- Paperback: 136 pages
- Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 2nd edition (15 Aug. 1990)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0226452689
- ISBN-13: 978-0226452685
- Product Dimensions: 13 x 0.9 x 19.7 cm
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,160,439 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Half-Truths and One-and-a-Half Truths: Selected Aphorisms Paperback – 15 Aug 1990
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From the Back Cover
'Kraus is a superb aphorist.'- D. J. Enright, New York Review of Books -- 'Not only are the translations readable, but with the help of notes and introduction by Zohn, the subtlety and archness of Kraus' linguistic gifts shine through.' - Peter Filkins, Bloomsbury Review
About the Author
Karl Kraus (1874-1936) was publisher of the independent Viennese journal Die Fackel.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)
There are 18 pages of aphorisms here confronting that nasty creature called man. Thomas Szaz has also translated many of these same aphorisms in a different book, "Karl Kraus and the Soul-Doctors," and perhaps did a better job of capturing the wit inherent in Kraus's criticisms than has Harry Zohn, the editor and translator of this work.
For instance, Zohn has Karl Kraus say "The devil is an optimist if he thinks he can make people meaner." This is a fine enough translation but it reads a little sterile. However, in Thomas Szasz's translation of the same aphorism, Karl Kraus says "The devil is an optimist if he thinks he can make people worse than they are." I think the latter translation has more depth, immediacy, and wit.
Each of the six sections of aphorisms is neatly divided into six different discourses, subjects, or topics. There's one on man, one on woman, one on politics and war, one on journalism ("In hollow heads"), one on culture, and one on society at large. Kraus' views on war are both touchingly eloquent and highly pertinent (if sadly) to today's international scene, though the best ones are too long to cite here.
The Introduction is worth the price of the book because it allows a further glimpse into the biography of the man and artist, Karl Kraus. While Thomas Szasz did a fine job on the life of Karl Kraus insofar as his views on psychoanalysis were concerned, there's only one biography of Karl Kraus in English that gives a comprehensive view of the whole man and artist, and it's not readily available. This Introduction by Harry Zohn provides an overview of the man's career and focus while also illuminating certain of Karl Kraus' artistic endeavors that just aren't generally known or appreciated.
Some critics have painted Karl Kraus as a fearsome critic whose intelligence was so powerful and piercing, it didn't allow him to suffer fools gladly. While some value needs to be given to these critics' testimony, this book of selected aphorisms also reveals a thinker who is refreshingly down-to-earth and outside the class of intellectual snobbery. In the section on culture ("Riddles out of solutions"), Karl Kraus says, for example, in one among several instances regarding reading "Most writers have no other quality than the reader: taste. But the latter has the better taste, because he does not write -- and the best if he does not read."
There's more to Karl Kraus and more to his writings than have been translated within this 128-page book (as the Introduction goes to some length to explain), but this book is a real step in the right direction toward exposing all of the half-truths and revealing more than one one-and-a-half truths as well which Karl Kraus was quite capable of inventing.
The introduction that begins this edition provides an insightful overview of the author's life and times from the late 1800's up until WWII. It was so interesting, in fact, that it left me wanting to know even more about the man and his work. As for that work, his aphorisms are tidbits of wordplay and biting satire, containing language cleverly manipulated into short sayings that are often humorous, bold, or brash while simultaneously being thought-provoking and often provocative. I found myself reading many of them for a second, third, and fourth time in order to wring every drip of wisdom and meaning from them. This work of Karl Kraus is a wonderful find; it comes highly recommended for any reader or writer who has an abiding love of language and a sharp wit.