Saturday, March 29, 2014

New Translations of Musil's "Small Prose"

Greetings, Long Neglected Readers,

        Although there are a number of things I have wanted to write about here over the last months (Musil and Wittgenstein; Musil as part of Earnest Modernism), I have been somewhat distracted with a number of projects not least of all the preparation of a manuscript of previously un-translated Musil prose pieces which will hopefully be published by Contra Mundum Press in 2015. In the meantime you may read excerpts from this forthcoming collection in two journals. Fiction Magazine, which published one of these stories in its last issue, will be featuring another 6 or 7 of them in their next issue  (Fiction Magazine‎); and Hyperion's brand new edition presents three other pieces, along with a number of other fascinating translations (from Szenthkuthy, Lou Castel, Carmelo Bene, and Marina Tsvetaeva, among others).  You may find  pdf's and some other virtual formats at:

In the meantime, here are some teasers. First, the beginning of one of the stories in the upcoming Fiction:

Susanna’s Letter

My dear— I can only recommend to men who have the looks for it that they bandage up one of their eyes; even in love less is more. On our last journey a man who only had one eye sat across from me; the other eye was covered by a black bandage; I assure you, it is melancholy, this black, covered, adventuresome eye, withdrawn from the world; you can tell yourself ten times that this man probably just poked his eye with his dirty fingers, the fantasy doesn’t believe in a catarrh. You can also try to convince yourself, as much as you want (if this state of having one eye really did have a poetic cause), that this poetry of having one eye, from Wotan to Wagner, is merely the kitsch of our brothers’ dueling, or the excuse of our husbands, who, as soon as they arrive in the majestic years and begin to get comfortable, commonly point to Odin’s example, whose wisdom was won at the expense of sensuality. It doesn’t help you at all; the dark eye plays Chopin upon you.

And now an excerpt from one of the stories in Hyperion, "An Inn on the Outskirts," a story that appears in a different and shorter version in the Nachlass section of The Man without Qualities, translated there by Burton Pike. Warning, the full story is somewhat gruesome. But here is a small piece: 
Shortly thereafter there was no sound in the whole house. The light of the candle had not yet found the time to creep into all of the recesses of the miserable room. The strange gentleman stood like a flat shadow at the window, and the lady, in anticipation of the unknown, had sat herself down on the edge of the bed. She had to wait a torturously long time; the stranger did not move from his position. If things had moved quickly up to that point, advancing onward like a dream, now every movement stuck in brittle resistance, not allowing a single limb to loosen. He felt, this woman expects something from him. How dare she?! She expected to see him “at her feet.” He knew, you should now “cover her with kisses.” He became nauseous. Her dress was high-buttoned at the top, her hair artificial: to unbutton it was to unlock the unimaginable vault of a life’s innards, the door of a prison. In the middle there stood a table; on top, the objects of her life; in their slippers, with faces. He looked at them with hostility and fear. She wanted to catch him; her hand pressed his unceasingly towards the latch. In the end all that would be left would be to spring in like a grenade and to tear the wallpaper from the walls in shreds!  With the greatest strain he was finally able to wrest at least one sentence over these obstacles: “Did you notice me right away then, when I looked at you?” Ah, it worked. A fountain of speech overflowed. “Your eyes were like two black thorn apples!” — Or had she said “stars”? — “Your wild mouth—”