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A review of Posthumous Papers of a Living Author from Susan Salter Reynolds, in L.A. Times


THIS little book, originally published in Zurich in 1936, six years before Musil’s death, is full of what the author called “the passionate energy of the idea.” It is a collection of small stories and observations, like Musil’s effort to feel what flies feel when stuck on flypaper: “Here they stand all stiffly erect … like decrepit old soldiers (and a little bowlegged, the way you stand on a sharp edge).” Or the beautiful piece titled “Clearhearing,” in which he describes his feverishly heightened hearing as he listens to his lover in the next room getting ready to join him in bed. And there is the essay “The Man Without Character,” containing the seeds of the poet-philosopher’s great opus, “The Man Without Qualities.” This is as essential, as close to the bone, as the written word can get: “Light doesn’t shine on this and that, but spills out over everything as from an accidentally overturned bucket.”

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