Robert Musil

Robert Musil (Robert Mathias Musil, 6 November 1880 – 15 April 1942) was an Austrian writer.

From 1892 to 1894, he attended a military boarding school in Eisenstadt. From 1894 to 1897, he studied at the military Militär-Oberrealschule in Hranice. In 1897-1898, Musil attended the Technische Militärakademie (military academy) in Vienna, but he soon quit, and started studying mechanical engineering at the Technical University in Brno, where he passed his doctoral examinations in 1901.

From 1901 to 1902, Musil enlisted in the infantry regiment of Freiherr von Hess Nr. 49 in Brno. From 1902 to 1903, he then moved to Stuttgart to work as assistant to a professor at the University. In 1903, he pursued his studies in psychology and philosophy, majoring in logic and experimental psychology at the University of Berlin, and defending his doctoral thesis in 1908. For the following years, Musil works as an editor for the magazine Pan and for literary journal Die neue Rundschau in Berlin, and later, from 1911 to 1914, he worked as a librarian in the Technical University of Vienna.

During World War I, Musil was an officer at the Italian front. From 1919 to1920, he worked for the Information Service of the Austrian foreign department in Vienna, and from 1920 to 1922, as adviser for army matters. Throughout the twenties and early thirties, Musil also worked as theatre critic, essayist, and writer in Vienna. In 1935, he took part in the anti-fascist International Writers’ Congress for the Defense of Culture.

His books were banned by the Nazis, and Musil and his Jewish wife left for exile in Switzerland, where he died of a stroke in 1942.


  • Winner of the Kleist Prize (1923) for Die Schwärmer (1921, play)


In English

  • The Confusions of Young Törless, tr.  Shaun Whiteside (2001. Original: Die Verwirrungen des Zöglings Törleß, 1906)
  • Intimate Ties, tr. Peter Wortsman (2019. Original: Vereinigungen, 1911)
  • Posthumous Papers of a Living Author, tr. Peter Wortsman (2006. Original: Nachlaß zu Lebzeiten, 1936)
  • The Man Without Qualities, tr. Sophie Wilkins (1995. Original: Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften,1930, 1933, 1943)
  • Precision and Soul: Essays and Addresses, edited and translated by Burton Pike and David S. Luft (1990. Original: Essays und Reden, 1978)
  • Three Women, tr. Geoffrey C. Howes (2014. Original: Drei Frauen, 1924)
  • Five women, tr. Eithne Wilkins and Ernst Kaiser (2005. Original: Drei Frauen, 1924, and Vereinigungen, 1911)
  • The Musil Diaries: 1899 – 1942, tr.  Philip Payne and Mark Jay Mirsky (1992. Original: Tagebücher, 1976)

In German

  • Die Verwirrungen des Zöglings Törleß (1906)
  • Beitrag zur Beurteilung der Lehren Machs (Inaugural-Dissertation Universität Berlin, 1908)
  • Vereinigungen (1911, novellas)
  • Die Schwärmer (1921, play)
  • Vinzenz und die Freundin bedeutender Männer (1924, play)
  • Drei Frauen (1924, novellas)
  • Nachlaß zu Lebzeiten (1936, short prose)
  • Über die Dummheit (1937, lecture)
  • Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften (1930, 1933, 1943)
  • Robert Musil – Gesammelte Werke, edited by Adolf Frisé. Rowohlt
    • Band I: Prosa und Stücke, Kleine Prosa, Aphorismen, Autobiographisches (1978)
    • Band II: Essays und Reden. Kritik (1978)
    • Band III: Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften. Erstes und Zweites Buch. Roman (1978)
    • Band IV: Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften. Aus dem Nachlass (1978)
    • Band V: Tagebücher (1976)
    • Band VI: Tagebücher. Anmerkungen, Anhang, Register (1976)
    • Band VII: Briefe 1901–1942 (1981)
    • Band VIII: Briefe 1901–1942, Kommentar, Register (1981)

About him

  • Das Meer und der andere Zustand. Genese und Struktur eines Leitmotivs bei Robert Musil, by Johanna Bücker (2016)
  • The Philosophy of Robert Musil, edited by  Bence Nanay. IN: The Monist (2014)
  • Robert Musil – Literatur und Politik, by Klaus Amann (2007)
  • The Void of Ethics: Robert Musil and the Experience of Modernity, by Patrizia C. McBride (2006)
  • Robert Musil. Eine Biographie, by Karl Corino (2003)
  • Subject Without Nation: Robert Musil and the History of Modern Identity, by Stefan Jonsson (2000)
  • Der Philosoph als Dichter. Robert Musils Theorie des Erzählens, by Sibylle Deutsch (1993)
  • Robert Musil and the Culture of Vienna, by Hannah Hickman (1984)

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