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1. Five Women (Verba Mundi)
2. Precision and Soul: Essays and
3. Diaries : 1899-1941
4. The Confusions of Young Törless
5. The Man Without Qualities Vol.
6. The Man Without Qualities Vol.
7. Die Verwirrungen des Zöglings
8. Robert Musil and the Culture of
10. Posthumous Papers of a Living
11. Robert Musil et la question anthropologique
12. Subject Without Nation: Robert
13. Hope for a Heated Planet: How
14. Robert Musil and the Crisis of
15. Robert Musil, drei Frauen: Text,
16. Robert Musil, Drei Frauen: Interpretation
17. Robert Musil, Master of the Hovering
18. Robert Musil "Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften":
19. Robert Musil. Sonderausgabe. Leben
20. A Companion to the Works of Robert

1. Five Women (Verba Mundi)
by Robert Musil
Paperback: 222 Pages (2010-07-30)
list price: US$16.95 -- used & new: US$10.25
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Asin: 1567924018
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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The Austrian Robert Musil (1880-1942), a central figure in the modernist movement, is known primarily for his magnum opus, The Man Without Qualities. But here, in these five stories stories as crucial to the understanding of The Man Without Qualities (and Musil's immense literary influence and significance) as Joyce's Dubliners is to Ulysses, he displays another face, one that is by turn extravagant, sensual, mystical, and autobiographical. As Frank Kermode notes in his preface, these stories "are elaborate attempts to use fiction for its true purposes, the discovery and regeneration of the human world." In that redefinition of fiction, Robert Musil's name is writ large.

Five Women has gone through three printings as a Godine Nonpareil book. We are now proud to reissue it as the newest edition to the Verba Mundi library of modern world literature. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (5)

4-0 out of 5 stars flashes of genuis here and there
Some of the stories are a bit long and not so engaging but there are a few that are really brilliant. One in particular is quite haunting. This is super high end, high brow literature, but it's the real deal. I will definitely read it again.

3-0 out of 5 stars Terminal romanticism
Five Women

The background and atmospherics of these stories, some written just before and some in the years following the first world war, reflect in differing ways the decline and fall of the Austro-Hungarian empire. This was the era that gave birth to psychoanalysis and in which Freud, Adler and Jung began their flourishing careers. The narcissism, sexual obsessions and fantasies that characterize Musil's themes mirror this fact.
Grigia and Tonka are intense, but readable - by far the best of the group. The Perfecting of Love and The Temptation of Quiet Veronica represent romanticism in its terminal phase. The prose is ornate, repetitive, convoluted, almost rococo. At least in this particular English translation it is at times barely coherent. If you wish to know what degeneracy looks like in its literary form, these last two stories are as good a place to start as any.

5-0 out of 5 stars funf Sterne
The first two stories are reminiscent of Ambrose Bierce, if you like(ed) those, 'In the Midst of Life' would be a good place to start. The third story, Tonka betrays his influences (Kafka and Nietzsche in particular) quite subtly and are a delight to chance upon since they are done better than your average derivative paraphrast is usually able to accomplish. #4 will test the patience, but its resolution as predictable it may be is worth sticking to it. The more lyrical observations have a heavy Ralph Waldo Emerson flair, and some are brilliant in their own right. The translation is fairly good, and the binding is strong for a paperback Five stars.

5-0 out of 5 stars Precision and Soul
Musil's great gift as a writer was to be scientifically precise about ineffable states of mind, and the stories in Three Women (1924) display his talent for creating an atmosphere of metaphysical tension or 'float' out of unremarkable situations with little inherent drama. Not much happens on the surface in these stories, but Musil infuses the not-happening with so much significance that the meaning of humanity's life on earth seems to hang in the balance.

All three involve prosperous, powerful men attached to women they scarcely understand who, in the process of trying to account for that attachment, come to peace with the fact of death. Musil's interests are those of a philosopher or psychologist who's chosen art as his instrument for dissecting the human soul. The metaphors aren't as sharp and memorable as they are in The Man Without Qualities, and the irony's considerably turned down. This lets you see Musil's mystical side a little more clearly, but it also threw my picture of him out of balance--I missed his tart, satirical sense of humor.

The two stories that round out the collection are from Union (1911) and show a younger Musil working up his chops.

5-0 out of 5 stars Good Introduction for New Readers of Musil
Robert Musil is not read much anymore; if he is known at all, it is usually through his monumental work, "The Man Without Qualities" - a piece comparable to both Joyce's "Ulysses" and Mann's"The Magic Mountain" in its complexity and elusiveness.Amongthe modernists, Musil is noted for his attempt to bring a sort of"mysticism" to the problems and philosophies of society; he wasinterested in the cacaphony of ideas which littered the modern world,drowning out the order of the past.This new collection of his shortstories, previously published separately as "Unions" (1911) and"Three Women" (1924), provides an introduction to Musil for theuninitiated.As one reads these five stories (the "women"), onecannot help but notice the low hum of disorder welling beneath the surface- whether in "Grigia" with it's Poe-like ending, the retro-fairytale of "The Lady From Portugal" or the seductive hopelessnessinherent in "Tonka."These stories are set in a time and placenot our own, but the reader is presented with the universal themes of love,death, and power - indeed, the very nature of our being.These works arechallenging, they require effort, but ultimately they are rewarding andnecessary.Musil once wrote of the "union of soul and economics"- the combination through literature of the ethereal and the real, the pastand the present, the timeless and the mortal.This impressive collectionis an entrance to Musil's world, to his ideas, and to a betterunderstanding of our own condition. ... Read more

2. Precision and Soul: Essays and Addresses
by Robert Musil
Paperback: 329 Pages (1995-02-07)
list price: US$30.00 -- used & new: US$24.69
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Asin: 0226554090
Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars
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"We do not have too much intellect and too little soul, but too little precision in matters of the soul."--Robert Musil

Best known as author of the novel The Man without Qualities, Robert Musil wrote these essays in Vienna and Berlin between 1911 and 1937.Offering a perspective on modern society and intellectual life, they are concerned with the crisis of modern culture as it manifests itself in science and mathematics, capitalism and nationalism, the changing roles of women and writers, and more.Writing to find his way in a world where moral systems everywhere were seemingly in decay, Musil strives to reconcile the ongoing conflict between functional relativism and the passionate search for ethical values.

Robert Musil was born in 1880 and died in 1942.His first novel, Young Törless, is available in English.A new two-volume translation by Burton Pike and Sophie Wilkins of The Man without Qualities is forthcoming from Alfred A. Knopf.

"Now we have these thirty-one invaluable and entertaining pieces, from an article on 'The Obscene and Pathological in Art' to the equally provocative talk 'On Stupidity,' which, with a new translation of The Man without Qualities forthcoming . . . amount to a literary event for the reader of English comparable to Constance Garnett's massive translation of Chekhov's stories."--Joseph Coates, Chicago Tribune ... Read more

Customer Reviews (3)

5-0 out of 5 stars If you like Tolstoy you will like Musil
To anyone that is on the brink of reading Musil for the first time: DO IT! It is very rewarding...These essays are very well written in a clear and simple language (which covers difficult subject matters) and are well translated in this collection.

Anyone who has read "War and Peace" and appreciated it will most definitely be drawn in by Musil's obvious ultimate goal of explaining everything. In his long masterpiece, "The Man Without Qualities," Musil included several essayistic sections in the same manner that Tolstoy did with "War and Peace." Critics dismissed the structure of Tolstoy's famous classic, claiming that his philosophizing and the more polemical sections have no place within "the novel."

This is, in my opinion, an extremely lame stance to take and should raise the question: What is the purpose and goal of such a person who makes such claims? This is the critic in the worst sense of the word.

