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“... head that Clarissa scribbles and Molly Bloom muses. For many male novelists, like the Austrian Robert Musil, erotic self-metamorphosis becomes mystical, a kind of religious substitute. The sphinx has her mystery, but in the final and most subtle analysis it is that of having no secret at all. One of Musil’s most ...”
“... turned gradually into a work that was genuinely, irremediably endless. Somewhere in his forties, Musil developed an incomparable talent for beginnings, and after that he wrote very little else. The results were lengthy and wonderful, whole novels in themselves, but they were, as Musil himself kept saying, only a start. His ...”
“... of these tricks.’ The poor have no choice but to end up in novels because they do not read them. Musil has less faith than Hardy in the genre. Rachel’s life slips into a narrative straitjacket without her even knowing how; but the novels that Frau Tuzzi feeds her do nothing to free her from the narrowness of story: the last we hear, she is pregnant ...”
“... with quite the mixture of coolness and condescension accorded to the thoroughly rational man. Robert Musil wrote of the wife of a civil servant that ‘what she called “soul” was nothing but a small capital of capacity for love that she had possessed at the time of her marriage. Permanent Secretary Tuzzi was not the right stock to invest it in ...”
“... through Perec, Mann, Proust and Flaubert, he homes in on the figures of Carlo Emilio Gadda and Robert Musil, two ‘engineer-writers’ who have one quality in common: ‘their inability to find an ending’. Despite his own love of arcana and encyclopedic forms, Calvino’s relationship to this tradition was always tangential, for the simple reason ...”
“... form the more his essays settle into a straight and sober version of the genre. A 1999 piece on Musil, for example, included in Stranger Shores (2001), opens: ‘Born in the autumn years of the Habsburg Empire, Robert Musil served His Imperial and Royal Majesty in one bloody continental convulsion and died halfway ...”
“... The Open Work is on ‘The Structure of Bad Taste’.) One pioneer of Modernist fiction, Robert Musil, remarked that the novel existed in order to destroy kitsch. But also, perhaps, to make the right, the new use of it? The ‘heroism’ of Belbo, like the parenthood of Lia and Casaubon, is not unlike the ‘weight’ of Tereza, heroine of ...”
“... identified as ‘a philosopher, the brother of the one-armed pianist Paul Wittgenstein’. Robert Musil occupies the summit of Canetti’s esteem until he is demoted after a show of petulance at a tactless mention of his archrival Thomas Mann. Herman Broch was Canetti’s great friend at the beginning of the period but fades out of the narrative ...”
“... Best known for his short prose sketches, the idiosyncratic Swiss writer Robert Walser (1878-1956) liked to call himself a ‘craftsman novelist’, cobbling together ‘a long, plotless, realistic story’. He insisted that his varied sketches – prose poems, portraits of friends and strangers, detailed accounts of walks through the city or countryside, stray bits of literary or art criticism, oddball fantasies – were actually fragments of a single work, which ‘might be described as a variously sliced up or torn apart book of myself ...”
“... belatedness with regard to her favourite writers – they include Dostoevsky, Platonov, Kafka and Robert Walser – and a firm grasp of all the aesthetic and intellectual-historical explanations of Why One Can’t Write Like Tolstoy Any More. ‘This story will be composed in bad English,’ one of the two novellas in Private Novelist begins, ‘the ...”
“... outside ourselves of all that is bad in the world and in us. In The Man Without Qualities, Robert Musil called this process the making of ‘displeasure-images’, and identified it as ‘part of the oldest psychotechnical apparatus mankind possesses’. Together with our tendency to take things figuratively, this is the mechanism which complies ...”
“... we enjoy reading Enright is because we want to know what he’s been reading – Pascal and Robert Musil mostly, it seems, towards the end of his life. But then again he read everything. He was omdamniverous. To read Enright reading is to read about history, and literature, and newspaper headlines, and pamphlets from Indian takeaways. Within a ...”
“... force of repetition: Adler may have been introduced to these techniques by Kafka, Hermann Broch, Robert Musil or Alfred Döblin, but he mastered them by studying Goebbels and Eichmann and his clerks, whom Adorno called Schreibtischmörder, ‘desk-murderers’. The Nazi bureaucrats were responsible for two of the most malevolent fictionalising ...”
“... in the age of rising nationalisms. ‘The Hungarians were first and last only Hungarians,’ Robert Musil wrote in The Man without Qualities, ‘and counted only incidentally . . . as also Austro-Hungarians. The Austrians, on the other hand, were primarily nothing at all . . . there was not even a proper word for it. And there was no such thing ...”
“... room. ‘How,’ he wrote on 29 March, to make a large novel centripetal instead of centrifugal? Musil does it with the character of Ulrich who, by being uncommitted to anything, acts as the touchstone to all the committed characters around him – yet Ulrich isn’t a cipher as Hans Castorp tends to be. This is a very subtle piece of organisation. Another ...”