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
reading it again now (after something like 14 years ).
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 (nine years ago) link
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 (nine 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 (nine 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 (nine 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 (nine 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 (nine 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 (nine 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 (nine 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 (nine 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 (nine 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 (nine 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 (nine years ago) link
― 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 (nine 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 (nine 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 (nine 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 (nine years ago) link
also how does the new one translate 'tausendjahrreich'?
tausendjahriges reich. whatever
― thomp, Saturday, 16 October 2010 00:04 (nine 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 (nine years ago) link
― 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 (nine 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 (nine 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 (nine years ago) link
j you're right in that an idea and a character are more fused together in Musil. Mann (at least in the read I gave to The Magic Mountain) in comparison is quite wooden, all symbols playing off against one anther for supremacy instead of beings on the page, thinking and feeling. I largely think this to be the case in much of the Sleepwalkers (each of the three main characters representing an age blah) but in part III he's playing at a few different things in the essays.
Actually got a copy of part III on its own and I'll need to give that a re-read sometime.
― xyzzzz__, Monday, 18 October 2010 20:14 (nine years ago) link
i would agree about mann except that i do think a lot of the stiffness in 'magic mountain' is not unintentional. it seemed to me like a writerly way to solve the problem of how to depict attraction to and enticement by competing 'great ideas' and their corresponding ways of life, without the course of a novel being the most apt place to express such things. (i put it that way, mainly because i'm trying not to say 'mann didn't understand these things well enough to do them justice in fictional form'.) things in that novel seem quite affected by the naive hans, spiritual education in progress, being the focal point of the narrative, even if the official narrator is distinct from hans.
― j., Monday, 18 October 2010 21:47 (nine years ago) link
the "essays" in Man Without Qualities are (with or without context to the actual "prose" of the book) some of the best, most pure philosophical material ever written (in style and in contents) and Musil insights are magnificent and inspiring.
― Zeno, Monday, 18 October 2010 21:48 (nine years ago) link
i finally read "the confusions of young torless", it was great. i found it tougher going than mwq but still full of really brilliant insight. also i'd forgotten, beyond the philosophy even, what a brilliant mood musil can conjure. torless is so relentlessly violent and bleak, even the thoughts and feelings seem to have a real sense of blood and thunder to them.
i also bought flypaper, a collection of short stories, but not started it yet.
― Phelan Nulty (Local Garda), Thursday, 12 May 2011 10:51 (nine years ago) link
Been finishng his diaries - a lot more relaxed than his novels. Diaries that were not intended for publication will always do that on one level, but its even more pronounced in this case.
Took a while for it to warm up to the contents, so this got more interesting with the entries composed while he was engaged with MwQ, and its reaction: namely his frustration at lack of reaction and non-recognition in Austria. He did save most of his energies for the novel but there are some gems: when he describes H!tler as an emotion, then you see his scientific background on the one hand, and openess to mysticism on the other. A good moment is when he reflects on MwQ that has been pusblished so far as having too much essayistic material that doesn't stick (or words to that effect). The introduction is worth a good scan.
― xyzzzz__, Thursday, 12 May 2011 18:19 (nine years ago) link
Just finished today and there is a wonderful set of entries, a kind of notes-to-an-autobiography that (like so many of his ideas for novels, etc) never materialized.
Really a must (even when there is planty to quibble over and get frustrated by), just an opportunity to spend more time in his company.
― xyzzzz__, Friday, 13 May 2011 17:39 (nine years ago) link
Egon Schiele exhibition (whose paintings were reproduced on those MwQ Picador covers)
― xyzzzz__, Friday, 13 May 2011 17:42 (nine years ago) link
Young Torless frightened me when I read it in college in '95 -- one of the first times a work of lit forced me to rethink my sexuality.
― ginny thomas and tonic (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 13 May 2011 17:45 (nine years ago) link
it really is quite intense alright.
thanks for that info julio, i have had diaries in my amazon basket for a long time, must buy them then. also will check that exhibition...
― Phelan Nulty (Local Garda), Saturday, 14 May 2011 19:00 (nine years ago) link
No probs Ronan.
All I need to read now is that volume that ceme with the Burton Pike translation of sketches/scenes/proposed endings fo MwQ (only available w/the hardback I think)
― xyzzzz__, Monday, 16 May 2011 17:55 (nine years ago) link
no, not in the current u.s. paperback ed—it's all crammed into the second volume.
