The Man Without Qualities

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What do ILBers think of this?

I'm currently working in a bookshop and I keep hoping somebody will buy it, or a coworker will read it, as I have nobody to speak to about this amazing book.

I know the idea of a book being life-changing is very overused, but this comes close for me. To me, a book that changes the way you think and really dominates your thoughts as this has mine deserves that tag.

I must thank Virginia Plain for recommending this to me on that thread where I asked for books about sickness/isolation, it's been amazing to read a book that sums up that feeling of disconnection from a sort of self perpetuating world that I never really felt until having chronic illness.

This book makes everything else I've read seem sort of worthless and small.

Ronan, Thursday, 29 November 2007 10:52 (thirteen years ago) link

I've been wanting to read this for a long time. Maybe I'll get it for Christmas. Musil didn't finish it, right?

Noodle Vague, Thursday, 29 November 2007 15:36 (thirteen years ago) link

Well, at the very least, I've heard others talk about this book this way. But I never did get around to reading it.

Casuistry, Thursday, 29 November 2007 16:24 (thirteen years ago) link

I really liked it. I think I read it 2 years ago, now.

Michael White, Thursday, 29 November 2007 21:41 (thirteen years ago) link

chris otm

James Redd and the Blecchs, Thursday, 29 November 2007 22:38 (thirteen years ago) link

I've read it a few times and always found it very funny, but it doesn't stick with me in the details, just the mood.

s.clover, Thursday, 13 December 2007 16:17 (twelve years ago) link

five months pass...

I'm a little over 300 pages into the first volume of this and I'm struck with how engrossing and varied it is. I think I started this once maybe 7 or 8 years ago and quickly got bored of it, but this time around I do not want to put it down. It has moments that are very funny and others that are rather dull, but Musil keeps digging up insights that feel so fresh and honest. So far, a great book.

wmlynch, Wednesday, 21 May 2008 22:41 (twelve years ago) link

Yes, I got this on yr recommendation Ronan and you were spot on about it.

stet, Wednesday, 21 May 2008 22:42 (twelve years ago) link

The title alone makes it sound incredible!

Abbott, Wednesday, 21 May 2008 22:45 (twelve years ago) link

Ronan didn't want to talk about it enough to revisit the thread. i have a lovely looking copy of this. maybe i should read it.

jed_, Thursday, 22 May 2008 23:43 (twelve years ago) link

i almost bought the one-volume of this in the new translation (i think) in a bookstore on charing cross this tuesday. but then i remembered that i had all three volumes of the old translation at my parents' house that i had bought when i was a teenager and still not got around to reading. all in different picador editions, bought on different trips to three different charity shops.

thomp, Friday, 23 May 2008 08:01 (twelve years ago) link

Oh right that's a new translation - I saw it while browsing at Waterstone's in Charing X (on thrusday tho' :-)). The bk is too bulky and kinda ugly, and unfortunately its important for me to have nice looking compact editions of bks these days. Its why I've yet to read Gaddis' JR or Recognitions.

xyzzzz__, Friday, 23 May 2008 20:49 (twelve years ago) link

five months pass...

I never saw this revive, I did want to talk about it.

I like the below part. It is how growing up has felt.

“When I remember as far back as I can, I’d say that there was hardly any separation between inside and outside. When I crawled towards something, it came on wings to meet me; when something important happened, the excitement was not just in us, but the things themselves came to a boil. I won’t claim that we were happier then than we were later on. After all, we hadn’t yet taken charge of ourselves.

In fact, we didn’t really yet exist; our physical condition was not yet separated from the world’s. It sounds strange, but it’s true: our feeling, our desires, our very selves, were not yet quite inside ourselves. What’s even stranger is that I might as easily say: they were not yet quite taken away from us.

If you should sometime happen to ask yourself today, when you think you’re entirely in possession of yourself, who you really are, you will discover that you always see yourself from the outside, as an object. You’ll notice that one time you get angry, another time you get sad, just as your coat will sometimes be wet and sometimes too warm.

No matter how intensely you try to look at yourself, you may at most find something about the outside, but you’ll never get inside yourself. Whatever you do you remain outside yourself, with the possible exception of those rare moments when a friend might say that you’re beside yourself.

It’s true that as adults we’ve made up for this by being able to think at any time that ‘I am’- if you think that’s fun. You see a car and somehow in a shadowy way you also see ‘I am seeing a car’. You’re in love, or sad, and see that it’s you. But neither the car, nor your sadness, nor your love, nor even yourself, is quite fully there.

