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The Confusions of Young Törless

Robert Musil

Top 10 Best Quotes

“The feeling of not being understood and of not understanding the world is no mere accompaniment of first passion, but its sole non-accidental cause. And the passion itself is a panic-stricken flight in which being together with the other means only a doubled solitude.”

“His life was focused on each single day. For him each night meant a void, a grave, extinction. The capacity to lay oneself down to die at the end of every day, without thinking anything of it, was something he had not yet acquired.”

“We sometimes have a flash of understanding that amounts to the insight of genius, and yet it slowly withers, even in our hands - like a flower. The form remains, but the colours and the fragrance are gone.”

“There were moments when life at school became a matter of utter indifference to him. Then the putty of his everyday concerns dropped out and, with nothing more to bind them together, the hours of his life fell apart.”

“She liked to convey that she was well acquainted with the smartness and the manners of the stylish world, but that she had got beyond all that sort of thing. She was fond of declaring that she did not care a snap of the fingers for that, or for herself, or indeed for anything whatsoever. On this account, and in spite of her blowsiness, she enjoyed a certain degree of respect among the peasant lads of the neighbourhood. True, they spat when they spoke of her, and felt obliged to treat her with even more coarseness than other girls, but at bottom they were really mightily proud of this ‘damned slut’ who had issued from their own midst and who had so thoroughly seen through the veneer of the world.”

“What's the bee in your bonnet? Seems to be some kind of idealism.”

“He felt himself, in a way, torn between two worlds: a solid, bourgeois world where ultimately everything was ordered and rational, as he was accustomed to from home, and an untrammelled one full of darkness, blood, and undreamt-of surprises.”

“Perhaps I don't know enough yet to find the right words for it, but I think I can describe it. It happened again just a moment ago. I don't know how to put it except by saying that I see things in two different ways-everything, ideas included. If I make an effort to find any difference in them, each of them is the same today as it was yesterday, but as soon as I shut my eyes they're suddenly transformed, in a different light. Perhaps I went wrong about the imaginary numbers. If I get to them by going straight along inside mathematics, so to speak, they seem quite natural. It's only if I look at them directly, in all their strangeness, that they seem impossible. But of course I may be all wrong about this, I know too little about it. But I wasn't wrong about Basini. I wasn't wrong when I couldn't turn my ear away from the faint trickling sound in the high wall or my eye from the silent, swirling dust going up in the beam of light from a lamp. No, I wasn't wrong when I talked about things having a second, secret life that nobody takes any notice of! I-I don't mean it literally-it's not that things are alive, it's not that Basini seemed to have two faces-it was more as if I had a sort of second sight and saw all this not with the eyes of reason. Just as I can feel an idea coming to life in my mind, in the same way I feel something alive in me when I look at things and stop thinking. There's something dark in me, deep under all my thoughts, something I can't measure out with thoughts, a sort of life that can't be expressed in words and which is my life, all the same. “That silent life oppressed me, harassed me. Something kept on making me stare at it. I was tormented by the fear that our whole life might be like that and that I was only finding it out here and there, in bits and pieces. . . . Oh, I was dreadfully afraid! I was out of my mind.. .” These words and these figures of speech, which were far beyond what was appropriate to Törless's age, flowed easily and naturally from his lips in this state of vast excitement he was in, in this moment of almost poetic inspiration. Then he lowered his voice and, as though moved by his own suffering, he added: “Now it's all over. I know now I was wrong after all. I'm not afraid of anything any more. I know that things are just things and will probably always be so. And I shall probably go on for ever seeing them sometimes this way and sometimes that, sometimes with the eyes of reason, and sometimes with those other eyes. . . . And I shan't ever try again to compare one with the other. .”

“And Törless could not think but that the problems of philosophy had been solved once and for all by Kant, rendering that a pointless pursuit, just as he also thought it was not worth writing poetry after Goethe and Schiller.”

“At that moment he didn’t like mankind, the grown-ups, the adults. He never liked them when it was dark. At such times it was his habit to think mankind away. Then the world would seem like a dark, empty house, and he felt a shudder inside himself, as if now he had to search through room after room—dark rooms where you didn’t know what was hidden in the corners—feeling his way across the thresholds where no foot would tread any more apart from his, until in one room the doors in front of and behind him would suddenly close and he would be facing the mistress of the black hordes herself. And at that moment all the locks of all the other doors he had come through would shut, and far beyond the walls the shadows of the darkness would stand watch, like black eunuchs, keeping out all human contact.”

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Book Keywords:

inspiration, idealism, death, love, ennui, existential-despair, understanding, sleep, indifference, first-love, insight

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