Robert Musil

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Musil, Robert

(rō`bĕrt mo͞o`zĭl), 1880–1942, Austrian novelist. His style, which has been compared to ProustProust, Marcel
, 1871–1922, French novelist, b. Paris. He is one of the great literary figures of the modern age. Born to wealthy bourgeois parents, he suffered delicate health as a child and was carefully ministered to by his mother.
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's, is marked by subtle psychological analysis. This is evident in the novel Young Törless (1906, tr. 1955) and in his chief work, Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften (3 vol., 1930–42; tr. The Man without Qualities, 1953–60 and 1995), widely considered one of the masterpieces of 20th-century literature. Many of his stories have been translated and published in such posthumous collections as Tonka and Other Stories (tr. 1965) and Three Short Stories (1970).


See his diaries, ed. by M. Mirsky (tr. 1998); studies by B. Pike (1961, repr. 1971); L. Appiqnanesi (1973); P. Payne (2d rev. ed. 1989); and C. Rogowski (1994).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Musil, Robert


Born Nov. 6, 1880, in Klagenfurt; died Apr. 15, 1942, in Geneva. Austrian author.

Upon graduation from military school, Musil studied machine building in Brünn (present-day Brno), taught at the Stuttgart Technische Hochschule, and studied philosophy and psychology at the University of Berlin. He defended a dissertation on E. Mach in 1908.

Musil’s first novel was the autobiographical Young Törless (1906). In the early 1920’s he turned to play writing and theater criticism. Musil worked on his masterpiece, the philosophical and satirical novel The Man Without Qualities (vols. 1–3, 1930–43), while living in Berlin (1926–33), Vienna (1933–38), and Switzerland, where he settled after the seizure of Austria by fascist Germany. The disintegration of Austria-Hungary as depicted in the novel symbolically serves as the satirical model for the “decline of Europe”—the political and moral crisis of the bourgeois world. The combination of artistic imagery and philosophical analysis makes the novel a unique encyclopedia of the various schools and tendencies of 20th-century Western thought. However, the excessively philosophical tone of the novel, the predilection of the author for relativistic mental exercises, and the purposely shaded characterization owing to ironic introspection restrict the circle of the work’s readers. Musil’s popular short stories, such as “Grigia” and “Tonka” are marked by a masterly psychological insight and by stylistic perfection.


Gesammelte Werke, vols. 1–3. Hamburg, 1952–57.
In Russian translation:
“Tonka.” Inostrannaia literatura, 1970, no. 3.
Motyleva, T. Zarubezhnyi roman segodnia. Moscow, 1966.
Svitel’skaia, T. A. “Izobrazhenie cheloveka ν tvorchestve R. Muzilia i ego roman ‘Trevogi vospitannika Terlessa.’ “ In the collection Voprosy literatury i fol’klora . Voronezh, 1973.
Rasch, W. Über R. Musils Roman “Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften.” Gottingen, 1967. Reniers-Servranckx, A. R. Musil. . . . Bonn, 1972.
Thöming, J. C. Robert-Musil-Bibliographie. Bad Homburg [1968].


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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