A great American writer's confrontation with a great European critic—a personal and intellectual awakening
A hundred years ago, the Viennese satirist Karl Kraus was among the most penetrating and farsighted writers in Europe. In his self-published magazine, Die Fackel, Kraus brilliantly attacked the popular media's manipulation of reality, the dehumanizing machinery of technology and consumer capitalism, and the jingoistic rhetoric of a fading empire. But even though he had a fervent following, which included Franz Kafka and Walter Benjamin, he remained something of a lonely prophet, and few people today are familiar with his work. Luckily, Jonathan Franzen is one of them.
In The Kraus Project, Franzen, whose "calm, passionate critical authority" has been praised in The New York Times Book Review, not only presents his definitive new translations of Kraus but annotates them spectacularly, with supplementary notes from the Kraus scholar Paul Reitter and the Austrian author Daniel Kehlmann. Kraus was a notoriously cantankerous and difficult writer, and in Franzen he has found his match: a novelist unafraid to voice unpopular opinions strongly, a critic capable of untangling Kraus's often dense arguments to reveal their relevance to contemporary America.
While Kraus is lampooning the iconic German poet and essayist Heinrich Heine and celebrating his own literary hero, the Austrian playwright Johann Nestroy, Franzen is annotating Kraus the way Kraus annotated others, surveying today's cultural and technological landscape with fearsome clarity, and giving us a deeply personal recollection of his first year out of college, when he fell in love with Kraus's work. Painstakingly wrought, strikingly original in form, The Kraus Project is a feast of thought, passion, and literature.
About Jonathan FranzenSee more books from this Author
Readers interested in Kraus will be better served by Reitter’s The Anti-Journalist: Karl Kraus and Jewish Self-Fashioning (2008). This book is for Franzen’s fans.Read Full Review of The Kraus Project: Essays by ... | See more reviews from Kirkus
Kraus was too smart to think that truer terms and clearer prose alone could set the world aright, but that still left him not knowing politically where to turn. Many anxious, independent-minded people were in the same boat, much as they are now, which may be what at root appeals to Franzen about Kraus.Read Full Review of The Kraus Project: Essays by ... | See more reviews from NY Times
The hitch, in “The Kraus Project,” is that it is more often a disheveled and talky assault on everything the author sees when he opens his laptop or clicks on a television...Read Full Review of The Kraus Project: Essays by ... | See more reviews from NY Times
Franzen's problem is less content than tone. Zadie Smith and David Foster Wallace have made similar points about the distracting, reductive effects of modern media far more effectively. Even Jonathan Franzen has made similar points far more effectively.Read Full Review of The Kraus Project: Essays by ... | See more reviews from Guardian
The publication now of those translations, accompanied by the original German text along with a veritable cornucopia of footnotes...is what constitutes Mr. Franzen's "Kraus Project." The result is a strange and intriguing book, one that in the end reveals more about Mr. Franzen than about Karl Kraus.Read Full Review of The Kraus Project: Essays by ... | See more reviews from WSJ online
The Kraus Project is tremendously readable and is refreshingly sceptical of the cult of digital cool. Franzen’s prose has an appealing briskness and polemical force...Read Full Review of The Kraus Project: Essays by ... | See more reviews from Financial Times
How could one fail to appreciate a man who snubbed fans as well as foes with the words, “Many desire to kill me, and many wish to spend an hour chatting with me. The law protects me from the former.”Read Full Review of The Kraus Project: Essays by ... | See more reviews from Washington Times
...despite the urge to yell “T.M.I.!” whenever Franzen levered in unnecessary personal details, The Kraus Project gave me renewed respect for his commitment to challenging the techno-social orthodoxies of our day.Read Full Review of The Kraus Project: Essays by ... | See more reviews from Globe and Mail
At one point, Franzen derides the novelist Salman Rushdie for opening a Twitter account. Such little literary vendettas are among the reasons to give this strange complex book a look-see.Read Full Review of The Kraus Project: Essays by ... | See more reviews from Toronto Star
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