An Exhausting Evening with Karl Kraus

Volume Two of an English-language biography of the Austrian bellelettrist Karl Kraus has appeared.  Here is a section of a review of the biography by George Steiner:

Karl Kraus’s public readings quickly became legendary. They were integral to his persona and mission. They were dramatic in the highest degree, Kraus’s voice and mien miming the characters in the plays that he “enacted”. Among Shakespearean texts, he privileged Timon, as Karl Marx had done. His recitals of the great Austrian comic playwright Nestroy excelled anything the actual theatre could offer. He read formidably from his own works. Generations of auditors listened spellbound. Accounts of these dramas of the intellect, of these satyr-plays and verbal operettas, amount to a secondary literature of their own. The most eloquent report is Elias Canetti’s. He attended approximately one hundred of these soir饳, often mesmerized: “A hall that was packed to the aisles fell under the sway of a voice whose influence persisted even when it fell silent, but the dynamics of such an auditorium can no more be described than the Wild Hunt of ancient legend”.

At the end of the largely favorable review, Steiner notes: "Will this devoted monument to Kraus induce English-speaking readers to attempt his works (attention is growing in France)? If so, the debt to [author] Edward Timms will be considerable."  I had never heard of Karl Kraus before I came here, and assumed he was largely unknown in the English-speaking world.  I have the Karl-Kraus-Lesebuch, and find it fascinating, although I am surely not understanding many levels of wordplay and cultural context.  I wonder if it’s possible to bring the Baroque vituperation of Kraus into English?  Perhaps I’ll try in the coming weeks…

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