Robert Musil

Cities can be recognised by their pace just as people can by their walk

So no special significance should be attached to the name of the city

The lady has a disagreeable sensation in the pit of her stomach, which she felt entitled to take for compassion; it was an irresolute, paralysing sensation

Modern man is born in hospital and dies in hospital - hence he should also live in a place like a hospital

All these old fashioned songs little songs were about love, sorrow, constancy, loneliness, woodland whispers and twinkling trout

So Ulrich decided to call her Leona, and it seemed to him that possession of her was as desirable as that of a large lion-skin rug

And precisely prostitution is a thing in which it makes a great difference whether one is looking at it from above or from below

And when one is no longer capable of something that one used to be capable of, no matter how silly it is, the situation is, after all, just as if a stroke had paralysed one’s arms and legs.

He was enjoying the thought that perhaps they were not hooligans at all but good citizens like himself

and so it cannot be denied that man’s most deeply felt association with his fellow men consists in dissociation from them.

a brawl always leaves a bad taste in the mouth, a taste, so to speak, of over hasty imtimacy

Boxing, or similar forms of sport that put all this into a rational system, was therefore a kind of theology

Two weeks later Bonadea had already been his mistress for a fortnight

it was only that a genius was always regarded as a lout, but never, as sometimes happened elsewhere, that a mere lout was regarded as a genius

Nor had anything real ever been the matter. It was nothing more than the fact that every human being’s dislike of every other human being’s attempts to get on - a dislike in which today we are all agreed - in that country crystallised earlier, assuming the form of a sublimated ceremonial that might have become of great importance if its evolution had not been prematurely cut short by a catastrophe.

Es ist passiert

the magic mandrake root more beautiful than a telegraphed picture, to have eaten of one’s mother’s heart and so to understand the language of birds more beautiful than an animal psychologist’s study of the expressive values in bird song. We have gained in terms of reality and lost in terms of the dream.

There were people who were prophesying the collapse of European civilisation on the grounds that there was no longer any faith, any love, any simplicity or any goodness left in mankind; and it is significant that these people were all bad at mathematics at school.

These younger people have always noticed that the moral stupidity of their elders is just as much a lack of any capacity to form new combinations as is ordinary intellectual stupidity, and the morality that they themselves have felt natural has always been one of achievement, heroism and change. Nevertheless, by the time they reach years of fulfilment they have forgotten all about it and are far from wishing to be reminded of it.

He had nicknamed her Bonadea, the Good Goddess, because of the way she had come into his life and also after a goddess of chastity who had a temple in ancient Rome, which by a queer reversal later became a centre of all debaucheries. She did not know that.

The truth is that science has developed a conception of hard, sober intellectual strength that makes mankind’s old metaphysical and moral notions simply unendurable, although all it can put in their place is the hope that a day, still distant, will come when a race of intellectual conquerors will descend into the valleys of spiritual fruitfulness.

On his last visit she had told him about a terrible dream she had had: a slippery creature has tried to overwhelm her in her sleep, a belly soft, tender and atrocious great frog, and it was a symbol of Walter’s music.

There is no example of inevitability that can compare with the sight of a gifted young man narrowing down into an ordinary old man - not through personal misfortune, merely through the process of dehydration to which he was predestined.

And he become increasingly violent in his assertion that in a time so poisoned at its spiritual roots as the present an artist of real integrity must abstain from creation altogether.

The long and the short of it is, there is no important idea that stupidity does not know how to make use of, for it can move in all directions and is able to wear all the garments of truth

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His spinal cord was paralysed by the narcotic influence of this music, and his lot grew lighter.

The reporters had described in detail a throat wound extending from the larynx to the back of the neck, as well as the stabwounds in the breast, which had pierced the heart, the two others on the left side of the back, and the cutting off of the breasts, which could almost be detached from the body.

Now, one must imagine what that means. Something one craves for just as naturally as one craves for bread or water is only there to be looked at. After a time one’s desire for it becomes unnatural. It walks past, the skirts swaying round its ankles. One looks into its eyes and they become opaque. One hears it laughing, turns around swiftly and looks into a face that is round and unmoving as a hole in the ground where a mouse has just disappeared.

What would you do now if I were a Moosbrugger?

For even a cleverer man could not have expressed his strange shadowy arguments. They came directly out of the bewildered solitude of his life, and whereas all others lives exist a hundredfold, being seen in the same way those who lead them as by all the others who confirm them, his true life existed only for himself.

Yet somehow Ulrich could not help thinking: if mankind could dream collectively, it would dream Moosbrugger.

Damn it all, one could hardly put it otherwise than that it simply was surprisingly real

but fame, such as if acquired by intellectual achievements, melts away with remarkable rapidity as soon as one associates with those to whom it attaches

It reminded him of that stupidly profound, exciting sensation, touching immediately on the self, that one had when sniffing at one’s own skin

Ulrich always puts tremendous energy into doing the very things he doesn’t consider necessary. He remember it at this very moment and thought: That could be said about all of us today.

There is another country where one is at home, where everything one does is innocent.

By the time so far gone in love that he no longer had any wish except to get as quickly and as far as possible from the proximity of the origin of that love. He travelled blindly on and on until a coast-line put an end to the railwaytrack, had himself taken over in a boat to the nearest island he saw, and there in unknown place chosen at random, he remained, poorly lodged and boarded, and in the very first night wrote the first of a series of long letters to the beloved, letters that he never posted.

Ulrich shrugged his shoulders and said nothing. He had long ago forgotten what she was talking about; at any rate he found it impossible to endure her at this moment.

