Robert Musil

Robert Musil

Robert Musil was born in Klagenfurt, Austria. Before the war, Musil worked as a scientist and invented a chromatometer.

On the outbreak of the First World War Musil joined the Austro-Hungarian Army and served as an officer on the Italian Front. After the war Musil wrote two very important novels, Young Torless and The Man Without Qualities, about his military experiences.

In 1938 Musil left Austria and went to live in Switzerland.

Robert Musil died in Geneva in 1942.

Primary Sources

(1) Robert Musil, diary entry (Berlin, August, 1914)

In the very first days of the war, when at evening everyone rushes through the streets in search of newspapers, the crowd grows madly fond of reading, forms a solid mass through which a tram attempts to move very slowly.

Simultaneous with all the ecstasy, the ugly singing in the cafes. The nervous excitement that wants to fight its own little war for every copy of a newspaper.

Most of the last-minute weddings are taking place in the maternity hospitals.

(2) Robert Musil, diary entry (22nd September, 1914)

You hear it a long time before it lands. A wind-like whistling or rushing sound. Growing louder and louder. Suddenly it (a piece of shrapnel) landed right beside me in the earth. Not a trace of fear, not even the simply nervous kind like palpitation, which also usually ensues without fear in cases of sudden shock. Afterwards a pleasant feeling. Satisfaction at having survived. Pride, almost. Being accepted into a community, baptism.

(3) Robert Musil, diary entry (23rd October, 1914)

The dead man's few possessions lie wrapped in a shred of newspaper on our dining-table. A purse, the rose from his cap, a short, small pipe, two oval tin boxes containing ready-cut Toscani - cigar-like cigarettes - a small, round pocket mirror. From these objects streams a heavy sadness.