In honor of the 125th anniversary of Musil’s birth, please see wood s lot’s Musil Feature with many fantastic quotes.
Many have made the criticism that Musil is too analytical and too detached to have the sort of resonance of a Proust or a Joyce. These quotes as much as anything show that he was anything but; he looked to integrate emotion (or “soul,” his preferred term–is it Seele, pica?) into every aspect of intellectual inquiry, with varing results. I suspect this accounted for his irascible nature as much as his unique genius.
In honor of his birthday I quote some of the best advice ever received:
Few people in mid-life really know how they got to be what they are, how they came by their pastimes, their outlook, their wife, their character, profession, and successes, but they have the feeling that from this point on nothing much can change. It might even be fair to say that they were tricked, since nowhere is a sufficient reason to be found why everything should have turned out the way it did; it could just as well have turned out differently; whatever happened was least of all their own doing but depended mostly on all sorts of circumstances, on moods, the life and death of quite different people; those events converged on one, so to speak, only at a given point in time. In their youth, life lay ahead of them like an inexhaustible morning, full of possibilities and emptiness on all sides, but already by noon something is suddenly there that may claim to be their own life yet whose appearing is as surprising, all in all, as if a person had suddenly materialized with whom one had been corresponding for some twenty years without meeting and whom one had imagined quite differently.
The Man Without Qualities