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The Confusions of Young Törless

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3.73  ·  Rating details ·  6,455 ratings  ·  375 reviews
Like his contemporary and rival Sigmund Freud, Robert Musil boldly explored the dark, irrational undercurrents of humanity. The Confusions of Young Törless, published in 1906 while he was a student, uncovers the bullying, snobbery, and vicious homoerotic violence at an elite boys academy. Unsparingly honest in its depiction of the author's tangled feelings about his ...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published September 27th 2001 by Penguin (first published 1906)
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mark monday
 photo vlcsnap-2011-01-16-15h28m48s110_zps8e98814b.png

the place is an exclusive all-boys boarding school in Austria. the time is the turn of the 19th century. three boys: Törless, Beineberg, and Reiting. Reiting is an amiable, energetic sort; his aggressive nature is balanced by his charm and ease in the world. Beineberg is an anti-intellectual intellectual; much like his father, he yearns to be a mystic. in Törless, still waters run deep and much of the material world holds little interest for him; contemplation and melancholy are his hallmarks.
...more
Steven Godin
Readers who associate boarding school fiction with sneaky midnight feasts, harmless pranks or wizardry may come to find the introspection of young Törless’s education not only shocking but also too dense. Musil is not so much interested in investigating the exterior world of the protagonist, and chooses instead to look deeply into the psychological and moral awakening of youth. Young Törless drifts through interior monologue, to dreamlike sequences, to the horrors of life away from home, where ...more
Edward
Jul 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Edward by: Tara
Introduction
Note on the Text
Select Bibliography
A Chronology of Robert Musil


--The Confusions of Young Törless

Explanatory Notes
Christopher
Oct 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
--That moment when you realize that having your head in the clouds is not always a good thing. In short, the "confusions" of Young Torless are the confusions of all who wonder how the seemingly rational person can become embroiled in the heinous. But also--

"And suddenly--and it seemed to him as if it had happened for the very first time--Torless became aware of how incredibly high the sky was.
It was almost a shock. Straight above him, shining between the clouds, was a small, blue hole,
...more
Jimmy
Mar 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
The Confusions of Young Torless is an incredible book, reminiscent at times of Rilke in its ability to wrestle with complex spiritual and psychological themes. Reading this book was like constantly trying to grasp something slightly abstract, slightly out of reach, though very human and real and rooted in language. This is an ambitious (though short) book, an extremely thoughtful and difficult read.

Maybe it is fitting that the book is so hard to describe, since one of its main themes is the
...more
Tony
Jan 13, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: austrian
Törless is confused. Indeed, the title of this book, in some editions (not mine), is The Confusions of Young Törless. Skimming the plot surface of this book, Törless is a student in an Austrian military school. Two student-friends of Törless find out that yet another student, Basini, has been stealing small amounts of money. They proceed to sadistically, homosexually torture him. Törless finds himself aroused, and, thus, confused.

Törless finds himself in ...a frequent sudden lassitude ... with
...more
Jacob Overmark
The Confusions of Young Robert Musil

Semi-autobiographically little Robert slowly develops into an adolescent. Sensitive and insecure in the company of equally insecure boys without qualities, except being of respectable aristocratic families.

Coming-of-age in a boarding school environment where everyone is eager to prove his manhood (!) either by showing traces of intellect, by being the master bully or bragging of imaginary amorous adventures.

The long and winding road leading to climax is very
...more
Fede
Apr 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, mitteleuropa
Decadent Austro-Hungarian kids torture and sodomize a classmate as a rehearsal of the upper-class adulthood awaiting them out of the military academy.

Physical and psychological harassment!
A crumbling empire!
Pre-nazi post-sadism galore!
Depravity!
Pseudo-Freudian expressionism!
The chance to hear the bookshop assistant's ooohs and aaahs as you put a book by Robert Musil on the counter!
No need to say I licked my lips as soon as I read the blurb. Boy, I must have looked like Wile E. Coyote
...more
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
The New York Times Book Review was supposed to have said that this novel, published in 1906, was a chilling foreshadowing of the coming of Nazism. That, I feel, was a bit of a stretch.

Four young men in an all-boys military school in Austria, maybe sometime the start of 20th century. Torless, with his heavy philosophical musings, and around whom the story is built; Basini, weak and victimized; Beineberg, the mad (silly, to me) mystic; and Reiting, the manipulator who revels on torture. At the
...more
Rebecca McNutt
Nov 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classic, fiction, german
Bold, strange and innovative, The Confusions of Young Torless (I'm not sure how to type the accent over the "o" in "Torless, sorry) is an often bizarre yet interesting German classic.
Greg
Nov 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
More satisfying than the 1960's film version. It goes beyond being just a prophetic look at the fascist undercurrents already in Germany at the beginning of the 20th century to a more radical look at the way that rationality can lead to a fascination with barbarity.
Tara
Aug 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, 1001-list
“At that moment he didn’t like mankind, the grown-ups, the adults. He never liked them when it was dark. At such times it was his habit to think mankind away. Then the world would seem like a dark, empty house, and he felt a shudder inside himself, as if now he had to search through room after room—dark rooms where you didn’t know what was hidden in the corners—feeling his way across the thresholds where no foot would tread any more apart from his, until in one room the doors in front of and
...more
Eadweard
Apr 12, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-read
For these borrowed feelings and associations that come from outside carry young people over the dangerous, soft emotional ground of those years during which one has to mean something to oneself and is yet still too much of an unfinished article really to be anything. Whether something of this remains with one person later on but not with another is immaterial; we all come to terms with what we are, the danger is only present in the period of transition. If one were to make a young person see how ...more
AC
Apr 13, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: vienna, novels-german
I found this book exceedingly difficult - torturously so - and repellent. I recognize that it is a significant work, of course..., but the mind in diagnosis here is unrelievedly ill.
James
Robert Musil is one of my favorite authors and his story of Young Torless, published in 1906, is one reason. The novel reflects an obsession in this period with educational institutions and the oppressive impact they exert on personal development. While it is in the tradition of the German Bildungsroman, the novel of education, it is critical of educational system and the institutionalized coercion portrayed in the novel. In my reading experience I compared it with the experience of Philip Carey ...more
Simona Bartolotta
Feb 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 1900, in-italian
"But what is felt to be character or soul, a person’s inner contour or aura, [...] this ultimate, immovable background seemed to be utterly lost to Törless at this period."

The Confusions of Young Törless is a book that defies any definition, starting from its status as a moment of transition between two eras, two ideologies, two ways of making literature that are as distant from each other as one can conceive. It's a book that appeals, and a book that repels. It is also a novel of formation, to
...more
Lee Klein
Nov 20, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 rounded up? Close third-person portrait of the artist as an adolescent exposed to proto-Nazi homoerotic brutality at an all-boys boarding school. Opaque philosophizing characteristic of a sensitive intelligent teen makes this way longer than 217 pages. Note that these are, per the title, '"Confusions," not "Confessions" (my copy was only called "Young Torless"). Observations about artistic/intuitive emotional responses beyond rationality (ie, Kant, mathematics) occasionally clearly rang ...more
Ethan
Jul 01, 2008 rated it really liked it
A dark, dense, compelling read. It's simultaneously about the intrigues and backstabbing that goes on at an elite German military academy (think a much smarter all-male version of Cruel Intentions) mixed with a dense and complex look at a young boy trying to make sense of the world, his emotions, sexuality, philosophy, and pretty much everything else in life. The author tries to communicate the title character's inner state, including all the feelings that he does not have words to describe. ...more
Mr.
Oct 07, 2008 rated it liked it
The Confusions of Young Torless is a novel about a young and thoughtful boy who is thrown into the world of a private military school where violence and sexual aggression are the norm. He becomes acquainted with a local prostitute through his school friends and engages in intercourse with her despite his apparent homosexuality. The novel is filled with sexual confusion (hence the title), and sadism. Musil has constructed an awkwardly Nietzschean exploration of human morality, gender roles, and ...more
Steven
Aug 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"It was a thought that did little more than register the experience that it had just had. Anything that looks vast and mysterious from a distance always seems simple when viewed from close up, and takes on normal, everyday proportions. It is as if there is an invisible boundary around human beings. Everything that approaches us from beyond this borderline is like a mist-covered ocean full of gigantic, constantly changing shapes; anything that crosses this border, becomes an action, touches our
...more
Bettie


Description: At a boarding school in the pre-war Austro-Hungarian Empire, a pair of students torture one of their fellow classmates, Basini, who has been caught stealing money from one of the two. The two decide that rather than turn Basini in to the school authorities, they will punish him themselves and proceed to torture, degrade, and humiliate the boy, with ever-increasing sadistic delight. As each day passes, the two boys are able to justify harsher treatment than previously given. Torless
...more
David M
Jun 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
(I think I actually preferred this to the Man without Qualities. Teenager discovering sex, Kant, and imaginary numbers. Let's not pretend we ever really get past the mess of puberty. I hope to re-read it in the medium term.)
Caligulevin
Jul 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
More than any other emotion in works of fiction, I have always found reading about humiliation to be the most uncomfortable. Musil is something of a master at conjuring up this emotion and confronting the reader with it. The best sentences in this novel capture the vermin in our subconscious, the thoughts we try to ignore or exterminate. Seeing the most disgraceful parts of my thought process laid out before me, made them strangely seductive.

Though much of this book is gratuitously disturbing,
...more
Bjorn
May 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: austria
If they were to ask him, why did you abuse Basini?, he could hardly answer them: because I was constantly interested in something happening in my mind, a something, which so far I know very little about and which makes everything I think about seem pointless.

Three boys at yer stereotypical turn-of-the-century boarding school get caught up in yer stereotypical turn-of-the-century philosophical quandaries, and take it out on a fourth boy by beating, harrassing and raping him. Yes, this was written
...more
Lavinia
Apr 24, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2009, fiction
Such a generous subject but such a boring book. And now, as some1 around here said, I can reply to: "Have you read Musil's famous ?" with: "No, but I read his very first book. Have you?" :D
I'm almost sure I would have enjoyed it better if it had been written in the 1st person (I even liked Zeno more while reading Torless). The poetic (sometimes pathetic) language lost me. And all those philosophical perorations! Coming of age was never duller! I choose The catcher in the rye and The adventures
...more
Claire  Admiral
3 stars ...more
Jonathan
The blurb on the back of my Picador copy says that 'Törless is drawn into the vicious brutalities of his fellow cadets in the secret attic that provides a torture chamber for sadistic homosexual ritual.' Given that the book was first published in 1906 I wasn't sure what to expect; I thought most of the 'horrors' would be implied rather than related explicitly; and it is to a certain extent but it still packs a punch, so be warned - this is not Tom Brown's School Days.

The book begins with Törless
...more
Chris
Feb 17, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gay
This is a 1906 story about a submissive, effeminate, gay boy named Basini at an Austrian military school who is severely bullied, tortured, and raped by two classmates. He does have a halfhearted defender, the title character Törless, who almost falls in love with Basini, but ultimately abandons him. In the concluding hearing with the school headmaster and several teachers, the attackers easily escape punishment. Törless is excused after a long-winded and incomprehensible philosophical defense ...more
Ogier
Sep 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
After Robert Musil graduated from military academy, he began postgraduate work in mathematics and took courses in philosophy and psychology as these weren't available to him before. He wrote this book during this time though he denied it was autobiographical.

Torless is a young student in a military school who is troubled by his obsession with his mother, whom he sees when having sex with the village prostitute. He also has a close friendship with an effeminate Prince who is scorned by the other
...more
Kevin Lawrence
Oct 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
Had I read this book 20-25 years ago, I think I would have been absolutely enthralled by all its sensuality mixed with Nietzschean gloss; but (at the risk of aging myself significantly), as someone now well into my middle age, I found this book excellent but more than a bit adolescent. Its fascination with sadism is done sincerely well, but I couldn't help but wish a certain psychological levity were eventually brought to bear. Sex seems so complex to the young; but then it becomes exciting ...more
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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 The First World War. When Austria became a part of the Third Reich in 1938, Musil left for exile in Switzerland, where he
...more
“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.” 16 likes
“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.” 14 likes
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