The following is an anecdote by Hugo Bettauer regarding an episode that took place sometime around Kraus’s fourteenth birthday in 1888. It is an excerpt from the very interesting and well-done compendium entitled Aus großer Nähe: Karl Kraus in Berichten von Weggefährten und Widersachern, edited by Friedrich Pfäfflin and published by the Wallstein Verlag (2008). Each report/anecdote in this book is prefaced with the author’s name and an editorial liberty in the form of a brief description. The following anecdote bears the one-word description “Exchange” and can be found on page 39 of the book.
[…] Kraus’s honesty is strange, a way of just telling the truth that has the effect of hurting anybody who finds themselves surrounded by conventional lies as early as adolescence.
For example, I remember that Kraus and his brother (who was just one year older than he was) would do a Jause-meet with their friends from school almost every afternoon under the large and bulgy kerosene lamp. And they gave Kraus a magnificent-looking work for his fourteenth birthday. Some atrociously beautiful book with kitschy illustrations, bound in red with gilt edging. The donors, who had certainly meant well, were not exactly amused when, just a few days later, Kraus told them pan-faced that he went to the bookstore and exchanged it for something by Shakespeare. They felt that to be completely tactless. Even if he did not like the book with the gilt edging, they said, he would have to keep it anyway, say how much he liked it, and even claim that he had enjoyed reading it. That’s just how it’s supposed to go. [my translation]
This is just one of the many wonderful stories about Kraus in Aus großer Nähe: Karl Kraus in Berichten von Weggefährten und Widersachern. There is, unfortunately, no English translation of this book yet. If you can read German, however, then you should read this book. You will not be disappointed.