Robert Musil

From Academic Kids

Robert Musil (Klagenfurt, Austria, November 6, 1880April 15, 1942 in Geneva, Switzerland) was an Austrian writer, author of the unfinished trilogy The Man Without Qualities (in German, Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften), one of the most important modernist novels.

The novel deals with the moral and intellectual decline of the Austro-Hungarian Empire through the eyes of the book's protagonist Ulrich, an ex-mathematician who has failed to engage with the world around him in a manner that would allow him to possess 'qualities'. It takes as its setting Vienna on the eve of World War I. Musil served as an officer in the Austro-Hungarian army at the front between 1914 - 1918.


Musil was the son of Alfred Musil (1846-1924) and his wife Hermine (1853-1924), who lived together with an unrelated "uncle" Heinrich Reiter (b. 1856). The elder Musil was an engineer, appointed in 1891 to the chair of Mechanical Engineering at the Technical University in Brno, and awarded a hereditary peerage in the Austro-Hungarian empire shortly before it collapsed. The younger Musil was a bit short, but strong and skilled at wrestling, and by his early teens already more than his parents could handle. Accordingly they sent him to military boarding school at Eisenstadt (1892-1894) and then Mährisch-Weisskirchen (1894-1897). These school experiences are likely reflected in his first novel, Die Verwirrungen des Zöglings Törless (Young Torless).

After graduating as cadet, Musil briefly studied at a military college in Vienna during the fall of 1897, but then switched fields to engineering, joining his father's department at Brno. During his college career he studied engineering by day, but at night read literature and philosophy, and went to the theater and art exhibits. Nietzsche, Dostoyevsky, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Ernst Mach were particular interests of his college years. Musil finished his studies in three years, then in 1902-1903 served as an unpaid assistant to Professor Julius Carl von Bach, in Stuttgart. During this time he began work on Young Torless.

Even then, however, Musil was growing tired with engineering and the limited worldview of engineers, and rather than settle into an engineering career, he launched a new round of doctoral studies (1903-1908) in psychology and philosophy at the University of Berlin under the renowned Professor Carl Stumpf. In the midst of these studies, his first novel (Young Torless) was published in 1906. Even before this, in 1905, Musil had met Martha Marcovaldi (January 21, 1874 - November 6, 1880) who was in subsequent years to become his wife. She had already been widowed and remarried, with two children, and was seven years older than Musil.

In 1909, Musil completed his doctorate and was offered a position by Professor Alexius Meinon, at the University of Graz, which he turned in down to concentrate on literature. Over the next two years, he wrote and published two stories ("The Temptation of Quiet Veronica" and "The Perfecting of a Love") in a book entitled Vereinigungen (Unions) in 1911. During this same year, Martha's divorce was complete, and she and Musil married. Until this time, Musil had been supported by his family, but he now found employment first as a librarian in the Technical University of Vienna, and then in an editorial role with the Berlin Literary Journal, during which time he worked on a play entitled Die Schwärmer (The Enthusiasts), eventually published in 1921.

When World War I began, Musil joined the Army, first stationed in the South Tyrol, and then away from danger at Austria's Supreme Army Command in Bolzano. After war's end, and the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire, Musil returned to a fulltime literary life in Vienna. He published a collection of short stories, Drei Frauen (Three Women), in 1924, and then in 1930 and 1932 the first two volumes of his masterpiece, Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften (The Man Without Qualities).

The last years of Musil's life were dominated by Nazism and World War II. He saw early Nazism first-hand during 1931-1933 in a stay in Berlin, and later, when Austria became a part of the Third Reich in 1938, Musil left for exile in Switzerland, where he died of a stroke on April 15, 1942, at the age of 61.


  • 1906 Die Verwirrungen des Zöglings Törless (Young Torless), later made into a movie Der junge Törless
  • 1911 Vereinigungen
  • 1921 Die Schwärmer
  • 1924 Vinzenz und die Freundin bedeutender Männer
  • 1924 Drei Frauen
  • 1936 Nachlass zu Lebzeiten
  • 1937 Über die Dummheit
  • 1930, 1933, 1943 Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften

External links

da:Robert Musil

de:Robert Musil es:Robert Musil hr:Robert Musil it:Robert Musil ja:ロベルト・ムージル no:Robert Musil


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