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The Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil

The Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil

Author:Robert Musil [Musil, Robert]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Tags: Fiction, Classics, Satire, Literary, General
ISBN: 9781509818198
Google: DZOqDAAAQBAJ
Amazon: B01IDAMEMK
Goodreads: 33121478
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Published: 2017-02-23T00:00:00+00:00


109

BONADEA, KAKANIA; SYSTEMS OF HAPPINESS AND BALANCE

If there was anyone in Kakania who understood nothing of politics, and was quite happy that way, it was Bonadea; and yet there was a connection between her and the Unredeemed Nationalities. Bonadea—not to be confused with Diotima; Bonadea the Good Goddess, Goddess of Chastity, whose temple by one of those twists of fate ended up as the scene of orgies; Bonadea, wife of a presiding county judge or some such legal eminence, and the frustrated mistress of a man who was neither worthy of her nor sufficiently attached to her—had a system, which was more than could be said of Kakanian politics.

Bonadea’s system had so far consisted in leading a double life. Her social status was assured in that she belonged to a family of distinction and enjoyed the reputation of a cultivated and notable woman in her own social circle; that she gave way to certain temptations she could ascribe to being constitutionally overexcitable, or having a heart given to folly, since the follies of the heart, like romantic political crimes, enjoy a certain esteem, even when committed under dubious circumstances. Here the heart plays about the same role as honor, obedience, and Service Regulations, Part III, played in the General’s life, or as the irrational element in every well-ordered life that ultimately puts to rights whatever baffles the unaided rational mind.

But Bonadea’s system had a flaw, in that it split her life into two different conditions, the transition from one to the other of which could not be achieved without paying a heavy price. For however eloquent her heart could be before one of her lapses, it was equally deflated afterward, and she was constantly alternating between a maniacally effervescent state of mind and one that drained away in inky blackness, hardly ever coming into equilibrium. All the same, it was a system, that is, it was no mere play of uncontrolled instincts—the way life used to be seen as the automatic squaring of accounts between pleasure and pain, with a certain profit registered on the side of pleasure, but a system that included quite a number of psychological moves designed to fake these accounts.

Everyone has some such method of jockeying one’s psychological accounts in one’s own favor, aiming at a minimum balance of pleasure that should ordinarily get one through the day. A person’s pleasure in life can also consist of displeasure; such differences in kind don’t matter much, since as everyone knows there are as many contented melancholies as there are funeral marches that float as lightly in their element as a dance tune does in its own. The opposite is probably equally valid, in that many normally cheerful persons are no whit happier than many habitually sad ones, because happiness is just as much of a strain as unhappiness, more or less like flying on the principle of lighter or heavier than air. But there is another objection to be made. Would the rich not consider themselves justified



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