Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Robert Musil, The Confusions of Young Törless, page 72

(Cross-posted from Commonplace)

It struck him that he had once, standing with his father before one of those landscapes, cried out unexpectedly, "Oh, how beautiful that is" -- and had been embarrassed by his father's pleasure. On that occasion he might just as easily have said: "How terribly said it is." It was a failure of words that tormented him then, a half-awareness that the words were merely random excuses for what he had felt.

And today he remembered the picture, he remembered the words, and he clearly recalled lying about that feeling even though he did not know why. His eye ran through everything again in his memory. But it returned unassuaged, again and again. A smile of delight at the wealth of ideas that he still clutched as though distractedly, slowly assumed a barely perceptible, painful trait...

He felt the need to persist in his search for a bridge, a context, a comparison -- between himself and that which stood silently before his mind.

But however often he had calmed himself with a thought, that incomprehensible objection remained: you're lying. It was as though he had to pass through an unstoppable division of soldiers, a stubborn remnant forever leaping out at him, or as though he was wearing his feverish fingers raw trying to undo an endless knot.

And finally he gave up. The room closed in around him, and his memories burgeoned in unnatural distortions.

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