Conceiving the Text: Nietzschean Inspiration in Musil's Tonka

by Janet Lungstrum
Conceiving the Text: Nietzschean Inspiration in Musil's Tonka
Janet Lungstrum
The German Quarterly
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University of Virginia

Conceiving the Text: Nietzschean Inspiration in Musil's Tonka


Robert Musil's novella Tonka (1924) poses a fundamental question of European modern- ist literature: how is it possible to create artis- tically and philosophically after Nietzsche? How applicable is the Nietzschean mission of Dionysian self-overcoming to practical life? Nowhere else in Musil's work is the confron- tation with Nietzschean inspiration so vividly depicted as in the autobiographical account of an unnamed man's affair with the girl Tonka. This stream-of-consciousness narrative reflects the author's self-conscious positioning as a respondent to Nietzsche's philosophy, in particular regarding the divides of rationality versus creativity, positivism versus mysticism, and the possibility of going beyond such a structure of Socratic dialectics. Faced with Nietzsche's legacy of the world as a play of language, mere metaphors, Musil instigates a tale that records the desperate human strug- gle for self-creation against the power of these inescapably false discourses.

The earliest entries in Musil's diary bear witness to the way in which the Austrian au- thor envisaged the Nietzschean inheritance as a series of "hundert neue Moglichkeiten" yet to be carried out (Tagebiicher 50). Such new possibilities had been heralded by Nie- tzsche in hisJenseits von Gut und Bose (1886), when he stated the need to go beyond the search for Truth, absolute certainty in matters philosophical and scientific:

DaB aber "unmittelbare GewiBheit," ebenso wie Erkenntnis" und

"Ding an sich" eine contradictio in adjecto in sich schlient, werde ich hundertmal wiederholen: man sollte sich doch endlich von der Verfiihrung der Worte losma- chen! . . . Woher nehrne ich den Begriff Denken? Warum glaube ich an ~rsache und Wirkuna? Was aibt mir das Recht. von einem fch, undUgar von einem Ich als Ursache, und endlich noch von einem Ich als Gedanken-Ursache zu reden? (Werke,JGB 11:579-80)

According to Nietzsche the only "truths" con- sist not of a point of origin but of a comparison with former states, a "Ruckbeziehung auf an- derweitiges 'Wissen"' (II:580). But he con- cedes that the world as schemata refuses to go away, for it protects mankind from the abyss: "Das verniinftige Denken ist ein Inter- pretieren nach einem Schema, welches wir nicht abwerfen konnen" (NachlaJ? 111:862). Only through a loosening of the dialectical founda- tions can a realm beyond be guessed at intui- tively.

As a mathematician Musil himself thought quite a good deal further regarding this con- cept. As he noted in his diary, it is not suf- ficient to rely on statistical probability, for such a study can never examine that which does not fit the plan: "Das Wesentliche zufal- liger Ereignisse: sind aus kausalen Verknup- fungen nicht zu erklaren" (Tb 468). In reaction to empirical probability, Musil determined to do what statistics ignores, namely, to demon- strate the unique and inexplicable: "die Partei der praktisch nicht inbetracht kornmenden, ungewohnlichen Motive" (480).This would be in alliance with Nietzsche's plan for a society believing in the "small incons~icuous truths"'


instead of the traditional ones (Menschliches Allzumenschliches I: 448). Tonka presents pre- cisely such an occurrence. Its protagonist would like to behave empirically, in the manner of Nietzsche's Cartesian philosopher in Jen-

The German Quarterly 64.4 (1991) 488

seits uon Gut und Bose: "'Ich denke und weil3, darj dies wenigstens wahr, wirklich, gewil3 ist."' To this Nietzsche's new kind of philoso- pher, the "free spirit," would respond: '"Mein Herr, es ist unwahrscheinlich, da13 Sie sich nicht irren; aber warum auch durchaus Wahr- heit?"' VGB II:580).

Presented in Tonka are both autobiographi- cal and philosophical responses to various Moglichkeiten of the Musilean spectrum. The world is full of the "prejudiced philosophers" mocked by Nietzsche, and Musil knew these prejudices to be part of even himself. This is what lends a note of self-irony to Tonka as a reminiscence of a possibility of the author's self and his past, one that he carried with him for twenty years before publishing. As part of the trilogy of Drei Frauen, it is a story of a young man who embroils himself in a seduc- tively destructive relationship during his mili- tary year. All that Nietzsche warned against is compulsively repeated here by the narrator- protagonist: a misguided (if "all-too-human") involvement in the Verfuhrung der Worte and an attempt to resuscitate meaning from them, to bring truth to consciousness, be this by oppressing Tonka or by restaging memory by the act of writing; and a blinded need to believe in Truth and empirical probability, an enslave- ment to Ursache und Wzrkung.

Of all Musil's novellas, Tonka is perhaps best suited to one of Nietzsche's chapter head- ings in Menschliches, Allzumenschliches (1878- 80): "Der Mensch rnit sich allein" (MA I:693). For its author, Tonka was a "Tragodie des Miatrauens" (Tb 95) born of the protagonist's jealousy and "Alleinsein- eventuell auch vor sich selbst" (log), an unequal love affair of non-communication where he desires to pos- sess "at least one person" so as to gain a safety grip on the world (103), an attempt that backfires totally. All references to Tonka serve to reinforce the isolation of the male narrator, a nameless young man (called R., Hugo, or Grauauge by the author in his diary), who attempts to objectify his experience with this working-class factory girl (named Herma in Musil's own life) by recalling events to con- sciousness and writing the narrative thereby.

The narratorial style is one of third-person self-distancing, a placing of oneself under the microscope or surgeon's knife in the way Musil had intended to do in his first diary entry in 1899 of "monsieur le vivisecteur":

Die Gelegenheit in der nicht uninteres-

santen Geschichte m. I. v. blattern zu kon-

nen, ohne obligo mich hier zu entriisten

dort zu freuen, mein eigener Historiker

sein zu konnen, oder der Gelehrte zu

sein der seinen eigenen Organismus un-

ter das Mikroskop setzt und sich freut

sobald er etwas neues findet. (Tb 3)

The implication from the above is that Musil's writing is born of an ironically controlled creativity wishing to discover new details, or Moglichkeite of the self. He reiterates this aim in more direct terms in his essay "Skizze der Erkenntnis des Dichters" (1918), namely, to create "immer neue Losungen, Zusammen- hange, Konstellationen, Variable . . . , lokkende Vorbilder, wie man Mensch sein kann, den inneren Menschen erfinden" (Gesammelte Werke VIII: 1029). It is to be noted that Musil's aim in literary creation is to not neglect the technd side, that is, invention. But Tonkds narrator, albeit a chemist and an inventor, is not able to perform an operation on himself in the same confident way as "m.1.v."

