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.