Nothing is as completely there as it once was in childhood; everything you touch, including your inmost self, is more or less congealed from the moment you have achieved your ‘personality’ and what’s left is a ghostly hanging thread of self awareness and murky self regard, wrapped up in a wholly external existence.

What goes wrong? There’s a feeling that something might still be salvaged. Surely you can’t claim that a child’s experience is all that different from a man’s? I don’t know any real answer, even if there may be this or that idea about it. But for a long time I’ve responded by having lost my love for this kind of ‘being myself’ and for this kind of world.”

Local Garda, Sunday, 2 November 2008 22:35 (twelve years ago) link

I bought this recently, and really want to start it but am daunted by the size. That excerpt has me tantalised though. Loves me some Austro-Hungarians.

James Morrison, Sunday, 2 November 2008 22:47 (twelve years ago) link

Just bought this yesterday, after hankering after it for ages, taking the plunge thanks to a 20% off voucher for Waterstones (I picked up Infinite Jest and The Book Of Disquiet too, so my bags were seriously weighed down).

krakow, Saturday, 8 November 2008 10:27 (twelve years ago) link

Arrgh! Yet Another Greatest Book of All Time that extends to massive length. I will never live long enough to read them all. Consequently, my mind shall never be nourished and fattened upon their ineffable goodness and pure profundity.

Why does this happen to me? Is it my punishment for reading the sports section of the daily newspaper? Is it my bad karma for reading nothing but dinosaur books and joke books when I was 10 years old?

BTW, this sounds like a good book. I will put it on my ever-lengthening list. **sigh**

Aimless, Sunday, 9 November 2008 01:58 (twelve years ago) link

We need some 'Greatest Short Books Of All Time' as an alternative for those without swathes of time and concentration.

krakow, Sunday, 9 November 2008 08:06 (twelve years ago) link

Has anyone read the other Musil books? I tried reading "The Magic Mountain" by Thomas Mann recently as a follow up to this but I found it less witty and without story and verve to accompany the philosophy.

Local Garda, Sunday, 9 November 2008 21:10 (twelve years ago) link

'The Confusions of Young Torless' is excellent, and only about 180 pages.

SHAMELESS SELF-PLUG: I used to write a great short books column for Bookslut - http://www.bookslut.com/authors.php?author=James%20Morrison - but gave up due to complete indifference from the editor.

James Morrison, Sunday, 9 November 2008 21:48 (twelve years ago) link

I think I'm going to have to get 'The Confusions of Young Torless' as well, to read first, and hopefully ease the way towards 'The Man Without Qualities' (which I lugged home from work today and is mighty daunting).

krakow, Sunday, 9 November 2008 22:09 (twelve years ago) link

I read "Young Torless" years ago, and loved it. The only Musil I've finished.

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Sunday, 9 November 2008 22:46 (twelve years ago) link

I think that getting outside "myself" (my tastes, etc), enough to really listen to stuff I'd never really heard before, while working in a record store, made me a better reviewer, a better "self" (one with bigger or better holes in it). I'll have to read that. Meanwhile, some other short greats or goods incl. "Ballad of the Sad Cafe" and Ethan Frome (oh yeah, and The Great Gatsby, The Crying of Lot 49, some by Faulkner)

dow, Sunday, 23 November 2008 20:28 (twelve years ago) link

one year passes...

OK, I'm ready to start this. I think. Encouragement, please!

APPLAUD YOU CORPSES (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 23 March 2010 15:12 (ten years ago) link

i don't even want to think how long i've been reading this

thomp, Tuesday, 23 March 2010 15:17 (ten years ago) link

Does dow post on ILM anymore? Really liked his posts...

Told myself I'd re-read this year AND MAKE NOTES ETC...I got hold of a short story collection of his last week.

xyzzzz__, Tuesday, 23 March 2010 21:58 (ten years ago) link

Alfred read it now. There are fantastic holy shit moments on like every other page. I've still only read the first volume and desperately need to find the time to get to vol. 2, but i also want to read all of Dostoevsky's big works. Which to do first? It is a mystery.

wmlynch, Tuesday, 23 March 2010 23:25 (ten years ago) link

three weeks pass...

read it alfred, took me about a year and a half but worth it...

I see what this is (Local Garda), Friday, 16 April 2010 08:50 (ten years ago) link

What Aimless said.

Blecch Generation (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 16 April 2010 11:24 (ten years ago) link

two months pass...

reading it again now (after something like 14 years ).

awesome.

one of those rarset books where you can actually take smart quotes from and embrace them as a way of living.