Musil and Tolstoy obviously concerned with the larger issues that have tormented all great Western thinkers of the past millenia. If these larger issues interest you as well and you are looking for some bold attempts at achieving "a coverage of everything," Musil is the author for you. If, on the other hand, you prefer writers like Nabokov, Proust, and Joyce (all writers that were DEFINITELY more concerned with style than anything else), than maybe you will be unimpressed by Musil's incredible attempt to actually say something.

Don't get me wrong: Proust, Joyce, and Nabokov are all writers that "had something to say," but give me a break...they are the writer's writers more than anything else. Not that Musil and Tolstoy were not great stylists (both were revolutionary innovators), but the essayism so apparent in their works would be deemed "unacceptable" only by snobbish and useless critics who are much more concerned with their own ego than actually humbling themselves before a great author (because no author is great anymore, according to them, the only great ones).

With all of this said, forgive me for deviating from a discussion of this particular book, which is an excellent body of essays by Musil that shed light on his overall thinking. For those that have not read "The Man Without Qualities," this book could serve as a quicker way to "check him out" and get an idea of what he his about before embarking on his major work. For those that have read it, these essays will provide very useful additional insight into this GREAT and very complex mind.

2-0 out of 5 stars An author over-promoted from obscurity.
Readers will save themselves much unrewarding labor by disregarding both "Precision and soul" and, I daresay, the highly-touted "Man Without Qualities," reading instead his first work "YoungTorless" and the stories collected under "Five Women." Musil's derivative philosophical and psychological preoccupations inviteinevitable comparisons with Nietzsche and Freud, both of whose work isvastly more durable and fruitful.Despite the powerfully bracing, if notoccasionally repellent, astringency of his style, Musil's work subsequentto "Five Women" falls considerably short of the enormous anddifficult ambitions which preoccupied his maturity; and, what's more, sucha gaping failure of world-historical pretension tends to pollute enjoymentsone might otherwise have had in reading it.Read something by one whoseenormous abilities are truly equal to ungodly ambitions -- read Proust.

2-0 out of 5 stars An author over-promoted from obscurity.
Readers will save themselves much unrewarding labor by disregarding both "Precision and soul" and, I daresay, the highly-touted "Man Without Qualities," reading instead his first work "YoungTorless" and the stories collected under "Five Women." Musil's derivative philosophical and psychological preoccupations inviteinevitable comparisons with Nietzsche and Freud, both of whose work isvastly more durable and fruitful.Despite the powerfully bracing, if notoccasionally repellent, astringency of his style, Musil's work subsequentto "Five Women" falls considerably short of his enormous anddifficult ambitions which preoccupied his later labors; and, what's more,such a gaping failure of world-historical pretension tends to polluteenjoyments one might otherwise have had in reading it. ... Read more

3. Diaries : 1899-1941
by Robert Musil, Philip Payne, Mark Mirsky
Paperback: 624 Pages (2000-01-01)
list price: US$22.95 -- used & new: US$17.96
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0465016510
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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For the first time in English-fresh insights into themind of one of our century's great novelists.

Robert Musil is ranked alongside Marcel Proust and James Joyce for hismonumental, unfinished novel, The Man Without Qualities. HisDiaries, a distillation of forty-three years of material, arevaluable in a number of ways: as a first-hand historical document oflife in twentieth-century central Europe, as a kind of unwittingautobiography of a great novelist, and as a writer's notebook thatdetails the moods of artistic adventure.

Readers will gain keen insights into Musil's passage from scientist,to soldier, to novelist, in honest passages that reveal the man in allhis humor, ambition, frustration, and transcendence.

"[The] American publication [of Diaries] is an importantcultural event for which everyone involved with the project deservesour gratitude." -Los Angeles Times

"It is as if a private library has been now opened to public use andbenefit." -Washington TimesAmazon.com Review
Born into an affluent Austrian family in 1880, Robert Musil died penniless62 years later, a solitary, bitter man who felt his genius had goneunrecognized. Certainly Musil's name is not nearly as well known as thoseof his contemporaries Marcel Proust, James Joyce, or Thomas Mann; still,the old man's shade might take some comfort in the critical and popularresponse his unfinished masterpiece, The Man WithoutQualities, has garnered in recent years. Its latest, 1995 translationrevived interest in an author many consider one of the greatest--if leastread--writers of the 20th century. Readers who want to know more about theman behind The Man are in luck: Robert Musil's Diaries arenow available in English.

Musil was an inveterate diarist; while the German edition of his journalsis comprehensive, its translator and English-language editor, PhillipPayne, has chosen to be more selective. Gone are entries that summarize orexcerpt the work of other authors; those that are "unintelligible to allbut Musil experts"; early drafts of works that are not of particularinterest; or entries that add little of significance to our understandingof Musil's life or work. What's left, however, is more than adequate, andprovides a fascinating window into the life, times, and creative process ofa literary master. There are Musil's working notes to himself ("Set up atleast 100 figures, the main human types in existence today: theExpressionist, the Courths-Mahler, the profiteer, the psycho-pedagogue, thedisciple of Steiner, etc. Then have these figures crossing each other'spaths"); comments about his world ("My generation was anti-moral or amoralbecause our fathers talked of morality and acted in a philistine andimmoral fashion ... children today are moral, but want people to take moralityseriously"); and meditations on the most private aspects of his personallife (discussing his wife, Martha, he writes, "She isn't anything that Ihave gained or achieved; she is something that I have become and that hasbecome "I"). Robert Musil's Diaries are a remarkable portrait ofthe artist throughout his life and a standing testimony to his genius.--Alix Wilber ... Read more

Customer Reviews (3)

5-0 out of 5 stars The penetrating mind of R. Musil
As other commentators have said, Musil's diaries reveal this fascinating writer's process of thought, and are not filled with the usual "then he said something and we laughed and ordered another round" entries.In the regrettable absence of an autobiography or good biography, the _Diaries_ are a good substitute.

Musil's eye is at once poetic and objective.I could only be astounded by the maturity of the young artist.His description of a horse laughing, of sunset on windows, of a waterfall looking like a silver comb, of his emotions when he and his wife Martha argue, show a sensitivity sharpened by training.Musil captures things as they appear to him with a minimum of fussiness.Also, there is often a sharp humour which comes flashing out.

Some people don't like _The Man Without Qualities_ and prefer some of Musil's other writings.Whichever works one prefers, these diaries illuminate Musil and his writings from within.

I'll add two minor complaints about the layout of the book to those already voiced.I object to endnotes, believing footnotes easier to read.Why flip forward and back so often?Some of the endnotes are repetitive, and greater care should have been taken over them.But those are small things, and have more to do with editorial decisions than with Musil, who here steps forth from a kind of shadow (for english readers).

This book can't be recommended highly enough.

4-0 out of 5 stars A helpful look into Musil's mind
The fascinating man becomes clearer through the pages of his notebooks,which are uneven in their quality but ultimately rewarding. A must for Musil fans seeking to understand the mind of the genius.

4-0 out of 5 stars Excellent, yet inadequate
Robert Musil is one of the most complex and little known authors of the 20th Century. I am sure that anyone who has read "The Man without Qualities" will want to know more about Musil after getting to knowhis writing. Sadly, there is no adequate Biography available, even inGerman, so one of the best ways to get to know the Author is through hisfascinating Diary. These were actually more Notebooks than Diaries, andthey contain an encylopedic array of information on Musil himself, hisintests, his ideas, and most interestingly his plans for the "Manwithout Qualities". So it is must reading for those interested inMusil. The English Translation Compilation, has two major flaws. First, itlacks an Index and other Critical Apparatus, and secondly, we do not whichcriteria were used to re-edit the Notebooks, which were originally editedby Adolf Frise. The German Edition has one Volume of Diaries = 1,000 pagesand one Volume of Notes and Indices = 1,500, pages, making it useful forscholarly research, to look up subjects, names and places, and mostfascinating Musil's sources. Still the English edition is of great interestto those unaquainted with Musil. ... Read more

4. The Confusions of Young Törless (Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics)
by Robert Musil
Paperback: 176 Pages (2001-09-01)
list price: US$13.00 -- used & new: US$7.19
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Asin: 0142180009
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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"Musil belongs in the company of Joyce, Proust, and Kafka." (The New Republic)

Like his contemporary and rival Sigmund Freud, Robert Musil boldly explored the dark, irrational undercurrents of humanity. The Confusions of Young Törless, published in 1906 while he was a student, uncovers the bullying, snobbery, and vicious homoerotic violence at an elite boys academy. Unsparingly honest in its depiction of the author's tangled feelings about his mother, other women, and male bonding, it also vividly illustrates the crisis of a whole society, where the breakdown of traditional values and the cult of pitiless masculine strength were soon to lead to the cataclysm of the First World War and the rise of fascism. A century later, Musil's first novel still retains its shocking, prophetic power. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (13)

4-0 out of 5 stars A pleasant surprise: beauty and friendship in modern times.
As the specialized critics have established this short novel was a preparation for Musil's tour de force "The Man without qualities", in spite of that Musil had written a masterpiece of deutsch literature of the XXth century.

