The Austrian writer Robert Musil (1880-1942), a central figure in the modernist movement, is known primarily for his magnum opus, The Man Without Qualities. But here, in these five stories—stories as crucial to the understanding of The Man Without Qualities (and Musil’s immense literary influence and significance) as Joyce’s Dubliners is to Ulysses, he displays another face, one that is by turn extravagant, sensual, mystical, and autobiographical. As Frank Kermode notes in his preface, these stories “are elaborate attempts to use fiction for its true purposes, the discovery and regeneration of the human world.” In that redefinition of fiction, Robert Musil’s name is writ large.
Five Women has gone through three printings as a Godine Nonpareil book. We are now proud to reissue it as the newest edition to the Verba Mundi library of modern world literature.
In his descriptions of love affairs and especially in the portraits of women in love, Musil is truly original; in managing scenes of physical love, he has not been approached by any writer of the last fifty years.