Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Man Without Qualities: Vol 1” as Want to Read:
The Man Without Qualities: Vol 1
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Man Without Qualities: Vol 1 (The Man Without Qualities #1)

4.37  ·  Rating Details ·  2,030 Ratings  ·  147 Reviews
Contains: A Sort of Introduction
The Like of it Now Happens (I)

"It would be useless to attempt a synopsis of Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften, not only because of its length and complexity, but also because the real action lies not on the surface, in what the characters do (though that is often dramatic enough), but within, in their states of mind, the fluctuations of their emo
Paperback, Picador, 365 pages
Published 1979 by Pan Books (first published 1930)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Man Without Qualities, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Man Without Qualities

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Mar 10, 2010 Jimmy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’m always appreciative of a book that at first feels unapproachable to me, because this means that I can come back to it when I’m ready, when I’ve grown. This is the case with The Man Without Qualities, a book I had attempted twice last year but found hard to really get into. I picked it up again this year and started from page one, and this time it just clicked. It’s important to me as a reader to get the voice of the writer in my head just right, and it seems to me that I just couldn’t do tha ...more
Apr 02, 2010 Szplug rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amongst the most influential and powerful fictions that I have read are those born from the Austro-Germanic experience amidst the cadaverous ruins of the First World War: Thomas Mann, Hermann Broch, Franz Kafka, Joseph Roth, and now Robert Musil. One of the biggest regrets in my reading life is not having become fluent in German—although the English translators have done a magnificent job of bringing this epoch of profound reflection and soaring imagination to the English language, I can only bu ...more
Aug 04, 2011 Lee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Among the very best I've read. No question. Up there shining a bright light in my own little personal canonical firmament. The ideal book of ideas. Fans of towering literary artistry will love this. Recommended for fans of Infinite Jest -- there's even a riff about what it means when a tennis player is called a genius. Somewhere in Extinction, Bernhard notes that Musil is the best prose writer ever in German. Fantastically drawn characters with incomparable depth thanks to such clear, fluid, ins ...more
Vit Babenco
Dec 14, 2016 Vit Babenco rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The first volume of The Man Without Qualities comprises two parts: A Sort of Introduction and Pseudoreality Prevails and those consist of one hundred and twenty three short chapters. And every chapter reads as a vivid fable or an acrid anecdote. And together these particolored tiles constitute a variegated mosaic of a brilliant farce which shows a wholeness of a complete book.
What the novel’s like?
“But do you know what it's like? It's like traveling second class in Galicia and picking up crab li
Apr 29, 2013 AC rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A quite remarkable book which, now having read, has immediately become a noticable portion of the furniture of my mind... A fine intoduction (for me) to the modernist ethic and the modernist aesthetic... which I've been seeking to understand (with quite some difficulty) for the past two-plus years.

All the secondary literature I've read on Modernism was essentially worthless. Since there is no thread, there really is no thesis; and hence, no real way to approach it via "scholarship". One simply h
Regardless of the presence, absence or definition of plot, this work–what I’ve thus far read of it, which is the first book of the original translation–is nearly universally quotable. And to me, quotable means illuminating and illumination demands from the liver of this life to be had–in this case read, digested and perhaps regurgitated and redigested. The following example is typical; the sentences are thick with insight that is almost said in passing:

“Questions and answers click into each othe
David Katzman
Dec 22, 2008 David Katzman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of highly intellectual lit, don't mind minimal plot, and have significant attention spans
The Man Without Qualities is a Modernist masterpiece. An expansive book of ideas yet an intimate view into Austrian society, circa 1913. The writing (in translation from German) is erudite and sophisticated. The view into the psychology of the numerous characters is rich and insightful. The overall critique of both Austrian and human civilization is profound and sharp. There are intimations of Proust here but the language less elaborate. I'm also reminded of Fernando Passoa and The Book of Disq ...more
Stephen P
Jul 05, 2013 Stephen P rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It happens after the transfer. The tedium, then the lurking state of thought-rush, irretrievable perceptions. It may be for three minutes or many hours. I no longer live in time. I am alone in the small cottage. It isn't that I have anything to prove. Simply, I want to be alone with my thoughts. The absence of the weight of another person's unspoken ideas became important. Oppression has become my medium.
The transfer occurs in stages. It must be thought out first. Each stage etched into the min
Reading this book was the way I'd wrongly imagined reading Proust would be. That is, at the beginning it was engaging and interesting, and unlike anything I'd read. Then it started to get a little harder, but I still liked it a lot, and was enjoying myself. It has a mentally-ill felony offender! One of my favorite things! And his description of psychosis was much better and more accurate than most authors'. Anyway, at first it was exciting -- Vienna! Modernity! But then it got quite a bit less s ...more
Tim Edison
Jan 09, 2016 Tim Edison rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Rarely have I read a book, such as this, where I am not completely certain what the book is about but am still utterly absorbed by it. The title of the book provides the most accurate summary. The first in a trilogy, it really is about "A Man Without Qualities" who is also known as Ulrich.