The story of the young student Torless penetrates in the deepness of human nature, the lad's philosophical dissertations about math made the reader understand the limits of rational thinking and his refined sensibility toward beauty and friendship made us remembered Achilles and Patroclus agapic love in the Iliad.

To sum up, if anyone desires to read a penetrating story about the complexity of beauty in modern times; Musil's novel based in its own experience as cadet in a military academy is a suitable answer to his preys.

4-0 out of 5 stars An Austrian "Lord of the Flies"
"The Confusions of Young Torless" reminds me of William Golding's "Lord of the Flies".Though I sometimes sympathize with "Young Torless", I like him much less than Stephen Dedalus of "Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man" by James Joyce or Holden Caulfield of "Catcher in the Rye"by J.D. Salinger.Though I remember very little about it, there could be an affinity with John Knowles "A Separate Peace".I do remember an atmosphere of violent cruelty and adolescent cowardice which binds "Torless" to both "Lord of the Flies" and "A Separate Peace".I admire all of these authors for focusing so acutely on the sensually disturbed adolescent male--spot-on each and every one of them!

5-0 out of 5 stars intellectual exploration of latent sadomasochism
I first read this book over 10 years ago, when I came across it by chance (bookshop browsing). Since then I have read it every few years and am impressed every time. This book is about as high-brow as it gets, but it is not pretentious or gratuitously intellectual. Rather, it is an authentic analysis of a sadomasochistic mind-set, mysticism, and the sense of not-belongingness/social alienation. The latter aspects of this book are compellingly dealt with but what sets this book apart is that the psychology of sadomasochistic desire is so impressively explored - I do not know of any other writer who has demonstrated such intuition. Note, this is a rather dark and ultra-intellectual book, so although the homoerotic and latently sadomasochistic erotic content is there, if that is all you're looking for you will very disappointed. Musil is a subtle writer, and it is the mind he examines, not the flesh.

4-0 out of 5 stars A glimpse into adolescent angst, Viennese style
Robert Musil is best-known for a very long novel (A Man Without Qualities) that few people have read.Young Törless is his first novel, as concise as it is memorable.Rather than a sprawling overview of the fall of the Austro-Hungarian empire, this chilling little novel focuses on the insecurities and corruptions of young man in a boarding school.Whether you take an interest in it for the metaphors of international power struggles (no coincidence that the "feminine," exploited boy is Italian), the sadistically expressed homosexuality of these upper class kids, or the psychological study of adolescent angst at the turn of the 20th century, it's a compelling read. It was made into a film in 1966 by Volker Schlöndorff, with music by Hans Werner Henze.

3-0 out of 5 stars Young Musil, in a Clouded Mirror
There is a cult of Musil, just as there is a cult of his truly wonderful, incomplete work of a lifetime, "The Man without Qualities", a monument which casts a strong shadow on everything else he wrote, including "Törless", and also one to which everything else he wrote made its contribution. I will try to avoid the worshipful attitude which is a feature of such cults. "The Man without Qualities" is an immense and complex novel, the first two volumes of which start out as a panoptic survey of Austrian society in 1912-13, as seen through the lens of a planned celebration of Franz Josef's anticipated 70th anniversary of rule, with both personalities and events considered ironically and sometimes presented farcically.The final (never completed) volume, "Into The Millennium (The Criminals)", narrows its focus considerably onto the brother-sister relationship of its central character, Ulrich,a relationship that is extremely cerebral, while at the same time very sensual and possibly even heading toward an incestuous coupling (the novel was never completed to the extent where one can say such a coupling is "inevitable"). While the social framing of the mind of the protagonist (i.e., in the early parts of "The Man without Qualities") barely exists in "Törless", the latter type of uneasy personal relationship makes its first appearance in Musil's debut novel.

Both the style and the scope of Musil's "big book" and his first, compact novel, "The Confusions of Young Törless" are very different.However,there are some commonalities, which retrospectively appear to be what are, for lack of a better term, "thematic obsessions" that characterize all of his books.To see these connections and the recurrence of certain ideas and stylistic approaches to handling them, it helps to have read his Notebooks (also called "Diaries"), which exist in toto in a German compilation, and in an abridged and selected version in English.These Notebooks contain the seeds of characters that appear in his published works, sketches of the relationships among them, and the combination of psychological and philosophical examination to which Musil subjects all aspects of the human mind and the specific personalities which embody it.This goes for "Törless" (published in 1906) as well as for "The Man without Qualities" (first two volumes published in 1930), although the latter is a far more polished work which naturally incorporates Musil's own responses to developments in his own life and the social life of Austria and Germany throughout the eventful quarter-century which separates the publication dates of his first and last novels.

Lest any professor or critic of a certain stripe jump into this discussion with the usually sensible proviso, "Let's not confuse the man with his work, let's not confuse Robert with Törless or Ulrich", he should be prepared to be gainsaid in a rather incontrovertible mannerby the substance of Musil's Notebooks, in which he clearly models characters after himself, whether their actions and thoughts were his or merely those which he contemplated as possibilities for himself, or "someone like him" (the notion of human possibilities converted into actual choices and deeds is in fact at the core of his idea of what he calls "ethics", another of his preoccupations). As the Notebook and its supplementary materials indicate, Musil's education at the University of Berlin in both "phenomenological" psychology and philosophy convinced him of the necessity of authorial introspection for the development of fictional characters (and almost all of his characters are modeled on family members, friends and acquaintances).The path to the "scientific" distancing and objectivity which he considered ideal for a writer had to commence with detailed self-examination, although this might be dismissed as something like squaring the circle (arriving at a higher objectivity by proceeding through intense subjectivity).The earliest Notebook entries (1899-1902) contain musings and jottings which are clearly related to the development of the character of Törless, especially his mixed feelings toward his parents and his obsessive examination and re-examination of this own thoughts and actions, which appear to have a cloudy relationship to another "darker reality" which he believes underlies the everyday "normal reality". (Incidentally, one will run across the destabilizing universal modernist influence of Nietzsche early on in these Notebooks.)

