Robert Musil and Nietzsche

The article examines several references to Friedrich Nietzsche made by Robert Musil in his non-fictional writings. An indication of Nietzsche’s significance for Musil is given by the fact that only one name occurs more often than Nietzsche’s in the collected works of Musil, where references to the philosopher span a period of more than forty years and the full name if often abbreviated, a habit which suggests familiarity. Musil attended two military academies, and the largely negative experiences he had there were to provide the stuff for the author’s first book. The schooling left Musil at the age of seventeen with a painful awareness of the inadequacies of his education in the humanities. In the few later sources in which he speaks of the great influences on his intellectual development in this early period, Nietzsche’s name is mentioned without fail. In an essay from 1926, he generalizes from his own experiences, listing Nietzsche among the new influences on writers of his era, who began writing around the turn of the century. Meanwhile, in May 1902, he records in his diary that he has borrowed two volumes of Nietzsche’s works and wonders how they will affect him this time. Musil admired Nietzsche’s literary genius and talent of expression and frequently quoted from his works. — Modern Language Review; Oct 1991, Vol. 86 Issue 4, p. 911