Five Women (Verba Mundi)

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9781567920758: Five Women (Verba Mundi)

The Austrian Robert Musil (1880-1942), a central figure in the modernist movement, is known primarily for his magnum opus, The Man Without Qualities. But here, in these five stories stories as crucial to the understanding of The Man Without Qualities (and Musil's immense literary influence and significance) as Joyce's Dubliners is to Ulysses, he displays another face, one that is by turn extravagant, sensual, mystical, and autobiographical. As Frank Kermode notes in his preface, these stories "are elaborate attempts to use fiction for its true purposes, the discovery and regeneration of the human world." In that redefinition of fiction, Robert Musil's name is writ large.

Five Women has gone through three printings as a Godine Nonpareil book. We are now proud to reissue it as the newest edition to the Verba Mundi library of modern world literature.

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Language Notes:

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: German

From Publishers Weekly:

The recent translations of The Man Without Qualities and Musil's Diaries have shown why the Austrian writer is often thought of as Germanic literature's Proust, and this newly translated English version of his five hefty stories demonstrates that the novelist's work in shorter fiction also bears his distinctive iconoclastic, bold signature. Opening the volume are a trio of tales, two of which, "Grigia" and "Tonka," investigate the sexuality of peasant women. Musil fearlessly delves into the pervasive notion of lower-class female sexuality as animal, accessible and perverse, even as he faithfully renders such women's limited social agency. "Tonka" aggressively ruptures its own moralizing, featuring an impoverished servant girl who has a liaison with a bourgeois student. The class difference between them becomes painfully obvious when Tonka gets pregnant: she withers while the student struggles with an ambivalent strain of love and a conviction that the child is not his. He is torn between pity for Tonka, whose unfaithfulness ends in tragedy, and confusion at his shaming devotion to her. In the last two stories in the collection, Musil's examination of the female erotic milieu is a high-strung foray into hysteria. In "The Perfecting of a Love," Claudine leaves her husband to visit her daughter (conceived in adultery during her first marriage), who is in boarding school in a remote village. Snowed in, she considers having an affair with a man she meets there, her thoughts a veritable witch's brew of forbidden desires. The protagonist of "The Temptation of Quiet Veronica" rejects an old suitor, who visits her one last time. This story is filled with hints of incest and bestiality, but these issues simmer tensely just below the surface. Musil's cerebral style seamlessly executes his explorations of the mind/body duality, the ways society and intellectual life affect, but do not eradicate, the truth of the carnal body. His attitudes toward femininity oscillate between fear, disenchantment and adoration, and in stories written over 75 years ago, this range of perception will be tantalizing for readers who value innovative classics. (Nov.)

Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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