Monday, March 26, 2007

Some Aphorisms by Musil

from this original review in Time. I remember reading only the second one.

"Every age in which everything was permissible had made those living in it unhappy."

"One can actually say in advance that the progress that is really made will always be precisely what nobody wanted."

"[The] whole era ... had newly developed a strong religious tendency, not as the result of any religious destiny, but merely, as it seems, out of a feminine and irritable rebellion against money, knowledge and calculation, to all of which it passionately succumbed."

"Truth is not a crystal one can put in one's pocket, but an infinite fluid into which one falls headlong."

"Writing, like the pearl, is a disease."

This is another review from the same magazine. Surprising to see Time review this book. William Gass in his essay has this to say about the original American reception of The Man without Qualities.
In the United States, not noted for much acumen concerning matters of literary quality, the initial English translation was greeted with an animosity which cannot be ascribed to simple philistinism. As Christian Rogowski reports, Musil was described as an "almost intolerably bad writer," "a sort of jet-powered literary no-good," his style exhibited "a rather bumbling mass of Teutonic metaphysics." The Times Literary Supplement's favorable reception of the translation in London was judged to be part of a literary hoax.

18 comments:

Cheshire Cat said...

"Writing, like the pearl, is a disease."

Yes, that's a pearl.

Antonia said...

what do you think of beloved General Stumm von Bordwehr, alok? I think that he is the secret hero of this whole book, among with Agathe.

Alok said...

It actually made me interested in the biology and chemistry of pearl formation. I have to do some reading.

Alok said...

I liked his ideas about the library science very much. There are just too many books, too many ideas, too many opinions in the world. There is no order in the world of ideas. And with more philosophers and more writers things are getting worse and worse :) It is all anarchy ahead. Really, who will bring some order?

My personal hero is Ulrich. I would love to be in his shoes. Pessimistic, Detached and Ironically intelligent and of course irrestible to women haha :) I also like the female characters a lot... Diotima specially, Clarisse, Diotima's maid Rachel, even Bonadea the nymphomaniac (kind-of) mistress of Ulrich... they are all kind of freudian case studies, but very interesting women all of them.

I am only just into the second volume. Have been busy with work and Ruth Kluger's book. What a brilliant work, and a really admirable woman too if not "nice"!

Alok said...

I wonder what General Stumm or Musil would think of Blogging. Another sign of growing disintegration and chaos? Sorry I am just having some seriously apocalyptic thoughts today...

Antonia said...

i agree, alok, I like the librarythoughts of Stumm also a lot. He is such a loveable creature. You're right, diotima is also great, but I like Agathe more.
hmmm. maybe General Stumm would have made a blog in order to establish some sort of civil order? don't you think? And then he would go out with Diotima for dinner in order to get rid of the apocalyptic thoughts,no? My whole lovely theory about the hypothesis of General Stumm as secret hero bases on the idea that Musil just not gives up the plain subject-idea and therefore he put in some levelheaded innocent persoin like the General.

Alok said...

But Musil ridicules the General a lot too. The whole military and the idea of militarism as an emobodiment of "order" in fact. I don't think he sees any of these characters as representing any solution or any such thing. And also the mystical-erotic union that he presumably writers about in the second volume as a solution seems to me, well, a little too mystical. (I have to read the section though, I have just started.) The problems of the modern world and people living in it are real problems and that mystical solution seems to be a cop-out. But even then no one will doubt that his diagnosis of the problem of modernity is awe-inspiring, if a little dispiriting.

Antonia said...

yes true, Musilridicules themilitary character, but as known from the library chapter, the General has seen the military through.
I have this Musil quote, but only in dutch, in which he says that he does not offer one big solution, but a variety of little special solutions.
One should probably not read too much unto this mystical-erotico thing, it is just plainly about connecting to other people,not about that we all become yogi and say Ooooommm and forget all the problems,no?

Alok said...

Hmm. you don't seem to be too impressed with "spirituality" and stuff. may be you need a visit to India. Haha :)

antonia said...

haha when jyo and you pay the flight - she also always tells me to go. I could wear orange sari then and embrace color and spirituality. And now that we are at it, what does this point on the forehead mean?

Alok said...

You know V S Naipaul, who won the Nobel, said that Bindi (that's what it is called in Hindi) means that "my head is empty" :)

I guess it has some significance about that area between the eyebrows and the forehead as some seat of wisdom or something. More scientifically it perhaps adds in symmetry and in beauty. I don't know I am only guessing.

Antonia said...

does this mean that the seat of wisdom is empty? ?? ?? ???

Alok said...

:) Okay it made me curious about its significance too... I am mostly ignorant about these things.

wikipedia has some links.

and the entry on Sari looks great too. It even has an instruction manual :)

mr waggish said...

General Stumm gets my vote for the -funniest- character in the book, on the basis of Chapter 100 alone. (The "general goes to the library" chapter.) But I don't think he's such a positive figure. He's probably the only figure in the book who's still with us in the U.S., and the disasters from his reign have been significant.

I've known a few Clarisses and Diotimas in my time, and even one or two Arnheims. And about a zillion Meingasts. (Meingast is, I think, the only character for whom Musil has no sympathy and total contempt.)

My German friend who studies Indian theater in Bombay tells me I need to go there, but she doesn't make it sound very spiritual!

Alok said...

Yes, that's why I put spirituality in quotes :)

Actually Antonia and I were discussing the same chapter... it is funny and quite profound too.

You are right about General Stumm though it is not he himself but rather the department of war and military that puts forth militarism as the unifying idea of the parallel campaign or as a way of bringing and keeping order in the world. He himself can see through this argument as Antonia said.

mr. waggish said...

But he only sees through it via the mitigating influences of Arnheim, Diotima et al., and specifically because the prevailing culture rates them as ABOVE HIM. In their absence, he would see nothing.

(Actually, I overlooked Tuzzi (it's easy to do!). He's the other character who is still with us. The bureaucratic functionary. And what a perfect title he has!)

Antonia said...

well I have to defend my beloved general, he sees himself through, that is clear alone from thenotso stupid ideas of order and killing that he displays at chapter 100 and that he has developed without Arnheim or Diotima.

oh I see the Bindi is for being branded as being married.
Actually I don't find them so bad, those saris, they look pretty and are not like Burqa were you are completely wrapped in.alok, do you think they also have saris in your size? I don't want to be the only one wearing one.

Alok said...

I think Musil portrays the General as someone rather unfit for military from the beginning that's why he is assigned the role of culture and liaison with the civilians. But yes he is a part of the same delusional ministry of war.

Yeah, they are all with us right now, you can see them on the op-ed pages of newspapers and talk shows all the time!