The Man Without Qualities, Vol. 1 (Vintage International #1) (Paperback)

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This is book number 1 in the Vintage International series.

Staff Reviews

Contrary to what the title may suggest, this novel is full of colorful characters of pre-WWI Viennese society. The story’s protagonist, Ulrich, is the “man without qualities.” Ironically enough, however, he is a man of many qualities: he’s intelligent, attractive, athletic, a mathematician, a former engineer, and an ex-lieutenant. The novel begins with Ulrich’s decision to take a “vacation from life” in order to decide on an appropriate occupation. Ulrich’s concerned father promptly involves him in the Parallel Campaign, the planning committee for the celebration of the Austrian Emperor’s 70th year in power. Unknown to the characters is that by the year of the celebration, 1918, the Austro-Hungarian Empire will be destroyed by the First World War. While Ulrich attempts to participate in this doomed Parallel Campaign, Robert Musil dissects, with wit and irony, Viennese society and the decadence that brings about the self-destruction of pre-WWI Europe, a self-destruction that becomes only ever more inevitable as the novel progresses. Unfortunately, Musil died before he could finish the novel, yet this unfinished magnum opus, a psychological, philosophical, mystical novel, is one of the greatest achievements of 20th century European fiction.

— From Austin


Set in Vienna on the eve of World War I, this great novel of ideas tells the story of Ulrich, ex-soldier and scientist, seducer and skeptic, who finds himself drafted into the grandiose plans for the 70th jubilee of the Emperor Franz Josef. This new translation--published in two elegant volumes--is the first to present Musil's complete text, including material that remained unpublished during his lifetime.

About the Author

Robert Musil was born in 1880 in Austria and studied at the military college in Vienna and undertook an engineering degree in Brno, Czechoslovakia, before turning to psychology and philosophy doctoral studies in Berlin, where he began to write. He married Martha Marcovaldi in 1911. He fought in World War I, where he befriended Franz Kafka in Prague. Following the war, Musil returned to a literary career in Vienna and Berlin, during which time he was nominated for the Nobel Prize. He was the author of Five Women, The Posthumous Papers of a Living Author, and The Confusions of Young Torless. His works were banned by the Nazis, and he and his Jewish wife went into exile during World War II. He died of a stroke in 1942. Musil's works began to reappear in the 1950s, and his unfinished The Man Without Qualities is generally considered to be one of the most important modernist novels.
Product Details
ISBN: 9780679767879
ISBN-10: 0679767878
Publisher: Vintage
Publication Date: December 9th, 1996
Pages: 752
Language: English
Series: Vintage International