Robert Musil — Posthumous Papers of a Living Author
Posthumous Papers of a Living Author (1936) collects together short prose and fiction, almost all written between 1920 and 1929, under the headings ‘Pictures’, ‘Ill-tempered Observations’ and ‘UnStorylike Stories’. It is Musil’s most accessible work, the last book he published before his death in 1942, and one conceived as a unified whole. ‘Where Proust seeks to crystallize a past, Musil is always pushing through that strange undergrowth to find out, if possible, where he is, where life is tending, and what is the explanation…’ wrote V. S. Pritchett of Musil’s masterpiece The Man without Qualities. The same search is evident in Posthumous Papers, whether Musil is considering monkeys, monuments, the Oedipus Complex, paintspreaders — ‘he is to the painter what the pen-pusher is to the poet’ — or the quests in a Roman boarding house. From the first fragment ‘Flypaper’ to the last story, ‘The Blackbird’, he writes in satires or parables of phenomenal wit and concentration, illuminating as he observes human life and ‘the tiny traits by which it carelessly reveals itself’.