The Book & the Movie: The Confusions of Young Törless | Robert Musil, 1906 / Volker Schlöndorff, 1966

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The Book & the Movie: The Confusions of Young Törless | Robert Musil, 1906 / Volker Schlöndorff, 1966
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“The feeling of not being understood and of not understanding the world is no mere accompaniment of first passion, but its sole non-accidental cause. And the passion itself is a panic-stricken flight in which being together with the other means only a doubled solitude.”
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Robert Musil, The Confusions of Young Törless, 1906
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“His life was focused on each single day. For him each night meant a void, a grave, extinction.
The capacity to lay oneself down to die at the end of every day, without thinking anything
of it, was something he had not yet acquired.”
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Robert Musil, The Confusions of Young Törless, 1906
 
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“Are grownups like that too? Is the world like that? Is it a general rule that there is something
inside us that is stronger, bigger, darker, more beautiful and passionate than we are? Over
which we have so little power that we can only aimlessly scatter thousands of seeds, until
from one a sprout suddenly shoots up like a dark flame that far outgrows us?… And for
answer there was an impatient ‘Yes’ quivering in every nerve in his body.”
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Robert Musil, The Confusions of Young Törless, 1906
 
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‘But anyway, are you going to count the moments of humiliation that every great passion burns
 into our soul? Just think of the times of deliberate humbling during a love-affair. Those times
of rapture when lovers bend over certain deep wells or put their ears to each other’s heart to
see if they can hear the claws of the restless tigers impatiently scratching at the walls of their
prison? Only to feel themselves tremble! Only to feel alarm at their loneliness above those
dark, stigmatizing depths! Only abruptly to flee—out of fear of being alone with those dark
forces—into each other!
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Robert Musil, The Confusions of Young Törless, 1906
 
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“There were moments when life at school became a matter of utter indifference to him.
Then the putty of his everyday concerns dropped out and, with nothing more to bind
them together, the hours of his life fell apart.”
Robert Musil, The Confusions of Young Törless, 1906
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“In all the corridors the dark waves of silence seemed to be asleep, unmoving. He was trying
to find his way back to himself, but they were blocking all the doors like black guards.”
Robert Musil, The Confusions of Young Törless, 1906
 
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“We sometimes have a flash of understanding that amounts to the insight of genius, and yet
 it slowly withers, even in our hands – like a flower. The form remains, but the colours
and the fragrance are gone.”
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Robert Musil, The Confusions of Young Törless, 1906
 
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“And suddenly–and it seemed to him as if it had happened for the very first time–Torless became
aware of how incredibly high the sky was. It was almost a shock. Straight above him, shining
between the clouds, was a small, blue hole, fathomlessly deep.
He felt it must be possible, if only one had a long, long ladder, to climb up and into it. But the
further he penetrated, raising himself on his gaze, the further the blue, shining depth receded.
And still it was as though some time it must be reached, as though by sheer gazing one must
be able to stop it and hold it. The desire to do this became agonizingly intense.”
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Robert Musil, The Confusions of Young Törless, 1906
 
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“Now it’s all over. I know now I was wrong after all. I’m not afraid of anything any more.
 I know that things are just things and will probably always be so. And I shall probably go
on for ever seeing them sometimes this way and sometimes that, sometimes with the eyes
 of reason, and sometimes with those other eyes. . . . And I shan’t ever try again to compare
 one with the other. .”
Robert Musil, The Confusions of Young Törless, 1906
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Der junge Törless (1966)
Director: Volker Schlöndorff
Writers: Robert Musil (novel), Herbert Asmodi (adaptation)
Cinematography: Franz Rath
Stars: Mathieu Carrière, Marian Seidowsky, Bernd Tischer, Barbara Steele

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Robert Musil,Young Torless, London, 1955 (first English translation)           Movie Poster for Young Torless by Karel Teissig, 1967
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