The Man Without Qualities
by Robert Musil
Along with Ulysses and A La Recherche du Temps Perdu, some say this is one of the three great books of the 20th century. It describes events in Vienna in 1914: a group of people prepares for the 70th anniversary of Emperor Franz Josef and the 30th anniversary of Emperor Wilhelm II. Hence it was called The Parallel Action. The main protagonist, Ulrich, struggles to reconcile the enlightenment spirit of rationality within him and the Nietzschean urge for mysticism and spirit. He fails. But he does have an affair with his sister in the process. And numerous discussions numerous characters, all representing parts of the declining Habsburg Empire. It’s a fantastic illustration of decline and the philosophical conflict of modernity.