The reader is immediately alerted to the relative lack of safety in memory of the self as a device for creativity: detailed images flash past of their own accord-of a fence, a bird singing then falling quiet at sunset-and these "drops" are all the narrator can retrieve in his attempt to describe the "never-ending" Tonka (1:270). The narrator becomes aware that there can be no such thing as linear re- creation of events in narrative because later knowledge gets in the way-a warning for the reader that she or he is encountering a clouded, self-contradictory narrative, both of voice and of focus: 'Aber war es iiberhaupt so gewesen?" (270).2 The narrator's images of any actual happiness experienced with Tonka are now discolored and tangled by the "Dornengerank in seinem Kopf' caused by her pregnancy (272). As a result he is stum- bling between "fairy tale" and "truth" (270); this hardly appears as clear-sighted as the author's early vivisectionist desire. Instead of a playful "Experimentieren rnit Moglichkei- ten," as Wolfgang Diising terms it (534), mem- ory becomes an unsuccessfulZweck. This nar- rative appears more to be- to use the title of Freud's essay of 1914- a cathartic "remem- bering, repeating, working through" of an ear- lier neurosis that haunts the teller still. The text of Tonka is indeed a Freudian "Trauerar- beit," as Karl Eibl calls it (154-55), although

one should not assume from this term that the narrator consciously acknowledges any guilt. Rather, the "soul"-speaking of memory is a "wieder erkennen" of the feeling contained in the thought, as Musil- following Plato- writes in a diary entry of 1905 (Tb 148).

In terms of plot, the protagonist's affair with Tonka can be seen as a return of both the Oedipal and the creative repressed, two highly autobiographical elements for Musil. As a re- sult of an unhappy sexual rivalry with his au- thor-"uncle" Hyazinth for the affections of his mother, the son has blocked out all emotions and artistic creativity from his life ("zu allem was Seele ist" [Tb 841) and has retreated into "die entgegengesetzte Ecke der zeitgemal3en Moglichkeiten": the fashionable "Ingenieur- geist" (GW VI:283). Diary entries by Musil confirm this transference of his own situation into the text." Moreover, it is possible to detect an interesting parallel here with the development of Nietzsche's own untimely thoughts. Musil is portraying a parody-along the lines of Nietzsche's attack on over- critical Socratism- of his own engineer self, who had written a dissertation on the physi- cist-philosopher Ernst Mach. Frederick G. Peters calls Musil's protagonist one of Nie- tzsche's freie Geister, but he is far from free (146); Eibl is more correct in calling him "eine Personifikation des neuen Jahrhunderts, ein 'positivistischer' Wissenschaftler, wie Mach ihn sich nicht besser hatte wiinschen konnen" (151). The young man's ascetic dedication to science as a flight from "soul" and feeling is in fact not so secure or timely as he would like: ". . . er aber flog, er war zwischen den Zeiten in der Luft" (GW VI:283-84).

Nietzsche went through an experience similar to Musil's familial-philosophical prob- lem when his idolatry of Wagner changed into a radical love-hate obsession with this very timely genius of decadence. Menschliches, Allzumenschliches is a work written to purge himself of his former father figure; Nietzsche urges a rejection of old (parental) metaphysi- cal errors and opts instead for virile security in "das Miihsam-Errungene, Gewisse, Dau- ernde . . . zu ihm sich zu halten ist mannlich und zeigt Tapferkeit, Schlichtheit, Enthaltsarnkeit an." Nietzsche's trouble during this middle period is with inspiration; disillusioned with Wagner, he can no longer believe in such miracle-creation, and so he effectively (or rather, positivistically) throws out the baby with the bathwater. The higher culture will come only if people get used to "die hohere Schatzung der haltbaren, dauerhaften Erkenntnisse" and simultaneously lose "allen Glauben an Inspiration und wundergleiche Mitteilung von Wahrheiten" (MA 1:449).

Musil's protagonist shares this manly hope for a higher culture to come, reacting against Hyazinth's sentimental and successful writing with an attitude that is "gegen Gedichte, Giite, Tugend, Einfachheit" (G W VI: 283; emphasis added). But this kind of reaction brings with it a problem for any creation, artistic or other- wise. Musil's man is "against poems" that exist in himself, a repression that causes an inevitable return; the test that he has to face is one of unbelievable inspiration, a truth that is wundergleich: Tonka's pregnancy. The date of conception cannot be proven and falls during a time when he was often away traveling. Could he believe in the possibility of an im- maculate conception, or could he even simply believe in the possibility of his own creation- of having created another self, whether human or textual? He reacts rather like Nietzsche in the writing of Menschliches, Allzumenschli- ches, that is, positivistically, while still reject- ing the familial metaphysical hypocrisy; he re- jects the birth of a child in favor of the birth of his invention, and he is relieved when Tonka dies and the baby is stillborn. What does reach birth, however, is the narrative, in the sense that the protagonist is later compelled to write in an attempt to effect a catharsis of the troub- ling presence of inspirational belief.

