Robert Musil's "Man Without Qualities"

"The Man Without Qualities stands alongside Proust's Remembrance of Things Past and Joyce's Ulysses as one of the three literary masterworks of modernism. Dazzlingly written, ferocious, suffused with a high, ironic intelligence, it uses Viennese high society on the eve of World War I to chronicle the decay and collapse of the entire Old World and, with utter prescience, to explore all that would follow in our Age of Anxiety.  At the heart of this astonishing novel is Ulrich: youngish, rich, an ex-soldier, a seducer, a scientist—the man without qualities. Although he is eager for influence and worldly success, his self-awareness sets him apart from those around him. Unable to deceive himself that the jumble of attributes and values and behaviors that his world has bestowed on him amounts to anything so innate as his 'character,' his 'ego,' he is effectively a man 'without qualities,' a brilliant detached observer of the spinning, racing society around him...."

Join or login to comment.

  • Lucymarie Ruth

    Musil's book is one of my very favorites. The discussion was very lively and a lot of fun. This was the first meeting of this meetup group that I've been to, and I was very happy with it. The organizer is super intelligent, cheerful and knowledgeable, and is excellent at guiding a meeting.

    February 5, 2012

  • John

    I find Musil a challenging author, but addictive. The novel's main character Ulrich, like Dostoyevsky's Underground Man, is a hero of consciousness indelibly shaped by rationalism, religion, and romanticism, and also by his need to negate and/or synthesize these contradictory tendencies. But is any unity of the subject (a union of "precision" and "soul," to use Musil's terms) or of social values still possible today? Is humanity condemned to ignorance and violence? Musil in the second and third parts of this novel adopts a style that is increasingly enigmatic and prophetic. Thanks everyone for the stimulating discussion of this unusual novel.

    February 3, 2012

  • John

    Musil's work has been translated twice into English, the older, better but incomplete translation, by E. Wilkins and Kaiser, is in three volumes. The newer and more complete translation, by S. Wilkins and Pike, is in two volumes. I am reading the newer translation, which is available on Amazon for $16 (vol. 1) and $18 (vol. 2). The library's "Link Plus" has 13 copies available. The work is very long. I would not feel guilty about not finishing reading it, since Musil did not finish writing it.

    1 · January 5, 2012

  • elsa

    i agree Melania. there are either three or two volumes, depending on the publisher. i too am overwhelmed by this work, but am also immensely curious. Amazon is the only place to get it. and new it's $23.00 per volume, paperback and the type is very small.
    i'm still going to get it, because i've got to find out what this is all about.

    January 4, 2012

  • Melania

    a bit confused about how many volumes are there and daunted by the number of pages

    January 3, 2012

8 went

People in this
Meetup are also in:

Find your People

Starting a Meetup Group is the perfect way to share your interests and spark new friendships

Log in

Not registered with us yet?

Sign up

Meetup members, Log in

By clicking "Sign up" or "Sign up using Facebook", you confirm that you accept our Terms of Service & Privacy Policy