The victors image  

The victor’s image

published as an insert accompanying this satire

Karl Kraus
Translated by Peter Winslow


There are still readers who are of the opinion that the images furnished in Die Fackel are caricatures. For instance and in particular, there has been nothing but doubts and denials and a complete absence of any presumption that there is anything photographically authentic about the Victor. But the Victor is by God not a work of art; it’s nothing more than an unostentatious replica of a photograph. Caricaturing the face of the Neue Freie Presse’s editor would be both superfluous and of no value whatsoever. Readers have yet to understand that the photographs furnished here and elsewhere are photographic quotes of reality and that such reproductions have value precisely because something which could be a caricature is not one at all. As such, knowing that it’s not constitutes the compelling and instantaneous refutation of any belief that it is. The only contrivance in the portrait of the Victor is its composition. Of course, he never allowed himself to be photographed in front of the parliament building and of course he never allowed Pallas Athene to spring from his neck. The photograph is an excerpt from a group picture of Viennese journalists that appeared in an illustrated celebrating the emperor’s sixtieth jubilee. There, the victor stands on an estrade high above everyone else, “walks among them,” nearly indistinguishable from Jugurtha. Add a postcard of the parliament building, where Pallas Athene longs in vain for a Zeus; give it all to the photoengraver; and the victor’s image is complete. And that’s supposed to be a caricature? It’s the coalescence of two attractions, one of which has been hidden from view until now. Here, a discovery was waiting to be made; there was nothing left to invent. For when life is at its end, the satirist and the caricaturist have long abdicated. I stand before the deathbed of the times with the reporter and the photographer at my sides. The former witnesses their last words, the latter captures their last countenance. And their last truth is witnessed by the photographer better than it is by the reporter. My office was just a replication of a replication. I have heard sounds and told of them to those who no longer heard. I have seen faces and shown them to those who no longer saw. My office was to set the times in quotation marks, to allow them to contort themselves in print and parentheses – knowing that only they themselves were able to speak what is most unspeakable in and about them. Not saying what is, but imitating what is. Imitating what appears. To quote and to photograph. And to recognize phrase and cliché as the foundation of a century. An ear can grow weary, and when it does, there arises a necessity to show what has been placed before our eyes in this Austrian laboratory of world destruction. I have wandered through the adventures of all banality and taken measure of the depths of many a surface. Now it is plain for all to see. How the Viennese live and how they look. And how they conduct themselves at the egress of their intellectual lives. Their appetites; their tastes; their world view, which renders the meaning of life serviceable to the means of life; what they love and what they fear; how they assert themselves and to whom they subjugate themselves. Above all, however, the lord of their and our lives: had he not been photographed, one would have had to invent him just as he is.



Works cited


Kraus, K. “Das Bild des Siegers.” Untergang der Welt durch schwarze Magie. Wien/Leipzig: Verlag »Der Fackel«, 1922, 76–7. Print.

———“Das Bild des Siegers.” Untergang der Welt durch schwarze Magie. Wien/Leipzig: Verlag »Der Fackel«, 1925, 76–7. Print.

———“Der Sieger.” F 326–28. 8 July 1911. Insert. Print.

———“Notizen.” F 400–03. 10 July 1914. 41–60. Print.

———“Vorlegsungsprogramm vom 27. Mai 1914.” h.i.n–239.540, Karl Kraus-Archiv, Handschriftensammlung, Wienbibliothek im Rathaus. Zitiert nach: Katharina Prager (unter Mitarbeit von Brigitte Stocker): Karl Kraus Online (online). Wienbibliothek im Rathaus/Ludwig Boltzmann Institut für Geschichte und Theorie der Biographie 2015. (Stand 17 February 2019).