Tonka is a tale about telling, about the human need to tell all, and about the ambiva- lence of human creation in matters physical and philosophical, scientific and literary. The role played by language is thus of crucial impor- tance. Musil's view of the creative process was influenced by Emerson's famous state- ment on self-expression, which Musil tran- scribed in his diary in 1905:

Essays I sagt Emerson: Der halbe

Mensch gehort nur half sich selbst-die

andere Halfte ist Ausdruck. Denn alle

Menschen verlangen in ihrer Seelemot

nach Ausdruck. In der Liebe, in der

Kunst, in der Habsucht, in der Politik, in

der Arbeit und im Spiele suchen wir un-

ser schmerzvolles Geheimnis auszuspre-

then. (Tb 170)

Whereas for Lacan the self is already Other -for it is formed upon entry into the Sym- bolic realm where language of the Other is its only medium for self-definition-for Emer- son (and, by extension, for Musil) the realm of linguistic expression is only part of the self; the other part is pre-existent but simply can- not be retrieved through consciousness. Here one may recall the Maeterlinck motto with which Musil headed his first novella Die Ver- wirrungen des Zoglings TorleJ (1906): if, on the perilous mission of self-expression, one dives down to the bottom of the ocean to the "Schatzgrube wunderbarer Schatze" below, all one manages to bring back to the surface is "falsche Steine und Glasscherben" (GW

VI: 7). Despite this failure, however, the glow- ing treasure compels the artist-diver to repeat the desire.

Musil's belief in this treasured "other half' of the self manages to share elements with both Platonic and Nietzschean thought. A diary entry from the period of the conception of Tonka illustrates how Musil, in a debate with himself over the art of expression, re- writes Plato's threefold hierarchy of origins from the tenth book of the Republic. First, the sexual desire aroused in Musil by a passing waitress is defined as "Gefuhl" (Tb 70), the same primal idea that was fulfilled for Plato by God's bed but in Nietzschean physiological terms. Secondly, the artisan's bed- which for Plato is but a "dim adumbration in comparison with reality" (Dialogues821)-is remade by Musil into the "Gefuhl des Gefiihls" of Wag- ner's Tristan, a subliminal association made as a result of the girl. And thirdly, the reflection Musil sees in his napkin ring is "verzerrt zu Natur dritter Folge" (Tb 70), a picture as dis- tant from the original feeling as is Plato's def- inition of art as "three removes from the king" (Dialogues 823). The very fact that Musil is using-whether consciously or not- Plato's structuration of Truth lends a certain nostalgia to his cynical judgment of his own "Wort1ogik"-skills as a state of living death, irre- parably removed from the natural primacy of feeling.:

Oder werde ich lachen, da13 sich mein Geist in den Fallen des Wortgeistes gefan- gen hat? . . . Und ich werde mich weiter nahren von blutlosen Dingen-von NatUr zweiter, dritter Folge-der schon lange das warme Blut ausgesogen wur- de. (Tb 70)

The key difference between Musil and Nietzsche is one of response to these "blood- less" images upon which, they agree, human expression is so dependent. Nietzsche de- fines it as "jene kunstlerische Metapherbil- dung" in his essay ~berWahrheit und Luge im auJermoralzschen Sinn (111: 318). In Nie- tzsche's thought such metaphorical "false stones" brought up from the seabed or re- flected in the napkin ring would temporarily provide an ample source of new art and a confirmation of the will to power in the philosopher's Dionysian version of Schiller's Spieltrzeb. The human condition is one of striv- ing to re-create oneself using the very meta- phors that enslave, thereby effecting a rever- sal of all values and traditions when these become worn-out coins devoid of their face value (III:314). But the series of frustrated artist characters in Musil's work, especially in Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften (1930-43), reflects the author's impression that the artist of his time somehow lacked the vitality (of warmblooded feeling, of Nietzschean inspira- tion) to impact upon European society with this constant metaphoric replay.

At first, however, the narrator is clearly drawn toward Tonka for her dissimilarity to the linguistic ruling classes. It is in furious reaction to the Zweck-language as used by his family- a mode of being so despised by Nietzsche for upholding metaphysical values for the sake of one's own power position- that the protagonist is immediately driven to take the helpless Tonka with him to Berlin. Upon the sudden death of the grandmother, Tonka loses the service job he had procured for her in his family, and he is disgusted at the success of those who can use language against Tonka, who cannot; she is dismissed with too little money and is suspected for not having cried at the funeral. Crying is linked to speaking as an advantageous way of under- standing the world, but Tonka cannot even cry. As Musil states in his diary: "Es sind die 'armen Madchen, die nicht sprechen konnen.' Die Rede ist nicht nur ein Machtmittel, son- dern ein Sinn mehr zur Aufnahrne der Welt" (Tb 171). Because of Tonka, the son realizes for the first time that there may be something in the sentimental phrase of Schlller (perhaps in the style of the despised Hyazinth or like the book by Novalis he had just been pretend- ing to read during the latter's dismissal scene with Tonka): "'Ihm schenkte des Gesanges Gabe, der Lieder siiRen Mund Apoll."' "Redenkonnen" is defined by the narrator as a decorative, almost monetary construction en- dowing its user with power (G W VI: 280), and as such it is a parallel to Nietzsche's worn-out coins of beliefs. And such insight leads him to the limits of where linguistic thought can go, the mystical point of going beyond good and evil to where Tonka appears to exist ef- fortlessly:

1st aber etwas, das weder sprechen kann, noch ausgesprochen wird, das in der Menschheit stumm verschwindet, ein kleiner, eingekratzter Strich in den Tafeln ihrer Geschichte, ist solche Tat, solcher Mensch, solche mitten in einem Sommer- tag ganz allein niederfallende Schneeflok- ke, Wirklichkeit oder Einbildung, gut, wertlos oder bos? Man fiihlt, daB da die Begriffe an die Grenze kommen, wo sie keinen Halt mehr fiden.

And he goes off "wortlos" to find Tonka (280).

Tonka, harborer of that inspirational, natu- ral feeling sought by Musil, serves as a cata- lytic force for her lover. Intuition, childhood, and divinity are all constantly associated with her (concurrently with the opposite of bestial whore). As Walter H. Sokel states of Tonka, she lives in a "realm of the ineffable" ("Stages of the Absurd" 330). She can engender the birth of language in the narrator (one thinks of the myriad metaphor plays of the narration), but her own language remains dormant within her as a natural "Sprache des Ganzen" (276). Her only vehicle of expression is in her Czech folk songs, not in those operetta songs she has copied from her friends. Even her family name means "Er sang" (279). Tonka's genius is "musikalisch" in the same way as that of the psychotic, inarticulate Moosbrugger in Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften (GW II:353); like Moosbrugger, she stands under the sign of Dionysos. Indeed, singing provides the lov- ers with their only moment of Vereinigung, before their relationship becomes sexual, when they sing her folk songs (in her language) "like children" (277). Their moments of happi- ness are thus possible only in the Lacanian Imaginary realm, on walks into nature away from the Symbolic realm of language and soci- ety. But this is not the Irrungen, Wirrungen of 1888; Musil's modernist tale cannot partici- pate in any of Fontane's wistfulness at such a class mismatch, and so even nature offers the narrator no respite, only isolation and a Nie- tzschean "Indifferenz selbst als Macht" VGB 11:573).

