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The Man Without Qualities

4.25 of 5 stars 4.25  ·  rating details  ·  3,015 ratings  ·  141 reviews
Although he wrote a handful of other works, Austrian Robert Musil's (1880-1942) reputation as one of the greatest modern German writers is based almost entirely on The Man Without Qualities. The first three parts were published in the early '30s, and Musil continued working on it when he flied for Geneva in 1938. Even unfinished, this parallel investigation of Ulrich (the ...more
Hardcover, First American Edition (boxed set), 1774 pages
Published March 1st 1995 by Alfred a Knopf (first published 1930)
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Emilian Kasemi

He's a man without qualities!
And now you just run your mind over the sort of man he is. He always knows what to do. He can gaze into a women's eyes. He can exercise his intelligence efficiently on any given problem at any given moment. He can box. He is talented, strong-willed, unprejudiced. He has courage and he has endurance, he can go at things with a dash and he can be cool and cautious -- I have no intention of examining all this in detail, let him have all these qualities! For in the end
This book is huge in every respect. It is a culmination and at the same time marks a decisive point in my reading life. For the books from the same league as this one, the bar is now set quite high.

Musil's Ashes

In this special case I think I have to say something about the author and the way the book was published: The novel remained fragmentary. Robert Musil died of a stroke while working on the last part in April 1942. At this time he lived with his wife in exile in Switzerland near Geneva, al
Kilburn Adam
This review is for the Picador edition. translated by Shophie Wilkins and Burton Pike.

I don't know how people found books to read before the internet and Goodreads. Goodreads has been recommending me this book for a very long time. Finally I've managed to read it.

Anyway about the book:

This is posibilly the most accessible, inspiring, and influential philosophy book that I've read. It's also a novel. So it has a plot and characters. The book covers many concepts, themes, and ideas. Some of the t
A comic novel. A modern novel. A novel of ideas and more. This is without a doubt my favorite novel and one that both encapsulates and foreshadows the the development of the modern condition. Musil's scientific mind is able to present a humanistic view of the world of Ulrich and the rest of the characters that inhabit this novel. Continuously inventive and invigorating for the reader, the writing is so precise and the argument Musil makes about Ulrich and his situation so intricate that it is in ...more
Leo Robertson
Here’s a song for you.

The song is ‘Bros’ by Panda Bear, maybe you’ve heard of it. Anyway, have a wee listen to it now, a minute or so (or it'll make good background music while you read this review!) Okay, fine, it’s a breezy summery song, nothing too special. But did you hear the screaming, sobbing, racecar, owl hoots, or anything else that makes up the dense collection of samples? It’s blurry, messy, no two listens are alike. You pick up on different things each time. To me at least, listenin
Nessuna altra opera letteraria finora letta -e dubito che nessuna altra mai- ha avuto in me un effetto così travolgente come “l’uomo senza qualità”. Come ho già detto ad alcuni amici, leggere Musil è stata una palestra per i miei neuroni acciaccati. E quando vai in palestra per la prima volta dopo anni di inattività, ne esci per giorni con le ossa rotte, torni a casa indolenzita, hai voglia a fare massaggi e spalmare creme lenitive! Così è stato l’approccio con Musil: difficile, difficilissimo. ...more

I've read the first maybe twenty pages or so a few times now. On first glance, it blew me away. The world around me (narrow, quiet stacks in my beloved local library) was steeped in the prose. It was a little bit (well, more than a little bit) like Wallace Stevens' "the reader became the book"- which is as spine-tinglingly accurate a description of great reading, let alone great writing, as I'm apt to find.

Going back, the feeling has been a little diminished after first blush but not changed- tr
MJ Nicholls
Mar 13, 2014 MJ Nicholls marked it as dropped  ·  review of another edition
Struggling to give a flying patootie about anything that happens. Smothered in 4,000 metric tonnes of non-stop narration and two lines of dialogue per 100 pages. Not very funny. Ulrich barely appears. Bye!
Justin Evans
Would it be helpful if I said this was a Viennese modernist novelistic version of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit--if the PhS had been left unfinished, and Hegel never achieved absolute knowledge? Perhaps not. But I do think that's roughly what it is. All the problems of modern philosophy (excluding the analytic tradition, which, well, okay) are here. Are they embodied by well rounded characters? No. Are they revealed through the action and plot? No. They're just here. This novel has the rare di ...more
Warning: Pathetic rambling gibberish to follow that does The Man Without Qualities no justice.

Finally! My sentence is over. This book kept me imprisoned for more than two months and I am now thrown back into the real world.
Prison is a strange place. It made my heart heavy, longing for the company of all those books running at large out there – piling up on my reader, staring at me seductively from my shelves, calling me from bookstore windows.

