The Posthumous Papers of a Living Author (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics)

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9780140189155: The Posthumous Papers of a Living Author (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics)

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'.

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About the Author:

Robert Musil (1880–1942), born in Vienna, was trained as a mathematician, behavioral psychologist, engineer, and philosopher. During WWI, he served as an officer in the Austrian Army on the Italian front. He died exiled and impoverished in Switzerland in 1942. Author of The Man Without Qualities, Young Törless, and Five Women, Musil is one of the towering pillars of twentieth-century modernism.

Recipient of the 2012 Gold Grand Prize for Best Travel Story of the Year, Peter Wortsman is the author of A Modern Way to Die: Small Stories and Microtales, the plays The Tattooed Man Tells All and Burning Words, the recent memoir Ghost Dance in Berlin: A Rhapsody in Gray, and the forthcoming novel Cold Earth Wanderers. His translations from the German include Heinrich Heine’s Travel Pictures, Selected Tales of the Brothers Grimm, Peter Altenberg’s Telegrams of the Soul, and Tales of the German Imagination: From The Brothers Grimm to Ingeborg Bachmann, published by Penguin Classics.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Flypaper

Tangle-foot flypaper is approximately fourteen inches long and eight inches wide; it is coated with a yellow poison paste and comes from Canada. When a fly lands on it – not so eagerly, more out of convention, because so many others are already there – it gets stuck at first by only the outermost joints of all its legs. A very quiet, disconcerting sensation, as though while walking in the dark we were to step on something with our naked soles, nothing more than a soft, warm, unavoidable obstruction, and yet something into which little by little the awesome human essence flows, recognized as a hand that just happens to be lying there, and with five ever more decipherable fingers, holds us tight. Here they stand all stiffly erect, like cripples pretending to be nor- mal, or like decrepit old soldiers (and a little bowlegged, the way you stand on a sharp edge). They hold themselves upright, gathering strength and pondering their position.

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