


in: Robert Walser, Girlfriends, Ghosts, and Other Stories. © Suhrkamp Verlag Berlin. © of the selecion NYREV, Inc., 2016. © of the translation Tom Whalen, 2016. All rights reserved.