The Kraus Project: Essays by Karl Kraus (English and German Edition)
Karl Kraus, Jonathan Franzen
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A great American writer's confrontation with a great European critic--a personal and intellectual awakening
A hundred years ago, the Viennese satirist Karl Kraus was among the most penetrating and farsighted writers in Europe. In his self-published magazine, "Die""Fackel," Kraus brilliantly attacked the popular media's manipulation of reality, the dehumanizing machinery of technology and consumer capitalism, and the jingoistic rhetoric of a fading empire. But even though he had a fervent following, which included Franz Kafka and Walter Benjamin, he remained something of a lonely prophet, and few people today are familiar with his work. Luckily, Jonathan Franzen is one of them.
In "The Kraus Project," Franzen, whose "calm, passionate critical authority" has been praised in "The""New York Times Book Review," not only presents his definitive new translations of Kraus but annotates them spectacularly, with supplementary notes from the Kraus scholar Paul Reitter and the Austrian author Daniel Kehlmann. Kraus was a notoriously cantankerous and difficult writer, and in Franzen he has found his match: a novelist unafraid to voice unpopular opinions strongly, a critic capable of untangling Kraus's often dense arguments to reveal their relevance to contemporary America.
While Kraus is lampooning the iconic German poet and essayist Heinrich Heine and celebrating his own literary hero, the Austrian playwright Johann Nestroy, Franzen is annotating Kraus the way Kraus annotated others, surveying today's cultural and technological landscape with fearsome clarity, and giving us a deeply personal recollection of his first year out of college, when he fell in love with Kraus's work. Painstakingly wrought, strikingly original in form, "The Kraus Project "is a feast of thought, passion, and literature.
hat, auch nur genannt werden darf, wäre doch ein Witz, den die Humorlosigkeit sich nicht ungestraft erlauben sollte. Auf jeder Seite Nestroys stehen Worte, die das Grab sprengen, in das ihn die Kunstfremdheit geworfen hat, und den Totengräbern an die Gurgel fahren. Voller Inaktualität, ein fortwirkender Einspruch gegen die Zeitgemäßen. Wortbarrikaden eines Achtundvierzigers gegen die Herrschaft der Banalität; Gedankengänge, in denen die Tat wortspielend sich dem Ernst des Lebens harmlos macht, um
on an instrument.” Heine is objective. Against Börne: “The deeds of an author consist in words.” Against Platen: he calls his achievement “in words, a splendid deed”—“so entirely unfamiliar with the essence of poesy that he doesn’t even know that the word is a deed only for a rhetorician, whereas for a true poet the word is an event.” Which was it for Heine? Neither deed nor event but intention or accident. Heine was a Moses who tapped his staff on the rocks of the German language. But speed
Friend (Mein Freund, 1851). 2.) From Nestroy’s farce The Talisman (Der Talisman, 1840). 3.) From Nestroy’s farce The Evil Spirit Lumpazivagabundus (Der böse Geist Lumpazivagabundus, 1833). 4.) From Nestroy’s farce A Man Full of Nothing (Der Zerrissene, 1844). 5.) Also from A Man Full of Nothing. 6.) From Nestroy’s farce The Two Night Wanderers (Die beiden Nachtwandler, 1836). 7.) From Nestroy’s farce Earlier Conditions (Frühere Verhältnisse, 1862). 8.) From The Two Night Wanderers. 9.) From
the feeling, so with the irony: nothing immediate, everything utterly graspable with that second hand that can grasp nothing but the material. In the petting of mood, in the tickling of wit. But the fools made my darling Slip silent to a rendezvous; A fool is always willing When a foolish girl is too. This joke isn’t made by any real cynic whose love has given him the slip. And no poet calls these words to a girl who is moved by the sunset she is watching: My girl, now don’t you frown,
right occasion. For decades, Kraus had hounded stupid journalists, incorrect usage, bad usage, and everything else wrong with a late-feudal-bourgeois society stultified by the media. But now, suddenly, he was confronted with a phenomenon of an entirely different order, a thing more evil and horrifying than perhaps any the world had ever seen. In contrast to many of his contemporaries, Kraus recognized this circumstance immediately. He saw what was new about National Socialism, he understood what