Musil's Young Torless is a novel of troubled adolescence set in a military school, modeled on the one attended by both Musil and Rainer Maria Rilke. It was his first book and was immediately successful. He then abandoned his studies in engineering, logic, and experimental psychology and turned to writing. He was an officer in the Austrian army in World War I, lived in Berlin until the Nazis came to power, and finally settled in Geneva. He also wrote plays, essays, and short stories. The Man without Qualities, Musil's magnum opus, is a novel about the life and history of prewar Austria. It was unfinished when Musil died, though he had labored over the three-volume work for ten years. Encyclopedic in the manner of Proust and Dostoevsky, "it is a wonderful and prolonged fireworks display, a well-peopled comedy of ideas" (V. S. Pritchett)---and a critique of contemporary life. It made Musil's largely posthumous reputation. "Musil's whole scheme prophetically describes the bureaucratic condition of our world, and what can only be called the awful, deadly serious, and self-deceptive love affair of one committee for another" (Pritchett).
Shaun Whiteside's translations include Nietzsche's The Birth of Tragedy and Musil's The Confessions of Young Tï¿½rless for Penguin Classics.
J.M. Coetzee's full name is John Michael Coetzee. Born in Cape Town, South Africa, in 1940, Coetzee is a writer and critic who uses the political situation in his homeland as a backdrop for many of his novels. Coetzee published his first work of fiction, Dusklands, in 1974. Another book, Boyhood, loosely chronicles an unhappy time in Coetzee's childhood when his family moved from Cape Town to the more remote and unenlightened city of Worcester. Other Coetzee novels are In the Heart of the Country and Waiting for the Barbarians. Coetzee's critical works include White Writing and Giving Offense: Essays on Censorship. Coetzee is a two-time recipient of the Booker Prize and in 2003, he won the Nobel Literature Award.