General Stumm invades the library

Lorcan 1 min read

The useful Newscan Daily service includes a section Honorary Subscriber where they discuss a person of interest. The current issue [NewsScan Publishing Inc. – NewsScan Daily Archives] discusses Robert Musil, author of, among other things, The man without qualities. Chapter 100 of this novel is General Stumm invades the State Library and learns about the world of books, the librarians guarding it, and intellectual order. From the 1995 translation published by Knopf and translated by Sophie Wilkins and Burton Pike:

My eyes must have been blazing with such a thirst for knowledge that the fellow suddenly took fright, as if I was about to suck him dry altogether. I went on a little longer about needing a kind of timetable that would enable me to make connections among all kinds of ideas in every direction – at which point he turns so polite it’s almost unholy, and offers to take me into the catalog room and let me do my own searching, even though it’s against the rules, because it’s only for the use of the librarians. So I actually found myself inside the holy of holies….
The secret of a good librarian is that he never reads anything more of the literature in his care than the titles and the table of contents. ‘Anyone who lets himself go and starts reading a book is lost as a librarian,’ he explained. ‘He’s bound to lose perspective’.
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