Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Viennese Miscellany

Paul has just been back from a trip to Austria and has been blogging about his experiences. His blogs are full of a lot of useful and erudite links, so I thought I will just bookmark it here. For starters : an article on Musil's diaries.

"Robert Musil was a truculent citizen of a vanished empire. Old Austria may have been defunct after 1918 but in Musil's excoriating imagination it lived on with perhaps even more hectic exuberance than it once had lived. This was not due to nostalgia on his part. To those who questioned him, he spoke of his homeland as of a world that had utterly ceased to exist (post-Habsburg Austria not, apparently, deserving mention--though Musil did argue against the Anschluss). One of his admiring interlocutors, the Swiss historian and diplomat Carl J. Burckhardt, who met Musil in Geneva at the beginning of World War Two, quickly realized that he, and other well-wishers like himself, "had no real inkling of the Double Monarchy that Musil carried in his heart." Burckhardt found it "spooky" (unheimlich) to hear Musil converse of Austria, in its "astounding depth and breadth," as "of something dead." In another sense, however, "Old Austria" remained alive only as long as Musil's magnum opus, the gigantic novel The Man without Qualities, remained unfinished.(1) This, in fact, rather than any practical or technical exigency, seems to me the profounder reason as to why Musil could never manage to bring his great work to completion. To conclude the novel was to screw the coffinlid definitively into place on the world it had summoned up. "

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