Ulrich, who guessed at her resolve never to return, did not interfere with it.

After all, by the time they have reached the middle of their life’s journey few people remember how they have managed to arrive at themselves, at their amusements, their point of view, their wife, character, occupation and successes, but they cannot help feeling that not much is likely to change any more. It might even be asserted that they have been cheated.

I give you my solemn word, Ulrich replied gravely, that neither I nor anyone else knows what the true is. I can assure it is on the point of realistion.

Obviously because snow is at times disagreeable to him, he compares it to women’s glimmering breasts, and as soon as his wife’s breasts begin to bore him, he compares them to glimmering snow.

His highness believed he noticed that all the people who have no money make up for it by having an unpleasant crank tucked away somewhere inside them. This obstinate man within the man goes along to the office with him every morning and, being quite unable to protest in any effective manner against the way of the world, makes up for it by keeping his eyes glued, his whole life long, on a secret dot that everyone else refuses to see, although it is so very obviously the very dot from which originate all the calamities of a world that will not recognise its savour.

Clarisse was gnawing at the root of love. It was a forked root, a thing of kissing and of biting, of glances clinging to each other and of a tormented last minute aversion of the gaze.

But, oddly enough, what is considered superior intelligence in boxing is called cold and callous as soon as it occurs, from a liking for an intellectual attitude to life, in people who cannot box.

He had a respect for rights when he did not respect those whose rights they were, and that happened rarely.

It is, after all, very natural to think that man, who lets himself be treated by professionally qualified doctors when he is ill, and not by shepherd lads, has no reason when in good health to let himself be treated, as he actually does in his public affairs, by windbags whose qualifications are no better than those of shepherd lads.

Spent the rest of his life in the conviction that although perhaps everything ought to be different, there was certainly no point in thinking about it.

Ulrich got the feeling that now a second infinity was unfolding, in the course of which the constellations went on their predestined cycles, without his being in the world at all.

One thinks it, feels it, has premonitions of it all the time, naturally, in the most various kinds of surrogates and according to one’s temperament.

For only fools, the mentally deranged, and people with idees fixed, can endure unceasingly in the fire of the soul’s rapture. A sane man must content himself with declaring that life would not seem worth living without a flake of that mysterious fire.

God is in the profoundest sense old fashioned. We are incapable of imagining Him in tails, clean-shaven with a parting in His hair.

Supposing we had a new Homer…Let us ask ourselves with complete candour whether we would be capable of listening to him at all. I think we must answer in the negative. We have not got him because we do not need him!

A shared bedroom, however, particularly when the light is out, puts a man in the situation of a man who has to play, before an invisible audience, the rewarding but by now thoroughly worn out part of a hero snarling like a lion.

But he was not afraid of death. There is a great deal that one has to put up with in life that definitely hurts more than being hanged, and whether one lives a few years more or less doesn’t really matter at all.

It’ll all be for the best, I dare say, to be shut of it all at last.

The superiority of a man who has freed himself from the wish to live is enormous.

Knowledge is an attitude, a passion. Actually an illicit attitude. For the compulsion to know is just like dipsomania, erotomania and homicial mania, in producing a character out of balance.

Ulrich asked him what he really needed meaning for. One got along all right without it, he commented.

There is in fact no longer any such thing as a universal education in Goether’s sense. But that is why today to every thought we also have a counter thought and to ever tendency an immediate counter tendency. Today, every act and its opposite are accompanied by the subtlest intellectual arguments, with which one can both defend them and condemn them. I can’t understand how you can bring yourself to speak up for such a state of things!

But how, Diotima wondered, can humanity provide itself even roast chicken without violence?

How many people look into the same loved face day in, day out, but when they shut their eyes could not say what it looks like!

In this way man is distinguished from the animals - and, it may be added, also from the insane - by the fact that, having intellectual and moral faculties, he is capable of acting contrary to law and committing a crime

It is well known phenomenon that the angel of medicine, when he has been listening to the expositions of lawyers, very often forgets his own mission. Then he folds his wings with a metallic clang and behaves before the court like a reservist-angel of jurisprudence.

The state would in the end kill Moosbrugger because, considering the imperfection of things, that was simply the cheapest, safest, and most clear cut way of dealing with him.

Knowledge was beginning to be old fashioned.

He was no philosopher. Philosophers are violent and aggressive persons who, having no army at their disposal, bring the world into subjection to themselves by means of locking it up in a system. Probably that is also the reason why there have been great philosophic minds in times of tyranny, where as times of advanced civilisation and democracy do not succeed in producing a convincing philosophy, at least so far as one can judge from the lamentations one commonly hears on the subject. That is why nowadays there is a terrifying amount of philosophising done in small slices.

The teachings of the inspired crumble into dust in the rationality of the uninspired, crumble into contradiction and nonsense;

Are great ordeals the privilege of great personalities?

The Baroque of the Void

A flea favours the same areas as a lover.

It is simply my conviction that thinking is an institution all on its own, and real life is another one

I told him that realisation always attracts me less than non-realisation, and by that I mean not only realisation of, say, the future, but also the past and its lost opportunities.

It often happens that brothers and sisters loathe each other in a manner far in excess of anything that could possibly be justified by the facts

Thank goodness there are still some people who are capable of believing in simple things, in spite of having great experience.

All his relationships with women since then had been somehow wrong. With a certain amount of good will on both sides that unfortunately happens very easily.

Water in excessive qualities is a pleasure less pleasing, by precisely the difference between drinking and drowning, than it is in small qualities

There is something of the cult of the dead about it these days when a man is referred to as a genius.