Zeno, Wednesday, 23 June 2010 21:09 (ten years ago) link

three months pass...

Does anyone know how the different translations (vintage vs. picador) stack up? Is one supposed to be the "definitive" one? Both are available at used book stores, but I'm not sure which one to snag....

Michael_Pemulis, Thursday, 14 October 2010 23:12 (ten years ago) link

i don't know about definitive—i've never even seen the (older) picador one (kaiser and wilkins?)—but i've also only ever seen one dude in a comment box complain about the new translation (vintage, or knopf in hardcover) (pike and wilkins), and lots of people cheering it. and pike is great—i love reading the prose in his musil, and his recent version of rilke's novel was something.

the newer (vintage) contains a lot more of the nachlass / leftover stuff that musil never managed to incorporate into a finished whole. despite that the leftovers are quite worth reading if you like musil and the more finished parts.

j., Friday, 15 October 2010 02:15 (ten years ago) link

The only criticism I've heard of the newer version is that the language is a bit too American in the slang, but that it's otherwise excellent

buildings with goats on the roof (James Morrison), Friday, 15 October 2010 04:33 (ten years ago) link

huh. i can't really recall there being much occasion for slang in the first place. musil ain't döblin.

j., Friday, 15 October 2010 04:53 (ten years ago) link

I think the new version (on hardback only?) has an accompanying volume of Musil's sketches and for the remainder of the novel? Just sounds like an extra 200 pages of greatness really.

xyzzzz__, Friday, 15 October 2010 17:38 (ten years ago) link

Cool, thanks for the tips I think I'll go with the new one then, I just liked the 3 different covers the picador editions used.

Michael_Pemulis, Friday, 15 October 2010 18:18 (ten years ago) link

I have owned this for a couple of years now, and not even attempted to start it. Can someone convince me it has something to do with class and experimental literature? Then I can put it on my PhD reading list, otherwise it'll be another four years before I can even look at it.

emil.y, Friday, 15 October 2010 18:27 (ten years ago) link

class kinda, it's not a central preoccupation of the book tho, rly only concerning itself to any great extent with the upper class, upper middle class and the lumpenproletariat iirc

experimental lit not so much....it's extremely ambitious but not rly germane to its avant-garde contemporaries

you should read it anyway because it is very great

ilxinho (nakhchivan), Friday, 15 October 2010 18:38 (ten years ago) link

i am embarrassed to say i tried/failed to read this. are there any good articles/essays about it that are say somewhere between cliffs notes and the book itself?

Philip Nunez, Friday, 15 October 2010 18:41 (ten years ago) link

not thinking there is a serious strain of experimentalism involved in musil's attempt to wed serious philosophical reflection with novelistic prose sounds rong rong rong to me. it even becomes one of the themes of the book. is there some standard of avant-gardism that his novelist contemporaries were setting that he wasn't (or wasn't trying to)? (i know i sound combative but this is a genuine question.)

philip, you might try reading 'precision and soul' or others of the essays in the collection by that name. if it's your way to work your way up or sidle into authors, you might also prefer to read one or more of the novellas in 'five women'.

j., Friday, 15 October 2010 22:30 (ten years ago) link

I've read Mann, Proust, Powell...can't seem to get this thing going.

raging hetero lifechill (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 15 October 2010 22:31 (ten years ago) link

not thinking there is a serious strain of experimentalism involved in musil's attempt to wed serious philosophical reflection with novelistic prose sounds rong rong rong to me. it even becomes one of the themes of the book. is there some standard of avant-gardism that his novelist contemporaries were setting that he wasn't (or wasn't trying to)? (i know i sound combative but this is a genuine question.)

― j., Friday, 15 October 2010 23:30 (3 minutes ago)

don't think u understood...'experimental fiction' wd usually denote various formalist schools practised by 'avant-gardes', or specific techniques eg the versions of stream of consciousness found in late joyce or broch

i don't think musil was an avant-gardist in that sense

'serious philosophical reflection with novelistic prose' isn't a formal device as such, tho it is a strain that you could probably trace thru goethe, sartre, blanchot....

ilxinho (nakhchivan), Friday, 15 October 2010 22:51 (ten years ago) link

i'm saying that musil took the expression of thought to be intrinsically connected to the form the expression took, and that he took it to be a goal of the novelist to incorporate the intellectual content of his time. to attempt to do that in a novel calls for experimentation in form. the interest of various formalist avant-gardists in special literary devices just seems like a more conspicuous (sometimes because more narrowly focused) manifestation of that experimental attitude.

