Robert Walser was born in Switzerland in 1878 to a German-speaking family. After trying unsuccessfully to become an actor, he took up various other professions throughout his life, including working as a butler and a bank clerk, in addition to writing prodigiously. Before he was forcibly hospitalized in 1933 with a contentious diagnosis of schizophrenia, Walser produced as many as seven novels and over a thousand short stories and prose pieces. Among his best-known novels are Geschwister Tanner (1906; The Tanners), Der Gehülfe (1908; The Assistant), and Jakob von Gunten (1909). His work was admired by contemporaries such as Franz Kafka, Walter Benjamin, and Herman Hesse during his life, but began to reach a wider audience after he died in 1956. Walser is now considered one of the most important literary writers of the twentieth century, and his work is the subject of essays by Susan Sontag, W.G. Sebald, and J.M. Coetzee, among others.