The Confusions of Young Törless, By Robert Musil
The Confusions of Young Törless
Oxford World's Classics
Readers who associate school fiction with midnight feasts and rock pools, or witchcraft and wizardry, may find the introspection of young Törless’s education a little dense. First published in 1906 and set in a boarding school in a remote part of the Habsburg Empire, The Confusions of Young Törless is more concerned with the protagonist’s psychological and moral awakening than investigating an exterior world. Presented with a front-row view of evil by his two bullying friends Beineberg and Reiting, who ritualistically beat and sodomise a fellow classmate, Törless must come to terms with his own conflicting emotions. Predating the first World War and the rise of fascism, Musil’s debut novel is an interesting commentary on the nature of power. This early modernist work sees Törless drift from interior monologue to dreamlike sequences to the horrors of life in a boarding school where punishment is meted out by the pupils. School fiction not for the faint hearted.