Jessica's Reviews > The Man Without Qualities: v. 1

The Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil
Rate this book
Clear rating

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 so, and started growing kind of.... dense. Not dense as in stupid. Dense as in too smart. I started feeling like I needed to go read up on the Hapsburg Empire and on pre-War Europe in general. Like maybe not just a Wikipedia entry, like do actual research in order to understand what was going on.... Then this book and I settled into a pattern where a page or paragraph of brilliant beauty would suddenly shatter the numbed fugue I'd been pushed into by the increasingly abstract, ponderous, and no doubt very brainful surrounding chapter, and I'd leap up and cry, "This book is fantastic!" before sitting down heavily to nod off again in a pile of my own drool.

Don't get me wrong: I think this book was good. I'm pretty sure it was, but I just wasn't up to it. I read 297 pages, and several of those pages I did like very much. However, quite a few months ago I put it down on my desk at work, and somehow or another haven't picked it up since. So I took it on the train today, thinking it was about time I finished, and opened it up for the first time since spring. I made it through about a page and a half, then had to admit I had no idea what the hell he was talking about. And you know what? I know when I'm beat.

The Man Without Qualities was over my head. I'm not ashamed to admit it! This book was too hard. I mean, honestly if this weren't the first of three volumes, I'd read the last sixty-eight pages, but it is, and I'm not, and anyway, I'm pretty sure he didn't finish writing it before he died, which is also a demotivating factor. If Robert Musil couldn't finish The Man Without Qualities how on earth can I be expected to?

I do recommend this to someone who wants to read something unique, intellectually engaging, and fairly difficult. At the moment, however, that someone's not me.
14 likes · Likeflag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Man Without Qualities.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

08/16/2010 page 297

Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Jessica (new) - added it

Jessica I'd also like to say that I think it's kind of some suspicious bullshit when a book only gets five-star ratings on here, as this does.

message 2: by David (last edited Aug 16, 2010 02:56PM) (new)

David I'm tired of difficult books myself. Difficult books are for ambitious (read: irritating) people in their twenties. I think I'd rather hang myself than read Derrida now. I'm too old and mentally decrepit, and I just kind of want to read pretty stories and watch the pictures move on the television.

message 3: by Moira (new)

Moira Russell I've been terrified of this book for years. I agree with you about those five-star ratings.

message 4: by Amy Wilder (new)

Amy Wilder Sometimes I think five stars is like saying I paid a lot for this car, I'd better love it!

message 5: by Jessica (new) - added it

Jessica Heeheehee, love the car thing.

Yes, my brain is too feeble for difficult books. Though trying to lift this right after finishing Jackie Susann might've been, as we say in social work, setting myself up for failure...? The contrast was a bit rough. That's all I'm sayin'.

I feel like in my twenties I was interested in the breadth of human experience and intellect, but now my spirit is so crushed by all this endless working and aging and ongoing repeated disappointments, and a lot of the time now I just want to have fun.

message 6: by trivialchemy (new)

trivialchemy Still, though... 68 pages? Couldn't you just sorta skim it? It'd all be over in an hour or less.

message 7: by matthew (new)

matthew good god! are you in your thirties, now?!

back to top