Papers of the Musil Research Unit

Scope and Content

The collection consists of papers of Ernst and Eithne Kaiser from the Musil Research Unit. These fall into two categories: copies of original documents produced by Robert Musil, and working papers of the Kaisers. The Musil material includes copies of correspondence c. 1935-1942; photocopies of Musil's manuscripts, typescripts and notes; typescript versions of Musil notebooks, manuscripts, corrections and drafts; and microfilms of Musil manuscripts. Papers of the Kaisers include correspondence in English, German, Italian and French about translations and editions of Musil's work, exhibitions, critical writing and the Musil papers, c. 1947-1974; cuttings, articles, notes and photographs relating to exhibitions on Musil (Rome 1960, Rome and Klagenfurt 1962, Reading 1973); notes and drafts for articles on Musil, biographical studies, bibliography and critical editions; typescripts and manuscripts of the Kaisers' work on Musil; selected articles published by and about Musil in periodicals, offprints and pamphlets, including work published by the Kaisers; press cuttings about Musil in various European languages 1949-1970; and certificates and reports from Musil's early years 1892-1917. The collection also contains catalogues of the original Musil papers.

Administrative / Biographical History

Robert Musil was born in Klagenfurt on 6 November 1880, the son of Alfred Musil and Hermine, ne Bergauer. His father, who was ennobled in 1917 as Hofrat Alfred von Musil, was Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the technical academy in Brnn but wanted a military career for his son. Musil was therefore educated at elite military academies, first at Eisenstadt and subsequently at Mhrisch-Weikirchen. However, in 1897 he rejected the idea of an army career and studied civil engineering at the academy at which his father taught. After gaining his diploma he went to Berlin to study philosophy, psychology and logic, writing a doctoral thesis on the epistemology of the Austrian physicist and philosopher Ernst Mach. Musil married Martha Marcovaldi in 1911. He worked as a librarian at the Technical University in Vienna from 1911 to 1914, served at the Italian Front during World War I, and subsequently worked in various Ministries in Vienna. After being made redundant he supported himself and his wife through his writing, though at a reduced income. After Hitler's annexation of Austria in 1938 Musil and his wife moved to Switzerland. He died in Geneva on April 15 1942.

Musil's first novel, Die Verwirrungen des Zglings Trle (The Confusions of Young Trless) was published in 1906 and was a great success. Subsequent plays and novels were less well received during Musil's lifetime. His best-known work, Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften (The Man Without Qualities) appeared in three volumes, the first in 1930, the second in 1932 and the third posthumously in 1943.

Ernst Kaiser was born in Vienna in 1911 and came to England in 1939 after the Anschlu, where he met and later married Eithne Wilkins, who was working as a freelance translator. After the war, in which Ernst served in the British army, he and his wife continued to work as freelance translators and reviewers, with Eithne continuing to use her maiden name for her professional work. They began to interest English literary editors and publishers in Robert Musil and in 1950 Secker & Warburg agreed to publish their translation of Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften. At the same time Eithne Kaiser was awarded a research fellowship at Bedford College London. Their book Robert Musil: eine Einfhrung in das Werk was published in 1962. In 1967 Eithne was appointed lecturer at Reading University, where a Musil Research Unit was established, with Ernst Kaiser as honorary assistant. Ernst Kaiser died in 1972 and Eithne Kaiser in 1975.

Access Information

Open to all researchers. No reader's ticket is required but an appointment is necessary. Check for contact details and opening hours.

Acquisition Information

Transferred to the University Library from the Musil Research Unit, 6 September 1975.


Description prepared by Bridget Andrews.

Other Finding Aids

File level list available.

Additional Information

For information about the original Musil papers, see the Robert Musil - Institut fr Literaturforschung/Krntner Literaturarchiv