In a Socratic society Tonka's Dionysian song goes unheard. She can only respond physically to the young man's words, moving her arm more closely to his as they walk, because she literally "fand bei der Jungfrau Maria keine andere Antwort" (G W VI:278).

Likewise, she can but "blush," "look," and "feel" when she hears the verbal offer of a rather loveless love affair (281). A passage by Nietzsche from Menschliches, Allzumenschli- ches, where he identifies the gulf between emotion and its expression in language, can be appropriated here as a summary of Tonka's own predicament of language-lack:

Sprache und Gefiihl.--Dan die Sprache uns nicht zur Mitteilung des Gefuhls gegeben ist, sieht man daraus, daB alle ein- fachen Menschen sich schamen, Worte fur ihre tieferen Erregungen zu suchen: die Mitteilung derselben auBert sich nur in Handlungen, und selbst hier gibt es ein Erroten daruber . . . (MA I:778)

As such, Tonka is the opposite creation to the woman in Musil's short story Der Vorstadt- gasthof (1924), who literally gets her tongue bitten off in the act of kissing-a grotesque punishment, it is implied, for having used it to "penetrate" the man both linguistically and sexually (G W VII: 633-34).

With this opinion of language as an artificial construction that in turn constructs and con- trols people, it is small wonder that Musil was ever anxious to demonstrate his ideas via "situations" rather than spelling them out- and this despite his essayistic drive. As is stated in the diaries, at the heart of each "situation"-and indeed, of Musilean creativi- ty per se-is an ineffable feeling, no matter how philosophical the discourse. Female char- acters like Tonka, Grigia, the Portuguese woman, Veronika, Claudine, and Agathehctu- ally create the action of the narrative via their strength of feeling:

Man muB Gefuhle erfinden, neue, das Nette daran ist, daB man dadurch die Handlung erfindet. . . . Menschen, die besonderer Gefuhle fahig sind, schaffen solche Situationen . . . .(Tb 237)

Despite Tonka's unwitting influence, Musil's scientific protagonist subscribes to the buying power of language. He insists that lan- guage is a good enough tool (or transparent enough sea) to retrieve all the treasures of the soul; but his aim, like that of TorleR, is unachievable. He shares the prejudiced phi- losophers' belief in the I/erfiihrung der Worte, that is, the trust that one can express "das hochste Wissen iiber die Dinge mit den Wor- ten,'' as Nietzsche writes of "die Sprache als vermeintliche Wissenschaft," a delusion lead- ing to "der Glaube an die gefundene Wahrheit" (MA I:453). Indeed, it is the narrator-pro- tagonist's belief in language as Truth-bearer that eventually kills Tonka. While he awk- wardly makes romantic overtures to her, he repeatedly demands linguistic evidence of her understanding of their relationship: ". . . das ist ein Widerspruch, bitte, du muRt mir jetzt erklaren, warum . . ." (G W VI: 285). He of- fers to "keep" her as his mistress when he goes to study in Berlin, but he cannot speak of love; he can only lecture her with rationali- zations of his situation, while again demand- ing: "Verstehen Sie es nicht falsch!" (282). Not only can the uneducated Tonka never re- spond within accepted societal modes of com- munication, she is, with her Czech-German peasant dialect, the first incomprehensible mode of being that the protagonist has ever encountered:

"Ja," sagte das Fraulein leise und wurde

uber und uber rot. "Ich habe Sie auch

schon friiher verstanden. Aber ich kann's

nicht sagen."

Da lachte er nun. "Das ist etwas, das

mir noch nie widerfahren ist: etwas nicht

sagen konnen! " (275)

She can literally never answer as he would like, only echo the terms of his question. Upon his magnanimous offer to keep her, he is indig- nant at her silence: "Sie sagte nicht ja und nicht nein und nicht danke" (281), but he fails to perceive that for her such terms are inter- changeable and meaningless. His demand for verbal proof finds its major prey in Tonka's pregnancy. Now she appears to have come to him "like a dog" (296), and so he, fixated by his jealous imagination a la Swann, desires to shake the truth out of her about her concep- tion, like a dog with a stone in its mouth playing at "Beute" (Tb 470). Ostensibly he is out to penetrate to the truth, but his linguistic method is faulty, and any truth contained within the packet turns into a "Staubhaufen qualender Ohnrnacht" when opened, as in the Maeterlinck passage in Torleo (G WVI: 296).

The moment of conception marks the point at which all that Tonka represents threatens to be born into the narrator's world of guarded selfhood. It marks a shift in narration away from Tonka's silent helplessness to the para- doxical power invested in her by her very lack of "expression" (Tb 103). The man finds him- self seductively attracted and yet fearfully re- pulsed. Such is his dependence on rational language, such is his loneliness and mistrust born of his family situation, that the very "Un- durchsichtigkeit" of her mute stupidity (GW VI:274)-which first led hmto pity her- soon becomes its opposite, "so einfach und durchsichtig" that she appears hallucinatory to him (278). The "heavens," or the Socratic age, or her upbringing among prostitutes, are less against poor Tonka than is her own lover (273). It is not that there is any serious doubt as to whether or not he could be the father of her child; it is that he doubted her be- forehand because of her non-adherence to the normal linguistic code. Poor Tonka is not so other-wordly as she is simply unzeitgemafl for this man's ressentiment-laden (diseased, deca- dent) receptivity. With this degradation of their relationship and in order to protect his chosen "engineer-spirit" from further frag- mentation, he goes on to exploit her in a way that only repeats the power-play of language from which he had wanted to save her. Above all, he sees himself as master-interpreter of her fate: "Es war nichts fur sich zu deuten, eines hing von dem andern ab . . . es hmg fast nur von ihrn ab, wer sie war" (296). In a move as blind as that of the ostrich-like charac- ters in Lacan's analysis of Poe's Purloined Letter, Musil's narrator assumes a position of control when in fact it is he who remains con- trolled, as Lacan would say, by "the path of the signifier" (~crits 40). If "the unconscious is the discourse of the Other" (~crits 24), the narrator is repressing his own unconscious in his will to power over Tonka. He decides that

he can designate Tonka's silence to mean any- thmg at all if it becomes too troubling for him.

