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Robert Musil is ranked alongside Marcel Proust and James Joyce for his monumental, unfinished novel, The Man Without Qualities. His Diaries, a distillation of forty-three years of material, are valuable in a number of ways: as a first-hand historical document of life in twentieth-century central Europe, as a kind of unwitting autobiography of a great novelist, and as a writer's notebook that details the moods of artistic adventure.Readers will gain keen insights into Musil's passage from scientist, to soldier, to novelist, in honest passages that reveal the man in all his humor, ambition, frustration, and transcendence.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780465016518
ISBN-10: 0465016510
Format: Paperback
(235mm x 187mm x 40mm)
Pages: 624
Imprint: Basic Books
Publisher: The Perseus Books Group
Publish Date: 19-Nov-1999
Country of Publication: United States


US Kirkus Review » The first English translation of selected entries from the introspective notebooks of Musil, one of Austria's greatest writers of modernist fiction. Musil was one of the more important German-language modernists to emerge from the Viennese cauldron of intellectual ferment between 1900 and 1945. He remains best known for two novels: The Confusions of Young Toerless (1902) and The Man Without Qualities (1933 and 1943). This latter effort is an enormous canvas in which Musil attempted to portray the totality of Austrian social, intellectual, and spiritual confusion that led up to the First World War and - ultimately - contributed much to the Nazi era. Musil, a compulsive perfectionist, never finished the book. The Nazis drove him into exile. He died in 1942, leaving behind massive amounts of notes, sketches, plans, and diaries. Four years ago a new, expanded translation of The Man Without Qualities appeared in the US, and interest in Musil seems to be growing. The present selection of entries (about two-fifths of the German edition) offers a glimpse into the novelist's personal life and into his workshop. What the diaries do not offer is a lively, gossipy portrait of his eventful times and its personalities. Musil was a difficult, somewhat withdrawn intellectual. His diaries reveal an immensely intense, sovereign, and introspective mind, immersed in the intellectual topics of the day. Consequently, these diaries are demanding to read and will be of interest mainly to those already conversant with his fiction. Musil enthusiasts will find the diaries a valuable resource; the unindoctrinated will likely be disoriented. The translator, a British professor of German literature, has done a respectable job of selecting passages from the excellent German edition and rendering them into English, but his explanatory notes, while often helpful, are a bit on the skimpy side. American novelist Mark Mirsky (English and Jewish Studies/City College of New York) contributes an infectiously enthusiastic introduction and is billed as the volume's editor, but it is not clear in what sense he has edited the diaries. A welcome companion to Musil's translated oeuvre, but not a stand-alone read. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil

The Man Without Qualities

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Confusions of Young Torless by Robert Musil

The Confusions of Young Torless

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Three Women by Robert Musil

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Posthumous Papers of a Living Author by Robert Musil

Posthumous Papers of a Living Author

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