― j., Monday, 16 May 2011 23:03 (nine years ago) link
anyone else read flypaper? don't know why i held off on reading more than the title essay till now, it's such perfect musil material. "it's lovely here" and "monuments" in particular are really good. when he's in the mood to make a point it's always so nicely weighted, never browbeating. and he has that 1 per cent smartass quality running through things too.
― LocalGarda, Monday, 15 August 2011 14:27 (eight years ago) link
I had completely forgotten that I was the one who recommended this formative book to LG. What a feather in my cap! To be honest, I am now incapable about thinking of this book or Musil without thinking of LG, and vice versa.
― Virginia Plain, Monday, 15 August 2011 20:31 (eight years ago) link
:) i owe you greatly. it's still such a big thing for me, that book. i have considered musil related tattoos.
― LocalGarda, Monday, 15 August 2011 23:01 (eight years ago) link
you should totally research the system (of notation? symbols?) he used to organize his notebooks for 'man'.
― j., Tuesday, 16 August 2011 03:25 (eight years ago) link
Ha, LG, I refuse to take responsibility for any Musil-related body ink. Whenever I see reference to this book (granted probably most often on this board) I think to myself, LG got so much more out of it than I did, I should read it again. And then I see a shiny thing in the distance and forget all about it until the next time it comes up.
― Virginia Plain, Tuesday, 16 August 2011 13:58 (eight years ago) link
i have probably mentioned my failure to finish this book already on this thread
― thomp, Tuesday, 16 August 2011 14:07 (eight years ago) link
failure to finish book, failure to reread thread
― j., Tuesday, 16 August 2011 18:18 (eight years ago) link
i started reading this cuz i was really impressed with von rezzori and i guess musil was a big influence on his writing but:
To me, a book that changes the way you think and really dominates your thoughts
'dominatees your thoughts' is a really good way of putting it, so far it has this real immensity, physicality, it almost sort of looms. i mean not even really sure of what i think about it, because it ends up thinking for me, almost?
― Lamp, Tuesday, 3 April 2012 02:43 (eight years ago) link
which translation are you reading? i really don't want to scroll back up and see how long i've been reading this for
― thomp, Tuesday, 3 April 2012 13:01 (eight years ago) link
wilkins and pike
― Lamp, Tuesday, 3 April 2012 17:35 (eight years ago) link
do you find it oppressive or just boring?
Got tonka and other stories recently, not started it yet tho.
― I'm going to allow this! (LocalGarda), Friday, 6 April 2012 07:21 (eight years ago) link
diaries are worth a look
― puff puff post (uh oh I'm having a fantasy), Friday, 6 April 2012 08:48 (eight years ago) link
kind of ... both?
it's weird, tho, i think the older translation does a more thorough job of making everything be in quotation marks -- like there's obv characters (the businessman who comes to a revelation that 'one should only expend the interest of one's soul - never the capital!') whose interior lives are plain awful, but absolutely everything is ventriloquised by this narrator or structure of feeling that puts it into that space. which is sort of aligned with but not identical to ulrich's malaise
whereas i think the new one seems closer to making it seem like there are human beings in there somewhere. i swapped halfway through and then gave up.
― thomp, Friday, 6 April 2012 09:13 (eight years ago) link
probably my favorite novel of all time.
anyone read Posthumous Papers of a Living Author and can recommend?
― nostormo, Friday, 6 April 2012 15:06 (eight 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 (four 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 (four 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 (four 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 (four 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 (four 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 (four 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”.
― as verbose and purple as a Peter Ustinov made of plums (James Morrison), Tuesday, 3 November 2015 22:57 (four 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 (four 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 (four years ago) link
i really want to reread this now. hm
― ♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Wednesday, 4 November 2015 00:31 (four years ago) link
i mean i feel like that desire would last ~ 100 pages but
Ha, know the feeling
― Memes of the Pwn Age (James Redd and the Blecchs), Wednesday, 4 November 2015 02:46 (four years ago) link
I started this again. Wish me luck.
― The burrito of ennui (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 29 July 2016 19:13 (three years ago) link
― a little too mature to be cute (Aimless), Friday, 29 July 2016 23:58 (three 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 (three 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 (three 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 (three years ago) link
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 (three 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 (three years ago) link
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 (three 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 (three years ago) link
What translation, Aimless? Anybody?
― dow, Saturday, 19 November 2016 01:39 (three 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 (three years ago) link
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 (two months ago) link