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The Man Without Qualities Paperback – 16 Sep 2011

4.5 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 1152 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Reprints edition (16 Sept. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1447211871
  • ISBN-13: 978-1447211877
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 5.3 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 51,802 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

I would recommend Sophie Wilkins' translation as a conscientious attempt to give to the English reader a novel which is compared to The Remembrance of Things Past and Ulysses. (The Times)

There is scarcely a page that does not provoke new thoughts or offer new insights, not a chapter that, even read on its own, does not prove stimulating. (Scotsman)

At last, at last - the fully-fleshed arrival in English of the third member of the trinity in twentieth-century fiction, complementing Ulysses and The Remembrance of Things Past . . . This last-waltz novel is amazingly contemporary. (Wall Street Journal)

Immensely rich and therapeutic, bristling with wit and a sly humour. (Sunday Telegraph)

Book Description

Part satire, part visionary epic, part intellectual tour de force

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on 25 Oct. 2002
Format: Paperback
Quite simply the greatest book i have ever and ever likely to read. It is no surprise or coincidence that the book represents nearly a lifetime's work for the author. The prose is superbly constructed and not a single word appears wasted or to be out of place, which makes it possible just to dip into any page at random and be rewarded. Huge praise must go to the translator.
The novel itself deals with abstract concepts such as nationalism, symbolism, humanity and politics juxtapositioned with the individual traits such as egotism, greed, love and jealousy using as its background prepartions for a celebration marking the Emporer's 70th anniversary in pre-World War 1 Vienna. We see this unfold through the eyes Ulrich (the Man of Qualities) who becomes drawn into events but remains throughout the detached, disinterested, highly eloquent observer.
The issues raised seem just as relevent today as when the book was first written. For example, it felt uncanny how closely events in the book appeared to parallel those that took place in preparation for the celebration of the new millenium.
Another testament to the quality of the book is that I found it very hard to believe the author himself was not personally involved in the story and the characters were not themselves real people known intimately to the author.
Never has the end of a book come seemed to come so soon - a 3-volume, 1000+ page one at that !
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Format: Paperback
It will be very hard to read anything else for quite a while after this one except maybe the other duo in the 'Holy Trinity' of modern letters ie Ulysses and Proust's masterpiece.

However this outranks even them in terms of the depth and profundity on offer here,never has a book attempted to tackle head on the central,pressing questions of mankind,centrally how does one live or act in a meaningless universe? how did this 'reality' and 'order' come to be? why is there evil in the world?-BIG questions and Musil explores them amongst many others in these two volumes which many times left me reeling with the beauty of his insights into the human condition.

Some parts move slowly and sometimes even though the translation is superb,the English can get confused in some of the more ephemeral passages but these are few and far between.Martin Amis said Ulysses 'filled the sky' and I feel that this is very appropriate here,a lot else you will read will pale into insignificance beside this,beautiful and profoundly moving book.
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The central character in this book, Ulrich, a modern man, wonders what to do with his life (fortunately a private income gives him various choices!). He gets drawn into elaborate and seemingly endless preparations for an event suitable to mark the 70th anniversary of the Emperor of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Before long he finds himself drawn into a world of committees and their members, and this provides Musil with the opportunity to reflect (at great length) on meaning in a meaningless world.

Musil's characters are human in every sense. In addition to their commitment to their "work" (celebrating the great anniversary), they have relationships of varying depth and quality, and as they are drawn into their work, they are attracted or repelled by one another, with inevitable consequences. Musil delights in showing the hidden motives in human relationships and satirises the tendency of the most high-minded people to spiritualise basic human conflicts: extra-marital affairs have a tragic and heroic gloss put on them enabling the lovers to see themselves as participating in a high-minded tragedy rather than the usual philanderings of those who are less-exalted.

Musil digresses at length on philosophical matters and most readers will need to skim through some of the hundreds of pages where the main characters get lost in their train of thought. And of course, in the back of the readers mind is the thought that all the preparation will be brought to nought by the onset of the First World War. However, an underlying sense of humour pervades this book and there are a number of more comic characters who's antics bring light relief to what is on the whole an extremely dense narrative.
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Format: Paperback
Some novels contain all of life within them - this is one of them. Musil's masterwork, over twenty years in the writing, is a brilliant, moving, vicious and desolate portrait of humankind as the age of reason crumbles into the uncertainties of our age of relativism.
Ulrich's disquisitons, and those of his friends Walter are touched with genius. This is one of those few novels which, although written two generations ago and dealing with the Austro-Hungarian Empire of even further back, feels as if it could have been written yesterday - the characters and their concerns are amazingly contemporary, something which makes you realise (as only the greatest novels can) how universal human concerns have been through history.
A brilliant book - it may be long, but it is hard to put down and worth ten other contemporary novels.
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Format: Paperback
Robert Musil dedicated the last twenty-two years of his life writing "The Man Eithout Qualities", often leaving himself and his family in poverty because he refused to publish sections of the work piecemeal. The incomplete work (about 2000 pages in German editions, 1100 or so here) amounts to less than half of what Musil envisaged (he died in 1942 with the work unfinished, and the book was first published in German only in 1978).
What does this all mean? Simply that the text we now call "The Man Without Qualities" is a massively ambitious, blithely humourous philosophical novel that attempts to address the key questions of the twentieth century: the integration of the individual into society; the integration of overwhelming scientific knowledge into the modern individual; and most importantly, the search for a balance between the rational and the spiritual.
"The Man Without Qualities" is perhaps the most dazzling and at the same time overwhelming novel ever created. There is brilliance on every page, a fantastic quotation every half page, and Musil's loving attention to detail is on every line.
I'll leave my review at that, because you simply have to get this book and read it as soon as possible. Ignore people that say the book is "waffle": it's not the size, it's the book's ideas and scale that are too big for them. You still here?
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