Intimate Ties

Robert Musil, trans. from the German by Peter Wortsman. Archipelago, $16 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-1939810-23-6
Best known for his unfinished epic, The Man Without Qualities, Musil’s second published work, from 1911, is two difficult, modernist novellas, both dealing with the psyches of women. In the first, and superior, novella, “The Culmination of Love,” Claudine goes on a long trip to visit her daughter at boarding school. Despite her entreaties, her husband, who is not the girl’s father, decides to remain home. During her travels, by train and carriage, Claudine reflects on her previous sexual misdeeds, which both disgust and thrill her. She meets an undersecretary, who attempts to seduce her. Naked on her hotel room floor, with the undersecretary waiting outside, she wonders what to do. “The Temptation of St. Veronica” is more difficult to follow. Veronica lives with her aunt and two young men, Johannes and Demeter. Johannes is cerebral and contemplating suicide, Demeter is all action. Both are interested in Veronica, but she is unsure of how to proceed, partially due to a disturbing childhood memory of near-bestiality with a dog. According to the excellent afterward by the translator, Musil himself considered these novellas failed experiments. At its best, the book is a complex, immersive examination of obsessive Eros, but the text too often denies the reader entry. (Mar.)
Reviewed on : 03/15/2019
Release date: 03/12/2019
Genre: Fiction
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