Friday, September 23, 2011

Musil on Hohl

With the help of Walter Fanta, I have found a section in Musil's notebooks where he seems to  dismiss Ludwig Hohl (whose name in German means hollow, or empty) in one short sentence: 
"Swiss aphorist: Now at least I know what an air-head [Hohl-Kopf] is!"

Of course, it remains unclear how much he had read of Hohl upon making this pronouncement. He rejected Proust, after having read (by his own account) no more than 10 pages of his work. While Musil was often generous to young writers (Walser and Kafka, for example), he was notoriously unfriendly to successful contemporaries. Hohl would have fit, rather, in the category of under-appreciated younger author in need of Musil's aid. Perhaps he simply could not resist the pun; or, indeed, for the man who proposes that to have no fixed qualities is at least partially a positive state of openness, having an airy, open, or hollow head might actually be a good thing.


  1. I, for one, am a fan of Musil's (and other such) onomastic witticisms. Samuel Palmer, the Romantic painter, would oft sign his letters 'Remlapious', or 'Pious Palmer'...see what he did there? I look forward to the Hohl story...

  2. Of course you would initiate the hohly-conversation!

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  4. I wasn't familiar w Hohl, found 'Notizen' in used bookstore last month. What a find, this is must read, needs to be translated into Eng, other languages. For me perfect timing, had just finished 2nd read of Proust ...Lost Time. Want to learn more about Hohl.