j., Friday, 15 October 2010 23:25 (ten years ago) link

that's true, but i was responding to a question about its relevance to 'experimental literature', which i'd take to mean something more specific and formalist

ilxinho (nakhchivan), Friday, 15 October 2010 23:55 (ten years ago) link

my (british) edition, picador, just cuts off without editorial comment at the end of part three; german editions since the 50s and the new translation do not do this. so er i need to order the american edition before i can get around to finishing it, great.

j. how much of the book do you think reflects serious philosophical thought vs. mocking the pretensions of the characters' various attempts at same? (i kind of wonder if the original translation pushes things a little too far in the latter direction)

thomp, Saturday, 16 October 2010 00:03 (ten years ago) link

also how does the new one translate 'tausendjahrreich'?

thomp, Saturday, 16 October 2010 00:03 (ten years ago) link

tausendjahriges reich. whatever

thomp, Saturday, 16 October 2010 00:04 (ten years ago) link

i would have liked to quote from a chapter in volume 1 but i can only find volume 2. : (

here's burton pike, though, in the preface to the posthumous leftovers:

'musil did not finish the man without qualities, although he often said he intended to. there is no way of telling from either the parts published in his lifetime or his posthumous papers how he would have done so, or indeed whether he could have done so to his own satisfaction. this is because of the novel's rigorously experimental structure, consisting of an "open architecture" that could be developed in many directions from any given point. the novel does contain coherent individual threads and incidents, but musil firmly rejected the idea of a plotted narrative whole. therefore, while the drafts of the twenty chapters in part 1 of "from the posthumous papers" carry on from where "into the millennium" left off, the material in part 2 is not preliminary to a final version in the usual sense, but consists rather of notes, sketches, and drafts that musil was keeping in suspension for possible use in some form at some place in the ultimate text, a version he never decided upon and that must forever remain the object of tantalizing speculation.

the extent to which musil regarded this novel as experimental was extraordinary. he had begun work on it in earnest in 1924 and was most reluctant when the urging of publishers and worsening external conditions forced him to publish parts of it in 1931 and 1933 (pages 1-1130 in this edition [i.e. all of parts I, II, and III]). from his point of view, the entire text ought to have remained "open" from the beginning until it had all been written and he could then revise the text as a whole. he complained that partial publication removed those parts of the novel from the possibility of further alteration, as well as distorting the shape (again, a never defined, "open" shape) he had in mind for the whole work. as it was, in 1938, in less than robust health and apparently apprehensive that he would again be forced into premature publication, he withdrew the first twenty chapters that appear in "from the posthumous papers" when they were already set in galleys, in order to rework them still further. these chapters were not intended to conclude the novel but to continue "into the millennium". like goethe, musil had a strange sense of having infinite time stretching out before him in which to complete his task. one is tempted to see in his solitary and stubborn pursuit of his ideal more than a little of kafka's hunger artist.

musil's purpose in writing the man without qualities was a moral one. he had set out to explore possibilities for the right life in a culture that had lost both its center and its bearings but could not tear itself away from its outworn forms and habits of thought, even while they were dissolving. musil equated ethics and aesthetics, and was convinced that a union of "precision and soul," the language and discoveries of science with one's inner life of perceptions and feelings, could be, and must be, achieved. he meant this novel to be experienced as a moral lever to move the world, as emerson and nietzsche intended their writing to be experienced, in such a way that (in rilke's words) "you must change your life." musil's anguish becomes palpable as he pursues this search for the right life using the tools of scientific skepticism, while remaining all too aware of the apparently inherent limitations of human societies and, especially, of human nature. fortunately this anguish is leavened by a sparkling wit of language and situation, as when a character is described as wearing "a wig of split hairs."'

j., Saturday, 16 October 2010 01:22 (ten years ago) link

Cool, thanks for the tips I think I'll go with the new one then, I just liked the 3 different covers the picador editions used.

― Michael_Pemulis, Friday, 15 October 2010 18:18 (Yesterday) Permalink

Man oh man I love those covers. I have 2/3 vols then own the other vol in the picador (but not in the same style of cover?).

My feelings on this (to give ans emil.y) - Musil said he wasn't interested in Joyce. Given the few bits I know about Musil that could be jealousy but when you read the novel you can tell he wasn't.

He sorta explores the essay form in fiction. A bit like Proust or Borges except the former has more going on by the manner in which he wrote (e.g. the punctuation he utilizes).

