|Published:||February 17th 2015||Pages:||336|
Strikingly original in form, The Kraus Project is a feast of thought, passion and literature. A hundred years ago, the writings of Viennese satirist Karl Kraus were among the most penetrating and prophetic in Europe-a relentless criticism of the popular media's manipulation of reality, the dehumanizing machinery of technology and consumerism, and the jingoistic rhetoric of a fading empire. But even though Kraus's followers included Franz Kafka and Walter Benjamin, he remained something of a lonely prophet, and few people today are familiar with his work. Thankfully, Jonathan Franzen is.
In The Kraus Project, Franzen 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/German writer Daniel Kehlmann. Kraus was a notoriously cantankerous and difficult author, and in Franzen he has found his match: a novelist unafraid to strongly voice unpopular opinions, and a critic capable of untangling Kraus's often dense arguments to reveal their relevance to contemporary America.