"In the realm of the aesthetic . . . even imperfection and lack of completion have their value."
—Robert Musil, “Address at the Memorial Service for Rilke in Berlin” (1927)
Prepping for a burst of travel which means digging into a good book. The reason why Robert Musil's "The Man Without Qualities" feels like perfect reading right now is because this Austrian novelist proves it's possible to craft prose that is very erudite and very funny at the same time. The wry way it looks at the declining aristrocratic culture of Vienna in 1913 has brought many a comparison to Proust's "A la recherche du temps perdu". The contemporary application of this masterpiece is in the wise things Musil has to say about living in a society on a moral, cultural and political precipice. From one fin de siecle era to another, this book has an eerie sense of prescience. Known to be a literary perfectionist, due to his obsessive rewriting, Musil never really finished the two volumes that make up "The Man Without Qualities" but the fact that the work still proved to be so potent is what is very inspiring to me right now.