In this active suppressing of Tonka's vital- ity, it is love itself that permits such a clear abuse of creativity to occur. Musil cannot cele- brate love, mankind's ultimate attempt at com- munication beyond language, because for him it remains essentially a failed dialogue, lonely and "monologisierend" (285). The actual de- ception or seduction going on in Tonka is more in the nature of the monologic construction of love, of self, and ultimately of creativity itself, than in anything Tonka may or may not have done. As Liliane Weissberg states in her essay on Musil's language of the possible: "Monolog ist die eigentliche Form des Musil- schen Sprechens" (480). Such is also the re- sult of the relationship between the would-be "Siamese twins" Ulrich and Agathe (MoE 111:899). Here, one might say, Musil is adding a more pessimistic touch to the motif found in F. W. Schlegel's Lucinde (1799) and in other works of Romantic Irony: that of love as a narcissistic monologue with- and creation of -the self. The same is implied by Heinrich von Kleist, with his notion of a passive female audience, preferably a mirror-like sister, with whom he can dialogize basically to himself in order for the birth of a (seemingly) transferen- tial thought to occur (~berdie allmahliche Verfertigung der Gedanken beim Reden). Like- wise, in DerSandmann (1816), E. T. A. Hoff- mann depicts the poet Nathanael's ideal love as a wooden doll who comes to life under his gaze and listens to, even inspires, his works as a solipsistic, narcissistic image of himself. For Musil the partner is ultimately not even passive or wooden but simply absent; at best, all that can be attained in love is a union with the Other within the self, that is, at a distance from the beloved person, as happens with Claudine, Veronika, and Homo's epiphanies of Dionysian becoming.

Moving from the girl's silence to her death, the narrative of Tonka marks precisely this failed dialogics of love. Any chance that the narrator could meet himself creatively via love is finally precluded by his growing fear of the pregnant Tonka, dying of a venereal disease.

He alienates her from being a "Geist von sei- nem Geist" to "ein fremdes Geschopf' with a secret (GW VI: 293). By drawing up his own set of opposites into which he places Tonka, the narrator remains ignorant of the possibil- ity of enjoying the revisionary replays of "self- deception" in self and love, as Nietzsche terms it (MA I:758). As her ex-lover, and while certainly plotting a safer course for hlrnself than the Dionysian self-annihilation de- sired by Homo in Grigia (1921), he chooses a regressive path away from any hope of self- illumination via reflection in the Other. In this retreat he resembles Ketten in Die Portugie- sin (1923), who refuses to respond to love and its consequences (living with his wife, or him- self, as Other), by continually fighting a war away from home with an unseen enemy, the Bishop. The narrator covers his face with a beard, a gesture of self-disguise and disfigura- tion, in tandem with Tonka's growing preg- nancy, so that all that each knows of the Other is a reciprocal Hafilichkeit: ". . . denn man weirj so wenig, wenn man nicht andere hat, in denen man sich spiegelt" (295). Rather than dissect himself as monsieur le uiuisecteur, the protagonist of Tonka thus takes the easier route of dissecting her as he would a "tumor"

(279). Here one is far from the ideal mode of aesthetic living, as personified for the early Nietzsche by the age of attic tragedy, wherein the pre-Socratic Greeks experienced "meta- physical comfort" in their creation of art as the drawing of the Apollonian veil of beauty over the Dionysian abyss of horror (Die Geburt der Tragodie I: 47).

The narratorial prejudice in Tonka is fur- ther highlighted by a textual play upon Nie- tzsche's doubting of "cause and effect" UGB 11:580). For Nietzsche the fact that truths are simply the way the dice have fallen relegates them to the arbitrary "Wurfelspiel der Begrif- fe" (UWLIII:314). Not so for Musil's narrator. To think within the limits of happy and usually correct probability is definitely to narrow one's possibilities for becoming, "nicht ylvie1 denken," as he himself admits (GW VI:294). He prefers the 99% chance of success with his invention to the 99% chance of having

Musil's Tonka

been deceived by Tonka (298-99);that is, he

prefers the worn-out truths of tradition, as

voiced in the opinion of his mother and the

doctors,j to the possibility of Tonka's inno-

cence, for "praktisch war ihre Wahrschein-

lichkeit so gut wie Null" (G W VI:288). His

inner suspicion before himself and the inef-

fable within is so great that he must neces-

sarily invent causes to fit the effect; any man

he meets, even passers-by, could be the

father, so long as it is not himself. The first

part of the narrative, about Tonka's lowly up-

bringing, is written to shed doubts on her

moral character, as if the disease of the preg-

nancy could come only from her and her in-

fidelities, so long as it does not come from

him. But an anti-probable fate is surely mock-

ing the hero's desperate attempts to win even

the smallest sum at the horse races to help

keep Tonka; and his superstitious acts of wear-

ing one ring and not the other, of shaving and

not shaving, certainly undermine his logical

stance. The final admission to Tonka of "ich

glaube dir" remains unsaid as a feared Dio-

nysian Auflosung of the self (304);instead he

shaves off his beard as soon as she goes into

the hospital and retracts into "wieder sich

selbst" (303).