Broch is in the middle of all that: part III of The Sleepwalkers is a worried essay but Death of Virgil builds on Joyce.

xyzzzz__, Saturday, 16 October 2010 11:07 (ten years ago) link

Interesting discussions about experimentalism, thanks guys. I may have to have a bit of a read of it just to see where I stand on the issue too.

emil.y, Saturday, 16 October 2010 11:46 (ten years ago) link

i reread the first two chapters of part III (beginning of the second vintage volume) last night, the writing is really amazing.

compared to say 'the sleepwalkers' or 'the magic mountain', the way he depicts people thinking or talking about 'important things' makes broch and mann seem like old-timey allegorists. in the first chapter where he re-meets his sister, ulrich is depicted as feeling her out (he barely knows anything about her) in a conversation that takes all these turns in response to the content of what they've said (about her academic-climber of a husband and about gender relations, among other things) and to ulrich's read of her emotional reactions and of his own—it doesn't at all read like 'musil tries out some thoughts about education and gender', it's actually a scene in which people think, and it makes the situation and the people and the ideas seem bound together.

there are all sorts of inversions of time piled up in those first two chapters, it's crazy. but the most awesome is his father's telegram:

this is to inform you that i am deceased.

– your father

j., Saturday, 16 October 2010 23:43 (ten years ago) link

So, about 2 1/2 years after getting the books (vol 1 and 2 of the new translation) and reviving this thread (as Michael Pemulis), I finally started reading Vol 1, am about 300 pages in and am absolutely loving it. Even with high expectations going in, it's managed to completely exceed them all and totally blow me away.

Federico Boswarlos, Friday, 8 February 2013 18:33 (seven years ago) link

three months pass...

Törless entirely abandoned himself to their influence, for the situation in which his mind now found itself was approximately this: At schools of the kind known as the Gymnasium, at his age, one has read Goethe, Schiller, Shakespeare, and perhaps even some modern writers too, and this, having been half digested, is then written out of the system again, excreted, as it were, through the finger-tips. Roman tragedies are written, or poems, of the most sensitive lyrical kind, that go through their paces garbed in punctuation that is looped over whole pages at a time, as in delicate lace: things that are in themselves ludicrous, but which are of inestimable value in contributing to a sound development. For these associations originating outside, and these borrowed emotions, carry young people over the dangerously soft spiritual ground of the years in which they need to be of some significance to themselves and nevertheless are still too incomplete to have any real significance. Whether any residue of it is ultimately left in the one, or nothing in the other, does not matter; later each will somehow come to terms with himself, and the danger exists only in the stage of transition. If at that period one could bring a boy to see the ridiculousness of himself, the ground would give way under him, or he would plunge headlong like a somnambulist who, suddenly awaking, sees nothing but emptiness around him.

Mastery of the authoritative tone is in evidence there.

Aimless, Friday, 17 May 2013 23:51 (seven years ago) link

seven months pass...

Read about his poem Isis and Orisis today and a translation in this blog about Musil

Isis and Osiris

On the foliage of stars the moon
Boy in silvery rest withdrew
And the hub of the sun's wheel soon
Turned and looked at him anew.

From the desert the red wind wails.
And the coasts are empty of sails.

And the sister quietly loosened
The sleeper's sex and devoured it.
And she gave her soft heart, the red one,
In return, and laid it upon him, upon him.

And in the dream the wound healed over.
And his sweet sex she devoured.

See how the sun thundered away
As the sleeper was shocked from sleep,
Stars swayed, like ships,
Shaking trees, if they are chained,
When the great storm begins.
See, there his brothers stormed
After the lovely thief,
And he cast his net out.
And the blue space broke,
The woods broke under her tread,
And the stars ran along in dread,
But the tender birdshouldered one
Could not be caught by anyone, no matter how fast.

Only the boy she called to at night
Finds her, when moon and sun exchange.
Of all the hundred brothers, only this one,
And he eats her heart and she eats his.

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 9 January 2014 23:01 (six years ago) link

eleven months pass...

Anyone read Heimito von Doderer's The Demons, reading about it in this blog although that piece complains about criticisms of it rather than putting an argument forward for same.

I suspect it isn't v good as the good stuff does manage to stay in circulation in small but visible enough ways but I'd like to hear anyone's thoughts.

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 8 January 2015 10:31 (five years ago) link

one month passes...

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03ncph0

Just found it, haven't listened..

xyzzzz__, Tuesday, 17 February 2015 23:52 (five years ago) link

lol er starts with some old concert.

Matthew Sweet annoys me...still wasn't expecting this book to be featured.

