Critics have widely held that the Austrian novelist Robert Musil (1880–1942) would never have chosen an ending for his magnum opus The Man Without Qualities if he had lived. This paper argues that, on the contrary, he had a passion for one ending, the oedipal victory of his protagonist Ulrich von R— over a pair of possible fathers, but that Musil’s own oedipal conflict worked against any such resolution. The attempt to depict either a sexual or a nonsexual triumph for the fictional son resulted in superego censure and work blockages. Musil clung nevertheless to the idea of a nonsexual coup, which had a powerfully topical resonance. The fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918 ushered in a republican government with universal male suffrage; the change would have enabled his thirtyish hero to achieve a political career for which an older generation had run out of time. Sons, not fathers, were left to exemplify to the fullest the dictum of Cornelius Castoriadis that participation in democracy is essential to personal maturation. Musil died in the midst of a Sisyphean labor to bring his novel to this ripening.


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pp. 523-545
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