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The Kraus Project

The Kraus Project

By Karl Kraus
Edited and Translated by Jonathan Franzen

Financial Times Books of the Year

The Kraus Project is thought-provoking, challenging, and entertaining. Kraus's carbolic bons mots can be very funny, and Franzen and co.'s annotations—some pages long—create a lively dialogue with both the text and each other. The book is a fluid and interactive experience, demanding full engagement from the reader.” —Zsuzsi Gartner, The Globe and Mail

“[There are] literary riches to be mined in Franzen's translation of two essays by the fin de siècle Viennese journalist and cultural critic Karl Kraus . . . One of the really absorbing sub-texts of The Kraus Project is the light it sheds on the complex role Jews played in German-language culture in the 19th century. Quite simply, they dominated the literary and journalistic life of Hapsburg Vienna . . . [a] strange complex book.” —Robert Collison, The Toronto Star

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.

Hardcover 
336 pages 
Text in English and German
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013 
5.9 x 1.1 x 8.3 inches
ISBN 9780374182212
Literary Criticism

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