The Confusions of Young Törless (Oxford Worlds Classics)
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'between the life we live and the life we feel...there is the invisible border, like a narrow gate'
Set in a boarding school in a remote area of the Habsburg Empire at the turn of the last century, The Confusions of Young Torless is an intense study of an adolescent's psychological development as he struggles to come to terms with his conflicting emotions. Through his relationship with two other boys Torless is led into sadistic and sexual encounters with a third pupil which both repel and fascinate him. Estranged from everyday life, Torless gradually learns to accept his experiences and describe them with analytical precision.
The novel is based on the author's own experiences at an Austrian military academy. A school story with a difference, Torless extends the scope of fiction with its non-judgemental presentation of transgressive sexuality and violence. It is a profoundly disturbing exploration of a non-moral outlook on life and of dictatorial attitudes that prefigure the outbreak of the First World War and the rise of fascism.
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benefit. Törless, on the other hand, remained indifferent to these things. Consequently he was not skilled in them. None the less, he had been included in this world, and each day he could plainly see what it meant to have the most important role in such a state - for in such an institute each class is a little state in itself. For that reason he had a certain timid respect for his two friends. His occasional impulses to copy them went no further than dilettante experiments. As a result, being
writings were banned in Germany and Austria, Musil pleaded for asylum on the grounds that he could earn a living as a writer nowhere else in the German-speaking world. Though allowed to stay, he never felt at home in Switzerland. He was little known there; he had no talent for self-promotion; the Swiss patronage network disdained him. He and his wife survived on handouts. ‘Today they ignore us. But once we are dead they will boast that they gave us asylum,’ remarked Musil bitterly to Ignazio
shiver mingled with that desire. As though a grey, overcast sky hung constantly over his life — with large clouds, monstrous, changing figures, and the question, repeated time and again: Are they monsters? Are they only clouds? And that question was for him alone! A secret, something alien to the others, something forbidden ... So it was that Basini began, for the first time, to approach the significance that he would later assume in Törless’s life. The next day surveillance on Basini
a psychology of what he ironically called the ‘shallow’ — that is, experimental - variety. Both Musil and Freud were in fact part of a larger movement in European thought. Both were sceptical of the power of reason to guide human conduct; both were diagnosticians of fin de siècle Central European civilization and its discontents; and both assumed the dark continent of the feminine psyche as theirs to explore. To Musil, Freud was a rival rather than a source. His preferred guide in the realm of
teachers had gone away, on a shooting-party or somewhere else. It was only over meals, now served in a small room near the deserted refectory, that the few remaining pupils saw one another. Leaving the table, they dispersed once more among the various corridors and rooms, and the silence of the building swallowed them up. In between they led a life to which no one paid any more attention than they did to the spiders and millipedes in the cellar and the attic. Apart from a few boys in the