Man without Qualities, Vol. 1

Man without Qualities, Vol. 1


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Set in Vienna on the eve of World War I, this great novel of ideas tells the story of Ulrich, ex-soldier and scientist, seducer and skeptic, who finds himself drafted into the grandiose plans for the 70th jubilee of the Emperor Franz Josef. This new translation—published in two elegant volumes—is the first to present Musil's complete text, including material that remained unpublished during his lifetime.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780679767879
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/28/1996
Series: Vintage International , #1
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 752
Sales rank: 195,581
Product dimensions: 5.13(w) x 7.98(h) x 1.27(d)

About the Author

Robert Musil was born in 1880 in Austria and studied at the military college in Vienna and undertook an engineering degree in Brno, Czechoslovakia, before turning to psychology and philosophy doctoral studies in Berlin, where he began to write. He married Martha Marcovaldi in 1911. He fought in World War I, where he befriended Franz Kafka in Prague. Following the war, Musil returned to a literary career in Vienna and Berlin, during which time he was nominated for the Nobel Prize. He was the author of Five Women, The Posthumous Papers of a Living Author, and The Confusions of Young Torless. His works were banned by the Nazis, and he and his Jewish wife went into exile during World War II. He died of a stroke in 1942. Musil's works began to reappear in the 1950s, and his unfinished The Man Without Qualities is generally considered to be one of the most important modernist novels.

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Man without Qualities, Vol. 1 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
GarySeverance on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Robert Musil¿s two-volume unfinished novel published in 1952 and 1978 is remarkably relevant to the current Zeitgeist in the United States. The central character Ulrich is a man without qualities, a person indifferent to his middle class position and abilities. But he is described by a friend as consisting of qualities without a man, a cynical poser hiding behind general intellectual and social skills. Ulrich is afforded prescience from beyond ¿the break¿ as Musil¿s contemporary Thomas Mann described the Great War. He realizes the traditional world of art and culture in kingly and bureaucratic Austria (fictional Kakania) is on the brink of destruction due to advances of the middle class in commerce and science. All that is needed for the old world to be tipped into the abyss is the identification of a scapegoat by intellectually deficient but charismatic leaders and the mobilization of diverse and self-interested ethnic and national subgroups. This seems to be our `ghost of the time¿ in America in 2008.Ulrich¿s indifference is made possible by the lifelong efforts of the careful work of his middle class social diplomat father. The family¿s financial advantages allow him to begin a career in science, specifically mathematics, with theoretical rather than applied goals. Ulrich has some success as a mathematician, but sees no future in what is nothing more than a social group of like-minded theorists. As a result of his father¿s connections and his own personal charisma, Ulrich is recognized for general intellect and charm by the monarchy and upper middle class in Austria. He is appointed to a leadership position on a national committee charged with the task of developing a theme, a slogan that will unite Austria in pride during the seventieth jubilee of the Emperor Franz Joseph I. Because of his prescience and cynicism, he realizes that the group has an impossible task. The future of Austria does not involve celebration of the old, but rather radical social change targeting the Jews as scapegoats and the empowering of special interest groups within the Austro-Hungarian Empire.We can see the parallels between the setting of the novel, Ulrich¿s fictional Austrian city-state Kakania, and the United States as we face an economic meltdown and a change of leadership in the White House. We can anticipate the inevitable cycle of change, but who will benefit? What leaders will gain support in the new era of our undercivilized culture: the proponents of humanity and tradition or those of Realpolitic based on practicality and power? Musil¿s novel puts the reader in the unique position of identifying with Ulrich, a self made person without intrinsically valuable qualities, living in a disintegrating nation. If we, like Ulrich, possess superficial and limiting personal qualities and are indifferent to them, we will be reliant on the intervention and restriction of government in our daily lives. The result may be that we have no enduring and free culture to help us understand and maintain the values of the human person.
tayoulevy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
this is an obligatory book if one is to understand modernity
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago