AC's Reviews > The Confusions of Young Törless

The Confusions of Young Törless by Robert Musil
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Apr 13, 2011

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bookshelves: novels-german, vienna
Read from April 13 to 25, 2011

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.
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Quotes AC Liked

Robert Musil
“Es gibt immer einen Punkt dabei, wo man nicht mehr weiß, ob man lügt oder ob das, was man erfunden hat, wahrer ist als man selber.”
Robert Musil, The Confusions of Young Törless

Reading Progress

04/17 page 26
15.0% "A very difficult, cragged, and intricate book..."
04/03 marked as: read
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Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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Geoff So glad you're reading this AC, this is one of the crucial books in my love of literature. All the unspeakable mystery of adolescence (& beyond) is spoken here...

message 2: by AC (new) - rated it 3 stars

AC This is not an easy book for me to understand, I admit. I do not personally share the narrator's angst(s) or complexes, and I find his despair peculiar. For me, life is throughly drenched in meaning....

But let me offer, by way of commentary, this passage from Malaparte (Kaputt, p. 91):

"In no part of Europe had Germans appeared to me so naked, so exposed as in Poland. In the course of my long war experience, the conviction had grown within me that the German has no fear of the strong man, of the armed man who faces him with courage and stands up to him. The German fears the defenseless, the weak, and the sick. The leitmotiv of fear, of German cruelty as a result of that fear, had become the principal keynote of my entire war experience. In an attentive observer with a modern and Christian mind, this "fear" arouses horror and pity, and nowhere was I moved to such horror and such pity as in Poland, where the morbid, feminine quality of its nature was revealed to me in its full complexity. That which dives the Germans to cruelty, to deeds most coldly, methodically and scientifically cruel, is fear. Fear of the oppressed, the defenseless, the weak, the sick; fear of women and of children, fear of the Jews. Although the German strives to hide this mysterious "fear", he is forever driven to talk about it, and always at the least suitable times, particularly at the dinner table where, either because he has been warmed by wine and food, or because company gives him self-confidence, or because has a subconscious urge to prove to himself that he is not afraid, the German exposes himself -- lets himself go on talking about hunger, shooting, slaughter -- with a morbid compassion that not only reveals rancor, jealousy, frustrated love and hate, but also a pitiful and wonderful passion for self-abasement.

"I listen to the words of the guests with a horror and pity that I strove in vain to conceal; when Frank [Hans Frank], noticing my emotion, perhaps with a view to making me share his own morbid feeling of abasement, turned to me and smiling ironically, asked: 'Have you been to see the ghetto, my dear Malaparte?'"

Geoff hmm. I wonder if I should be worried that I so got this book- like it really felt right to me about a lot of the horrible ambiguities and odd gray areas of adolescence... I'd like to think I'm not unrelievedly ill... wouldn't we all?

message 4: by AC (new) - rated it 3 stars

AC I regretted posting that review for fear of making myself look like a fool and an oaf... which I apparently succeeded in doing! Still, I found the style just excruciating... But remember, I've read so little "modernist" literature that my ignorance and lack of sensibility is vast... And it may simply be something I'll need to reread in a year or two... On the other hand, it's possible I've finally begun to find a set of neuroses I don't actually share. That would be nice, since those I do share form such a crowded set.....

Jimmy You are not a fool or an oaf! There are so many great books, you shouldn't be down on yourself that you didn't particularly relate to this one. Your comments are interesting to me though, because I feel like Musil stirs up so many different emotions. I remember feeling alternately disgusted, uncomfortable, stimulated, and depressed throughout the book (and probably many other emotions). I no longer remember enough of the actual content of the book to see how that quote about Germans/fear relates to the Torless exactly. Mind explaining?

message 6: by AC (new) - rated it 3 stars

AC Jimmy wrote: "You are not a fool or an oaf! There are so many great books, you shouldn't be down on yourself that you didn't particularly relate to this one. Your comments are interesting to me though, because..."

I only have a moment before I have to run out of the house - The quote, I felt, cast some light on Beineberg's abuse of Basini -- who (Basini) is probably the most sympathetic character/victim in the book.

But all that torturous anthropomorphic psychoanalysis of clouds and different shades of darkness... just drove me nuts after awhile -- I kept thinking: "Come on, already! Let's get on to the rape and pillaging and so we can bloody well get on home...."

Perhaps I needed more patience -- I had a similar response to the Cendrars that I recently read -- and so I really DO suspect the problem lies in my own ignorance. Give me time...

Jimmy Yes, that quote absolutely makes sense now.

I find it funny that you were looking forward to the rape and pillage. I was dreading that part (though knowing it was necessarily coming), and instead enjoyed the escape into tangential ideas. It was a perfect refuge from the horror brewing in the meantime, and it felt like a mirror of how I've lived (dealt with) most of my life.

message 8: by AC (new) - rated it 3 stars

AC Ahhhh...! NOW I understand..., now it makes a LOT more sense, the book.... OK. Well, I see now... I'll change my rating.

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