Monday, November 04, 2013

#Quotes from Robert Musil's The Confusions of Young Torless

For early in the development of every fine moral force there is such a point, when the soul weakens, and that will perhaps be its boldest moment - as though it must first put down searching roots in order to churn up the earth destined later to support it - which is why adolescent boys with great futures ahead of them possess a past rich in humiliations. [24-5]

If Bozena had been pure and beautiful, and if he had been capable of love in those days, he might have bitten her, heightening both her lust and his own to the point of pain. For the first passion of the adolescent boy is not love of one, but hatred for all. That sense of being misunderstood, of not understanding the world, not only goes hand in hand with the first passion, but is also its only non-arbitrary cause. And it too is a form of flight, in which two people's togetherness means only the duplication of their solitude. [31]

Almost every first passion lasts only a short while and leaves a bitter aftertaste. It is a mistake, a disappointment. Afterwards one doesn't understand oneself, and doesn't know whom to blame. This is because the relationships between the protagonists in this drama are largely arbitrary: they are chance companions in flight. Once things have calmed down they no longer recognize one another. They become aware of oppositions between themselves, because they are no longer aware of what they have in common. [31]

Sitting by the open window at night and feeling abandoned, feeling different from the grown-ups and adults; feeling misunderstood by every laugh and every mocking look, being unable to explain to anyone what one meant, and longing for someone who might understand ... that is love! But you have to be young and lonely for that. [35]

He seems to me just to have been created at random, apart from the usual way of things. That is - even he must mean something, but only something vague, like a worm or a stone in our path, which we don't know whether to step on or kick aside. And that's as good as nothing. Because if the world-soul wishes one of its parts to be preserved, it says so more clearly. It says no, and creates an obstacle, it makes us walk around the worm, it makes the stone so hard that we can't break it without a hammer. Because by the time we go and get one it will have interposed a host of small, stubborn considerations, and if we can overcome them, then the whole business meant something else from the start. [60-1]

These grown-ups and clever people have completely spun themselves into a web, one stitch supporting the next, so that the whole miracle looks entirely natural; but no one knows where the first stitch is, the one that holds everything up. [91]

He did not think, with the affability that comes with moral reflection, of telling himself that after suffering a humiliation every human being has the potential at least to try to appear casual and confident as quickly as possible. [101]

[A]nything that looks big and mysterious from afar always arrives as something simple and undistorted, in natural, everyday proportions. It is as though an invisible frontier has been drawn around each human being. Something that has been prepared elsewhere and which approaches from afar, is like a misty sea full of giant, changing forms; what approaches the person, becomes action, impacts against one's life, is small and distinct, with human dimensions and human features. And between the life that is lived and the life that is felt, sensed and seen from a long way off, that invisible frontier lies like a narrow door, through which the images of events must cram themselves together in order to enter the human being. [120]

In solitude everything is permitted. [122]

And would you wish to count the hours of degradation that are branded on the soul after any great passion? Just think of the hours of deliberate humiliation in love! Those enraptured hours that lovers spend leaning over certain deep wells, or placing their ears to one another's hearts, listening for the sound of the great, unsettled cats clawing against the dungeon walls? Just to feel themselves trembling! Just to fear being alone above those dark, fiery depths! Just suddenly - out of fear of their own loneliness with those dark forces - to seek refuge within one another! [128]

Things happen: that's wisdom in its entirety. [143]

Because thoughts are something special. Often they are nothing more than accidents that pass away without leaving a trace, and thoughts, too, have their times to live and to die. We can have a flash of insight, and then, slowly, it fades beneath our touch like a flower. The form remains, but the colours, the scent are missing. We remember them word for word, and the logic of the sentence is completely unimpaired, and yet it drifts ceaselessly around on the surface of our minds and we feel none the richer for it. Until - perhaps several years later - all of a sudden another moment comes when we see that in the meantime we have known nothing of it, although logically we knew everything. [155-6]
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