At 18 year old Robert Musil wrote his first diary entry. In his diaries he kept track of his thoughts, observations, and philosophy, to be ‘ with myself, my own historian’. Until two days before his death he worked on it. The notes are usually only meant to be read by himself, and no-one else.
In the more than 2.000 pages of the diaries that have eventually been published by his wife Martha, Musil wrote down everything he thought, felt, observed: analyses, critiques, his view on reality and literature, and also draft for his works of literature.
Furthermore, his diaries increasingly become a document of the times in which Musil lived.
Diaries? A sign of the times. So many diaries are published. It is the easiest form. Good. Maybe only diaries will be published, since all the rest is considered unbearable. Why generalise. It is the analyses itself; – nothing more, nothing less. It is not art. Nor should it be. Why speak too much about it?
Most important though, are the Texts that form the history of the genesis of “The man without qualities”, with which he started around the turn of the century, and continued until his death. All the thoughts, pains, energies and drafts that make up the book’s history are to be found in his diaries.
For an excellent discussion of (the English translation of) Musils’ diaries, read J M Coetzee’s article: The Man of Many Qualities. It discusses not only the entries, the translation, but also Musil’s view on literature
Roughly, the diaries can be arranged according to three sorts of entries. First there are the entries that deal with his life, and his observations on life in general. Second there are the entries that display the evolution of his literary works. And last there are the entries that deal with his diaries themselves, and the nature of his input.
The chosen entries attempt to convey all three. They give a good insight to his personal and literary development. If present, in the other chapters a link to a relevant diary entry will be made.
All translation of the original German texts are mine. So, this may be the first time English-only Musil readers get a glimpse of some of his diaries, although an excellent translation is available.