The definition of a soul: “That which crawls away and hides whenever someone mentions algebra.” (Man Without Qualities)
“Robert Musil’s works fascinate me until this day … and what I learned from him was the hardest thing: that one can undertake a work that will take decades, without knowing if one can ever finish it, an undertaking that consists mainly of patience, that assumes an almost inhuman stubbornness …” (Elias Canetti)
Robert Musil (1880 – 1942) is one of the most important writers of the last century, The Man Without Qualities has been voted most important book of the 20 th century in the German language.
Characteristic for the works of Musil is his irony, the exactness of a mathematician (which he was) the ever changing points of view, the influx of the modern age and technique upon the modern day man. A conscientious use of language to express his thoughts (in his diaries he called himself monsieur le Vivisecteur) are coupled with a encyclopaedic knowledge of culture and criticism thereof and a psychological mystique.
In The Man Without Qualities he tries to portray a modern man who has to live in and cope with a changing world. In contrast to former generations, the modern-day-man cannot afford himself, or be described in terms of ‘qualities’, as Musil calls it, for all the known certainties have been replaced by a greater diversity; there is no longer a single point one can focus on.
Born November 6, 1880 in Klagenfurt, at the request of his father was in the cadet corps, but a military career did not appeal to him, he became interested in mathematics and science, then philosophy and psychology. Graduated from technical school in Brц?nn (sovr. Brno), and continuing studies in psychology, Musil in 1908 published his first novel Mental confusion pupil Terlesa (Die Verwirrungen des Zuglings Turless), attracted the attention of readers and critics, and decided to devote himself entirely to literature. After World War I Musil began work on his novel The Man Without Properties. To ensure the family, he lectured at technical school, worked as a librarian, worked in journalism. When in 1938 German troops entered Austria, Musil emigrated to Switzerland. Musil died in Geneva on April 15, 1942.