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“One must conform to the baseness of an age or become neurotic.”
Robert Musil
“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.”
Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities
“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.”
Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities
“…. 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”
Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities: Volume I
“The difference between a normal person and an insane one is precisely that the normal person has all the diseases of the mind, while the madman has only one!”
Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities
“Hardly anyone still reads nowadays. People make use of the writer only in order to work off their own excess energy on him in a perverse manner, in the form of agreement or disagreement.”
Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities
“A man who wants the truth becomes a scientist; a man who wants to give free play to his subjectivity may become a writer; but what should a man do who wants something in between?”
Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities
“One does what one is; one becomes what one does.”
Robert Musil
“True' and 'false' are the evasions of people who never want to arrive at a decision. Truth is something without end.”
Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities
“His answers were quite often like that. When she spoke of beauty, he spoke of the fatty tissue supporting the epidermis. When she mentioned love, he responded with the statistical curve that indicates the automatic rise and fall in the annual birthrate. When she spoke of the great figures in art, he traced the chain of borrowings that links these figures to one another.”
Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities
“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.”
Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities: Volume I
“In earlier times, one had an easier conscience about being a person than one does today. People were like cornstalks in a field, probably more violently tossed back and forth by God, hail, fire, pestilence, and war than they are today, but as a whole, as a city, a region, a field, and as to what personal movement was left to the individual stalk – all this was clearly defined and could be answered for. But today responsibility’s center of gravity is not in people but in circumstances. Have we not noticed that experiences have made themselves independent of people? They have gone on the stage, into books, into the reports of research institutes and explorers, into ideological or religious communities, which foster certain kinds of experience at the expense of others as if they are conducting a kind of social experiment, and insofar as experiences are not actually being developed, they are simply left dangling in the air. Who can say nowadays that his anger is really his own anger when so many people talk about it and claim to know more about it than he does? A world of qualities without a man has arisen, of experiences without the person who experiences them, and it almost looks as though ideally private experience is a thing of the past, and that the friendly burden of personal responsibility is to dissolve into a system of formulas of possible meanings. Probably the dissolution of the anthropocentric point of view, which for such a long time considered man to be at the center of the universe but which has been fading away for centuries, has finally arrived at the “I” itself, for the belief that the most important thing about experience is the experiencing, or of action the doing, is beginning to strike most people as naïve. There are probably people who still lead personal lives, who say “We saw the So-and-sos yesterday” or “We’ll do this or that today” and enjoy it without its needing to have any content of significance. They like everything that comes in contact with their fingers, and are purely private persons insofar as this is at all possible. In contact with such people, the world becomes a private world and shines like a rainbow. They may be very happy, but this kind of people usually seems absurd to the others, although it is still not at all clear why.

And suddenly, in view of these reflections, Ulrich had to smile and admit to himself that he was, after all, a character, even without having one.”
Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities: Volume I
tags: ch-39
“...love must be regarded as one of the religious and dangerous experiences, because it lifts people out of the arms of reason and sets them afloat with no ground under their feet.”
Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities: Volume I
“Man is indisputably endowed with reason; the problem is only how he uses his reason in the company of others.”
Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities
“In her misery she read a great deal, and discovered that she had lost something she had previously not really know she had: a soul.

What’s that? It is easy to define negatively: it is simply that which sneaks off at the mention of algebraic series.”
Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities
“Even in his greatest dedication to science he had never managed to forget that people's goodness and beauty come from what they believe, not from what they know.”
Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities: Vol. 2
“Anyone who still wants to experience fairytales these days can’t afford to dither when it comes to using their brains.”
Robert Musil
“There is, in short, no great idea that stupidity could not put to its own uses [....] The truth by comparison, has only one appearance and only one path, and is always at a disadvantage.”
Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities: Volume I
“Life forms a surface that acts as if it could not be otherwise, but under its skin things are pounding and pulsing.”
Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities: Volume I
tags: life
“And what would you do, ... if you could rule the world for a day? I suppose I would have no choice but to abolish reality.”
Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities: Volume I
“The thought is not something that observes an inner event, but, rather it is this inner event itself. We do not reflect on something, but, rather, something thinks itself in us. ”
Robert Musil
“What is it you do, then? I'll tell you: You leave out whatever doesn't suit you. As the author himself has done before you. Just as you leave things out of your dreams and fantasies. By leaving things out, we bring beauty and excitement into the world. We evidently handle our reality by effecting some sort of compromise with it, an in-between state where the emotions prevent each other from reaching their fullest intensity, graying the colors somewhat. Children who haven't yet reached that point of control are both happier and unhappier than adults who have. And yes, stupid people also leave things out, which is why ignorance is bliss. So I propose, to begin with, that we try to love each other as if we were characters in a novel who have met in the pages of a book. Let's in any case leave off all the fatty tissue that plumps up reality.”
Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities: Volume I
“We have gained reality and lost dream. No more lounging under a tree and peering at the sky between one's big and second toes; there's work to be done. To be efficient, one cannot be hungry and dreamy but must eat steak and keep moving.”
Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities: Volume I
“A man matters, his experiences matter, but in a city, where experiences come by the thousands, we can no longer relate them to ourselves, and this is of course the beginning of life’s notorious turning into abstraction.“

„There is always something ghostly about living constantly in a well-ordered state. You cannot step into the street or drink a glass of water or get on a streetcar without touching the balanced lever of gigantic apparatus of laws and interrelations, setting them in motion or letting them maintain you in your peaceful existence; one knows hardly any of these levers, which reach deep into the inner workings and, coming out of the other side, lose themselves in a network whose structure has never yet been unraveled by anyone. So one denies their existence, just as the average citizen denies the air, maintaining that it is empty space. But all these things that one denied, these colorless, odorless,tasteless, weightless, and morally indefinable things such as water, air, space, money, and the passing of time, turn out in truth to be the most important things of all, and this gives life a certain spooky quality.”
Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities
“A man can't be angry at his own time without suffering some damage.”
Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities: Volume I
“The feeling of not being understood and of not understanding the world is no mere accompaniment of first passion, but its sole non-accidental cause. And the passion itself is a panic-stricken flight in which being together with the other means only a doubled solitude.”
Robert Musil, The Confusions of Young Törless
“and while faith based on theological reasoning is today universally engaged in a bitter struggle with doubt and resistance from the prevailing brand of rationalism, it does seem that the naked fundamental experience itself, that primal seizure of mystic insight, stripped of religious concepts, perhaps no longer to be regarded as a religious experience at all, has undergone an immense expansion and now forms the soul of that complex irrationalism that haunts our era like a night bird lost in the dawn.”
Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities
“What is perceptible to one’s mistrust is the cut-and-dried way that life is divided up and the ready-made form it assumes, the ever-recurring sameness of it, the pre-formations passed down by generation after generation, the ready-made language not only of the tongue but also of the sensations and the feelings. ”
Robert Musil
tags: musil
“His life was focused on each single day. For him each night meant a void, a grave, extinction. The capacity to lay oneself down to die at the end of every day, without thinking anything of it, was something he had not yet acquired.”
Robert Musil, The Confusions of Young Törless
“When one's married for so long, always walking on four feet and always
breathing double breaths and thinking every thought twice through and
the time between the main things is packed double full with minor
details - then, sometimes, naturally, one yearns like an arrow for one
whole space thin as air. And you start up in the night, terrified by
your own breathing, which had just been going along as evenly without
you. But you don't rise up free - or even really as far as your knees
- not once. You strike a match. And there's one of you right there,
wrapped in flesh. Only then is it love.”
Robert Musil, Die Schwärmer

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