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 18 February 2015 00:01 (five years ago) link

That broacast was good in parts: covered Kakania, the way Musil writes about women, how he used himself as a human laboratory is very true an probably much more of post-Freuian psychologist. Agathe. Loved the voice of the guy who reads the passages from the book.

As for the panel Boyd was boring, Drabble was annoying at times (I think the way this book flows from a non-fiction essayism to a fiction of sorts can be baggy and risky but its amazing how Musil pulls it off and keeps you turning pages). Blom seems to have had the longest engagement with the book by far and his comments show that.

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 19 February 2015 11:04 (five years ago) link

Agree with that - I listened to this earlier this year, forget how I found it.

I thought all of them kind of got it wrong and raised really trite points apart from Blom (assuming he was the German academic.) I just think they failed to actually value it in any meaningful way whereas everything he said really showed a sense of the book as a whole and the wide range of topics it covers.

The others just seemed to say "oh it's ridiculous, this parallel campaign" - as if the book was like a short jolly satire.

Moyes Enthusiast (LocalGarda), Thursday, 19 February 2015 13:53 (five years ago) link

one month passes...

http://www.openlettersmonthly.com/there-will-be-no-more-great-ideas/

Excellent piece - its great Blanchot (also one of my favourite novelists but he wrote differently) has written on him, must chase that.

xyzzzz__, Friday, 20 March 2015 21:51 (five years ago) link

one month passes...

http://enemiesproject.bigcartel.com/product/the-kakania-anthology

Looks interesting.

xyzzzz__, Monday, 20 April 2015 11:56 (five years ago) link

three months pass...

bought

doing my Objectives, handling some intense stuff (LocalGarda), Saturday, 25 July 2015 10:24 (five years ago) link

thought about buying, then i saw the design

r|t|c, Saturday, 25 July 2015 14:09 (five years ago) link

two months pass...

I'm going in!

as verbose and purple as a Peter Ustinov made of plums (James Morrison), Wednesday, 21 October 2015 09:56 (five years ago) link

good luck!

doing my Objectives, handling some intense stuff (LocalGarda), Wednesday, 21 October 2015 12:09 (five years ago) link

Cheers! loving it so far. Not sure what I expected, but this is quite surprising and contemporary and entertaining so far. Just read up to how Ulrich surprises himself by asking for clemency for the sex murderer.

I've been meaning to start this for a while: I've had the book for ages, but couldn't work out if it was complete or not, and had to lots of googling to get a look at various contents pages of various editions online.

My copy is the UK "one-volume" edition of the Wilkins/pike translation, which stops abruptly on p1130 without any explanation, leaving out all the posthumous/unpublished stuff, so I've had to order volume 2 of the US edition to get all that as well. Seems as though the publisher, Picador, could have included a page or two of explanation, instead of these stupid ads at the end for kent Haruf books I don''t want to read.

In the unlikely event the vol 2 doesn't arrived before I get up to that point, I will be making use of http://gen.lib.rus.ec/search.php?req=musil+qualities+knopf&open=0&view=simple&phrase=1&column=def

as verbose and purple as a Peter Ustinov made of plums (James Morrison), Wednesday, 21 October 2015 23:14 (five years ago) link

My memories of bleak, scary Young Torless did not lead me to expect this to be as humourous as it is (this is not a complaint)

as verbose and purple as a Peter Ustinov made of plums (James Morrison), Thursday, 22 October 2015 04:15 (five years ago) link

Link to that BBC episode xyzzzz mentioned ~2yrs ago, with download http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02twpys

Will listen to when have finished book. Forgive me for using this thread as a sort of notebook.

as verbose and purple as a Peter Ustinov made of plums (James Morrison), Thursday, 22 October 2015 04:19 (five years ago) link

Shit my Dad says, Musil edition:

"Oh, I tried to read that once. Didn't get very far. I called it 'The Book Without Qualities'."

:(

as verbose and purple as a Peter Ustinov made of plums (James Morrison), Monday, 26 October 2015 00:50 (five years ago) link

This book is amazing. I see what everyone means about it taking over your thoughts: even when I'm not reading it, I'm stewing on it.

Just finished the extraordinary scene where they're watching the flasher lurking in the garden.

