Robert Musil (1880-1942) is best known for his enduring masterpiece The Man Without Qualities, one of the great European works of the 20th century. But it was with The Confusions of Young Master Törless first published in 1906, a challenging but very different work, that he signalled his extraordinary talent. As the nineteenth century draws to an end, young Törless is sent to a military boarding school for the sons of the nobility on the eastern outreaches of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Far from his comfortable, free-thinking bourgeois home and left to his own devices, he experiences the joy, pain and self-doubt of adolescence. He is confronted with desire and love, but also his own cruelty, as he finds himself participating in his fellow pupils’ bullying campaigns. A dark Bildungsroman which shocked its readership at the time, Robert Musil’s first novel is a fresco of psychoanalysis, philosophy, eroticism, snobbery, sado-masochism and schoolboy humour, a hothouse of alternately repressed and unchained desires that prefigure the carnage of both World Wars.
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