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The Man Without Qualities Vol. 1: A Sort of Introduction and Pseudo Reality Prevails Paperback – December 9, 1996
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This intriguing landmark of modernism from Austrian writer Robert Musil has been newly translated from the German by Sophie Wilkins and re-edited in a textual overhaul. This new edition includes portions of the author's original manuscripts that have never been published before. Though an imposing edifice of writing, devotees of literary modernism and anyone interested in the decline of the Austrian empire must read this sweeping, comic take on life in pre-Great War Vienna. The story of Ulrich, the man without qualities himself, is continued in a second volume, The Man Without Qualities: Into the Millenium,From the Posthumous Papers.
From Publishers Weekly
This edition of Musil's classic modernist novel features the complete text in a new translation, as well as extensive supplementary material.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top customer reviews
While it is true that much of Musil's extended discussion of modern technological life still applies a century later, one of the really fascinating aspects for me was Musil's revelations of what the psychology of "Kakania" was under the Hapsburgs that led to WW I. Musil is writing primarily during the period between the two wars and for him as for all of Europe during this time, the overwhelming catastrophe that was the first war had to have been a central concern for him. IMHO, to say that the setting of the novel is irrelevant is to massively diminish one of the many central concerns of Musil
As others have noted, Musil is a constant revelation writing in epigrams that strike one on almost every page. It is simply brilliant and one of the truly great works of 20th century literature, very much able to hold it's own with Proust and Mann. Not an easy read by any means (I have been at it for over a year), it is rare when a work rewards effort so admirably.
Upon reading The Man Without Qualities I was swept up and lost in the tide of the prose, I simply could not stop reading it. Readability is something one doesn't often think of when considering classic foreign novels, one thinks of slow ponderous prose and intense philosophical repose that is dry and too descriptive. Oddly, this is what the new translation is, while the original is divergently witty and full of curiosity and clarity.
Granted, both translations contain the same thoughts, characters and themes. One cannot just toss one aside while fawning over the other. The new edition is indeed more complete a book than the old, but its sacrifice is apparent in how it carries the reader along.
Thus two excerpts: One from the old translation, and the same passage from the new.
"Perhaps not all of these people believe in that stuff about the Devil to whom one can sell one's soul; but all those who have to know something about the soul, because they draw a good income out of it as clergy, historians or artists, bear witness to the fact that it has been ruined by mathematics and that in mathematics is the source of a wicked intellect that, while making man the lord of the earth, also makes him the slave of the machine."
"Most of us may not believe in the story of a Devil to whom one can sell one's soul, but those who must know something about the soul (considering that as clergymen, historians, and artists they draw a good income from it) all testify that the soul has been destroyed by mathematics and that mathematics is the source of an evil intelligence that while making man the lord of the earth has also made him the slave of his machines."
Note the differences and make your own decision. For me, the poetry and majesty of the original is lost. It is no longer clear and precise either. In updating Musil, they lost the power along the way.
To quote the original translation in summation:
"We have gained in terms of reality and lost in terms of the dream."