On Breakfast Cereals

A. L. Katz devotes some pages to an enigmatic, hastily scrawled remark in Meingast’s diary dated July 13, 1902:   “Müsl, Müsl, wie du mein Wesen verhedderst!”   After much deliberation and wringing of hands, Katz ascribes the umlaut to agitation, and renders the remark,  “Musil, Musil, how you misunderstand my nature!” –  a reflection, he presumes, on the notoriously heated exchange between Meingast and the orientalist Alois Musil, some months prior, in the pages of the (now defunct) Neues Wiener Tagblatt, concerning the authenticity of the frescoes at Qasr ‘Amra.


Alois Musil, shortly before his exchange with Meingast

But in light of what he knew of Meingast’s digestive problems (“Unruhen”), and of the latter’s disdain for the Swiss diminutive, Katz should have more carefully considered the alternative reading: “Muesli, Muesli, how you tangle my innards!”

New developments in fact confirm this reading: we now know that Meingast had recently taken an unsuccessful cure at the Bircher-Benner Sanatorium in Zürich, and on his return to Graz had undertaken to prepare a treatise, “Breakfast Cereals: Their Origin and Influence.” The work was to comprise philological, historiological and typological considerations, and was to describe “the truth about the how of the breakfast cereal” as well as to uncover insights into fundamental differences in national character.  In a note for the treatise he writes that the mixture of oats and fruit is “a miscegenation…” and an “Enemy of Spirit.”

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