The Man Without Qualities

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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 (four years ago) link

thought about buying, then i saw the design

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

good luck!

doing my Objectives, handling some intense stuff (LocalGarda), Wednesday, 21 October 2015 12:09 (four 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 (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)

as verbose and purple as a Peter Ustinov made of plums (James Morrison), Thursday, 22 October 2015 04:15 (four 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 (four 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 (four 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 (four 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 (four 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”.

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 (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

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

Ha, know the feeling

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

Luck!

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

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 (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

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 (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

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 (two months ago) link


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