Posthumous Papers of a Living Author

Picked up a nice little volume today, put out by Archipelago Books, as an impulse-buy gift for my girlfriend- Posthumous Papers of a Living Author by Robert Musil. It was originally published in 1936 and was, in fact, the last thing he published before his sudden death in 42. I read part I of Musil’s The Man Without Qualities years back and admired it greatly so I thought this tidy little selection of essays and reflections would be a no-brainer. And I was correct. Have not read it all yet but the pieces I read on the train did not disappoint. The pieces include subjects like, “Flypaper” (which looks at a fly’s struggle to break free of the trap), “Can horses laugh?” (which answers the title’s question), “Rabbit Catastrophe” (about a baby hare being hunted and killed by a woman’s lap-dog), etc. One of the pieces I wanted to share with you all straight away it was so good. I’ve transcribed it, in full, below.

06.27. filed under: !. books.


Thanks for the effort towards transcribing that.  It might even be enough to guilt me into picking up Musil again (after starting TMWQ more times than I can count).  Though I know it’s a pipe dream, and that Musil and Proust will likely always constitute unfinished memories for me, indeed, never becoming my past but always remaining those things that passed, albeit incompletely…

Anyway, thanks again.

posted on 06.27 at 08:58 PMm.


For some reason the art/fashion objet which I immediately thought of was Saturday Night Fever, made about thirty years in Musil’s unlived future. The fashions and music, of course, automatically jerk the nostalgia tendon; but perhaps more so, the more innocently textured New York as it was then, and the look and feel of an iconic movie almost 30 years later, in which one would now notice not slickness but sweat and old technology, low budget and no CGI at all. Incidentally, people around Asheville here still drive those old cars; they don’t rust as fast as those up north, and the diesels will run on old cooking oil.

I’m struck and amused my Musil’s comment about the Greek sages and their lack of pants; and I am now toying with the fantasy of a recreation village, like Old Sturbridge or Colonial Williamsburg, but one devoted to the Golden Age of Hellas, fanatically detailed and truthful as possible. It’d be a hoot, donchathink? THe kids would love the amphitheatre where daily performances of Aeschylus feature actors in masks pretending to shit themselves. The men could relieve their tension with temple prostitutes. The women could go watch the naked wrestlers. And thene of course there’s all that culture stuff for the poindexters in the audience…

posted on 06.28 at 07:40 AM.


... I thought shitting oneself was the domain of Aristophanes?

posted on 06.29 at 09:12 PMm.


@m: I, myself, have managed Musil but not Proust. My girlfriend thinks he’s a genius. I on the other hand inevitably fall asleep in my chair. Nothing to be done about it really.

@T: Why not stake out some real estate and get to planning? History dorks the country over would certainly visit. I’d be happy to don a toga virilis and sandals, if you could manage to have a few christians thrown to the lions for my amusement that is. Course this Golden Age of Hellas theme-park might be a better fit for Vegas, they already have the “what happens in ___ stays in ___” motto in place, which I’m sure would be helpful for this particular endeavor.

posted on 07.03 at 03:26 PMjmorrison

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