Karl Kraus: A Viennese Critic of the Twentieth Century by Wilma Abeles Iggers

By Wilma Abeles Iggers

At no time did Vienna playa higher function within the highbrow and creative lifetime of the German talking peoples and of Europe than within the first 3 a long time of the current century. It used to be the house of Mahler and SchOnberg, of Hofmannsthal and Schnitzler, of Mach and Wittgen stein, of Freud and of Austro-Marxism. much less recognized outdoors the Ger man-speaking global was once Karl Kraus, whose complete paintings used to be insepa rably attached with the Vienna of his time and who, might be as a result, could appear this day extra "provincial" than the others whom we have now simply named. Kraus used to be an apocalyptic moralist: The titles of a few of his extra very important works unmistakably demonstrate it: "The final days of mankind"; "The day of judgment" (WeUgerieht); "The finish of the realm by means of black magic" (U ntergang der Welt dureh die sehwarzeM agie). Like Kierkegaard, he was once a witness opposed to his time. however the symbolic item of the time opposed to which Kraus bore witness used to be of an infinitely minor caliber than Kierkegaard's. He didn't assault the church of his state or the Christianity of his days; his major goal was once the Viennese press, a goal of quick passing value, of which little continues to be this day. Kraus was once a grasp of satirical invective and of the German lan guage, which he considered as his most valuable inheritance (Ahnenerbe). He felt a deep feel of accountability for the right kind use of the language.

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1 In Literatur, oder man wird dock da sekn, one gains the impression that Kraus has divided all his people into three groups. The first con1 "Who is not aware today that one single day of our activity has influenced intellectual life more decisively than all of Goethe's works together ... " Literatur, oder, man wird dock da sehn (Wien, 1921) p. 57. LIFE, WORK AND THOUGHT 17 sists of those who hate or at any rate very severely criticize him, speaking of his Jewish self-hatred and father-complex and saying that he has no character and has exhausted his talent long ago.

Kraus spoke of his own utterances as "Geist" or "Gedanken," of those of most of his contemporaries as "Meinung," implying that Meinung is something inferior. 3 doings of the literati. 4 Formed by a culture which experiences all art in the very subject matter of life, he performs for a culture which accepts only the subject matter of art as a stimulus. The effect 1 B 30 THE ABSOLUTE VALUE OF LANGUAGE Form and content existed side by side with Heine, but were not integrated with each other, thus being neither in conflict nor in unity.

1 Similarly, Kraus quoted a poem he had written fifteen years earlier: ... Wort und Wesen die einzige Verbindung, die ich je in dieser nutzbeflissnen Welt erstrebt. 2 He still acted as if he were convinced that the neglect of the smallest detail might be catastrophic, and that in an age when a human life seemed unimportant to many, even a comma mattered. Kraus's works. Quantitatively the largest part of Kraus's work dealt directly with his place in the world, and most of the remainder did so indirectly.

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