"It is not difficult to give a description about this thirty-two-year-old man, Ulrich, in general outline, even though all he knew about himself was that he was as far from all the qualities as he was near the
In the Man Without Qualities, Robert Musil created the perfect corporate everyman, a Dilbert for the early 20th C in the crumbling Austro-Hungarian empire. With an incredibly precise wit and penetrating insight, his protagonist Ulrich - who reminded me of Castorp in The Magic Mountain - has no personality but rather derives it from the freaks around him. Nymphomaniacs, neurotics - all the manifestations of a corrupt society consuming itself. A large part of the book is dedicated to the preparati ...more
Aug 10, 2007 Nick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people with a long attention span
Endlessly awesome. Practically plotless and hence captures the imagination purely through its profundity of ideas. The possibilites that Musil postulates through the character of Ulrich are awe-inspiring--his attack on every single way we live our lives is shocking, yet completely reasonable--but ultimately, the abstractness of these solutions cannot uphold the corporeality of an actual human life, and despite the apparent overused and scarred nature of every path that seems to stretch out befor ...more
Oct 08, 2007 Evan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I finally finished volume 1 of this book on the first day of 2009. 730 pages, and I'm not entirely sure I could explain what, if anything, happens. Clearly, not many contemporary readers would enjoy the kind of experience this entails. My description below, written back in the summer of 2007 when I started reading it, pretty much holds. I will now add volume 2 to my "currently reading." Stay tuned for the review, which will probably be forthcoming somewhere around 2015...

My original review (summ
Eddie Watkins
Jul 02, 2009 Eddie Watkins rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: austrian-fiction
Master of the elaborate and perfectly apt simile and an intellectual ironic comic of the highest order, I salute you Robert Musil, you AND your rarefied but highly readable novel composed of hundreds if not thousands of well-engineered lines worthy of weeklong pondering each. It may make your head swim but it'll also teach your brain how to breathe.
Jul 19, 2007 Leah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Some books suck me in and I can't put them down until I've finished. Other books hang over my head like an incomplete homework assignment. This one started out like homework, but ended up as addicting as any great story. I believe I read this book over the course of a year and a half, picking it up and putting it down. The story didn't grab me at first, but I kept coming back for the great one-liners. This may be one of the most quotable novels I've ever read. In any case, it's a slow build, but ...more
Aug 17, 2011 Hadrian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: german, fiction
Phew! This is a monster. A massive book of ideas. As Mann deals with his sanatorium, Musil approaches Austria-Hungary in the early 20th century, an ancient empire marching into oblivion. Encompasses thoughts of ideologies of the era.

On to Volume 2.
Loring Wirbel
Jul 03, 2012 Loring Wirbel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Perhaps it isn't fair to review this work at the end of Vol. 1, but since Goodreads separates the two volumes, I'll give a midway assessment of the story up to now. Some reviewers rave about Musil as the missing link between Proust and Joyce, or Proust and Pynchon. I'm not so sure he's engaging enough to be considered Pynchon-on-the-Danube, but he's certainly more fun to read than Proust. In fact, this book seems very modernist for something written in the 1930s.

Our protagonist, Ulrich, 'The M
Scott Gates
Aug 14, 2010 Scott Gates rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is the type of novel in which the characters like to lecture each other, and the narrator (the worst character) is constantly lecturing you. Seldom is a subject mentioned for which the narrator doesn’t produce an exasperating mini-lesson. He wants to show us how things really are. There is an unpleasant (and unjustified) presumption of superiority behind such a tendency. The main character, the pouty Ulrich, is kind of like a sad replay of the “nihilist” in Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons, who ...more
Aasem Bakhshi
Life has stopped me somehow to embark upon the six (or is it seven?) volumes of Proust, or tomes of Mellville or Cervantes as yet , but having the opportunity to read Musil's masterpiece while I am still alive was an amazing experience. Its like somehow being able to make a little sense of the tragic complexity of this life before after-life. But this tragedy is modern in all its dimensions. I am not sure how it would ever be possible to reproduce the literary experiment of Musil in all its comp ...more
Abimelech Abimelech
Pseudoreality prevails__________________

