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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.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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In the writings of Hugo Ball, Thomas Mann, and Robert Musil the various "peculiarities" of contemporary historiography can be broken down in a new context, and the Sonderweg is revealed as a cultural artifact of a "Weimar moment," used by Germans to reconstruct their society and identity in the aftermath of the First World War.
What we see is blossom, which passes, The rhizome remains, (8) In the opening programme in Paris for the UNESCO International Year of Light 2015, as part of the theme Light for Humanity and Culture, physicist and optics researcher Alesandro Farini gave a presentation entitled "Light, Vision and Art: an Indivisible Relationship." (9) In it he quotes from Robert Musil's novel The Man Without Qualities: "A man who wants the truth becomes a scientist, a man who wants to give free play to his subjectivity will become a writer, but what should a man do who wants something in between?" "Do something in between," Farini responds, disputing Musil's dichotomy.
(Mundo Nuevo was accused of being funded by the CIA.) Olivares sees in Arenas's publications of that period a "rhetoric of indirection" at work, whereby he conformed to political demands yet identified his own point of view with seemingly unrelated authors like Jose Marti and Robert Musil. In Olivares's account, it was only later, when it came to the publication in Cuba and abroad of El mundo alucinante that Arenas began to run into difficulties with the Cuban government.
In contrast, Robert Musil's Rachel Carson and Her Sisters is decidedly less engaged with current feminist and cultural theory, though it does intersect with Fallen Forests in attending to the women who transformed American ideas about the environment.
Austrian writer Robert Musil's most famous character, the "man without qualities" known to readers only as Ulrich, spends an entire novel stumbling through .the year 1913.
Amberson highlights the Italian critical tendency to associate these authors with non-Italian authors such as Robert Musil, Franz Kafka and James Joyce, among others.
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In his book How to Talk about Books you Haven't Read, Pierre Bayard reinterprets a putative case of illiteracy as portrayed in Robert Musil's novel Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften (The Man without Qualities) as the forerunner of an alternative type of literacy.
In an essay on national feeling published in 1921, Robert Musil identifies pronominal vacuity thus: "The true 'we,'" he writes, "is: We are nothing for each other." It is this nothing that is of particular concern to me, today--now, I would like to propose now--this moment--as a nominal now.