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The Last Days of Mankind

The Last Days of Mankind

By Karl Kraus
Translated by Fred Bridgham and Edward Timms

Winner of the 2016 Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for a Translation of a Literary Work, sponsored by the Modern Language Association.

“[A] remarkable achievement—in a translation by Fred Bridgham and Edward Timms that is itself a remarkable achievement . . . The Last Days of Mankind, Kraus’ unsparing evisceration of Austrian hypocrisy during World War I, deserves to be considered one of the classics of that war’s literature, and like all great works, its specific criticisms continue to resonate a century later.”—Mitchell Abidor, Jewish Currents

“Full of inventive aperçus and devastating moments of humanity’s inhumanity . . . [and] eminently readable.”—J. O. Wipplinger, Choice

“A superb translation”—Bill Marx, Arts Fuse

One hundred years after Austrian satirist Karl Kraus began writing his dramatic masterpiece, The Last Days of Mankind remains as powerfully relevant as the day it was first published. Kraus's play enacts the tragic trajectory of the First World War, when mankind raced toward self-destruction by methods of modern warfare while extolling the glory and ignoring the horror of an allegedly "defensive" war. This volume is the first to present a complete English translation of Kraus's towering work, filling a major gap in the availability of Viennese literature from the era of the War to End All Wars.

Bertolt Brecht hailed The Last Days as the masterpiece of Viennese modernism. In the apocalyptic drama Kraus constructs a textual collage, blending actual quotations from the Austrian army's call to arms, people's responses, political speeches, newspaper editorials, and a range of other sources. Seasoning the drama with comic invention and satirical verse, Kraus reveals how bungled diplomacy, greedy profiteers, Big Business complicity, gullible newsreaders, and, above all, the sloganizing of the press brought down the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In the dramatization of sensationalized news reports, inurement to atrocities, and openness to war as remedy, today's readers will hear the echo of the fateful voices Kraus recorded as his homeland descended into self-destruction.

647 pages; 8 black and white illustrations
Yale University Press, 2015
Originally Published in 1918
6 x 9 inches
ISBN 9780300207675

$25.00 $25.00