Eric Banks in Bookforum:
If Franzen seems at first an unlikely vehicle for an author whose translation prospects could flummox Steiner, his rendering of Kraus immediately dispels all reservations. The Kraus Project, which reprints the German essays alongside Franzen’s translations, is a fluid version of Kraus that captures as best it might the author’s irascible precision without tinkering his prose to make it sound like any other writer’s. Franzen, one should recall, published his translation of Frank Wedekind’s Spring Awakening in 2007, and in his memoir The Discomfort Zone he recounted studying abroad in Germany. In some of the footnotes to The Kraus Project, he retraces that year again, a largely miserable and juvenile time of anger, confusion, and loneliness, but one at least in which the charged environment of Berlin in the early days of the Reagan administration led him to a seminar on Kraus. There, he wrestled with two of Kraus’s essays, “Heine and the Consequences” and “Nestroy and Posterity” (1912), which form the basis—along with Franzen’s sometimes meandering but mostly compelling footnoted counternarrative—of The Kraus Project. It is a curious and itself idiosyncratic document filled with a cacophony of voices, belonging mostly to Franzen and of course Kraus, but also to the novelist Kehlmann and to the scholar Paul Reitter, who annotates the thornier of references in the essays and offers his own perspective on Kraus.