Category Archives: Musil

Like a room

Clarisse was staring out the window. But now her gaze sharpened; she was focusing on something specific out there, for support. She felt as if her thoughts had strayed outside and had only just returned. This sense of being like a room, with the sense of the door just having shut, was nothing new to her. On and off she had days, even weeks, when everything around her was brighter and lighter than usual, as though it would take hardly any effort to slip out of herself and go traipsing about the world unencumbered; then again there were the bad times, when she felt imprisoned, and though these usually passed quickly, she dreaded them like a punishment, because everything closed in on her and was so sad. Just now she was aware of a sober, lucid peacefulness, and it worried her a little bit; she was not sure what it was that she had wanted just a while ago, and this sense of leaden clarity and quiet control was often a prelude to the time of punishment. She pulled herself together with the feeling that if she could keep this conversation going with conviction, she would be back on safe ground.

– Musil, The Man Without Qualities (tr. Pike)

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Some kind of whole

The eternal formula, the key to this world and the beyond. (Oh, Robert, why do you use, for things that are so indifferent to you, such highly charged words!). Did Kant, did any other discover it? Can anyone ever find it?!I have never finished reading Kant but I don’t let that keep me awake at night, nor do I feel that I shall die with shame because another man has already grasped the world in its entirety.

There are truths but no truth. I can quite well assert two totally antithetical things and in both cases be right. It’s not permissible to weigh ideas, one against the other — each has a life of its own. Cf. Nietzsche. What a fiasco it is if one tries to discover any system in his work except for the spirit which the wise man chooses as his guide.

Another species is made up of those who loved greatly — Christ, Buddha, Goethe — myself, in those days of autumn when I was in love with Valerie.

These do not seek after any truth, but they feel that something within them is coming together into some kind of whole.

This has something purely human about it — a natural process.

And such people can balance one idea against the other, for that new thing which grows within them has fastidious roots.

— Robert Musil (quoted in Letters from a Librarian)