literature, quotations to write by

The floating life within

In the 1980s or 1990s I wrote down on an index card, this observation from Robert Musil

An essay is not the provisional¬† or incidental expression of a conviction that might on a more favorable occasion be elevated to the status of truth or that might just as easily be recognized as error … an essay is the unique and unalterable form that a man’s inner life assumes in a decisive thought … There have been quite a number of such essayists and masters of the floating life within, but there would be no point in naming them. Their domain lies between religion and knowledge, between example and doctrine, between amor intellectualis and poetry; they are saints with and without religion, and sometimes too they are simply men who have gone out on an adventure and lost their way.

Robert Musil, The man without qualities chap. 62

Musil died poor, forgotten and exiled in the calamity of second world war Europe. His Man without Qualities, which had been his work for the two decades, lay ever-revised, sprawling and unfinished at the time of his death. His fragmentary tale of cultural decay survived, through the random miracles of cultural legacies, to inspire my own essayistic adventures through the floating life within.


1 thought on “The floating life within”

  1. It’s an exacting quote. I wish I had more time to write essays, & further, more resources where I am currently. It is quite wonderful to alight on an idea knowing in the instance that it can be developed into an essay, become rounded, full.

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