Last Years

Martha Musil was Jewish and right after the “Anschluss” in 1933 the situation in Vienna became violently anti-semitic. And the National Socialists banned his books. Emigration was merely a matter of details. Thomas Mann and Gottfried Bermann-Fischer came to the Musil’s aid. The couple travelled via Italy (Edolo) to Switzerland where they arrived in Zurich on September 2, 1938. They started their stay in Pension Fortuna, Mühlbacherstr. 55, Quartier. On a cry for help Thomas Mann responded again, which brought Musil to the following reaction in a letter:

Ein solches Zeichen der Zuneigung von Ihnen u[nd] Ihrer Gattin zu empfangen – denn unter den jetzigen Verhältnissen muß das selbst für Sie ein Opfer sein – hat mich mit Glück, aber auch mit Reue erfüllt; wenn sich mein Schicksal, wie ich hoffe, noch zum Besseren wenden kann, wird das immer der feste Stein in dem Morast bleiben, der mir den Tritt hinüber ermöglicht hat.(Musil [Briefe] 1981, 883)

These last years in Switzerland are hard and demoralising. Financially the Musils can hardly cope and depend on gifts of befriended people. Of great importance to them is the American Guild for Cultural Freedom with secretary Hubertus Prinz zu Löwenstein, the Comité international pour le placement des intellectuals réfugiés and some private donors.

etwa das Gehalt eines kleinen Angestellten. (Corino 1988, 450).

The biggest supporter was the Zürich father Robert Leujeune (1891-1970). Incessantly he tried to find money for the Musils or support them from his own income. He tries to make contact with other possible mecaena’s, interferes with matters with the Swiss authorities and held the speech at Robert Musils’ funeral. After the “Anschluss” Musil is a German citizen and will remain so until his death because the official reason for his stay in Switzerland is that he had to break the journey for health related matters. In june 1939 they move to Geneva where they first move into hotel but later move to a small apartment in the Dependence der Pouponnière, Chemin des Grangettes 29. Besides from his financial problems Musil also suffers from his isolation and loneliness which makes him a bitter man. His influence on contemporary literature is marginal and his Man Without Qualities and Posthumous paper of a living author is blacklisted by the Nazi-regime (Liste des schädlichen und unerwünschten Schrifttums) and from 1941 on all his works are banned.

While the world sinks into the second world war, Musil works on his great novel. In his diary he notes:

Eine Hauptidee oder =illusion meines Lebens ist es gewesen, daß der Geist seine eigene Geschichte habe u[nd] sich unbeschadet alles, was praktisch geschehe, schrittweise erhöhe. Ich habe geglaubt, daß die Zeit seiner Katastrophen vorbei sei. Daraus ist mein Verhältnis zur Politik zu verstehen. (Musil [Bd.1] 1976, 928)

To father Lejeune he writes on september 24, 1939:

[...] Es ist in der Schweiz leider so, [...]. Man ist solide im Urteil und hält den Toten die Treue, ob sie nun Keller, Meyer, Rilke oder Hofmannsthal heißen; auch ich fühle mich einigermaßen sicher, daß man einst meinen Schweizer Aufenthalt wohlgefällig buchen wird, aber erst auf seinen Tod warten zu müssen, um leben zu dürfen, ist doch ein rechtes ontologisches Kunststück! (Musil [Briefe] 1981, 1083)

Januari 22 1940 is Musils’ last public appearance in Winterthur in a church for the local literary society. Twenty people attend the reading. To his friend Fritz Wotruba he writes:

Mehr Schnee als Geld ist keine behagliche Weihnachtsmischung; so wenigstes sieht es bei uns aus. (Musil [Briefe] 1981, 1380). His last address is Chemin des Clochettes 1, a “turmartiges Gebäude”, where the couple occupies a “Puppenzimmer” (doll’s room)(Musil [Briefe] 1981, 1283).

On April 15 1942 Musil dies. He suddenly collapses from a cerebral hemorrhage and dies. Apparently he was performing his morning gymnastics which he religiously performed. Martha found him some time later and she stated that the look on his face was one of “mockery and mild astonishment”. Eight people attend his cremation. Martha spreads his ashes, after a family tradition, in a wood near Saleve. The day of his death Musil notes in his diary:

Thomas Mann und ähnliche schreiben für die Menschen, die da sind; ich schreibe für Menschen, die nicht da sind. (Musil [Bd.1] 1976, 880).

At the time of his death he is working on the “Atemzüge eines Sommertages” chapter.

Martha Musil brought the few personal belongings and Musil’s writings after her husbands death from Geneva to Rome, Italy. After her death in 1949 all papers were kept by her son Gaetano Marcovaldi (1898-1977). The nearly 10.00 pages of the “Posthumous Papers” are in possession of the Austrian National Library since the 1970’s. In 1992 Friedbert Aspetsberger, Karl Eibl und Adolf Frise? released Robert Musil: Der literarische Nachlass, a CD-ROM containing all of Musil’s writing.

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