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Precision and Soul

Essays and Addresses

Edited and translated by Burton Pike and David S. Luft
"We do not have too much intellect and too little soul, but too little precision in matters of the soul."—Robert Musil

Best known as author of the novel The Man without Qualities, Robert Musil wrote these essays in Vienna and Berlin between 1911 and 1937. Offering a perspective on modern society and intellectual life, they are concerned with the crisis of modern culture as it manifests itself in science and mathematics, capitalism and nationalism, the changing roles of women and writers, and more. Writing to find his way in a world where moral systems everywhere were seemingly in decay, Musil strives to reconcile the ongoing conflict between functional relativism and the passionate search for ethical values.

Robert Musil was born in 1880 and died in 1942. His first novel, Young Törless, is available in English. A new two-volume translation by Burton Pike and Sophie Wilkins of The Man without Qualities is forthcoming from Alfred A. Knopf.

"Now we have these thirty-one invaluable and entertaining pieces, from an article on ’The Obscene and Pathological in Art’ to the equally provocative talk ’On Stupidity,’ which, with a new translation of The Man without Qualities forthcoming . . . amount to a literary event for the reader of English comparable to Constance Garnett’s massive translation of Chekhov’s stories."—Joseph Coates, Chicago Tribune

"Musil is one of the few great moderns, one of the handful who ventured to confront the issues that shape and define our time. . . . He has a range and a striking capacity every bit as great as that of Mann, Joyce, or Beckett."—Boston Review

"These essays are crucial in understanding a writer and critic whose lifelong task was an attempt to resolve the dichotomy between the precision of scientific form and the soul—the matter of life and art."—Choice

329 pages | 6 x 9 | © 1990

History: European History

Literature and Literary Criticism: Germanic Languages

Table of Contents

The Obscene and Pathological in Art
Profile of a Program
Politics in Austria
The Religious Spirit, Modernism, and Metaphysics
On Robert Musil’s Books
Political Confessions of a Young Man
Moral Fruitfulness
The Mathematical Man
[On Criticism]
The Goals of Literature
[On the Essay]
Literary Chronicle
Commentary on a Metapsychics
Sketch of What the Writer Knows
[Psychology and Literature]
Cinema or Theater
Literati and Literature
Anschluss with Germany
Buridan’s Austrian
"Nation" as Ideal and as Reality
Helpless Europe
Mind and Experience
The German as Symptom
Toward a New Aesthetic
Woman Yesterday and Tomorrow
Ruminations of a Slow-witted Mind
Address at the Memorial Service for Rilke in Berlin
The Serious Writer in Our Time
[Lecture, Paris]
On Stupidity
Appendix A. Musil’s Sketch for an Introduction to a Planned Volume of Essays
Appendix B. Dates of First Publication

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