July 11, 2004



Alex Ross, director of s/fj's new summer school German immersion program, sends this beefy contribution:

"I got two words for you: Karl fucking Kraus! Die Fackel, a self-written, self-published newspaper quoting ridiculous items from the press and then ranting brilliantly around them, is widely accepted by scholars to be the major precursor to The Minor Fall, The Major Lift.

I found the German text of Kraus' notorious commentary on the sinking of the Titanic. Here are the headlines and the last section of the piece, roughly translated (there are undoubtedly puns and jokes I don't get):

'Great Victory for Technology
Silver Cutlery for Ten Thousand People
Serious Malfunctions
God Did Not Study Shipbuilding….

Sixteen machinists and the head machinist prayed on their knees, waiting for the Titanic to go under.... The lights were still burning on the ship, which was now turned almost completely on its head, its rear half looming 150 meters over the night-black sea, like a tower raised toward Heaven... And the band played on: ‘Nearer my God, to thee…’” It is inhumane to give God jurisdiction in this area. One feels sorry for those who, in their ultimate misery, felt the need to represent themselves as comrades dying side by side, settling accounts before the big crash. One must lament a world which actively prizes the idea that chit-chat in those final minutes was dedicated to finance. Optimists build a funeral pyre for a machinist on his knees! They beat a retreat from this momentous battle, which decided the fate of their flotilla of progress, back to the terra firma of “joy in life,” until, smoked out of all figurative foxholes, from the rescue of passengers to the rescue of the wireless to the rescue of clichés, they could no longer save themselves from drowning in naked shamelessness. Any pretext for their brazenness toward Nature was burst. One will no longer have faith in their ships. Providence answers on the wireless, but not as expected. They sold out God to the machine, and he came down like the Deus ex machina, leading this blessed object to its complicated end.'

It turns out that a German author named Gerald Heidegger, no kidding, anticipated my K. K. argument in a 2003 article called 'Karl Kraus und die Blogger.' He writes (I use this time the Netscape translator): 'In the InterNet one will intensify one hundred after year the Kraus's style of interpolating strange and own texts.' He goes on to compare Kraus to Andrew Sullivan: 'Kraus like Sullivan refer in relation to a certain intellectual field the position of the Ketzers: Kraus, the way companion of many years of the Social Democrats, that in the 30's Dollfuss defended, the Jew, who over-throws itself radically with the Judentum, etc.; Sullivan, the gay republican, that socially liberals, but falcon with regard to foreign policy.' I think I see."

Posted by Sasha at July 11, 2004 08:41 AM | TrackBack