Something does, on occasion, fall from a torch. A bit of pitch.
Karl Kraus (F 279-280: 5)

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post № 9

6 January 2015

 

More translations: glosses, aphorisms, and a poem

Today, a bit of pitch has taken its first step towards building out this website and providing the beginnings of a selection of Karl Kraus’s writings that may one day be able to pass for a more or less representative picture of Kraus’s activities as the writer and publisher of Die Fackel. Since 15 October 2014, a bit of pitch has published a small number of Kraus’s essays. Today, a bit of pitch is proud to present a small number of Karl Kraus’s other writings in English translation: namely, three glosses, a short selection of aphorisms, and one poem. First things first.

 

1.     Kraus’s glosses: (a) Kraus published what must be thousands of glosses in the pages of Die Fackel. As of the date of this post, only a handful of these have appeared in English translation: namely, in Harry Zohn’s In These Great Times: A Karl Kraus Reader and in Frederick Ungar’s No Compromise: Selected Writings of Karl Kraus. (b) Kraus’s glosses treat of almost every conceivable topic, such that a representative thematic selection would be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. Yet, in keeping with an objective of Frederick Ungar’s, I shall be endeavoring to select glosses that are characteristic of or informative for Kraus’s activities as writer. Glosses selected for English translation shall therefore include, but certainly not be limited to, those with which Kraus is playing with language in the service of a given objective, commenting on his own activities as writer, teasing out latent or non-obvious meanings in the words of others’ (often in the form of an unmasking), and mixing/commingling these and other activities. (c) While a number of the glosses published in Harry Zohn’s In These Great Times: A Karl Kraus Reader and in Frederick Ungar’s No Compromise: Selected Writings of Karl Kraus could be re-translated to reflect certain advancements in translation, I shall be concentrating on getting hitherto untranslated glosses into English. Accordingly, the three glosses presented here have not appeared in English translation outside of a bit of pitch and constitute the beginning of what shall become a larger selection of glosses. They are: “A Viennese manslaughter” (1911), a translation of “Wiener Totschlag” (F 321-322: 22-23); “Far be it from me to read Professor Bernhardi” (1913), a translation of “Fern sei es von mir, den Professor Bernhardi zu lessen” (F 368-369: 1-4); and “The World War was just their fault” (1925), a translation of “Sie sind bloß am Weltkrieg schuld” (F 686-690: 79).

 

2.     Kraus’s aphorisms: (a) Kraus published three volumes of aphorisms: Sprüche und Widersprüche, Pro domo et mundo, and Nachts. As of the date of this post, only one full volume of the these three volumes has appeared in English translation: Jonathan McVity’s English translation of Sprüche und Widersprüche, artfully rendered as Dicta and Contradicta. In addition to McVity’s full-length translation, a number of other selected aphorisms has appeared in English translation: namely, in Harry Zohn’s Half-Truths and One-And-A-Half Truths: Selected Aphorisms and in Frederick Ungar’s No Compromise: Selected Writings of Karl Kraus. (b) The themes that Kraus addresses in his aphorisms are various and range—as evidenced, for instance, by the tables of contents of Sprüche und Widersprüche, Pro domo et mundo, and Nachts—from women and morality; to the press, politics, and stupidity; to reading and writing; to society, journalists, and psychoanalysis; to art and artists; to Vienna and Berlin, and beyond. While achieving a representative thematic selection of Kraus’s aphorisms is theoretically possible, it is practically very difficult for a number of reasons, including the requisite background knowledge that would necessitate exasperating explanatory matter. My solution? Abandon my selection to whim and a subjective evaluation of what counts as a quality aphorism by Karl Kraus. (c) Because Mr. McVity’s Dicta and Contradicta is a competent translation of Sprüche und Widersprüche, the aphorisms included in that volume shall not be re-translated and published here at a bit of pitch. There is—quite simply—no need to do so. The selected aphorisms presented here have been culled from the pages of Die Fackel, hail from the time period between 1909 and 1912—the time period serving as the basis for Kraus’s second volume of aphorisms, Pro domo et mundo—and constitute the beginning of what shall become a larger selection of aphorisms in English translation. I have collected them under the title “Pro domo et mundo” so as to indicate the context in which and time period from which they originate.

 

3.     Kraus’s poem: (a) During his lifetime, Karl Kraus published nine volumes of poems, his Worte in Versen. As of the date of this post, no full volume of Worte in Versen and only a number of poems has appeared in English translation: namely, in Albert Bloch’s collection of poems (which I have read of, but not been able to locate), in Harry Zohn’s In These Great Times: A Karl Kraus Reader, and in Frederick Ungar’s No Compromise: Selected Writings of Karl Kraus. (b) Like Kraus’s glosses and aphorisms, Kraus’s poems treat of a wide range of themes: nature, language, hypocrisy, animals, experiences of all kinds, and so on. I shall be selecting poems for translation by using the same method that I use to select aphorisms for translation: whim and a subjective evaluation of what counts as a quality poem by Karl Kraus. (c) Because the poems that have appeared in English translation to-date are, in my opinion, done quite well, I do not intend to re-translate them. There is—quite simply—no need to do so. The first poem presented here in English translation has not yet appeared in English translation and constitutes the beginning of what I hope shall become a larger selection of poems. The poem is entitled “The labyrinth” (1916) and is a translation of “Der Irrgarten” (F 443-444: 29).

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