The Confusions of young Törless by Robert Musil

the confusions of young Törless

The Confusions of young Törless by Robert Musil

Austrian fiction

Translator Mike Mitchell

Orginal title – Die Verwirrungen des Zöglings Törleß

Source – review copy

I have read Musil many years ago I was lucky to buy cheap copies of his huge epic the man without qualities .So had this one on my list of books to try especially as this year sees it’s a hundred year since the start of world war one .Robert Musil  is an Austrian writer ,he went to military school from 12- 17 ,after that went to study engineering then drifted into studying Philosophy and through that decide to write The confusion of young  Törless was his Debut novel .He did serve in the first world war and went on after the war to write his epic The man without qualities .

The closely woven veil of Frau Törless – the lady of around forty – concealed sad eyes , slightly reddened from crying .For now she had to say goodbye  .And it was hard for her to have to abandon her only child for so long to strangers ,unable to watch over her darling and protect him herself .

We see young Törless leaving effect on his mother .

Törless is a young boy when the book opens we see him with his parents waiting for the train to take him to Military school .We see him at first upset ,but then settle in and make friends at the school .But him and his two friends Beineberg and Reiting see a fellow cadet Basini steal from them ,they then decide to judge this boy themselves and descend into a a violent retribution on him .Basini is in love with Törless thou .Törless feels sorry for him in the end and tells him to own up to what he had done .Elsewhere we see Törless have a sexual awakening with a local women ( well lady of the night ) ,also his parents and how they have affect his view of the world from their own view of the world .

Beineberg continued his line of thought ” I think that for the moment we’ll keep him to ourselves – and punish him ourselves .For he has to be punished , for his arrogance if for nothing else .At most the school authorities would expel him and write a long letter to his uncle

The moment the boys take the law into their own hands .

Well this is a new translation pof the book from Oxford world classics and I can see why they have chosen now to do it the book was written in 1906 . But the events attitudes and views seen in the book can actually explain the events of the next forty years in both Austria and Germany .In fact the attitudes at times remind me of some of the fall out that had surround the Dreyfus affair ,which had been a scandal all over Europe when it happened in 1894 and was strangely finally sorted in 1906 around the time Musil had finished this book ,like that true life affair it showed a dark underbelly in certain people and certain classes of people at the time and that is Fascism  and racism .The views and attitudes shown in the book show why Austria and Germany descend into first into world war One the feeling of over bearing superiority  ,then as a knock on effect will lead to the rise of Hitler and the Nazis .A wonderful time to reissue this book. The book embodies part of what Golding showed in the Lord of the Flies how easily young men can divide and sub divided and make many violent acts  .Musil denied that the book was autobiographical mainly due to the heavy sexual content in it ,but one wonders how much else was from  what he saw and experienced at the time ?

Have you a favourite read that shows the build up to World war One ?

January 2014


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