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Customer Review

on 30 November 2001
This book is aptly titled, for young Torless is certainly confused; confused about personal and institututional power, about the founts of sexual passion and his own orientation. He questions the purpose and meaning of education, his own and in general. He perceives language is inadequate to its task. In his crisis it dissociates from the worlds and states of consciousness which it supposedly describes. He has a beef with academic specialists, as men who have had all the poetry caned out of them. Two pages of Kant make the kid sweat, but he has a fraught and engaging relationship with imaginary numbers.
Trapped in an academy at the bleak and dusty edge of the realm, homesick and morally inept, he falls in with a couple of emotionally and philosophically uncomplicated elder cadets- whose personalities are uncannily well suited to an old school military ethos. Torless' confusions make him susceptible to these fellows, and he is inducted into a kind of cult of masculine cruelty (for sophomores), with trappings of blood and eros. This suits his comrades better than it does him, and his confusions eventually attain unsupportable dimensions.
The social psychology here is strictly Nietzschean, as is the general approach to morality. Model psychological experiences also evidently owe Old Fred a debt. Musil adds, perhaps superflously, a generous measure of extra murk, for mood I suppose. The confusions of Torless are often aptly mirrored in the prose. Add to this the incurable solipsism of the protagonist and you get alot of odd and murky speculations. But these are usually very interesting. Some of the descriptions of psychological states and the autumnal world were quite precise and beautiful, reminding me of the poet Rilke more than anything else.
This book is often raw and oddly heavy-metal. If you don't care to wrestle with so-called dark angels, don't take it up. Otherwise, dig in.
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