Five Women

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The recent translations of The Man Without Qualities and Musil's Diaries have shown why the Austrian writer is often thought of as Germanic literature's Proust, and this newly translated English version of his five hefty stories demonstrates that the novelist's work in shorter fiction also bears his distinctive iconoclastic, bold signature. Opening the volume are a trio of tales, two of which, "Grigia" and "Tonka," investigate the sexuality of peasant women. Musil fearlessly delves into the pervasive notion of lower-class female sexuality as animal, accessible and perverse, even as he faithfully renders such women's limited social agency. "Tonka" aggressively ruptures its own moralizing, featuring an impoverished servant girl who has a liaison with a bourgeois student. The class difference between them becomes painfully obvious when Tonka gets pregnant: she withers while the student struggles with an ambivalent strain of love and a conviction that the child is not his. He is torn between pity for Tonka, whose unfaithfulness ends in tragedy, and confusion at his shaming devotion to her. In the last two stories in the collection, Musil's examination of the female erotic milieu is a high-strung foray into hysteria. In "The Perfecting of a Love," Claudine leaves her husband to visit her daughter (conceived in adultery during her first marriage), who is in boarding school in a remote village. Snowed in, she considers having an affair with a man she meets there, her thoughts a veritable witch's brew of forbidden desires. The protagonist of "The Temptation of Quiet Veronica" rejects an old suitor, who visits her one last time. This story is filled with hints of incest and bestiality, but these issues simmer tensely just below the surface. Musil's cerebral style seamlessly executes his explorations of the mind/body duality, the ways society and intellectual life affect, but do not eradicate, the truth of the carnal body. His attitudes toward femininity oscillate between fear, disenchantment and adoration, and in stories written over 75 years ago, this range of perception will be tantalizing for readers who value innovative classics. (Nov.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781567924015
  • Publisher: Godine, David R. Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/1/2010
  • Pages: 222
  • Sales rank: 967,029
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.70 (d)

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2002

    The triumph of the Avant-Garde

    Volumes can be written on Robert Musil...his readers I'm sure are keenly aware of that, but this derelict masterpiece goes overlooked, and likely gathers dust in whichever orphan library in which it happens to be a denizen, undeservedly. Musil writes five disparate short stories, each one focusing and penetrating deep into the character which results in an almost palpable image of human psychology and interrelations. This work tests the elasticity of literature in order to discover how far written language may be employed in order to elucidate the ineffable. Much like Joyce's Dubliners, this collection is a bastion of modern literature: it provides masterfully wrought scenarios, pregnant with substance...The only element which remains for the consummation of the work is reader investment and application. If so done, Five Women spews jewels.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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