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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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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top Customer Reviews
There are two opposing tendencies in the novel: On the one hand, Musil offers a highly entertaining satirical portrait of Austria-Hungary right before the First World War. His detached hero Ulrich meets all kinds of bizarre people, who happen to be members of the ruling class of the country. Like a vivisecteur, Ulrich analyzes the philosophies and ideologies of his time. On the other hand, he dreams of a kind of new mysticism, an emotional purity that is opposed to the dross surrounding him; together with his sister he embarks on quest for "the other state of being". Musil never finished the novel, he died before he could achieve a conclusion; which may have been impossible anyway.
This gigantic torso of a novel is arguably the greatest novel of the century. I have not yet come across anything that could rival it. Musil's prose is so precise that after reading a few pages you feel that your mind has been refreshed and cleared. This is not a novel to be read in a few days, but even if you never manage to finish it, you will always come back to it.
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."