At the failure of love-as-interrogation and

his attempted letters to his mother and to

Tonka, Musil's protagonist turns to dreaming

as the only way for him to create inspiration-

ally. Only in a dream-state can he suspend his

rational thought and envision the idealized

Tonka who forever changes: ". . . sie sah

stets anders aus" (300). In the dream world,

wrote Nietzsche, "jeder Mensch [ist] voller

Kunstler" (GT I:22). And so Tonka does ap

pear -albeit only in her former lover's dream-

product-as the completed artwork, as an

Apollonian visible form of Dionysian "Rau-

schen, . . . Klang und Fall, . . . Bewegung,

. . . Abenteuer" (GW VI:300). For Musil,

"das eigentiimliche Wesen der Liebe zeigt sich

deutlich im Traume," because this is a realm of

Tonka's Sprache des Ganzen beyond good and

evil. The dreamer is aware of the "non-iden-

tity" of the dream-beloved with the real per-

son, but he goes on dreaming anyway (Tb 103); this is the happy illusion of every dreamer who defies his or her own self-decep- tion, according to Nietzsche: "'Es ist ein Traum! Ich will dm weiter traumen!"' (GT I:23). Tonka may succeed in becoming the dreamer's mirrored Other, but her creator refuses to continue the illusion of the "Doppel- ganger-Spiel" in his waking life, to communi- cate the essence of love (of the self) as sig- nified by Tonka ("Er brachte es nicht uber sich, das Licht hinter Tonka zu stellen"), just like the atheist boy who refuses to lift his cap before the crucifix on the bridge (G WVI: 300). In fact, he wills her death so that he may signify her more comfortably; and it can be assumed from the text that Tonka senses his desire to be rid of her and, obeying him as in everything else, lets her diseased pregnancy take over. The last time he sees her in the hospital, Tonka for once gains the ability to speak-of the dream she has had of her im- pending death and how she welcomes it. It is only in death that Tonka can appear to him as she never could in her lifetime: as the in- spirational "fairy tale" or dream-like "rnission" that he would like her to be (298).

Now that he is free of the burden of her physical presence clashing with his social mores as well as his linguistic and rational faith, the protagonist can truly love Tonka in the sense that he uses her spiritual, silent Sprache des Ganzen to create- both scientifi- cally with his invention and artistically with the narrative itself- with a Nietzschean god- like will to Dower: "Aber ich werde wie der liebe Gott bei dir sein, trostete er sich . . . Er spann wachend nun Tonkas Traume" (305). The hero's invention only comes to fruition once she is dead, and his final moment of Dionysian insight comes "wie ein Gedicht," the very thing he had formerly rejected (306). True to the self-ironic Musilean pattern of monologic love, the beloved is only present when absent or even killed off-a prerequisite for the more important narcissistic self- creation. As a dead partner the ideal Tonka as Muse can inspire him to appreciate the new values of feeling that she incorporates but that he rejected during her lifetime: ". . . ihre Ohren sind voll, ihre Zunge spricht imerlich noch weiter, . . . sie fuhlt, wohin das nicht reicht in ihr, dort ist sie uberdies grol3, edel und gut" (305). As was the case with Grigia, the dead Tonka becomes a sign for her former lover, a gateway for possible entry into the Musilean utopia, der andere Zustand ("aZ"), depicted in Tonka as a form of after-life: "Man mu13 dort anfangen, wo sonst aufgehort wird" (Tb 191).

The closing paragraphs of the novella read like a Nietzschean success story in the pro- tagonist's self-becoming into the "aZ" itself. The entire Tonka experience now appears to the hero as something that had "called" him (306); this idea of a force of nature calling one to create is reminiscent of Nietzsche's description of the composition of his Also sprach Zarathustra (1883-85), each part in sets of ten-day periods during which he knew an "ab- solute GewiBheit, als ob jeder Satz einem zu- gerufen ware" (Briefe 111: 1285). In Ecce homo (1889), this calling to writing is detailed by Nietzsche in his famous passage on philosophi- cal and artistic inspiration (transcribed word for word by Musil in his diary on 13 December 1911):

Alles geschieht im hochsten Grade unfrei- willig, aber wie in einem Sturme von Freiheits-Gefuhl, von Unbedingtsein, von Macht, von Gottlichkeit . . . als ob die Dinge selber herankamen und sich zum Gleichnis anboten (-"hier kommen ale Dinge liebkosend zu deiner Rede und schmeicheln dir: denn sie wolen auf deinem Rucken reiten. Auf iedem Gleichnis reitest du hier zu jederSwahr- heit. . . . -"). Dies ist meine Erfahrung von Inspiration . . . . (EH11:1132)

In the moment of inspiration one thus be- comes both god (Dionysos) and aufgelost as medium for the metaphors that offer them- selves for re-creation. Nietzsche's vision is echoed by Musil in the claim made by the Man without Qualities that childhood, as his own period of natural genius, was a time when "Innen und AuRen kaum noch getremt waren. Wenn ich auf etwas zu kroch, kam es auf Flu- geln zu mir her" (MoE III:902). It would ap- pear, then, that Musil's hero finally acknowl- edges himself as Other, that is, as Tonka, when he understands his past with her and so "becomes," for a moment, "what he is," in an experience of the Nietzschean Eternal Re- turn:

Alles was er niemals gewul3t hatte, stand in diesem Augenblick vor ihm, die Binde der Blindheit schien von seinen Augen gesunken zu sein; einen Augenblick lang, denn im nachsten schien ihm bloa schnell etwas eingefallen zu sein. (C; W VI:306)

The question remains whether the narrator-protagonist of Tonka gains an authentic entry into the "aZ," whether "wie man wird, was man ist" (the subtitle to Ecce homo and indeed, as Alexander Nehamas has illustrated in Nietzsche: Life as Literature [174], the entire Nietzschean circle of creation) can be an ap- propriate title to his actions. Obviously he thinks he does, claiming now to be "better" than others (G WVI:306). Tonka's gift, as "ein halbgeborener Mythos" (303) has, after all, enabled the protagonist to create his invention and the text, and so to this extent it is possible to concur that her inspirational presence (in song, dream, and death) helps both the scien- tific and literary, philosophical and artistic as- pects of Musilean creativity. In their ethical interpretations the critics Frederick G. Peters and Todd Kontje have understandably reacted against the bad faith of the protagonist, who only achieves creativity at the expense of the girl: "Das half Tonka nichts mehr. Aber ihrn half es." Indeed, despite his claim of being "gerufen" (306), Musil's hero has rather com- fortably shifted Tonka into a realm beyond good and evil of his own making, where her silence can be laudable and yet the scientific world outside can loudly applaud his logical invention. Thus the narrator's final claim to a calling sounds more like a disclaimer of respon- sibility. For Peters, the narrator still reaches Nietzsche's grofie Gesundheit at the end (155), but this view obscures the decadence on which the textual closure is founded, for this patient has never rid himself of his krnunft. While Nietzsche's creative being can confuse and reassemble the bulwark of concepts in the ever-changing ways of the dreamer, the aim

