Robert Musil: The writer, the soldier, the ethnographer

Starting date
January 1, 2013
Duration (months)
Foreign Languages and Literatures
Managers or local contacts
Salgaro Massimo

As a military commander since 1911, Musil was called up at the outbreak of World War I in August 1914. After Italy’s declaration of war on Austro-Hungarian Empire Musil was stationed in the mountain village of Palau in the Valley of the Mòcheni, not far from Trento. The inhabitants of this inaccessible valley were mostly farmers and spoke mòcheno, a middle-upper Bavarian language. They created a linguistic island in northern Italy and kept their own traditions and beliefs. In his notebook Musil follows in the footsteps of his cousin Alois Musil and becomes an ethnographer: his entries for this period alternate between a sober account of the routine life of military service and the reworking of observations of the population of the valley for subsequent use in literary works like the novella Grigia (1923). The protagonist of Grigia is an engineer at work in an isolated Italian valley whose inhabitants preserve primitive cultural and social practices. Separated from his wife, he satisfies his sexual desires with Grigia, a peasant woman. In my research I would like to investigate the assimilation of this ethnographic view into the literary text. Importo previsto relativo alle missioni: €. 2000

Project participants

Massimo Salgaro
Associate Professor
Research areas involved in the project
Letterature tedesca e austriaca
German literature: Individual authors or works


Research facilities