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Die letzten Tage der Menschheit by Karl…

Die letzten Tage der Menschheit (original 1922; edition 2005)

by Karl Kraus

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291559,993 (4.23)14
Kraus's iconic WWI drama, a satirical indictment of the glory of war, now in English in its entirety for the first time One hundred years after Austrian satirist Karl Kraus began writing his dramatic masterpiece, The Last Days of Mankind remains as powerfully relevant as the day it was first published. Kraus's play enacts the tragic trajectory of the First World War, when mankind raced toward self-destruction by methods of modern warfare while extolling the glory and ignoring the horror of an allegedly "defensive" war. This volume is the first to present a complete English translation of Kraus's towering work, filling a major gap in the availability of Viennese literature from the era of the War to End All Wars. Bertolt Brecht hailed The Last Days as the masterpiece of Viennese modernism. In the apocalyptic drama Kraus constructs a textual collage, blending actual quotations from the Austrian army's call to arms, people's responses, political speeches, newspaper editorials, and a range of other sources. Seasoning the drama with comic invention and satirical verse, Kraus reveals how bungled diplomacy, greedy profiteers, Big Business complicity, gullible newsreaders, and, above all, the sloganizing of the press brought down the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In the dramatization of sensationalized news reports, inurement to atrocities, and openness to war as remedy, today's readers will hear the echo of the fateful voices Kraus recorded as his homeland descended into self-destruction.… (more)
Title:Die letzten Tage der Menschheit
Authors:Karl Kraus
Info:Frankfurt am Main : Suhrkamp, 2005.
Collections:Your library

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Last Days of Mankind by Karl Kraus (1922)



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English (4)  Italian (1)  All languages (5)
Showing 4 of 4
...Leopoli è ancora in nostre mani. (28-05-2014) ( )
  downisthenewup | Aug 17, 2017 |
This becomes rather difficult to rate. If one takes it at face value, as a play, the rating must be low indeed, for it doesn't work as a play. Too talky, too long, too many characters, and a proposal to present it over 10 nights to make it work. Most people would leave before the end of the prologue. If, however, one approaches it as a dialogue in the grand old tradition of dialogues, it becomes a master work on the day to day sentiments driving Austrians (and Germans to some extent) during World War I. It is a fascinating look at attitudes and ideas. Still, even as a dialogue, it could be trimmed. A lot of repetition, a lot of unnecessary cluttering of the record, could be trimmed out. I found it worthwhile, especially since my education was a bit fuzzy on WWI, since most of my instructors were more interested in WWII. The author is an Austrian who experienced the war first hand, and wrote about it while it was happening. What we see here is a more immediate response to the mood of the war, not a political analysis from someone far removed, and that's what makes it so interesting. There are analyses, usually in the mouth of the character known as The Grumbler (who seems to be the author's voice), and some interesting ruminations on war. Read it next time you have a month to spare. Or break it down into bite size pieces, and keep it going until you get to the end. ( )
1 vote Devil_llama | Feb 18, 2016 |
Why do I do things? My head is filled of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy stuff right now, so I feel like Zaphod when he realizes he's locked off part of his brains from himself. But, instead of stealing space ships, I'm like why did I request a six hundred page Austrian satirical play from the 1920s to read? What possessed me to do that? At least I managed to request it in English and didn't get six hundred pages of Austrian-German vernacular when my German skills are roughly on par with reading books in German that have one noun per page, i.e. Katze (underneath picture of cat), Hund (underneath picture of dog), etc.

So why do I do things? I don't know.

So I spent the past week reading my six hundred page Austrian satirical play from the 1920s. I read an act a day, plus the intro and the glossary at the back. I have an epub and there doesn't seem to be any clever way of getting back and forth between the glossary and the play itself (am I missing something on my kobo or is it really just not possible to do this simply), so I simply read the glossary after finishing the play. That was no real problem. Likely I missed a lot of the specific political jokes, but I don't feel like I was really missing that much. Most of what the play says is this: the war benefits the rich, manipulates the press, and sends the poor to their deaths. So lots of fat men bemoaning a lack of butter while war amputees wander about in the foreground. About five hundred pages of this reiterated, then a descent into a Boschian bacchanal of talking hyenas and Martians. I seem to read a lot of books where aliens suddenly appear. Do I have some subliminal interest in surprise aliens? I'll add that question to the why do I do things one.

Basically The Last Days of Mankind is an unperformable play. There are stage directions such as continue for two hours and I think something like forty googol characters. I don't even know how one would stage certain parts, although I guess projecting film on a screen behind might solve that problem. I couldn't help thinking that if one is going to write an unperformable play, why not recast it as a novel? I guess art comes to the artist as it comes, but essentially, long soliloquies in the play are taken from newspaper articles of the time, so there are pages and pages that already reads less like a play and more like a creative non-fiction essay. But it's a play. So a play it is.

I know I'm sounding really down on The Last Days of Mankind, but it ends up transcending a lot of my complaints (not the one about surprise aliens though). I gave it four stars out of five. It's surprisingly prescient for a play from the 1920s. There's the foreshadowing of Nazis with the casual antisemitism (although Kraus was ethnically Jewish, so it isn't necessarily his antisemitism, more a comment on the antisemitism of the time). There's a harsh critique of globalisation. The Grumbler, Kraus himself inserted into his own play, has media critiques that would fit into any modern issue of AdBusters. It's surprisingly readable, in part due to Kraus and in part due to the translation, which has been, as the translators explain, modernized for an English speaking audience. But it is long, and it hits many of the same points again and again: War is Hell, in a democracy we are all complicit, and those who profit from it aim to keep it going for as long as they can. I don't know if I needed six hundred pages to hammer that point home.

And Martians.

The Last Days of Mankind by Karl Kraus, newly translated by Fred Bridgham and Edward Timms went on sale November 24, 2015.

I received a copy free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. ( )
1 vote reluctantm | Dec 6, 2015 |
"Austrian political satire" sounds as though it should be one of those famous examples of oxymoron - like "military intelligence" and "English cooking". But it turns out that satire actually flourishes in conservative, authoritarian cultures. It isn't much fun attacking sacred cows unless they really are treated as sacred.
Karl Kraus seems to have devoted his life to the cause of satire: with his paper Die Fackel he was a thorn in the flesh of everyone in authority from Franz-Josef to the Nazis. But Die letzten Tage... is the work for which he is remembered. A vast, complex, unperformable play, as full of contradictions and inconsistencies as The Good Soldier Švejk; the Austrian Oh, what a lovely war; the ultimate hatchet job on k. und k. pretentions. And, given that it was written well before the Nazis came to power in Austria, a scarily prescient look at how cultural and ethical values break down in wartime.
It isn't easy to read: part of the reason it spent so long on my TBR shelf is the all-but-impenetrable Viennese dialect Kraus uses in many scenes; another is the wealth of topical references, hard to make sense of even with the glossary in the back of the book. But I think it was worth the struggle. ( )
3 vote thorold | Nov 17, 2012 |
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Karl Krausprimary authorall editionscalculated
Ungar, FrederickEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Die Aufführung des Dramas, dessen Umfang nach irdischem Zeitmaß etwa zehn Abende umfassen würde, ist einem Marstheater zugedacht.
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This work is known in French as the ‘version scénique’. It is an abridged version that should not be combined with the complete edition (known as the ‘version intégrale’ in French). This work should only be combined with the following ISBNs: 274890009X & 2910846342.

Cette édition est la version abrégée (dite « scénique »), et ne doit pas être fusionner avec la version intégrale.
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