Musil is one of those Great Authors I’ve always looked forward to reading one day but haven’t gotten around to; many of the writers I love most deeply come from that early part of the twentieth century and I have a fascination with the Austro-Hungarian Empire (all those languages!), so I expect to enjoy him when I finally read The Man Without Qualities (no, I’m not going to try reading him in German: life is too short). In the meantime, I’m happy to have Jerry van Beers’ Musil site; he’s been putting online everything he can find about and by Musil since 1997 (at first in Dutch, but he quickly added an English version), and it’s a real treasure trove. I got the link from wood s lot, who put up lots of Musil-related items yesterday (11.06.2005); my favorite snippet is:

“Our ancestors wrote prose in long, beautiful sentences, convoluted like curls; although we still learn to do it that way in school, we write in short sentences that cut more quickly to the heart of the matter; and no one in the world can free his thinking from the manner in which his time wears the cloak of language. Thus no man can know to what extent he actually means what he writes and in writing, it is far less that people twist words than it is that words twist people.
—Musil, from ‘The Paintspreader’ in Posthumous Papers of a Living Author, 1936


  1. Many of my favourite authors are also from this time: Pessoa, Joyce, Svevo, Kafka.

  2. aldiboronti says

    Snap! (Having written that I find myself suddenly wondering whether this word, spoken in the child’s card game on laying an identical card, has the same connotation in the US. If not, then – Ditto!)
    The Man Without Qualities is one of those books I’ve been meaning to read for years, along with The Magic Mountain and Heinrich Mann’s Man of Straw, of which I remember seeing a wonderful adaptation many years ago on the BBC with Derek Jacobi in the lead role.
    There’s something immensely pleasing about starting a novel the size of a doorstop; one hefts the weight in one’s hands and flickers through the pages with anticipatory relish. And once read! I still vividly recall finishing Richardson’s Clarissa long ago and feeling as if I’d climbed Everest. (Alas, with Proust I slipped into a crevasse and never made the summit; with David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest I hurled myself from a ledge a third of the way up, and counted Callimachus a wise man for his ‘Mega biblion, mega kakon’.)

  3. I’ve only started MWQ, but it seems very contemporary — bleeding heart liberals, a talented but directionless protagonist who studies the martial arts, political hopelessness. There is also a page describing Vienna’s traffic that I’d like to compare to Joyce’s Ulysses page on Dublin’s traffic.

  4. The great unfinishable Austrian novel of that period is Broch’s The Death of Virgil – makes The Man Without Qualities look like Elmore Leonard. Broch was onto something, but the reader really needs a TOTALLY free month….

  5. Yvonne mentioned that she could email an electronic copy of The Translation Wars.
    It would be greatly appreciated.
    massaro at

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