A brief word on the story itself.In the main it can be described as the depiction of a triangular relationship, with a composite physical/spiritual bully represented by the pair Reiting/Beineberg at one apex, their unattractive victim Basini at the other, and Törless at the third, vacillating in his relationships with the other two apices and constantly shifting his judgment of the character of the others and of what these relationships mean for him, above all, for him.In a sense, he has little interest in what it all means to the others or to the larger society to which they belong - the others are like a "force field" which elicits responses from him that teach him about himself.He veers between being a tormenter, rescuer, and icy observer, and he finally "opts out" of the local crisis (the setting is in a typical military preparatory school of the late Austro-Hungarian Empire, in which there has been a theft by a student followed by systematic tormenting of that student) by expressing a self-evaluation of his role in the affair in terms that are so existential and hypothetical that they baffle the authorities and lead to his withdrawal from the school.In the frequent moments of solitude and self-examination that occur in the book, thoughts and emotions move like vast cloudy weather fronts within Törless's mind, unsettling him and comforting him at the same time (he takes comfort in the fact that this kind of introspection is his own peculiar distinction).To reinforce the autobiographical interpretation given in the previous paragraph, there was an erotic triangle within his own parents' home, and there were probable fumbling erotic antics between Musil and his childhood friend Gustl Donath (the model for "Walter" of "The Man without Qualities"); these are alluded to in the Notebooks.Such biographical facts gettransformed in "Törless" into a rather brutal homoerotic set of relationships. (I.e., again, personal relationships from Musil's life serve as models for fictional ones, undergoing suitable transformations to make them consistent with the facts of the stories and the psychological make-up of the characters.) In the same fashion the admission that Musil makes of a life-long "psychologically incestuous" relationship with his own mother appears in one or another guise in "Törless", "Tonka" (from "Five Women"), and"The Man without Qualities" and is constantly worked over in the Notebooks.

The book is, I think, as incomplete as its famous successor, but this is the incompletion of youth.With regard to "The Man without Qualities" Musil may have come to believe that it could not be brought to a satisfactory conclusion (although he was still determined to do this at the time of his death in 1942) because he himself did not know how to put a lid on the "possibilities" of Ulrich's relationship with Agathe; or because he came to believe that "incompletion" was a correct and desirable ending for a novel which would also be a guide to the creation of a new sort of human personality.The incompletion of "Törless" stems from the typical problem of first novels of this sort (i.e., novels in the German tradition of the Bildungsroman) - the lack of distance and the inability to achieve a useful ironic detachment toward one's recent adolescent past, which has an intensity and turbulence that have not yet receded when the work is undertaken.

The translation by Shaun Whiteside is good, and there is an excellent brief introduction by the novelist J. M. Coetzee. Admirers of "The man Without Qualities" (I am one such, but no longer an "unqualified admirer" as I was in my own youth) should read "Törless" and Musil's other novellas (published in English as "Five Women") and his play "The Enthusiasts", all in the light of the Notebooks as a sort of Talmudic companion-piece, to arrive at a fuller understanding and appreciation of the "big book".A final note --the three-stars rating I give this work is to be understood as a "within Musil category", that is, a rating that is relative to better (more ambitious, psychologically and stylistically) works such as "Five Women" and to the very best work, "The Man without Qualities".(I don't think Musil would quibble with this kind of evaluation himself; the Notebooks indicate his dissatisfaction with and desire to revise certain passages from "Törless" immediately after it was published, especially in the language he used for Törless's cloudy musings about his own recent past and about the "other reality".)
... Read more

5. The Man Without Qualities Vol. 1: A Sort of Introduction and Pseudo Reality Prevails
by Robert Musil
Paperback: 752 Pages (1996-12-09)
list price: US$23.00 -- used & new: US$12.98
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0679767878
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Product Description
Set in Vienna on the eve of World War I, this great novel of ideas tells the story of Ulrich, ex-soldier and scientist, seducer and skeptic, who finds himself drafted into the grandiose plans for the 70th jubilee of the Emperor Franz Josef. This new translation--published in two elegant volumes--is the first to present Musil's complete text, including material that remained unpublished during his lifetime.Amazon.com Review
This intriguing landmark of modernism from Austrian writerRobert Musil has been newly translated from the German by SophieWilkins and re-edited in a textual overhaul. This new edition includesportions of the author's original manuscripts that have never beenpublished before. Though an imposing edifice of writing, devotees ofliterary modernism and anyone interested in the decline of theAustrian empire must read this sweeping, comic take on life inpre-Great War Vienna. The story of Ulrich, the man without qualitieshimself, is continued in a second volume, The Man Without Qualities:Into the Millenium,From the Posthumous Papers. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (30)

5-0 out of 5 stars Great Book
I've noticed the penchant of people reviewing on Amazon to allude to other works, and so I will avoid that.What I will disclose of my general reading is that I've read also well into the posthumous papers of the second volume.

I enjoyed this book very much.The sole person to rank the novel with one star claimed it was "a novel without qualities" and said it had pompous prose.

The humor of the man without qualities comes from exploiting expectations.The opening paragraph, in a display of complete bombast, describes the constituents of the weather on a great day.In reading this paragraph to friends and family, I've once heard a person complain that "it isn't funny."The turgid style he uses intends to repulse.Musil hopes that his readers do not have the specialized meteorological knowledge required to understand everything in that paragraph, and so the reader finds herself in a world of relentless classification, rationalization and what comes out of the need to understand is farce.He devalues language and the attempt to rationalize and classify.

The rest of the book follows a similar patter.Read the table of contents, and one can almost guess what happens in each chapter without discerning the plot.

Despite the book's humor, it moves emotions in all directions, is at no point silly, and requires the readers attention due to its philosophic depth.

I think it's wrong to stand here and shout proper nouns.What I will say in comparison, is that it has almost nothing in common with Magic Mountain.It's only real resemblance to The Sleepwalkers is the length of the chapters and that many of the chapters have a very essayistic quality.In the distrust of classification and language, the humor is sort of like Becket, but I wouldn't lump it into anything.There is a reason the cover of the book compares it to Proust and Joyce.

Not everyone will love this book, but if you give it a chance and don't take everything about it too seriously, you will find a serious book worth serious contemplation that can seriously change the way you look at the world.

5-0 out of 5 stars Making you feel a little less stupid
To delve into this monumental book, you have to do it full of modesty. I myself have trouble believing such a novel (but is it a novel?), devoid of any plot whatsoever and yet so rich, was written by one man only. There is not a single page, a single line, a single word, in which the author's thought does not flow in all its purity and brilliance. Tackling such universal themes as love, death, money, religion, the passing of time, the soul versus reality, what thinking means, what deciding means, what loving means, what writing and reading mean, in short, everything that makes a human being what he is and a society what it is, and doing so in a language marked by elegance and irony, Musil has undoubtedly written one of the few universal masterpieces of western literature and I feel sorry for those who cannot appreciate such a rewarding experience. There is a life before and a life after Musil's "Man without Qualities" and I much prefer the latter.

2-0 out of 5 stars Helpful Comparisions
Like the infamous Proust translation by Moncrief and Kilmartin of Remembrance of Things Past, The Man Without Qualities is famous for and exists today because of the labor of the original translators.

Upon reading The Man Without Qualities I was swept up and lost in the tide of the prose, I simply could not stop reading it.Readability is something one doesn't often think of when considering classic foreign novels, one thinks of slow ponderous prose and intense philosophical repose that is dry and too descriptive.Oddly, this is what the new translation is, while the original is divergently witty and full of curiosity and clarity.

Granted, both translations contain the same thoughts, characters and themes.One cannot just toss one aside while fawning over the other.The new edition is indeed more complete a book than the old, but its sacrifice is apparent in how it carries the reader along.

Thus two excerpts: One from the old translation, and the same passage from the new.

"Perhaps not all of these people believe in that stuff about the Devil to whom one can sell one's soul; but all those who have to know something about the soul, because they draw a good income out of it as clergy, historians or artists, bear witness to the fact that it has been ruined by mathematics and that in mathematics is the source of a wicked intellect that, while making man the lord of the earth, also makes him the slave of the machine."

"Most of us may not believe in the story of a Devil to whom one can sell one's soul, but those who must know something about the soul (considering that as clergymen, historians, and artists they draw a good income from it) all testify that the soul has been destroyed by mathematics and that mathematics is the source of an evil intelligence that while making man the lord of the earth has also made him the slave of his machines."

Note the differences and make your own decision.For me, the poetry and majesty of the original is lost.It is no longer clear and precise either.In updating Musil, they lost the power along the way.

To quote the original translation in summation:
"We have gained in terms of reality and lost in terms of the dream."

