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


post № 13

21 February 2015


Karl Kraus’s letters to Baroness Sidonie Nádherny

Karl Kraus’s letters to Baroness Sidonie Nádherny von Borutin are beautiful, sad, and loving. And it is difficult to read them without tearing up from time to time. That there is no English translation of Kraus’s 1,065 known letters to Nádherny is an unfortunate fact of the English-speaking literary world. The Wallstein Verlag has published a wonderful two-volume German edition entitled Briefe an Sidonie Nádherny von Borutin: 1913-1936. The first volume contains Kraus’s letters to Nádherny, the second volume appendant material: an essay by Elias Canetti, writings by Nádherny herself, an informative timeline of the relationship between Kraus and Nádherny, and more.


I suspect that these letters have not been translated into English because only Kraus’s letters to Nádherny have survived; Nádherny’s letters to Kraus have not. And because Nádherny’s letters have not survived, we do not have Nádherny’s voice in this correspondence. Having only one side of a two-sided correspondence makes it difficult to know how we are to understand this or that letter in German, which in turn makes it is difficult to know how we would have to render this or that letter in English. This difficulty suggests that there are (perhaps insurmountable) risks of uncertainty in reading and translating these letters. These risks are enough to make any translator leery.


Still, an English translation of selected letters from this correspondence would be a welcome addition to the English-speaking world. I do not mean to suggest that reaching a selection would be easy; it would not be (my head spins just thinking about it). I do think, however, that a well-done selection would be well worth the effort and difficulties.


May someone think the same and get this project started.


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