Robert Musil (German Edition)

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Musil - German Literature

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Of course, these transformations were a catalyst for disaster. The resources of civilization—epitomized by the faith in rationality, moral law, and progress that Schorske mentions—were hollowed out from within; weightless, they soon lost the capacity to resist the barbarism of feeling—aesthetic, sexual, social, political feeling—that rushed in everywhere that a spiritual vacancy was felt.

Musil put it in terms of the credit system:. The Man Without Qualities contains a record of both activities. I t was in fact the union of his commitment to Genauigkeit with a thoroughgoing revulsion to what we might call spiritual sentimentality that fueled his most penetrating observations about the modern condition. In this, as in other respects, Musil sought to emulate the thinker who probably most deeply influenced his understanding of cultural matters, Friedrich Nietzsche. His own greatest novels The Magic Mountain , Doctor Faustus certainly answer to that description, as do many other classics of modernism.

Yet The Man Without Qualities was probably the most self-consciously essayistic of all these novels. Musil mimicked the essay form in order to enjoy something of the authority of assertion without incurring all of its responsibilities. Although potentially disingenuous, this procedure offers the novelist one way to explore that hazy territory between the simple indicative, which outstrips his knowledge, and the frankly fictional, which seems insufficiently urgent.

More so even than most novels, The Man Without Qualities was written sub specie possibilitatis , under the aspect of possibility; its dominant mood is the subjunctive; Ulrich, the man without qualities, is one in whom the sense of possibility is overdeveloped—or, what amounts to the same thing, one in whom the sense of reality is in abeyance.

His extraordinary indifference to the life snapping at the bait is matched by the risk he runs of doing utterly eccentric things. Initially liberating, the triumph of possibility over reality is in the end an invitation to despair—something that Musil himself seems to have discovered along with Ulrich. A lthough Musil was in the process of veering off in many other directions in the last years he worked on the book, the portions that he actually published center largely around Ulrich.

We never learn his last name one symptom, perhaps, of his lack of qualities , but we do know quite a bit about Ulrich. He is capable of great charm, but there is also something a little repulsive, even thuggish about him. U lrich never really finds his vocation, but chance breaks in when his father helps arrange for him to become honorary secretary of a national campaign to celebrate the seventieth jubilee of the Emperor Franz Josef in Construed partly as a way of showing up the Germans whose emperor would be celebrating merely his thirtieth jubilee , the Parallel Campaign was much more than a way of honoring Franz Josef.

In short, the Parallel Campaign was the perfect repository for all manner of frustrated idealism, misguided beneficence, and outright charlatanry. T hroughout the first volume of The Man Without Qualities , the Parallel Campaign is the scaffolding upon which Musil hangs his tale and parades his motley cast of characters.

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Paul Arnheim, an immeasurably rich Prussian industrialist who is half-Jewish and speaks five languages. T here are three other characters that deserve to be mentioned. She would not let him fail her in this. His solution to this problem—still a common solution among the terminally disappointed—is to blame his failure on the hopeless decadence of the age.

This tactic has many advantages. His life, which had come to nothing, was now, all at once, tremendously accounted for, justified on a world-historical scale. Now, he. Finally, some mention must be made of the carpenter Christian Moosbrugger: a huge, physically powerful man who is something of a simpleton. M usil has great fun playing these characters off one another.

Pritchett noted in an admiring essay on Musil, one of his great achievements is to have made such exotic characters humanly engaging. As already noted, one of the most important of these themes concerns the Nietzschean question of the value—the human, moral value—of scientific knowledge. At bottom, an impermissible mode of conduct: like dipsomania, sex mania, homicidal mania, the compulsion to know forms its own character that is off balance. Scientific rationality in this sense is not merely disillusioning; it is radically dehumanizing. The enormous power over nature that science has brought man, Musil suggests, is only part of its attraction.

Psychologically just as important is the power it gives one to dispense with the human claims of experience. How liberating to know that kindness is just another form of egotism! That beauty is merely a matter of fatty tissues being arranged properly! That every inflection of our emotional life is nothing but the entirely predictable result of glandular activity!

Just another , merely , nothing but … How liberating, how dismissive are these instruments of dispensation—but how un true, finally, to our experience. It is this Promethean aspect of science that links it with evil. At the same time, however, Musil is never willing to side wholeheartedly with the Romantic attack on science.

Die Verwirrungen des Zöglings Törleß, Robert MUSIL, Hörbuch auf Deutsch, German

A bit earlier, he reminds his readers that. Especially impressive is the way that he weaves these reflections into his narrative, adjusting their resonance and implication to each character, and, finally, showing how the passion for reason was powerless to save Kakania from the great irrationality that was poised to engulf it.

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The machinations of the Campaign now begin to recede and the story of Ulrich and his sister, Agathe, comes to the fore. The mood of the book now changes substantially: gone is the bright, satirical tone of the first volume. In , the year before the first volume of The Man Without Qualities appeared, he suffered a nervous breakdown. Friends started a Musil Society to help support the novelist, but he was never really to know financial security again for the rest of his life. In the meantime, in , Musil suffered a stroke, but was able to work again before long. The later portions of The Man Without Qualities have their admirers.

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But for many they will be slow going. The long conversations between Ulrich and Agathe, and the detailed ruminations on various religious texts, are dramatically static.

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Unfortunately, this is a case in which aspiration did not match achievement. It has often been pointed out that, at bottom, Musil was a kind of moralist. He hoped that the relationship between Ulrich and Agathe would furnish a model for that imperative.