The transition from the end of the claustrophobic vol 2, to the weirdly sunny funeral-time with Ulrich and his sister, was great. Love the vibe between the siblings, though I have a horrible feeling about where it's going.

as verbose and purple as a Peter Ustinov made of plums (James Morrison), Thursday, 29 October 2015 23:30 (five years ago) link

The only criticism I've heard of the newer version is that the language is a bit too American in the slang, but that it's otherwise excellent

― buildings with goats on the roof (James Morrison), Friday, October 15, 2010 3:03 PM (5 years ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

No idea what i was talking about here

as verbose and purple as a Peter Ustinov made of plums (James Morrison), Thursday, 29 October 2015 23:32 (five years ago) link

Annoyingly, despite my having bought this book new, it has some nitwit's pencil scribblings every 100 pages or so, inexpertly rubbed out (taking some of the type with it): someone must have returned this copy to a bookshop after defacing it, it got returned to the publisher, and then sent to me, and because it took me 7 years to get round to reading it, it's a bit late to complain and ask for a new copy.

as verbose and purple as a Peter Ustinov made of plums (James Morrison), Thursday, 29 October 2015 23:34 (five years ago) link

James Morrison for President of ILB

You're a Big URL Now (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 30 October 2015 03:21 (five years ago) link

My memories of bleak, scary Young Torless did not lead me to expect this to be as humourous as it is (this is not a complaint)

yeah torless is so claustrophobic and brooding with violence - man without qualities is indeed really funny and often quite plainly acerbic or dry. i can see that some parts are a slog, like a few chapters at a time here and there, but it still surprises me that some people give up on it or find it a waste of time.

This book is amazing. I see what everyone means about it taking over your thoughts: even when I'm not reading it, I'm stewing on it.

this thread is probably full of me commenting to this effect but that's really how it was when i read it. i can remember reading it on public transport and being struck by some amazing insight or other, and feeling like i wanted to share it with someone as soon as i could. i worked in a bookshop when i read it and occasionally i'd end up chatting to someone who bought a thomas mann book or something vaguely similar, and be like "have you read the man without qualities" - usually if they had it was like this cult revelation.

must read it again sometime, i'd really like to have bookmarked all my favourite parts.

doing my Objectives, handling some intense stuff (LocalGarda), Friday, 30 October 2015 08:35 (five years ago) link

The blurb on the back says something along the lines of every page has some observation or description which strikes you anew, and while most blurbs are balls, this one is really true. Not bad when every page = 1100+ pages

as verbose and purple as a Peter Ustinov made of plums (James Morrison), Friday, 30 October 2015 09:16 (five years ago) link

it's so wide-ranging as well - like it's casually brilliant on so many different topics. i'd need to read it again to remember it all as it was about 2008 when i finished it, but the general stumpf chapters in particular are incredible, especially for the internet age.

doing my Objectives, handling some intense stuff (LocalGarda), Friday, 30 October 2015 09:25 (five years ago) link

love the poor old general and his aborted scheme to read all the important books, one per day

Have finished the main book, and the bonus stuff not yet arrived in post, so will have to wait a bit to read on. It's odd the way it actually seems to be building to a climax at the end, with the weight of all the read pages in your left hand and almost all the characters assembling in one place, but then it doesn't, of course. Hard to know how it ever could have an ending. I read that Musil told someone he wanted the book the end suddenly, midsentence, with a comma, and it actually almost does.

Most vivid characters at the moment as i think back on it are the general, the surprisingly sane and balanced agnes, despite her criminality, and the strange, somewhat mad clarisse, idling along and clutching at people like a deluded, messianic crab.

as verbose and purple as a Peter Ustinov made of plums (James Morrison), Monday, 2 November 2015 10:09 (five years ago) link

in a letter of 1934 to his friend the satirist Franz Blei, Musil, given his desperate personal situation and the Nazi takeover in Germany, compares his continued work on The Man without Qualities to “the diligence of a woodworm, boring through a picture frame in a house that is already ablaze”.

http://www.the-tls.co.uk/tls/reviews/biography/article729270.ece. (Paywalled)

as verbose and purple as a Peter Ustinov made of plums (James Morrison), Tuesday, 3 November 2015 22:57 (five years ago) link

Awesome how you finished this so fast! What's the Bonus stuff? Can you buy that as a separate vol?

Ronan - did you read Thought Flights?

xyzzzz__, Tuesday, 3 November 2015 23:01 (five years ago) link

The bonus stuff is all in the second volume of the Pike/Burton translation, http://www.amazon.com/Man-Without-Qualities-Vol-Millennium/dp/0679768025

It's 20 chapters/200 pages Musil removed from the published book at the last minute, plus about 400 pages of unfinished extra chapters, scenes, notes, etc

If one were inclined to "preview" it, one could do so at http://gen.lib.rus.ec/book/index.php?md5=64d2da654c43c543a06c53ac513a3902

as verbose and purple as a Peter Ustinov made of plums (James Morrison), Tuesday, 3 November 2015 23:39 (five years ago) link

i really want to reread this now. hm

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Wednesday, 4 November 2015 00:31 (five years ago) link

i mean i feel like that desire would last ~ 100 pages but

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Wednesday, 4 November 2015 00:31 (five years ago) link

Ha, know the feeling

Memes of the Pwn Age (James Redd and the Blecchs), Wednesday, 4 November 2015 02:46 (five years ago) link

eight months pass...

