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This review is taken from PN Review 42, Volume 11 Number 4, March - April 1985.

IRON BREATH Karl Kraus, In These Great Times, A Karl Kraus Reader. Edited by Harry Zohn (Carcanet) £12.95

It has taken nearly half a century since the death of Karl Kraus for a selection from his work - other than the many aphorisms he collected into books in his lifetime - to be published in this country, though Harry Zohn's reader originally appeared in Canada in 1976. Zohn's choice of texts and his introductory essay are good enough to make this extraordinary Austrian polemicist and satirist accessible to British readers, if anything can; but Zohn is aware that a writer to whom language was at once the repository and gauge of all civilized values, whose own writing, therefore, stood or fell by his choice of words, cannot be wholly translatable. Since the American idiom, into which Kraus's specimens of the spoken and written verbiage of his time have been transposed, acts as a further alienating remove for British readers, the competence of the translations by Joseph Fabry, Max Knight, Karl F. Ross and Harry Zohn cannot make up for an inevitable loss of immediacy. Harry Zohn himself points out the difficulty even for his American readers; and only his devotion to Kraus induced him to take on the struggle in the teeth of such odds. So it is with respect for his attempt - and for the brilliance of some of these renderings of Kraus's verse and prose - that I have to endorse Zohn's concluding words in the Introduction: 'Learn German, gentle reader, and read Karl Kraus in the original!'

In his own language, ...

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