Yet, as much as I craved freedom, I found comfort be
Non esistono stellette sufficienti per questo libro, capolavoro.
L'ho letto e ripreso in mano più volte, leggendo qui e là, come un libro da consultazione.
Sentendomi Ulrich, e cercando la mia Agathe.

Musil è uno dei miei autori preferiti.
Mi chiedo se l'avrei incontrato così presto e così positivamente se non ci fossero state le dritte dell'ottimo Arbasino?

Francesco Fantuzzi
Come si potrebbe/dovrebbe valutare un libro di 1780 pagine, fitte fitte, di cui le ultime 600 siano costituite di abbozzi e frammenti? Che cosa dire di un libro che ci ha accompagnato, naturalmente alternandosi con altri, per 10 mesi esatti della nostra esistenza? E' davvero possibile attribuire qualcosa meno del massimo punteggio a un tale compagno di vita?
Propongo solo alcune riflessioni sparse.
Nella lettura di un'opera spesso cerchiamo compagnia, cerchiamo condivisioni, idee, riflessioni e st
Vol. 1: Revelations on every page. This is a book that fully meets Ezra Pound's standard for a classic: an eternal freshness. It is an introduction to the 20th century that tells you in intimate detail so much about how we still live at the dawn of the 21st that it's almost frightening. And this is only the beginning...

Vol. 2: Well, I could no more ever really "finish" reading the material in this volume than the benighted Musil could finish writing his novel. It's an exercise in fascination an
Miloš Kostić
Ovo je bukvalno i figurativno najveće delo koje sam pročitao. Ima preko hiljadu i po strana, ali se osećam kao da sam pročitao deset puta toliko. I još nije završeno, nažalost (ili na sreću - autor je izgleda planirao još mnogo stotina, možda hiljada stranica). Zahteva mnogo vremena i truda, mnogo traži ali još više daje. Žanr: filozofski roman; rečenice su dugačke, a zaplet zamršen. Stvarno ima mnogo filozofiranja (mnogi bi rekli i previše) ali više otvara pitanja nego što daje odgovore na njih ...more
Oct 20, 2014 John is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
This is most decidedly a book that I must read slowly - I need to grapple with it, formulate tentative conclusions as I proceed through 1770 pages. Otherwise, I'll reach the end without knowing what to make of it. So my comments here are most decidedly characteristic of my reading journal.

After p. 110.
First, one might mistake Ulrich, the first character that RM introduces for The Man Without Qualities (MWQ) - not so. He is the first of many. So I have to think - for now - that RM's subject is no
One of the forgotten classics of the 20th century and very probably the single best book about the lost world of late-imperial Vienna, about a world where nostalgia is as much about the future as the past, where all the new art and philosophy of the years just before 1914 are gently but relentlessly undermining civilized and genteel certainties. Finely written, delightfully ironic, slowly disturbing. This is very much the book you want to take with you to Vienna. Recommended absolutely.
Aug 22, 2007 Naomi rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: philosphical at heart
I'm up to page 68 so can't, as yet, provide a review. It seems to draw a lot on Nietsche, Shiller, Hegel and the German canon. I am tantilised by it's potential and shall give a better account once I am further through it or (gasp) finish it!

Update: This book seems self conscious and I'm afraid I read it rather self consciously. I can't say at any point I just merged into the narrative or allowed the story to take me away. It had a spirit of brilliance, to be sure, but it never quite reached its
Took a while to read, mainly because the library only had the first two volumes, however finally tracked down the rest of the book.
Reading this though it was set before the first world war, you get the sense that Musil was sailing close to the wind. The book seems to question much including politics and patriotism, and in 1938 a dangerous time and place.
Ulrich the hero of the book, has many faults including arrogance, ambition etc. However during the course of the story which seems to deal with
A fairly entertaining plot (that old standby, skewering the intellectual pretensions of the bourgeoisie) alternates with lengthy philosophical divagations - it becomes tempting to somehow skip the latter, like the whaling science chapters in Moby Dick, but they're not that clearly delineated and occasionally contain quite amusing and quotable segments.