4-0 out of 5 stars Neither Proust nor Joyce
This ain't Proust or Joyce, but it is Thomas Mann. Reads like a class assignment. The strength of the details does not support the ponderousness of the arguments. Stylistically, closer to Thomas Mann (whose work Musil disliked, but dislike seeks dislike). Partakes of none of the genius of the great stylists of the last days of the Austro-Hungarian empire--Kafka, Rilke, Wittgenstein, Hofmannstahl, Freud. BUT: A valuable depiction of middle-class sexual neurosis a la early Freud (in the last pages, after more than 600 pages of daydreams, a virginial, wannabe-deflowered maiden finds herself in bed with her fantasy incarnate; and said maiden commences to scream and scream and ...). A valuable dramatization of Germanic feeling that would lead to anschluss and other political dynamics of 20c Europe (it's the tribalism, stupid). Also, a look back at early 20c middle-Europe attitudes towards the talking cure, films, Amerika, etc., from a post twenty-year vantage. A valuable class assignment and useful as a source book for historical studies. For example, the character Arnheim, the philosopher-industrialist of the book, is most likely based on the German industrialist-philosopher Walther Rathenau, who greatly abetted Germany's war effort 1914-18 and who would go on to become Foreign Minister of the Weimar Republic, a person loathed by the German extreme right; the Nazis would invoke him as a cautionary tale.

5-0 out of 5 stars A stupendous creation of insights and introspection
The book is remniscent of Proust's "A la Recherche du Temps Perdu". It is focused on a single character, set in an "old world" time, and very much a study of his thoughts and considerations in a time of potentially great change, in this case, in Austria.The time is ostensibly the great programme to celebrate the 70th jubilee of Emperor Franz Joseph, but this merely provides the backdrop for Ulrich's musings on the aristocracy, the interaction of Germany and Austria at the time, the general Austrian malaise of "who are we really?", and his own cynicism and discouragement with man's individual and social development, along with a few of his own dalliances.

Ulrich's own character and that of the four or five other supporting cast of any significance are developed slowly, steadily and in great measure, all set against Ulrich's own character flaws - scepticism, laziness, amorality, and an almost total lack of belief in humanity. That we see all this, in effect, through Ulrich's own eyes makes for a wonderful piece of creative writing.

A joy! ... Read more

6. The Man Without Qualities Vol. 2: Into the Millennium, from the Posthumous Papers
by Robert Musil
Paperback: 1072 Pages (1996-12-09)
list price: US$27.50 -- used & new: US$15.88
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Asin: 0679768025
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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"Musil belongs in the company of Joyce, Proust, Kafka, and Svevo. . . . (This translation) is a literay and intellectual event of singular importance."--New Republic. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (7)

5-0 out of 5 stars The story peters out as the writer dies, and as Germany dies.
Musil began this book while the Austrian empire was collapsing.The story is widely understood as a study of individuals whose behavior reflects what is happening on the larger scale.The action takes place as Austria is headed over a cliff.

Musil continued the project until he died, shortly before Germany came to an end. (He died in 1942)His life, his book, his culture all end at the same time.This is powerful.He was writing about extraordinary events at an extraordinary period of time--a singularity,a zero in the denominator.He talks about infinity quite a bit.I understand this as a way to express the implausibility of the position that his culture had come to try to hold, a stance like one of Yeat's theoretical phases--impossible, but conceivable.

I found the sections leading up to Ulrich's sex with Diotima, and that sex scene very powerful.The book really moved up to that point.Then the impetus shifts to his sister.Somewhere, I sense the motivation for the last unfinished part of the book was a more taboo incestual relationship with his sister.It would have been hard to pull off, and so it's not surprising that he got stuck.But getting stuck is certainly part of the pathos in this case--Like Schoenberg getting stuck with Moses und Aron.

3-0 out of 5 stars Disappointingly Incomplete
While "Into The Millenium" was largely complete, and the "Posthumous Papers" obviously not, even the completed section lacked the structure of Vol. 1 - the external characters and environment gave way almost completely to Ulric's evolving thoughts on emotion and love, intermingled, at times, with those of Agathe on similar subjects. While it gave an interesting insight into Musil's thought and creative processes, it was not overly satisfying, and a little disappointing. However, Vol. 1 was so satisfying that Vol. 2 can be forgiven.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Great Novel of ideas
The Man Without Qualities is the epitome of the "novel of ideas." Though it is not without plot, and has an engaging cast of characters, the substance of this 1100+ page unfinished novel lies in the extended discussions on philosophy, sociology, and psychology.

The setting is Vienna from 1913 to mid-1914. The principal character is Ulrich (no surname given) who is the man without "qualities," a term that doesn't translate fully, but essentially means a man devoid of moral committment or a sense of calling. He is a man much like Pierre Bezuhov in War and Peace, highly educated and full of ideas but without a sense of purpose.

In Volume 1, Ulrich is called upon to participate in the "Parallel Campaign," an interdisciplinary committee effort to come up with the proper idea with which to celebrate the forthcoming 70th anniversary of the accession of the Austro-Hungarian emperor, Franz Josef, in 1918. (Of course, by 1918 Franz Josef will have died and his empire along with him, a fact Musil assumes his readers will know.) It is in the workings of the Parallel Campaign that Musil, in Volume 1 at least, sets forth many of the issues which will dominate the novel. These include nothing less than the reason for a nation's existence, the duty of a man to his country, an individual's responsibility for his actions, the importance of ideas versus action, etc.

In the second volume Ulrich meets his sister Agathe, from whom he has been separated since early childhood. The two develop an immediate rapport so intense as to create a sexual tension between the two. They realize, quite simply, that they have fallen in love with one another, and this leads to lengthy discussions on the nature of emotions, most especially of love.

In the real world does one respond to "I love you" with a 20-page essay on the definition and cultural context of romantic love? Of course not. Musil's novel is not the least realistic in that sense, even though the characters and events are at least believable. His purpose it not to tell a story, but to present a series of dialogs between a fascinating cast of archetypical characters. And while Ulrich is the hub of the action and the principal idea-holder, the author also gives us the interaction of the different types to let us see each point of view from a series of different perspectives: the socialite and the general, the national socialist and the financier, the servant and the aristocrat, etc.

As noted, The Man Without Qualities was unfinished at Musil's death. The Vintage International edition, translated by Burton Pike, includes over 600 pages of additional "posthumous papers." These include completed chapters that Musil, at the last moment, withdrew from publication, as well as various drafts, sketches and notes. I strongly recommend reading these in full. They contain some rather shocking events that Musil would probably have toned down for publication, as well as notes that substantially illuminate some of the ideas that one may not have fully grasped on first reading.

The Man Without Qualities is often mentioned alongside Joyce's Ulysses and Proust's In Search of Lost Time. I don't think there is any doubt that it is at least as great as those two works. Fortunately it is probably the easist to read of the three, being much less pretentious than Ulysses and less than half as long as In Search of Lost Time. The prose (in translation, at least) is quite easy to read, but that doesn't mean that the author's ideas are always easy to grasp.

I can't claim to have understood even the majority Musil's thoughts, nor have I done more than scratch the surface of the scope of this magnificent novel. It demands re-reading. In the meantime, in Musil's own words: "...anyone who wants to know what this book is would do best to read it himself / not rely on my judgment or that of others, but read it himself."

5-0 out of 5 stars Deeply Complex
Musil's continuation of 'The Man Without Qualities' takes us even deeper into the turn of the century continental psyche. Ulrich and Agathe deliberate both the will and legacy of their late father as well as the nature of morality, human sexuality, and perhaps the unconscious. There are extraordinary additions to Musil's elaborate cathedral of ideas and characters, such as the brief visit to the asylum to meet Moosbrugger, the intriguing murderer and psychopath that haunts the imaginations of the elite within the Parallel Campaign. Although the Man Without Qualities is an incomplete work, it remains as rich as any major novel of the 20th century; if only Musil had been able to endow it with the structural strength and form to bring it to a close as his primary literary rivals (Joyce, Proust) had done so brilliantly.

