Monday, July 7, 2008


He was waiting: all the time, he was letting himself be pushed this way and that in the insignificant and silly activity he had taken on, talking, gladly talking too much, living with the desperate tenacity of a fisherman casting his nets into an empty river, while he was doing nothing that had anything to do with the person he after all signified; deliberately doing nothing: he was waiting. He waited hiding behind his person, insofar as this word characterizes that part of a human being formed by the world and the course of life, and his quiet desperation, dammed up behind that fa├žade, rose higher every day. He felt himself to be in the worst crisis of his life and despised himself for what he had left undone. Are great ordeals the privilege of great human beings? He would have liked to believe it, but it isn't so, since even the dullest neurotics have their crises. So all he really had left in the midst of his deep perturbation was that residue of imperturbability possessed by all heroes and criminals -- it isn't courage, willpower, or confidence, but simply a furious tenacity, as hard to drive out as it is to drive life out of a cat even after it has been completely mangled by dogs.

If one wants to imagine how such a man lives when he is alone, the most that can be said is that at night his lighted windows afford a view of his room, where his used thoughts sit around like clients in the waiting room of a lawyer with whom they are dissatisfied.

--Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities, Part II: Pseudoreality Prevails; Chapter 62: "The earth too, but especially Ulrich, pays homage to the utopia of essayism" (1930)

1 comment:

Dusk Watchman said...

Wow. Hmm. This is me at the moment, for the most part. I trust that you posted it because it struck a cord in you as well. I guess that makes at least three of us. I suppose there's some comfort to be derived from this.