Young Torless Paperback – 1 Feb 1982
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
this book gave me the creepers. i read this short novel in a class on existential philosophy, and it's the only piece except for sartre's nausea that has stuck with me all these years.
without revealing too much, the plot revolves around several young boys at a boarding school who torture a fellow student-- to see what will happen in a philosophical sort of way. disturbing, haunting, suspenseful, beautiful, profound.
not for the faint of heart.
Within the confines of an Austrian military school, four adolescent boys become enmeshed in a disturbingly brutal rite of passage: Torless - the witness whose philosophical detachment is threatened by a brief yet violent brush with homosexuality; Basini - the victim, effeminate, weak, seductively passive; Beineberg - the sinister mystic capable of inflicting cold-blooded mental anguish; and Reiting - the unscrupulous manipulator whose power rests on dehumanization through debasing physical torture.
Second, a comment on the book as a historical piece: Given the book's plot, and how the plot unfolds, this is essential reading on several levels. The shows how a person can be progressively demonized and made to appear as "less than" human. In this way, the aggresssors become increasingly justified in their committing their torturous acts. Basini is literally and figuratively stripped of his humanity so methodically that the process belies conscious description. Torless, in refusing to commit himself to a position against Beineberg and Reising's aggressions -- perhaps due to his own jealousy of Basini - allows the process to continue. Basini, in his desperation for protection and comfort, willingly submits to Torless. The portrayal of blatant homo-sexual acts, in this book originally published in 1906 or 1907, is striking and bold, yet, not surprisingly, utterly impersonal.
By all means, read "Young Torless," if less for enjoyment than for historical purposes. I intend to read Robert Musil's "The Man Without Qualities" at some point in the future.
A dark and disturbing look at how adolescents learn about their place in the world through power, brutality and sexuality. I was confused by parts of it, as the author threw in much psychoanalysis and delving into Kant which made it difficult to follow the story, reading more along the lines of an essay at times. The ending is dissatisfying and doesn't give any clear solution.