5-0 out of 5 stars Just reemerged novel on the knife edge of the 19th and 20th centuries
This extraordinary novel, told in non-linear time and with many eddies and currents, captures the last of the "golden years" of the 19th century--technically the early 20th--when people in Vienna still clung to their traditions, their emperor, their rigid social order. A microscopic look at the middle European world before the abyss told through the viewpoint of a highly attractive and intellectual man, too individual for his time, a man, perhaps, of the future. ... Read more

7. Die Verwirrungen des Zöglings Törleß. Erläuterungen und Dokumente. (Lernmaterialien)
by Robert Musil, Renate Schröder-Werle
Paperback: 204 Pages (2001-07-01)
-- used & new: US$4.22
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Asin: 3150160197
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8. Robert Musil and the Culture of Vienna
by Hannah Hickman
Paperback: 208 Pages (2003-09-23)
list price: US$26.00 -- used & new: US$9.90
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Asin: 0812691563
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Paperback: 445 Pages (1979)

Isbn: 0330256130
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Customer Reviews (19)

4-0 out of 5 stars A Rosetta Stone of Philosophy

This is Musils philosophical masterpiece set in 1914 prior to the Great War and collapse of the Ausro-Hungarian empire.
The story line-for whatits worth-concerns Ulrich (the titular man without qualities) involvement in the 'Parallel Campaign' with many sub plots and themes concerning the sex murderer Moosbrugger; Ulrichs estrangement from his childhood friend Walter;his affair with Bonedea;his sisters leaving her husband. Entwined around this framework, Musil explores what is reality? What and how are morals made or come by? The pseudo realities we create and exist in, how little of truth we can actually attain; how history and who's in power shape and alter morals.
This is a monumental work,still unfinished when Musil died, and having read all 1130 pages, I couldn't help thinking that it was still in draft; that Musil was merely pouring down his ideas en masse to eventually edit down to a 4 or 500 page novel.The thin story line means this lacks any pace and often you read pages of (albeit, facinating) philosophical treatise without having any story line to anchor them to as so little develops.
At the risk of sounding snobish and big headed, you have to be well and widely read before taking this book on. Its deep complexity reminds of 'Moby Dick', but once read you find your mind resonating with 'Musilisms' and an enormous pool of philosophical knowledge. A kind of philosophical rosetta stone!

2-0 out of 5 stars A Vast Baroque Folly
"The Man without Qualities" is a strange work indeed. It was left unfinished at the author's death, but nevertheless runs to well over 1,000 pages. There is very little in the way of coherent plot. The action is set in the latter part of 1913 and the early part of 1914, the last months of peace before the outbreak of World War I, and what plot there is centres upon the activities of a committee set up to explore ways of celebrating the seventieth anniversary of the accession of the Emperor Franz Josef of Austria-Hungary, an event which was due to occur in December 1918. In the event, of course, no celebrations for this anniversary ever took place, for two reasons. Firstly, Franz Josef was to die in 1916. Secondly, the Austro-Hungarian empire was to be swept away at the end of the war in November 1918.

The "man without qualities" of the title is Ulrich, one of the members of the committee. Ulrich is a handsome, wealthy and intelligent young man of good family, yet is described as being "without qualities" because he is bored, cynical and indifferent, dependent on the outer world to form his character. He has tried three different careers, as a soldier, engineer and mathematician, only to abandon them all, and accepts a place on the committee largely to alleviate the boredom of his existence as a wealthy layabout. In the course of the book we are introduced to the other members of the committee, such as the Prussian industrialist-intellectual Paul von Arnheim, Ulrich's idealistic, spiritually-minded cousin Diotima who becomes Arnheim's lover, and General Stumm von Bordwehr, forever trying to use the jubilee celebrations to further the interests of the Army. We also get to know a number of Ulrich's other acquaintances, including his friend Walter, his mistress Bonadea and (towards the end of the novel) his sister Agathe. Another important character is the insane murderer Moosbrugger.

Much of the early part of the book is satirical in nature, the principal targets of Musil's satire being the nature of bureaucracy and the Austro-Hungarian Empire itself. The committee is a prime example of bureaucratic inertia, forever holding endless meetings without ever achieving anything or even agreeing on the form which the celebrations are to take. (The only character who ever seems to take any positive action is Moosbrugger, and his actions are purely evil). The Empire is renamed "Kakania", a pun on the German pronunciation of the initials K.K. (for Kaiserlich-Koeniglich, or Imperial and Royal) and the word "Kaka" meaning "excrement". "By its constitution it was liberal, but the system of government was clerical. The system of government was clerical, but the general attitude to life was liberal. Before the law all citizens were equal, but not everyone, of course, was a citizen." In one memorable passage Musil compares the Empire to a red, white and green jacket (Hungary) matched with a pair of black and yellow trousers (Austria). Like many people looking back with the benefit of hindsight, Musil saw the collapse of Austria-Hungary as something inevitable. In fact, that collapse was the product of two chance factors, the murder of Franz Ferdinand in 1914 and Haig's defeat of the German armies in the autumn of 1918. Had the First World war been avoided, or had it had a different result, the Empire might have lasted much longer. We might even be celebrating this year the eighty-fifth anniversary of the accession of Emperor Otto von Habsburg.

In the latter part of the book, the tone becomes less satirical and more that of a novel of ideas. Musil introduces lengthy discourses, either in the form of conversations between his characters or passages in which he addresses the reader directly, on social, political, religious and, above all, philosophical topics. Ulrich suggests the formation of a "General Secretariat for Precision and Soul". This may seem like a joke, the yoking together of two incongruous ideas to produce an absurd effect, but in fact it reflects one of Musil's main preoccupations, the need to reconcile the rational and scientific approach to life ("precision") with the spiritual and imaginative one ("soul").

I note that most of the reviews the book has received on this page have been positive ones (fourteen out of seventeen awarded it five stars), so I find myself very much in the minority when I say that this was not a book that I enjoyed. My initial thought was to call my review "The Book without Qualities", but that would have been unfair to Musil, who was clearly a writer with many excellent qualities. Many of his philosophical discourses are fascinating ones, and my attention was frequently caught, even in the midst of passages that I otherwise found tedious, by a flash of humour, an original aphorism or brilliantly expressed thought. "Philosophers are despots who have no armies to command, so they subject the world to their tyranny by locking it up in a system of thought". "To believe with not quite complete disbelief that something-cannot-be-ruled-out has today become the basic attitude in matters of faith".

It struck me, however, that Musil's ideas, often of great interest in themselves, could have been better expressed as a series of essays rather than in the rather clumsy framework of a novel. The problem with "The Man without Qualities" is that, even allowing for the fact that it is unfinished, never seems to be going anywhere and lacks the form or structure evident in most well-written novels. Even in other unfinished novels, such as Dickens's "Edwin Drood", one can see evidence of the author's structural plan at work, just as one can see evidence of the architect's handiwork even in an unfinished building. "The Man without Qualities" resembles less a building than a vast, baroque folly, incorporating many beautiful carvings but with no discernible shape or structure.

3-0 out of 5 stars Do you want commentary or the author's original?
I would give this excellent set of critiques, edited by the estimable Harold Bloom, four stars except for its misleading label. Despite the byline, this is NOT Robert Musil's work or even a condensed version. These are very helpful commentaries, but if you want the original, you must go elsewhere.

2-0 out of 5 stars Confused information
This book says: by Robert Musil's, but it is not. Review carefuly before to be sure it is the one you are looking for

5-0 out of 5 stars Quality of Man
Of all the great European novelists of the first third of the century -- Marcel Proust, James Joyce, Franz Kafka, Thomas Mann,Knut Hamsun, Herman Hesse -- Robert Musil is far and away the least read; and yet he's as shapely as Gibbon, as mordant as Voltaire, as witty as Oscar Wilde and as indecent as Arthur Schnitzler, a fellow Viennese writer who gets more attention. "The Man Without Qualities" is an extraordinary amalgam of the formidable, the delicious and the unfinished; and no doubt each of these attributes is in some measure dissuasive.