I gather I have only read the first of three books (the final having been constructed posthumously) so if I really want to know how it "turns out"
Derek Davis
This is a world masterpiece. Musil seems to me everything that Mann isn't: Totally engaged with humanity while at the same time a superb, highly nuanced commentator on his society, time and the human condition. I've also picked up the newer translation but haven't read it yet. If the big, soaring, grand, worldbeater novels, this may well be the best (well, Moby Dick?)
Blows your mind. Read it over a decade ago and still recovering. In a good way.
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This book is so inspiring, that I could rarely read more then a few pages at time. It gives you so much to think about. It is though very dense and therefore really is not an easy read. I find this book life changing.
Ronan Fitzgerald
how do I review the greatest work of art of all time? how do I review a book that rubbishes the superlatives I would use to praise it? just buy this and set off on the journey through the 1100 pages.......
Chuck LoPresti
A most difficult read. The major majority of this book involves intellectual conversation about how thought, culture, history and human interaction are shaped. It contains every bit as much intellectual prowess as the other two books that the back-cover calls the trinity of literary modernity: Ulysses and Proust's Remembrance. I'm not quite sure that's a fair assessment. I've read critiques of the translation that have compared how Musil's words have been rendered and I think it's fair to say th ...more
05.03.2014 Fast schon seit ich lesen kann (Ironie) auf meiner Leseliste und auch fast schon zwanzig Jahre (Tatsache) in meinem Buchregal. Ich habe bereits die ersten, köstlichen dreißig Seiten gelesen und amüsiere mich großartig. Das könnte jetzt tausend Seiten so weiter gehen...
23.03.2014 ... und tut es auch. Jetzt bin ich auf Seite 330 und dieses Buch zeigt mir auch seine strengen Seiten. Es ist es strenger Herr. Wehe ich lasse meine Gedanken zwischen zwei Zeilen abschweifen - sofort werde ich
I'm not one for superlatives, but this has to be the greatest novel I have ever read, hands down (even including the Brother's Karamazov - it is almost as if this book carried the former's concerns into the 20th century, evolving them in the process). The characters, situations and philosophical discussions have a level of complexity and observational depth that I have never before encountered, and at times I almost found it hard to grasp that such a work could have been written by a single huma ...more
David Bird
When I came across this book in 1995, I had become very skeptical of the possibility of fiction expressing my worldview. Musil did.

In the grand competition for 'best novel ever' I would have to put this one just slightly behind Proust's In Search of Lost Time, but this one is closer to my heart.

Ulrich, the titular Man, dwells in a world that is in denial of its imminent collapse, Vienna before the first world war. It's not practical to summarize the plot, but it's also unnecessary. Musil manag
Qualcuno dice che leggerlo una sfida, qualcun altro lo considera il Romanzo del novecento, certo io ci ho trovato quello che cercavo; quando ti senti "Senza Qualit", quando ti interroghi sui massimi sistemi, sulla politica, sui corsi e ricorsi storici anche se ti perdi in mille elucubrazioni. Va letto nel momento giusto, per trovarci considerazioni universali, sui giovani che non sono pi quelli di una volta, su un lavoro che non soddisfa, sul pacifismo che serve alla guerra. Ma ci trovi anche l ...more
this is a tough book to rate. Not sure whether I liked it or not. Tough call. It's like watching a boxer whose style makes it hard to say whether he's won a round or lost a round. It's the John Ruiz of literature.

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Austrian writer.

He graduated military boarding school at Eisenstadt (1892-1894) and then Hranice, in that time also known as Mährisch Weißkirchen, (1894-1897). These school experiences are reflected in his first novel - The confusions of young Törless.

He served in army during World War I. When Austria became a part of the Third Reich in 1938, Musil left for exile in Switzerland, where he died of
More about Robert Musil...
The Confusions of Young Törless The Man Without Qualities Vol. 1: A Sort of Introduction and Pseudo Reality Prevails The Man Without Qualities, Vol. 2: Into the Millennium Five Women Drei Frauen

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“The secret of a good librarian is that he never reads anything more of the literature in his charge than the title and the table of contents. Anyone who lets himself go and starts reading a book is lost as a librarian...He's bound to lose perspective.” 46 likes
“His appearance gives no clue to what his profession might be, and yet he doesn't look like a man without a profession either. Consider what he's like: He always knows what to do. He knows how to gaze into a woman's eyes. He can put his mind to any question at any time. He can box. He is gifted, strong-willed, open-minded, fearless, tenacious, dashing, circumspect—why quibble, suppose we grant him all those qualities—yet he has none of them! They have made him what he is, they have set his course for him, and yet they don't belong to him. When he is angry, something in him laughs. When he is sad, he is up to something. When something moves him, he turns against it. He'll always see a good side to every bad action. What he thinks of anything will always depend on some possible context—nothing is, to him, what it is: everything is subject to change, in flux, part of a whole, of an infinite number of wholes presumably adding up to a super-whole that, however, he knows nothing about. So every answer he gives is only a partial answer, every feeling an opinion, and he never cares what something is, only 'how' it is—some extraneous seasoning that somehow goes along with it, that's what interests him.” 30 likes
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