Jakob von Gunten
Jakob von Gunten. Ein Tagebuch is a novel by Swiss writer Robert Walser first published in German in 1909.
Jakob von Gunten is a first-person account told by its titular protagonist, a young man of noble background who runs off from home and decides to spend the rest of his life serving others. To this end, he enrols at the Benjamenta Institute, a school for servants.
Walser based the novel on his own experiences: upon arriving in Berlin in 1905 he attended a school for servants, and served as a butler the following winter.
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J. M. Coetzee's review in "The Genius of Robert Walser" (2000)
Nobel prize laureate John Maxwell Coetzee originally published his review—a reappreciation of an almost forgotten classic—in The New York Review of Books Vol.47, No.17 (2 November 2000). It was later reprinted in his Inner Workings: Literary Essays, 2000-2005.
- The first edition of the German original was published in Berlin in 1909 by Bruno Cassirer.
- Jakob von Gunten, translated from the German and with an Introduction by Christopher Middleton (originally published in 1969, since then reprinted in NYRB Classics, 1999) (ISBN 978-0940322219).
- Today the novel is available in a number of editions, most notably by Suhrkamp Verlag. In 2008, the Süddeutsche Zeitung chose Jakob von Gunten as one of 100 "great novels of the 20th century" (a selection which includes translations from other languages) and published a special edition.
- A 1971 German television movie, Jakob von Gunten, was directed by Peter Lilienthal.
- In 1995, the novel was adapted into the film Institute Benjamenta, or This Dream People Call Human Life by the Brothers Quay, starring Mark Rylance as Jakob von Gunten.