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A NEW CENTURY THROUGH THE EYES OF ROBERT MUSIL

By Excerpted from 'The Man Without Qualities' / May 3, 1995



''Suddenly, out of the becalmed mentality of the nineteenth century's last two decades, an invigorating fever rose all over Europe. No one knew exactly what was in the making; nobody could have said whether it was to be a new art, a new humanity, a new morality, or perhaps a reshuffling of society. So everyone said what he pleased about it. But everywhere people were suddenly standing up to struggle against the old order.... Talents of a kind that had previously been stifled ... suddenly came to the fore. ... There were those who loved the overman and those who loved the underman; there were health cults and sun cults and cults of consumptive maidens; ... people were devout and skeptical, naturalistic and mannered, robust and morbid; they dreamed of old tree-lined avenues..., autumnal gardens, glassy ponds, gems, hashish, disease, and demonism, but also of prairies, immense horizons, forges and rolling mills, naked wrestlers, slave uprisings, early man, and the smashing of society.''

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