I started this again. Wish me luck.

The burrito of ennui (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 29 July 2016 19:13 (four years ago) link

Luck!

a little too mature to be cute (Aimless), Friday, 29 July 2016 23:58 (four years ago) link

ch wünsche dir viel Glück dabei.

The New Original Human Beatbox (James Redd and the Blecchs), Saturday, 30 July 2016 02:58 (four years ago) link

Ach.
Ich wünsche dir viel Glück dabei.

(I would have just typed instead of c+p, but easier to get the umlauts the other way)

The New Original Human Beatbox (James Redd and the Blecchs), Saturday, 30 July 2016 02:59 (four years ago) link

I keep meaning to retry this. I got about halfway last time. I remember I was enjoying it - think I must have got distracted by something else.

two crickets sassing each other (dowd), Saturday, 30 July 2016 06:09 (four years ago) link

Ronan - did you read Thought Flights?

just saw this question from upthread. i have it but haven't read it yet. maybe read a few pages. need to remedy.

Bein' Sean Bean (LocalGarda), Saturday, 30 July 2016 08:33 (four years ago) link

'The Confusions of Young Torless' is excellent, and only about 180 pages.

SHAMELESS SELF-PLUG: I used to write a great short books column for Bookslut - http://www.bookslut.com/authors.php?author=James%20Morrison - but gave up due to complete indifference from the editor.

― James Morrison, Sunday, November 9, 2008 4:48 PM (7 years ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

sick. im gonna read all of these i love short books

flopson, Monday, 1 August 2016 02:36 (four years ago) link

three months pass...

First impressions after roughly 100pp. The approach to story or content is extremely diffuse. The best description of the story so far might be 'some things happen'. But this diffusion is more than offset by the crisp acuity and rueful humor of the author's voice. I am carried along happily wherever Musil wishes to take me, trusting implicitly that he will take me to a place of interest, sentence by sentence.

incidentally, Musil's prose, as viewed through the lens of the translation, is purely remarkable without being striking. He doesn't form his phrases to impress you through stylistic posturing. Instead they each carry an intellectual tension that he successfully resolves over and over again, either as wit or as insight. It's pretty cool to watch him work.

a little too mature to be cute (Aimless), Thursday, 17 November 2016 02:08 (four years ago) link

Nicely put, aimless. Diffuse is the word---in 1000 pages the plot will not be much further advanced, but there is something great or lgely on each of those pages

I hear from this arsehole again, he's going in the river (James Morrison), Thursday, 17 November 2016 09:14 (four years ago) link

What translation, Aimless? Anybody?

dow, Saturday, 19 November 2016 01:39 (four years ago) link

I have the Sophie Wilkins & Burton Pike translation.

a little too mature to be cute (Aimless), Saturday, 19 November 2016 02:26 (four years ago) link

three years pass...

https://www.nybooks.com/articles/2020/03/26/robert-musil-infinities-man-without-qualities/

This review has Hofmann saying a bunch of really nice things about Musil but its really unbalanced as a critique of translation in the sense that I have no idea why the NYRB edition is a good translation in the same way that the Archipelago edition of the Novellas is terrible. The review of the NYRB is simply puff.

xyzzzz__, Monday, 9 March 2020 15:23 (eight months ago) link

four months pass...

Finally made up my mind to get the 2-vol, but on the way, I ran into an ad for Agathe, published in Dec. 2019. Should I get this too? Read it first?

dow, Monday, 13 July 2020 02:42 (four months ago) link

Maybe I should wait for *all* the related material? Brian Wilson, Arthur Russell, Bolano, aieeee

dow, Monday, 13 July 2020 02:44 (four months ago) link

Agathe is basically a carefully edited extract. Get the full thing and read it first.

Tsar Bombadil (James Morrison), Monday, 13 July 2020 10:57 (four months ago) link

Thanks. Had to call the plumber, so yet another sign that I should read all the books I have before ordering more.

dow, Tuesday, 14 July 2020 16:42 (four months ago) link


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