This book (Where Have You Been?) is really brilliant. There are a few essays, about people I've never or barely or never heard of, like Robert Walser. With any other critic I wouldn't bother, not knowing the writer. But Hofmann, it's still a delight. Like this phrase: "...the rough, oxygenated outdoorsiness and the sheepish punctilio...".
And this admission, to begin the essay: "It's not that writing about Walser can't be done, it can be done endlessly and beautifully, but it seems unlikely to accomplish anything much. He offers so much scope for true statement, insight, and original expression. You write your piece, make your comparisons, press your claims, and at the end of it all you look up and see Walser, looking not much like your likeness of him, only slightly battered for having been the object of your attentions."
It's criticism as real literature. My copy is from the library, but I keep thinking I need a copy to keep, if only it weren't so depressing to buy books one might never reread. Now there's one advantage of ebooks; they don't sit on shelves making you anxious.
"He was short-tempered and high-maintenance...".
"In Zurich, I saw a street named after him, where he couldn't possibly have afforded to live...".