chapter  3
27 Pages

Robert Musil

ByJohn McCormick

It is impossible to deal with Robert Musil's great, unfinished novel, Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften (The Man without Qualities) without at least mentioning the textual difficulties involved in the publication and translation of Musil's various manuscripts. Since textual confusion in Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften is even greater than indicated, it might be well to review who Musil's characters are and approximately what they are up to, and what his central themes encompass. Ulrich is more central than most central characters. Musil's post-Romanticism is in the figure of Ulrich, who as ironic hero, as intellectual hero, is still in the pure or historical Romantic manner, heroic. Hermann Broch's final vision is distinctly visionary, and rather closer to history than is Musil's. Both men's vision was finally defeated by history; both gave us intimations of myth, and myth, as Collingwood said, is not at all concerned with human actions.