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This article is taken from PN Review 68, Volume 15 Number 6, July - August 1989.

The Blackbird (Translated by Catherine Wilson) Robert Musil

The two men of whom I must speak - in order to tell three brief stories, for which the choice of a narrator is a matter of some importance - had been childhood friends; let's call them Aone and Atwo. For such friendships become in principle all the more extraordinary the older one grows. One is transformed in the course of these years from head to foot and from the tips of the hairs to the depths of the heart, but the relationship to the other remains curiously the same and changes as little as the bond that every man sustains to the various gentlemen whom he addresses, one after the other, as I. The question is not whether one still experiences things in the same way as the little boy with the broad face and blond hair who once posed for his photograph; no, one can not even say that one has a fond feeling for that silly little me-ish monster. And in the same way one is not in full accord with one's best friends, or even satisfied with them; indeed, many friends can hardly stand each other. These are even, in a certain sense, the deepest and best friendships and capture the elusive inner essence without any superfluous additions.

The youth which bound the two friends Aone and Atwo together had been nothing less than a religious one. They had been brought up together in an Institution which flattered itself that it attached a ...


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