being "folgenlos unzusarnrnenhangend, reiz- voll und ewig neu zu gestalten, wie es die Welt des Traumes ist" (UWL III:319), the same cannot be said of the actual creations of Musil's narrator: less daring, both invention and nar- ration cling to the ideas of old to help preserve the self, and so the "aZ" is not in fact rea~hed.~ After all, it is safer for the protagonist to make a planned, whole invention that is, to use Nie- tzsche's "m. I. v."-like comparison, "nach der Hohe der teleskopischen und nach der Tiefe der mikroskopischen Welt so sicher ausge- baut" than to suffer from a fragmented "Phan- tasieerzeugnis" that would let the self-decep- tion shine visibly through, in the Nietzschean sense of authentic creation (111: 317-18).

If the final pose of Musil's protagonist as Dionysos is revealed to be mere posturing, so too is the Socratic foundation of his profes- sional success. As has been demonstrated above, his self-blindness is born of an addiction to the dialectical schemata he has constructed: the scientist's life as a protection from the dangerous emotions he feels for his mother and the silent intuition incorporated by Tonka. Musil is thus plotting in this novella his own distinction between the ratiozd and the nicht-ratiozd, two terms from his essay "Skizze der Erkenntnis des Dichters" (1918). This dialectic has formed the basis of much Musil criticism but, as Peter Heminger has pointed out, it should not always be taken fur bare Munze because of the self-marketing ploy Musil may have been using after the failure of the novellas Vereinigungen (1911) ("Schrei- ben und Sprechen" 59-60). After all, in an interpretation of Tonka that would amount to falling in step with the narrator's faulty per- spective. Following the rationallnon-rational divide, one can easily list the narrator's sets of opposites acting as a useful aid in his own self-definition: hunselflTonka, malelfemale, spiritlnature, languagelintuition, sciencelart, techntlinspiration; these pairings are akin to Nietzsche's rational beinglintuitive being (UWL III:321) or Socratic/Di~nysian.~

While Nietzsche simply condemns the side he is not on, Musil's fictionalization of his dual adherence, in the characters of Tonka and her lover, inevitably calls the entire polarization into question. As Musil remarks in his diary: "Prinzipiell gibt es vielleicht gar kein nicht ratio'ides Gebiet, vorsichtiger gesagt, konnen wir uns keines vorstellen" (Tb 479). The au- thor acknowledges, on the one hand, his in- volvement in such dialectics, defining his wri- ting as caught up in the opposition between "gedankliche" and "rhetorische Erfindung" (Tb 215) but, on the other hand, admits that these two areas are inclined to transposition. He claims that his philosophical ideas are the essential (Platonic) "Vorarbeit" to literary cre- ation (Tb 239) but elsewhere confesses that he finds himself-as in the image reflected in the napkin ring-"gezwungen im Stil be- reits vorhandener Bilder weiterzuerfinden," that is, composing in a mode like Nietzsche's (214). Indeed, the diary's three-point descrip- tion of the author's creative process smacks more of a plan to keep das Gedankliche and das Szenische safely separate, with the former coming in both before and after the latter, as if to keep it in check (239). And this is precisely the thwarted attempt at repression (of Nietzschean inspiration) that the reader can identify in Tonka. A merging of distinctions occurs not just in art but also in science, for the narrator's invention would not be possible without Tonka. As Nietzsche states in a refu- tation of Kant's theory of disinterested re- ception, "das erfinderische gliickliche Ich" has a vital, self-interested role to play even in science, since "fur ein rein erkennendes Wesen ware die Erkenntnis gleichgultig" (MA

I: 775).

Therefore, in Tonka Musil portrays all that he could not pinpoint in his own writing proc- ess. She is the Nietzschean "Anschauungsme- tapher" of disturbing visual impressions that Musil's man would rather forget by building systems of language to shield himself (UWL III:315). As Nietzsche states, mankmd tends to forget the "visual metaphors" of the naming process and to substitute for them the belief in the Ding an sich, in the same way as man- kind also thinks of itself as the causal god of the universe, with the world as an effect, "als den unendlich gebrochenen Wiederklang eines Ur- klangs, des Menschen, als das vervielfaltigte Abbild des einen Urbildes, des Menschen" (III:316). The child inside the infected Tonka -the world as effect of mankind- refuses to be born, however, and dies with her. Neither will the cause ever reveal itself; Tonka never talks about it, her disease remains a mystery, the red, phallic exclamation mark in her calen- dar stays indecipherable. As Sokel indicates in his existential study of Tonka as a "parable of modern man's relationship to faith": "This time Christ is not born" (328).

The desire of mankind to "attach" one's life onto a safe set of concepts as self-defense against the onslaught of continual new impres- sions (UWL III:314) is literally kept undone by Musil, as in the description of the boy at the bridge whose frozen fingers prevent him from doing up his coat button and in the metaphor of being unable to fasten one's collar despite knowing all possible "finger combinations" (GW VI:289). Musil is thus admitting to an art of incompletion (the literal ending of his mag- num opus). Tonka's influence flows like "fresh water" being poured onto his soul (284), the same "flowing water" that Nietzsche detects at the root of mankind's would-be "cathedral of concepts." No wonder the protagonist finds that his ideas lose solid ground ("Halt finden") when he tries to locate where Tonka's realm is situated (GW VI: 280; UWL III:315). Her genius is simply that she can join the two polar ends of the ratioi'd and the nicht-ratioi'd, taking the man's rational thought and wrapping it "wie ein Seil" ever closer around her bones, unwittingly capturing him with the circular tra- jectory of her "Blick . . . wie ein Ball, . . .wie ein Pfeil mit einem Widerhaken" (G W VI:286 and 273). The novella thus usefully acts out what is for Nietzsche a play but for Musil more a "line" of tension with inspiration. This insight into the "aZ" is only fleetingly glimpsed by the narrator, at the height of his confusion at the absurdity of existence; the causal, ra- tional relations between things disappear, he sees he has lost "das Fadenende": ". . . aber vielleicht kann man anders durch die Welt ge- hen als am Faden der Wahrheit?" (298). His "Schattenmensch," himself as Other, wants to tell him about a life "nach ganz anderen Werten," but he swallows this insight (301).

