Karl Kraus

I need to mention Karl Kraus. Klaus was one of those hardy souls who had to negotiate the experience of the Weimar Republic then later deal with the rise of German Fascism. During this time he spent much of his energy working as a satirist. He published an occasional journal Die Fackel ('the torch/flare'), while establishing himself as the very best of the Germanic coffee house wits who were the backbone of the political wing of Weimar cabaret and a thread in its journalism. A standard Kraus aphorism (one of his specialties) reads something like this in translation:

Journalist: a person without any ideas but with an ability to express them; a writer whose skill is improved by a deadline: the more time he has, the worse he writes.

I am hesitant in guaranteeing this definition because without fluency in German I have to defer to those who insist that because of his imaginative use of the Viennese idiom, Kraus' subtle language skills are reputed to be very difficult to translate. But, let's say, that among those in the know he is standardly referred to as the greatest satirist of the twentieth century.

If you do a web search on Kraus , at least in English, you'll pick up many witty quotations similar to the above . What may not be recognised is how closely Kraus' mode of working relates to blogging. As practicing Karabettist and blogger,Kantel has noted (I apologise for the translation):

Published single handedly from 1911 to 1936 Die Fackel reflects the artistic development of the author especially his artfulness in exposing famous quotes. Much of what distinguished the journal from its first decades, is reminiscent of how closely the project is Weblogs related. The Die Fackel started in 1899 as Gegenprojekt to the established newspaper discourse. The word should be free and not depend on backers, advertising revenue and standard reporting. Die Fackel was similar to Weblogs in that one person, solely produced and was responsible for the medium.

I don't know about you but this coincidence in method appeals to me greatly, especially in regard to my own musings. It strikes me that the blogging community seldom consciously recognises these attributes of the medium. That rather than being brand spanking new, blogging reprises many of the approaches as well as many of the motivations of the past. All we need do is look for them. I'm not suggesting that if Kraus could blog he'd be able to talk down Fascism or by dint of witty words alone, prevent it, but the same problems he faced in regard to society and securing an audience for his ideas are the same today .

KRAUS:Sentimental irony is a dog that bays at the moon while pissing on graves.

But then I so often find myself caught up in the literature of the past as I wonder why the people then don't seem to be around much anymore. Look at Kraus -- he went and died on us in 1936. Imagine what fun he could have with his smart words if he'd hung on until today!

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