If we take it that the characteristics of 20th-century life are fatuity, doubt and confusion; the "barbaric fragmentation" of the self, where "impersonal matters . . . go into the making of personal happenings in a way that for the present eludes description"; a crisis of individual identity and collective purpose -- then it is Musil's astonishing achievement to make a comedy of all this.

The book begins with a baroque meteorological description; its first action is a car accident; the hero is first seen looking out of a window, stopwatch in hand, conducting a statistical survey of passing traffic. Can there be any doubt that it is a prophetic book about our world? Musil is us. The world of "global Austria" in 1913 and "the Parallel Action" -- the plan, in the novel, to claim 1918 for the jubilee celebrating the 70th year of the reign of the Emperor Francis Joseph before the Germans get it for Kaiser Wilhelm's 30th, made nonsense of by the intervention of World War I -- is our world of the United Nations International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction and other fatuous schemes. While Musil's contemporaries Proust and Joyce chose interiority and the private world of memory, Musil is uncannily prescient about modern life, where sportsmen and criminals are indifferently idolized, where quantity sits in judgment on quality, so that an author, as Musil puts it, "must have an awful lot of like-minded readers before he can pass for an impressive thinker," where we sit and stew among "bobsled championships, tennis cups and luxury hotels along great highways, with golf course scenery and music on tap in every room." So "The Man Without Qualities" is satire; as one character says, "The man of genius is duty bound to attack." However, it is not harsh satire, nor is it sour. There is something loving about it. Musil's tone is unlike anyone else's. Partly it is the Austrian melancholy that underlies the book, the melancholy of a defunct empire, of a closed conditional: what was to happen did not. WHAT if, the novel implies, instead of expressing itself in the carnage of World War I, human folly had chosen another form? Partly it is the equable irony that plays over every character, institution and group in the book that makes reading Musil such an exquisitely flattering experience. No characters in the book escape mockery -- especially for taking themselves so seriously.All of them are skewed and partial, but none are caricatures; perhaps the book's almost complete lack of physical description plays a part here -- and yet, in spite of that, you feel you could pick them out in a lineup. They are Musil's puppets.

In his early career he wrote stories, plays and novels that had a certain popularity. But none of those prepare a reader for the expanse of "The Man Without Qualities". It took up the last two decades of his life, before he died in self-imposed exile in Switzerland in 1942, at the age of 61.It is a quite overwhelming novel, quite indeed... ... Read more

10. Posthumous Papers of a Living Author
by Robert Musil
Paperback: 179 Pages (2006-05-01)
list price: US$15.00 -- used & new: US$6.95
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Asin: 0976395045
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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“Peter Wortsman’s translation is splendid, succeeding better than any I’ve read in capturing this author’s unique combination of quizzical authority and austere hedonism.”—Anthony Heilbut, The New York Times Book Review

From one of the greatest novelists of the twentieth century come these chiseled essays and sketches written in the 1920s. Exploratory, quirky, full of soul and humor. (Reprint of the Eridonos edition, 1987.)

... Read more

Customer Reviews (2)

2-0 out of 5 stars A minor book
I can't agree with the five-star review. This is a minor book. It's a miscellany of very short pieces, together with some ideas for stories.

The opening piece about flies caught on flypaper is briliant, yes, but it's also one of a kind, and it's short. "Prose poems" of that sort were practiced from Goethe, Baudelaire, and Heine onward.

A piece on kitsch later in the book is trivial -- it makes fun of itself -- and its insights are not anywhere near as interesting as those of Hermann Broch or Walter Benjamin on the same subject.

The translator tells us that Musil considered the longest piece in the collection, "Blackbird," an example of "daylight mysticism" (taghelle Mystik), but it isn't that far from von Hofmannsthal or some of Poe, reined in by a twentieth-century sense of the real.

From a philosophic standpoint, the most interesting piece in the book is "Art Anniversary," a meditation on the way that art, when it is re-encountered after a period of absence, can fail to move us. But even there, "great art" is excepted -- in a brief aside, apparently cleverly by actually carelessly tacked onto the end of the essay.

For me the only interesting piece is "A Man Without Character," which the translator says, complicatedly, is "from the seed out of which the novel erupted like a magic beanstalk." (I don't see why it isn't the seed itself -- is there another text that is the actual beginning of the novel?) At any rate, there's an interesting equivocation in "A Man Without Character," between the use of "character" to denote moral strength and manliness, and "character" to denote "qualities." The former echoes the story before this one in the collection, which is a satire on manly qualities. The latter is the more interesting usage, because it prefigures (or echoes?) the novel "A Man Without Qualities." The narrator in "A Man Without Character" says "When you become a man you take on... a sexual, a national, a state, a class, a geographical character... you have a writing character, a character of the lines in your hand, of the shape of your skull..." There's a lot of potential parallels with the novel, but for some reason that escapes me, the translator says nothing more about "A ManWithout Character."

These are minor, not worth the time. Read the masterpiece instead.

5-0 out of 5 stars A collection of small gems
This miscellany(Musillany)--of prose poems, personal and analytical essays, and one story-- actually contains some of the author's best writing. I suspect this is because he's having more fun here than in other works, particulary MWQ. His imagination, invention, intellect and wit are all bristling. His brilliance is obvious.The prose poem "Fly Paper" is a microscopic epic, and the final piece, "The Blackbird", an amazingly rigorous examination of the ineffable.I think if you like Calvino or Nabokov, you'll like this. ... Read more

11. Robert Musil et la question anthropologique (Perspectives germaniques) (French Edition)
by Florence Vatan
Hardcover: 281 Pages (2000)

Isbn: 2130507913
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12. Subject Without Nation: Robert Musil and the History of Modern Identity (Post-Contemporary Interventions)
by Stefan Jonsson
Paperback: 392 Pages (2001-05-01)
list price: US$24.95 -- used & new: US$14.90
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Asin: 0822325705
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This innovative study of the works of Robert Musil opens a new window on the history of modern identity in western culture. Stefan Jonsson argues that Musil’s Austria was the first postimperial state in modern Europe. Prior to its destruction in 1918, the Austro-Hungarian Empire had ruled over a vast array of nationalities and, in the course of its demise as well as after, Austria was beset by nationalism, racism, and other forms of identity politics that ultimately led to the triumph of Nazism.
It was to this society that Musil responded in his great work The Man Without Qualities. Exploring the nooks and crannies of this modernist classic, Jonsson shows that Musil’s narrative evolves along two axes that must be considered in tandem: Whereas the central plot portrays a Viennese elite that in 1913 attempts to restore social cohesion by gathering popular support for the cultural essence of the empire, the protagonist discovers that he lacks essence altogether and finds himself attracted by monsters, criminals, and revolutionary figures that reject the social order. In this way, Musil’s novel traces the disappearance of what Jonsson calls the expressivist paradigm—the conviction that identities such as gender, nationality, class, and social character are expressions of permanent intrinsic dispositions. This, Jonsson argues, is Musil’s great legacy. For not only did the Austrian author seek to liquidate prevailing conceptions of personal and cultural identity; he also projected “a new human being,” one who would resist assimilation into imperialist, nationalist, or fascist communities.
Subject Without Nation presents a new interpretation of Viennese modernity and uncovers the historical foundations of poststructural and postcolonial reconceptualizations of human subjectivity. Illuminating links between Musil’s oeuvre as a whole and post-war developments in critical thought, this book locates an important crossroads between literary criticism, intellectual history, and cultural theory.
... Read more

13. Hope for a Heated Planet: How Americans Are Fighting Global Warming and Building a Better Future
by Robert K. Musil
Hardcover: 272 Pages (2009-01-30)
list price: US$24.95 -- used & new: US$11.99
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Asin: 0813544114
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
Rejecting cries of gloom and doom, Hope for a Heated Planet shows how the fight against global warming can be won by the grassroots efforts of individuals. Robert K. Musil, who led the Nobel Peace Prize winning organization Physicians for Social Responsibility, explains that a growing new climate movement can produce unprecedented change in the economy, public health, and home while saving the planet. Musil draws on personal experience and compelling data in this practical and rigorous analysis of the causes and cures for global warming. The book presents all the players in the most pressing challenge facing society today, from the massive fossil fuel lobby to the enlightened corporations that are joining the movement to go green. Musil thoroughly explains the tremendous potential of renewable energy sources wind, solar, and biofuel and the startling conclusions of experts who say society can do away entirely with fossil fuels. He tells readers about the engaged politicians, activists, religious groups, and students who are already working together against climate change.