Thus Tonka ends with only one explicitly successful conception: the invention, as a product built on false pretenses, its existence guilty of having suppressed a human kind of birth (be this of the child or of the narrator himself via his love for Tonka). The reader is left with the third product: the text itself. Its conception is clear enough, but no physical proof of its physical birth into narration is ever given; the text literally spills from the narrator, leaving him an unwilling accomplice in the surfacing of repression. And so it is in the narrative act that one can find Tonka asserting herself in the guise of the signifier. Tonka, the snowflake falling on a summer's day, re- mains disturbingly unclassifiable-beyond good and evil, ratioi'd and nicht-ratioi'd. On a postmodern note, and true to Nietzsche's Dionysian demand, Musil has provided a "tex- tual Tonka," so to speak, with which to play with society's old values. Through this figure the reader can eternally re-create, if only briefly, Tonka's silently inspirational Sprache des Ganzen. It is well to remember, however, that the voice of this work is still a participant in the modernist debate over the application of Nietzsche's demands, an intellectual strug- gle before the European abyss of selfhood. Despite the fact that the figure of Tonka is surely the clearest example in Musil's work of Nietzschean creativity at its best, the no- vella simultaneously illustrates how a genuine desire for fresh self-expression still succumbs to the power of the existing exchange rate of the metaphors-that-be. Musil's would-be crosser of Zarathustra's bridge of self-over- coming thus stops short of a full, waking belief in zwecklos inspiration.


' All translations are my own. Wolfgang Dusing suggests that any envisioningof Tonka must necessarily be metaphorical and plural (555 and 558).

' Musil's self-vision as a Muttersohn and his memory of an affair with a woman called Herma Dietz are reworked in diary entries of the years 1899-1906: "Weil er Inge- nieur wurde schloD er sich so eng an H an" (Tb 80); "Er ruiniert die Mutter mit He. aus Rache" (109); "R. fiihlt, da8 er mit [der Mutter] glucklicher geworden ware als mit H" (96). There is even a possible ending for the novella with the protagonist and his mother in a tentatively happy realm-held together with grog- of the Lacanian Imaginary kind (107-08).

"he more interactive relationship between Ulrich and Agathe in Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften is a clear de- velopment of Tonka's function as creative catalyst for her lover. Sokel has demonstrated how Agathe trans- lates her brother's words into deeds, and as such repre- sents the Tat-oriented "existentielles Gewissen" that challenges Ulrich in the second book ("Agathe und der existenzphilosophische Faktor" 123). A parodic echo of the moment in Kleist's Dze Marquise von 0. . . (18081, when the Marquise begs for belief in the possibility of her own immaculate conception from the midwife (32), can surely be heard in the hag- gling of the protagonist with doctors over the possibility pro Tonka versus the probability contra, when he has inwardly already condemned her as an infidele: ". . . er hatte ebensogut fragen konnen: ist eine jungfrauliche Zeugung moglich? Und man hatte ihm nur zu antworten vermocht: sie war noch nie da" (289).

', There are evident parallels here, in the narrator's self- deluding Dionysian insight, with the decadent path taken by Gustav von Aschenbach's creative processes in Thomas Mann's Der Tod in Venedig (1912). Elements of authorial self-condemnation are coupled with a deca- dent desire for that which is negatively portrayed in both Musil's and Mann's treatment of creativity. Nietzsche's SocraticlDionysian divide, as the break be- tween the critical and the creative, should not be con- fused with his ApollonianIDionysian distinction, in which both are inspirational drives (NachlaJ III:788).

Works Cited

Diising, Wolfgang. "Utopische Vergangenheit: Zur Erin- nerungstechnik in Musils fruher Prosa." Zeitschrift fur deutsche Philologie 89.4 (1970): 531-60.

Eibl, Karl. Robert Musil: Drei Frauen. Text, Materialien, Kommentar. Munich: Hanser, 1978.

Henninger, Peter. "Schreiben und Sprechen: Robert Mu- sils Verhaltnis zur Erzahlform am Beispiel von Drei Frauen und Die Amsel." Modern Austrian Literature

9.314 (1976): 57-99. Kleist, Heinrich von. Die Marquise von 0.. . . Frankfurt a.M.: Insel, 1979.

Kontje, Todd. "Motivating Silence: The Re-creation of the 'Eternal Feminine' in Robert Musil's Tonka." Mo- natshefte 79.2, (1987): 161-71.

Lacan, Jacques. Ecrits I. Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1966. Musil, Robert. Gesammelte Werke. 9 vols. Hamburg: Ro- wohlt, 1978. . Tagebzicher. Ed. Adolf Frise. 2 vols. Hamburg: RowoNt, 1976. Nehamas, Alexander. Nietzsche: Life as Literature. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1985. Nietzsche, Friedrich. Werke. Ed. Karl Schlechta. 5 vols.

Frankfurt a.M.: Ullstein, 1984. Hannum, and Edgar Lohner. Gottingen: Vandenhoeck Peters, Frederick G. Robert Musil: Master oftke Hovering & Ruprecht, 1967. 323-32.

Life. New York: Columbia UP, 1978. . 'lgathe und der existenzphilosophische Plato. Collected Dialogues. Ed. Edith Hamilton and Hunt- Faktor im Mann okne Eigensckaften." Beitrage zur ingdon Cairns. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1961. Musil-Kritik. Ed. Gudrun Brokoph-Mauch. Bern:

Sokel, Walter H. "Kleist's Marquise von O., Kierke-Lang, 1983. 111-29. gaard's Abraham, and Musil's Tonka: Three Stages Weissberg, Liliane. "Versuch einer Sprache des Mogli- of the Absurd as the Touchstone of Faith." Festschrift chen: Zum Problem des Erzahlens bei Robert Musil." fur Bernhard Biume. Ed. Egon Schwarz, Hunter G. DVjs 4 (1980): 464-84.

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