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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

92                     MODERN   GERMAN  LITERATURE

Another Viennese aphorist was KARL KRAUS (1874-1936), a Jew,
and today revered in Israel as one of the laureates of the race. In
his day he was feared rather than loved, for he lashed about him
with fine effect in his satirical journal Die Fackel, which he launched
in 1899, and which for more than thirty years he wrote almost
entirely himself. He is at his best in his aphorisms, which are col-
lected in Spruche und Widerspruche (1909) and Nachts (1919). He
was a purist, a moralist, and an out-and-out conservative, and in
this he ran counter to the trends of his time. His fierce fighting
spirit rings out in his essays: Sittlichkeit und Kriminalitat (1908),
Die chinesische Mauer (1910), Weltgericht (1919). In Der Untergangder
Welt durch die schwar^e Magie (1922) he pours out the vials of his
contempt on the liberal press. He was nowhere more a traditional-
ist than in his fight against the (as he saw it) progressive deforma-
tion of the language in the literature of the new schools; if the
language is corrupted, he said, so is the people. This scrupulous
care of pure form makes the vast body of his verse (Worte in
Versen, 9 vols., 1916-30) run in a trodden track; there is more that
sticks in the memory in Epigramme (1927) and in his satirical Zeit-
strophen (1931). His magnum opus is the monumental drama Die
let^ten Tage der Menschheit (1919), which amounts to a corrosive
catalogueing of all the evils of the time, with war in the forefront
and the trend to war; World War II is seen brewing in the caul-
drons of corruption fed by evil purpose. Other dramas are readable
for their pungent wit: Uteratur oder man wird doch da sein (1921),
Wolkenkuckucksheim (1923; a colloquially Viennese modernisation,
with its sting aimed at war, of the 'Birds of Aristophanes). Traum-
theater (1924) and Die Unuberwindlichen (1928) hold up to ridicule
what was to Kraus the new-fangled craze of psycho-analysis. His
clarion warning reaches its culmination in Die dritte Walpurgisnacht
(1952), in which he unfolds the perils of the totalitarian State.

Up to 1889 the trend of thought had been strongly 'social demo-
cratic', towards the masses. August Bebel1 and Karl Liebknecht -
both associated with the foundation siDiefreie Volksbuhne - were
forces in the land. In 1889 the news was spread that Friedrich
Nietzsche was mad, and his ideas began to be discussed in all
quarters. A reaction set in towards individualism; 'the right of the
strong', cthe will to power', 'the superman' became catchwords,

1 His Die Frau und der Sosyalismus (1883) is one of the most important
handbooks of Socialism.