Dressed in his cheap, battered suit, Joseph Marti arrives at the impressive villa of Karl Tobler, an enthusiastic but ill-starred inventor, to begin employment as his clerk. Tobler is determined to finance his family's lavish lifestyle with the proceeds from his latest idea - a clock adorned with advertisements. But Tobler's grand plans are destined for failure and the household, including Marti, refuse to acknowledge their approaching ruin. Robert Walser claimed to have written The Assistant, a semi-autobiographical work, in just six weeks as an entry for a literary competition. The second of his few surviving novels, it is now regarded as major work of modernist literature.
Robert Walser was born in Switzerland in 1878 and worked as a bank clerk before becoming a writer. In 1929 he was diagnosed as 'schizophrenic' and lived the last twenty years of his life in hospital. His novels include Jakob von Gunten and The Assistant. Robert Walser died in 1956. 'A truly wonderful, heart-breaking writer' -- Susan Sontag Susan Bernofsky is the translator of books by Robert Walser, Gregor von Rezzori, Yoko Tawada, and others. Her translations have appeared in numerous literary journals. She is the author of Foreign Words: Translator-Authors in the Age of Goethe, and is the recipient of a PEN Translation grant and a fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies. She is also the recipient of the 2006 Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize for Outstanding Translation for her translation of Jenny Erpenbeck's The Old Child & Other Stories. She lives with her husband in Boiceville, New York.