Stochastic Bookmark

abstruse unfinished commentary

about correspondence


Without Qualification

My prior complaint on Pessoa's barren Teive carried over into Vol 2 of The Man without Qualities, particularly the previously untranslated continuation. Vol 1's orchestrals first diminish into a long duet, then the rest of the company is reintroduced in instrumental fashion to briefly recapture the fuller sound of the initial volume. Here Musil rightly cut it off, as the continuation, withdrawn when already in galley draft, consists of mere etudes: Ulrich becomes vaguer as focus is restricted (removed from more revealing social interaction), shallower as his depths are plumbed; and worse, satiric essay applied to pedagogy becomes didactic. Ulrich's analysis of psychology has something of the Baron of Teive's equipoise between rationality and feeling. As with scientific research, negative experimental results do not merit publication except among a specialist community. More successful than Musil's "Precision & Soul" (or even Poe's merger of mathematician and poet in "The Purloined Letter") is Nabokov's reconciliation via reversal of the trope: "... I think that in a work of art there is a kind of merging between the two things, between the precision of poetry and the excitement of pure science." Which, as practitioner in both of the latter venues, he could better appreciate, and give us some glimpse or a glimmer of.


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