it worked only because he was funny


“A liberated woman,” said Karl Kraus, “is a fish that has fought its way ashore.” Even at the time, there were women, some of them among his cheer-squad of beautiful mistresses, who thought he was talking through his hat. Agree with him or not, however, you wouldn’t mind being able to say something that sharp. Kraus was famous for being able to do so whenever he wanted, but eventually, as with his hero Oscar Wilde, his fame as a wit was there instead of the full, complex, tormented and deeply contemplative man. As a writer and practitioner of the higher journalism, he is still up there with all the other great names of literary Vienna – Arthur Schnitzler, Robert Musil, Joseph Roth – but up there for what, precisely?

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