I've been going back and forth with this first volume for about five years. It was not supposed to be that way although it is. I kept buying it, renting it from libraries, borrowing copies from other Musil admirers, reading it everywhere from broken down buses in Denver blizzards, the Brown Jug in San Francisco after a long night out while dawn crept in, on the plane to Oakland, in the particularly grotesque lower Manhattan DMV, but I always ended up passi
May 09, 2008 Abailart rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are different kinds of funny. The category this book fits into includes having a smile on the face throughout, bursts of hilarity, and that serious use of comedy which reveals the absurdity of human behaviour. Written un the context of thickening fascist Europe, it's a remarkable mirror on life today. So easily the lusts of genitals, power and cruelty blend seamlessly with lofty idealisms. Entire schools of philosophy are ridiculed gently, or more accurately what is ridiculed is the nugato ...more
Oct 07, 2008 Mr. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The first volume of Robert Musil's magnificent opus `The Man Without Qualities,' is brilliant and intricate Prussian `a la recherche du temps perdu,' though without Proust's keen appreciation of the arts. This is an epic from the mind of a mathematician and a strict analytic philosopher who becomes ensconced in the aristocracy of Austro-Hungarian Empire in the years of its final disintegration leading up to the first World War. Ulrich is the man without qualities, the sharp minded observer and p ...more
Luís C.
The Emperor of Austria-Hungary will soon celebrate his seventieth birthday. The occasion is perfect to assert the identity of the empire in Europe and compete with the German patriotism that develops. All intellectual gratin is summoned to define the actions to take in the famous "Austrian year" that must be remembered. Among them Ulrich, boosted by his father who despaired to see him climb the social ladder, dubbed the "man without qualities" through knowledge for its total lack of commitment t ...more
May 28, 2015 Rıdvan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Çok emek harcadım, yavaş yavaş okudum, tüm enerjimi bu kitaba verdim ancak...
Yok arkadaş olmadı, hiç bir şey anlamadım.
Dünyanın en ağır felsefe kitabı yahu.
Sep 18, 2007 Stas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is only occasionally tedious. It is often very funny. Maybe when I finish it, I can live without reading Joyce and Proust.
Juan Manuel  Charry Urueña
Jan 13, 2014 Juan Manuel Charry Urueña rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: main
Llegué a este libro por los comentarios de Elías Canetti, quien considera a Musil superior a Thomas Mann, su obra un intento por reedificar Austria y elaborar un mapa de la naturaleza humana. La obra muestra la penetración del racionalismo, es literatura de introspección y narrativa semi-filosófica que pretende diluir el individualismo en contextos. algunas de las cosas que dice el libro: El más profundo apoyo que pueda encontrar el hombre en sus semejantes consiste en su rechazo. Hemos conquist ...more
Zeynep K
Aug 07, 2011 Zeynep K rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"İnsan artık bir ağacın altına uzanıp ayak başparmağı ve ikinci parmağı arasından gökyüzünü seyretmiyor, fakat bir şeyler yaratıyor; ayrıca becerikli olmak isteyen insanın aç kalmasına ve düşlere dalmasına izin yok; o, biftek yiyip yerinden kımıldamak zorunda." 119

"Bir kez olsun sürüklendiğim yerde kalmak istiyorum," 278

" ... ve hava, bir cümlenin bitiminde doğru yere konulmuş bir noktanın sessizliğiyle doluydu." 282

"Gerçekten de, varoluşun bütünlüğünü ve iç düzenini birinci planda ancak sanat y
Mar 11, 2011 Phil rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have read some comments to the effect that Musil is not comparable to either Proust or Joyce. This is true. But only to the extent that Joyce and Proust are not comparable to each other either. Their common bond though is of course their incredible perspicacity and insight into the consequences of the modern age before anyone really knew what to make of it. Joyce gives us a perspective from the bottom of society, Proust from the bourgeoisie/middle class, and Musil from the upper (or at least w ...more
Rosa Ramôa
Jun 08, 2016 Rosa Ramôa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Ode à Criança

A criança é criativa porque é crescimento e se cria a si própria. É como um rei, porque impõe ao mundo as suas ideias, os seus sentimentos e as suas fantasias. Ignora o mundo do acaso, pré-elaborado, e constrói o seu próprio mundo de ideais. Tem uma sexualidade própria. Os adultos cometem um pecado bárbaro ao destruir a criatividade da criança pelo roubo do seu mundo, sufocando-a com um saber artificial e morto, e orientando-a no sentido de finalidades que lhe são estranhas. A cria
Jan 21, 2015 Murray rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It’s a simple statement; a distinguishing quality of literature is its capacity to make you think and feel. And with this, Volume 1 of The Man Without Qualities, I thought and felt, greatly, insanely, and perhaps more than any before it.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Sleepwalkers
  • Joseph and His Brothers
  • Correction
  • Jakob von Gunten
  • The Lord Chandos Letter: And Other Writings
  • The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge
  • Auto-da-Fé
  • Berlin Alexanderplatz
  • The Aesthetics of Resistance, Vol. 1
  • The Radetzky March
  • Repetition
  • Memoirs of an Anti-Semite
  • Telegrams of the Soul: Selected Prose
  • Time Regained (In Search of Lost Time, #7)
  • Fiasco
  • The Marquise of O— and Other Stories
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...

Other Books in the Series

The Man Without Qualities (3 books)
  • The Man Without Qualities: Vol. 2
  • The Man Without Qualities: Vol 3

Share This Book

“…. by the time they have reached the middle of their life’s journey, few people remember how they have managed to arrive at themselves, at their amusements, their point of view, their wife, character, occupation and successes, but they cannot help feeling that not much is likely to change anymore. It might even be asserted that they have been cheated, for one can nowhere discover any sufficient reason for everything’s coming about as it has. It might just have well as turned out differently. The events of people’s lives have, after all, only to the last degree originated in them, having generally depended on all sorts of circumstances such as the moods, the life or death of quite different people, and have, as it were, only at the given point of time come hurrying towards them” 52 likes
“An impractical man--which he not only seems to be, but really is--will always be unreliable and unpredictable in his dealings with others. He will engage in actions that mean something else to him than to others, but he is at peace with himself about everything as long as he can make it all come together in a fine idea.” 24 likes
More quotes…