Monday 31 December 2012

They died in 1942 -- 7: Robert Musil

Seventh in the series of twelve mini-biographies of notable authors and creators whose works fall into the public domain in life-plus-70 copyright jurisdictions is Robert Musil, described here by guest contributor Miriam Levenson:  
Robert Musil (1880-1942)

Austrian-born Robert Musil spent a great deal of his life in poverty, desperately trying to gain recognition as a writer. An introvert from childhood, Musil was happiest with his own company. His favourite pastime was sitting outside in the garden, quietly watching and observing the world go by. His parents found him a difficult child, and sent him to military boarding school from the age of 12. His experiences there led him to write his first novel, The Confusions of Young Törless, in 1906. Descriptions of the physical, psychological and sexual abuse of the schoolboy Törless at the hands of his peers caused quite a scandal amongst the Austro-Hungarian public. At the time of its publication, Musil was studying for a doctorate in psychology and philosophy in Berlin. He continued to publish stories, developing his expressionist style, whilst working as a librarian and editor. Musil’s masterpiece, The Man Without Qualities, was a complex ‘story of ideas’ published in three parts between 1920 and 1942. Although he was nominated for the Nobel Prize and greatly admired by contemporary writers, Musil never gained commercial popularity and was often bitter about those writers who had found success.

The Man Without Qualities was never finished. Musil’s wife Martha published the scripts he was working on at the time of his death, but his work was largely forgotten in subsequent years. The Man Without Qualities is now considered to be one of the most important modernist novels of the 20th century, but the intricacy and length of its plot does not easily lend itself to the reader. Not all of his stories, essays, diaries and novels were published during Musil’s lifetime, but recent renewed interest in his life and philosophy has led to the posthumous publication of a number of works.

1 comment:

Ben said...

On the subject of time passing by, I received this email from Balfour Smith, Program Coordinator
Center for the Study of the Public Domain, Duke University School of Law:

"What could have been entering the public domain in the US on January 1, 2013? Under the law that existed until 1978… Works from 1956. The films Godzilla, King of the Monsters!, The Best Things in Life Are Free, Forbidden Planet, The Ten Commandments, and Around the World in 80 Days, the stories 101 Dalmatians and Phillip K. Dick’s The Minority Report, the songs Que Sera, Sera and Heartbreak Hotel, and more… What is entering the public domain today? Nothing."