Musil Research Unit Archive ( University of Reading)

Reference: MS 1440Date: 1892-1974Extent: 35 boxes

The Musil Research Unit was established at the University of Reading in 1967, named after the Austrian Writer Robert Musil. It was directed by Eithne and Ernst Kaiser.

Eithne Wilkins was a New Zealand Germanist translator and poet. After the war Eithne taught at the time as a lecturer at the University of London. She met the Jewish, Austrian Ernst Kaiser, while he was working as a translator in London and they married in 1949. The Jewish Austrian, Ernst Kaiser was born in Vienna in 1911. Ernst grew up in Vienna, passed the Matura, his military service and studied German. Before he could finish his doctorate, the Anschluss, the annexation of Austria into the German Reich, took place on 12 March 1938. A few months later Ernst fled to Prague, to Poland and from there by ship to Southampton in 1939 and settled in London, where he found a job in a slaughterhouse. When the war began Ernst was interned then spent almost six years in the British Army as an interpreter at the rank of sergeant.  While still in Hamburg he published in 1946 his first book, “Shadow Man”, a novella.

After the war, Eithne and her husband, continued to work as freelance translators and reviewers, with Eithne continuing to use her maiden name for her professional work. Together with her husband she translated books from German into English, including Novels, short stories and poems by Goethe, Kafka, Benn, Feuchtwanger, Wiechert, Kokoschka and Lenz, further letter volumes of Gustav Mahler and Arnold Schoenberg.

In 1947 Ernst asked the Bollingen Foundation in New York, for a grant to publish the second part of his novel The Story of a Murder.

However they are best-known for their translations of several works of Robert Musil, including Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften (The Man Without Qualities), they not only translated, but also edited a new version. They began to interest English literary editors and publishers in Robert Musil and in 1950 Secker & Warburg agreed to publish their translation of Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften. From the 1950s, they co-published numerous scientific papers on Musil’s work in journals and anthologies, including in 1962, Robert Musil – An introduction to the work. Eithne Wilkins became a professor at the University of Reading in 1968. Kaiser was appointed Honorary Research Fellow and directed with Eithne, the Robert Musil Research Unit at the University. Ernst Kaiser died in 1972 in Reading followed by Eithne in 1975.

The collection consists of papers of Ernst and Eithne Kaiser from the Musil Research Unit. These fall into two categories: copies of original documents produced by Robert Musil, and working papers of the Kaisers.

The Musil material includes copies of correspondence c. 1935-1942; photocopies of Musil’s manuscripts, typescripts and notes, typescript versions of Musil notebooks, manuscripts, corrections and drafts, and microfilms of Musil manuscripts.

Papers of the Kaisers include correspondence in English, German, Italian and French about translations and editions of Musil’s work, exhibitions, critical writing and the Musil papers,  c. 1947-1974, cuttings, articles, notes and photographs relating to exhibitions on Musil, notes and drafts for articles on Musil, biographical studies, bibliography and critical editions; typescripts and manuscripts of the Kaisers’ work on Musil; selected articles published by and about Musil in periodicals, offprints and pamphlets, including work published by the Kaisers; press cuttings about Musil in various European languages 1949-1970; and certificates and reports from Musil’s early years. The collection also contains catalogues of the original Musil papers.

More information

  • A full description is available on our online database.
  • A handlist for the whole collection can be found here.
  • See also correspondence between Eithne Wilkins and Macmillan from 1943, MAC WIL.
  • See also the Musil Museum in Klagenfurt, Austria, as well as the Robert Musil Archive at the Austrian National Library in Vienna, Austria.

Sources from our library collections

The Musil Collection contains books and periodicals containing Musil’s work.