|Robert Musil in 1900|
Among Austrian writers of the early twentieth century there is one who is now often mentioned in one breath with the great modernists James Joyce and Marcel Proust although his fame never reached the same heights, least of all during his lifetime. Like them he is chiefly remembered today for the monumental novel which represents his life’s work and which only few have read in its entirety. The author, of course, is Robert Musil and the opus magnum in question is The Man Without Qualities which actually happens to be jus a fragment because the author died during work on the third volume. Here’s my portrait of this exceptional Austrian writer who was always grieved by not getting the attention that he deserved.
When Robert Mathias Alfred Musil, usually only referred to as Robert Musil, was born in Sankt Ruprecht near the Carinthian capital Klagenfurt (now part of the town), Austria-Hungary (today: Austria), on 6 November 1880, his parents Alfred and Hermine Musil had already lost their first-born child, Elsa, who had not lived to celebrate her first birthday. Although Robert Musil came into the world only three years after his sister’s death, the author later declared that he had always been interested in her almost as if she had been alive and that her short existence had certainly influenced him in a way. Maybe this was also because as a child he was a loner and self-absorbed. Moreover the family changed towns several times and so the boy didn’t get much of a chance to take deep root in a place.
- Internationale Musilgesellschaft at http://www.musilgesellschaft.at (in German)
- Robert Musil Literaturmuseum at http://www.musilmuseum.at (in German)
- Robert Musil site of Jerry van Beers at http://www.robertmusil.net (in English)
- German Wikipedia at http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Musil (in German)