Robert Musil Quotes

Only in the most unusual cases is it useful to determine whether a book is good or bad; for it is just as rare for it to be one or the other. It is usually both.
Robert Musil (1880-1942), Austrian author. [On Criticism], untitled essay draft, presumably before 1914, Robert Musil: Precision and Soul. Essays and Addresses, p. 43, ed. and trans. by Burton Pike and David S. Luft, Chicago: University of Chicago Press (1990).
Writing [for the novelist] is not an activity, but a condition. That is why one simply can't resume the work when one has a job and a free half-day. Reading is the conveyance of this condition.
Robert Musil (1880-1942), Austrian author. Diary entry, 1918-1921, vol. I, p. 470, Tagebucher, ed. Adolf Frise, trans. by Donald C. Rieche, Rowohlt (1976).
Each person is a graveyard of his thoughts. They are most beautiful for us in the moment of their birth; later we can often sense a deep pain that they leave us indifferent where earlier they enchanted us.
Robert Musil (1880-1942), Austrian author. Diary entry, date uncertain: 1899?-1905/06, vol. I, p. 51, Tagebucher, 2 vols., Ed. Adolf Frise, trans. by Donald C. Rieche, Rowohlt (1976).
There is in every either-or a certain naivete which may well befit the evaluator, but ill- becomes the thinker, for whom opposites dissolve in series of transitions.
Robert Musil (1880-1942), Austrian author. Helpless Europe. A Digressive Journey (1922), Robert Musil, Precision and Soul. Essays and Addresses, p. 127, ed. and trans. by Burton Pike and David S. Luft, Chicago: University of Chicago Press (1990).
[There is] an abiding miscommunication between the intellect and the soul. We do not have too much intellect and too little soul, but too little intellect in matters of soul.
Robert Musil (1880-1942), Austrian author. Helpless Europe. A Digressive Journey (1922), Robert Musil, Precision and Soul. Essays and Addresses, ed. and trans. by Burton Pike and David S. Luft, Chicago: University of Chicago Press (1990).
The proverbial notion of historical distance consists in our having lost ninety-five of every hundred original facts, so the remaining ones can be arranged however one likes.
Robert Musil (1880-1942), Austrian author. Helpless Europe. A Digressive Journey (1922), Robert Musil, Precision and Soul. Essays and Addresses, p. 117, ed. and trans. by Burton Pike and David S. Luft, Chicago: University of Chicago Press (1990).
... the structure of a page of good prose is, analyzed logically, not something frozen but the vibrating of a bridge, which changes with every step one takes on it.
Robert Musil (1880-1942), Austrian author. Literati and Literature. Marginal Glosses, first published in Die Neue Rundschau (Sept. 1931), Robert Musil, Precision and Soul. Essays and Addresses, p. 79, ed. and trans. by Burton Pike and David S. Luft, Chicago: University of Chicago Press (1990).
... there is no such thing as a rational world and a separate irrational world, but only one world containing both.
Robert Musil (1880-1942), Austrian author. Literati and Literature. Marginal Glosses, first published in Die Neue Rundschau (Sept. 1931), Robert Musil, Precision and Soul. Essays and Addresses, p. 88, ed. and trans. by Burton Pike and David S. Luft, Chicago: University of Chicago Press (1990).
... the novel is called upon like no other art form to incorporate the intellectual content of an age.
Robert Musil (1880-1942), Austrian author. Literati and Literature: Marginal Glosses, first published in Die Neue Rundschau (Sept. 1931), Robert Musil, Precision and Soul: Essays and Addresses, p. 88, ed. and trans. by Burton Pike and David S. Luft, University of Chicago Press (1990).
... there is a particular propensity in the world for people, wherever they appear in great numbers, to permit themselves collectively everything that would be forbidden them individually.
Robert Musil (1880-1942), Austrian author. On Stupidity, last work published in book form in Musil's lifetime, Vienna (1937), Robert Musil, Precision and Soul. Essays and Addresses, p. 274, ed. and trans. by Burton Pike and David S. Luft, Chicago: University of Chicago Press (1990).