But the future depends, Musil insists, on what changes ordinary citizens make. Through personal choices and political engagement, he shows how readers can cut carbon emissions and create green communities where they live. With practical and realistic solutions, Hope for a Heated Planet inspires readers to be accountable and enables them to usher in an age of sustainability for future generations. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (5)

2-0 out of 5 stars Nothing new
The best thing about this book is that it is printed on recycled paper.

Unfortunately, all the information is recycled, too.A long-time political activist, the author simply reiterates old-green dogma in the face of an unprecedented crisis.

He grasps the nature of the problem but falls short on solutions.So we read more pleas for intermittent and unpredictable energy sources, more bemoaning the world's unwillingness to cooperate with the old-green agenda, and more histrionics about proven solutions that don't fit the approved doctrine.For support, the author marshals the opinions of people who agree with him and he can't seem to find unbiased, authoritative sources that offer the desired conclusions.

There are much better books on this subject, for example, Terrestrial Energy by William Tucker.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Delight to Read
A really fine book -- and, with its informal, lively and accessible prose style, a delight to read.Musil's perspective is appropriately broad throughout.He has done his homework, and obviously thought about the issues wisely and humanely.

Chapters 1-4 and 7 are excellent summaries of a lot of material on climate change and the political, economic, and cultural forces that have brought it about and still foster its persistence; material that everyone, but especially those in high places, ought to know about.

Chapters 5-6 and 8-10 support use of the word "hope" in the book's title.Here Musil assesses the kinds of action that can be taken to prevent climate change or at least slow down its rate, and summarizes the work that has already been done or is being attempted or anticipated along these lines.The emphasis is (appropriately, given the institutional and geographic breadth of the problem) on political action.Though most of the examples are American, the perspective -- like climate change itself -- is consistently international.There is material here for all of us who would like to do something useful about checking climate change.

-- Lincoln Day

5-0 out of 5 stars A really fine book
A really fine book -- and, with its informal, lively and accessible prose style, a delight to read.Musil's perspective is appropriately broad throughout.He has done his homework, and obviously thought about the issues wisely and humanely.

Chapters 1-4 and 7 are excellent summaries of a lot of material on climate change and the political, economic, and cultural forces that have brought it about and still foster its persistence; material that everyone, but especially those in high places, ought to know about.

Chapters 5-6 and 8-10 support use of the word "hope" in the book's title.Here Musil assesses the kinds of action that can be taken to prevent climate change or at least slow down its rate, and summarizes the work that has already been done or is being attempted or anticipated along these lines.The emphasis is (appropriately, given the institutional and geographic breadth of the problem) on political action.Though most of the examples are American, the perspective -- like climate change itself -- is consistently international.There is material here for all of us who would like to do something useful about checking climate change.

4-0 out of 5 stars Good analysis
This is a pretty good book. It deserves attention of anyone interested in issues of climate change and what you can do about it.

The book advocates for activism, and acts as a primer for those new to the subject.

The author approaches the subject of climate change in the public health domain.As such, he blends numerous side issues into his analysis including the politics, coal lobby, strategy, and the future of energy to name the most prominent.Robert also discusses the value of bringing progressive Christian churches into the fold acknowledging their value to turn the tide toward sustainable solutions.

The Chapter on Coal Lobby is interesting, but if you want a more comprehensive analysis, try Big Coal by Jeff Goddell.

While not a complete evaluation on the subject of climate change, the book is hopeful and seeks to overturn political inertia on the subject.

5-0 out of 5 stars The major public health problem
As a pediatrician interested in preserving the health of the children of the world, I recommend reading this new book. It points out the danger of our continued pollution of our world - especially the greenhouse gasses, and the hope for doing something about it. Everyone can profit from reading it and join his plea to do something about it. Damage is already being seen as the glaciers melt threating the water supply. The hope is that we will care enough to demand action! James E. Jones MD ... Read more

14. Robert Musil and the Crisis of European Culture, 1880-1942
by David Luft
 Paperback: 336 Pages (1984-11)
list price: US$13.00
Isbn: 0520053281
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15. Robert Musil, drei Frauen: Text, Materialien, Kommentar (Reihe Hanser ; 270 : Literatur-Kommentare ; Bd. 13) (German Edition)
by Karl Eibl
 Perfect Paperback: 182 Pages (1978)

Isbn: 3446126333
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16. Robert Musil, Drei Frauen: Interpretation (Oldenbourg Interpretationen) (German Edition)
by Bernhard Grossmann
 Perfect Paperback: 164 Pages (1993)

Isbn: 3486886622
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17. Robert Musil, Master of the Hovering Life: A Study of the Major Fiction
by Columbia University Press
 Hardcover: 297 Pages (1978-06)
list price: US$94.50 -- used & new: US$92.86
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0231044763
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18. Robert Musil "Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften": An examination of the relationship between author, narrator and protagonist (Abhandlungen zur Kunst-, Musik- und Literaturwissenschaft)
by Alan Holmes
 Perfect Paperback: 339 Pages (1978)
-- used & new: US$93.24
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 3416014073
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19. Robert Musil. Sonderausgabe. Leben und Werk in Bildern und Texten.
by Karl Corino
 Paperback: 499 Pages (1992-03-01)

Isbn: 3498090658
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20. A Companion to the Works of Robert Musil (Studies in German Literature Linguistics and Culture)
Paperback: 470 Pages (2010-03-01)
list price: US$39.95 -- used & new: US$29.59
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1571134530
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Editorial Review

Product Description
A panel of authors, critics, and academics convened by the Literaturhaus in Munich in 1999 voted Robert Musil's The Man without Qualities the most important German novel of the 20th century. Their collective judgment rests on strong foundations: on the work's encyclopedic compass, embracing intellectual, social, political, and cultural concerns embodied in themes of striking originality; on its probing of key issues of Austrian and German life from the first four decades of the twentieth century; on the brilliance of its language, unsurpassed by any other 20th-century author writing in German. While this Companion gives The Man without Qualities the central focus it deserves, it also contributes to a deeper understanding of Musil's other significant works; in harnessing a team of established scholars from North America and Europe to the task of providing an assessment of Musil's work, it sets new standards in scope and originality. The analyses are embedded in an appreciation of the intellectual contexts of Musil's writing, yielding fresh insights into Musil's artistic accomplishment and into his place in the Austrian and German cultural traditions of the 20th century.CONTRIBUTORS: PHILIP PAYNE, KLAUS AMANN, GALIN TIHANOV, MATTHIAS LUSERKE-JAQUI, SILVIA BONACCHI, CHRISTIAN ROGOWSKI, PETER HENNINGER, WALTER FANTA, KARL CORINO, GENESE GRILL, BURTON PIKE, RÜDIGER GÖRNERPhilip Payne is Professor of German Studies at Lancaster University, UK; Graham Bartram is Senior Lecturer in German Studies at Lancaster University, UK; and Galin Tihanov is Professor of Comparative Literature and Intellectual History and Co-Director of the Research Institute for Cosmopolitan Cultures at the University of Manchester, UK. ... Read more

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