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


post № 46

2 March 2019


A new translation: The victor’s image

It has been some time since a new translation has found its way onto this site. So, I am pleased to present “The victor’s image,” a translation of a short satire Kraus published in his Untergang der Welt durch schwarze Magie in 1922, which is to say: the translation and publication of this satire deviates from this site’s usual policy of publishing writings originally published in Die Fackel.

But this is not entirely true. A version of this satire was published in Die Fackel in July 1914 (F 400–03: 46–7), as Kraus himself dates it in Untergang der Welt durch schwarze Magie. But that version was not a unified piece of writing; rather, that version consisted of two notes in connection with the reading Kraus gave on 27 May 1914 in the Großen Beethovensaal in Vienna. The first note became the second half of “The victor’s image” and was initially intended and read aloud as a preface to a slide show Kraus presented as part of that reading (on a Skioptikon, for the curious, known in English as a Magic Lantern). The second note became the first half of “The victor’s image” and, subject to further research, was likely not read aloud on 27 May 1914, but written specially for the July 1914 edition of Die Fackel (as an aside: I plan on explaining why in a later blog post, as it’s a rather long, but interesting story involving not only civil and criminal litigation, but also naked legs). For the 1922 publication of Untergang der Welt durch schwarze Magie, Kraus unified the two notes, gave the resulting satire a title and subtitle, and added a transition between the two. Still and all, Kraus retained the two distinct tones of voice, which split at about the middle of the satire.

In addition to the direct publication history of this satire, there is a further complication. The subtitle – “published as an insert accompanying this satire” – which Kraus gave it for publication in Untergang der Welt durch schwarze Magie is demonstrably false for two reasons. First, it is demonstrably false, because there wasn’t a satire for it to accompany prior to its publication in that book, and that image was reprinted neither in the initial 1922 nor in the final 1925 edition of Untergang der Welt durch schwarze Magie. Second, it is demonstrably false, because the image The victorwas, as a matter of fact, published as an insert to the satire “They were struck by lightning, blown to pieces, and oughtn’t be remembered. An orgy” in 1911, three years before 1914 (see the insert to F 326–28 in conjunction with pp 1–18).

Yet, Kraus is not being entirely disingenuous here. There is a small and unobvious kernel of truth to the subtitle. The image The victor does have a direct connection to text that would later become part of the satire “The victor’s image.” That image was shown at the reading given on 27 May 1914 and prefaced by Kraus with the note mentioned above.

“The victor’s image” seems to mirror the image The Victor in one important respect. Both are compositions. The former is a composition and has been explained above. The latter is a photocomposition comprised of two images: a photographically authentic image of the Neue Freie Presse’s Moriz Benedikt, and a postcard of the parliament building in Vienna. Kraus says as much in this satire. He also says that the image of Benedikt is an excerpt from a group picture of Viennese journalists. And Prof. Leo Lensing has identified that group picture – itself a photocomposition – as the group picture published in the 2 December 1908 edition of Österreichs Illustrierte Zeitung (see Prof. Lensing’s article entitled “‘Photographischer Alpdruck’ oder politische Fotomontage? Karl Kraus, Kurt Tocholsky und die satirischen Möglichkeiten der Fotografie.” Zeitschrift für deutsche Philologie. 107. Band 1988, Heft 4. 556–571).



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