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The Kraus Project: Essays by Karl Kraus

3.37  ·  Rating Details ·  283 Ratings  ·  60 Reviews
A great American writer’s confrontation with a great European critic—a personal and intellectual awakening

A hundred years ago, the Viennese satirist Karl Kraus was among the most penetrating and farsighted writers in Europe. In his self-published magazine, Die Fackel, Kraus brilliantly attacked the popular media’s manipulation of reality, the dehumanizing machinery of tech
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published October 1st 2013 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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MJ Nicholls
Franzen’s translations of somewhat interesting if outdated essays by an Austrian satirist accompanied by entertaining footnotes in which Jonno rants about modern technologies and AOL email and Amazon and discusses his late pubescent sex life and shares his pretentious letters to his first wife. Nothing about this weird blend of translation, scholarship and personal grievance hangs together. Good poem by Karl Kraus towards the end.

Let no one ask what I’ve been doing since I spoke.
I have nothing
Nov 09, 2013 Kiof added it
What an intriguing book. So many angles to view it from...

First of all, the reader will ask themselves, what the hell is Franzen thinking? Is he recasting himself as a modern day Schopenhauer? And what's with all that ignorant, one-sided Internet bashing?

Which is all to say that Jonathan Franzen's ability to put his foot in his mouth has not disappeared, an ability which I believe to be the source of all of the controversy that surrounds him, rather than any of his faults as a writer, thinker or
Oct 27, 2013 Alexis rated it liked it
This is like if you had to translate Michael Musto's column for people living 50 years later and had to explain all the cultural references. (If your first thought is, 'But Michael Musto doesn't expect his ephemera to be read by posterity; if he did he would write in a more timeless style, not relying on a complex web of personal and highly topical references,' then, brother, I am right there with you.)

But also you have to do it semi-auto-biographically a la Into the Wild, explaining where you w
Thomas Hübner
Dec 05, 2014 Thomas Hübner rated it really liked it

The Kraus Project by Jonathan Franzen is a hybrid book.

It contains on the upper part of each page on the left side the original German text of four essays and a poem by the Austrian author Karl Kraus, mirrored by the English translation of the respective text on the opposite right page.

On the lower part of each page are numerous footnotes that are sometimes longer than Kraus' text itself. The footnotes are partly by Jonathan Franzen, partly by the Kraus scholar
Franzen is utterly insufferable. Kraus is excellent, except when he's incomprehensible; some of this is no doubt a result of the man's own style, but I'm not sure an American novelist is the best modern midwife for an English version of a Viennese satirist's century-old essays.

But I don't read German, so I won't quibble. (Franzen has done the curious among us a favor by bringing Kraus's essays to our language at all.) Translation matters aside, it's evident that our modern age's most self-invol
Karen Meyers
Sep 19, 2013 Karen Meyers rated it it was ok
I like Franzen's writing, a lot. I was curious about Kraus. Unfortunately, this book is not an illumination of Kraus. Instead, it's a series of really long footnotes about Franzen's life as a young student/wannabe writer in Germany, which while somewhat interesting, did not help me to understand Kraus. They just distracted me from the Kraus text, interrupting the flow, and not helping me to understand Kraus' difficult writing. (The footnotes provided by Paul Reitter and Daniel Kehlmann were far ...more
Jun 27, 2013 Jonathan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hoping to have a review written within a month or so, for now will just say that I'm both enjoying very much and already cringing at the glib antagonism it'll almost certainly stir up on publication in October.
Apr 16, 2014 Sue rated it really liked it
Any normal person will stop reading now.

This spring, I’ve been a basketcase -- emotional. With intention, I’ve been striking into several projects that distract my head-voices, that improve my ego, that feed my knowledge spot. And so I picked up this book.

What? Really?

Yes, Really. The me of ten years ago kept her finger on the pulse of certain cultural dust-ups. Ten-years-ago me would have read every word of The Guardian piece (an article-length redaction of the Franzen bits of this book, I susp
James Klagge
Oct 26, 2013 James Klagge rated it liked it
Shelves: essays
This is an odd book. I may be one of very few people who read it b/c it is about Kraus, rather than b/c it was produced by Franzen. It surely would not have been published if it hadn't had Franzen's name on the cover. As a college student Franzen got interested in the Viennese essayist Karl Kraus (1874-1936). This book consists of 2 lengthy essays by Kraus, 2 shorter pieces associated with one of the essays, and a short poem. The essays are about 2 19th Century German writers, Heine and Nestroy. ...more
Feb 20, 2016 Devi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ich hätte am Anfang nicht gedacht, dass mich dieses Buch so umhauen würde. Erst so: "Naja, Franzen hat da zwei Texte von Karl Kraus, der zum einen über Heine herzieht und andererseits Nestroy toll findet, und Franzen schreibt dann so seine Bemerkungen dazu. Mmh, ich lese es, weil klingt interessant. Hab ich noch nicht so was vorher gelesen." ABER ... dieses Buch ist der Knaller ... nicht nur, weil man eben etwas über die Deutsche Literaturszene des endenden 19. Jh und beginnenden 20. Jh erfährt, ...more
Katy Derbyshire
Oct 08, 2013 Katy Derbyshire rated it liked it
Sadly, Franzen's translation has not helped me to understand Karl Kraus. Paul Reitter's footnotes were useful to some extent and Jonathan Franzen's footnotes were interesting enough and entertaining, occasionally in an "I want to shout at you" way. But I am still fairly mystified as to what on earth Kraus meant - as indeed Franzen, Reitter and Kehlmann admit to being at various points. Which makes the project slightly more likeable, I suppose.
Oct 01, 2013 Myles rated it it was ok
(3.5/5.0) Dear Lord, the reviews are right! He can't do non-fiction as well as he thinks.
Apr 18, 2014 Sunil rated it it was ok
Culled from the annals
of yawn, by its most
eminent preservationist.
Dec 15, 2014 Ron rated it liked it
The Kraus Project is Jonathan Franzen's showdown with modern times.

Anybody with an interest in German literature is going to run into Karl Kraus sooner or later. The Kraus Project is an uneasy introduction to Kraus, if any.

Through the highly troublesome and problematic figure of fin-de-siecle satirist, playwright and literary critic Karl Kraus Franzen makes a case for an elitist culture.
To me, personally, the trouble with that is that it excludes me. Either that or I 'm with the snobs. there
Gustav Dinsdag
Jul 08, 2014 Gustav Dinsdag rated it liked it
The Kraus Project is Jonathan Franzen's showdown with modern times.

Through the highly troublesome and problematic figure of (the one-but-last) fin-de-siecle satirist, playwright and literary critic Karl Kraus he makes a case for an elitist culture. To me, personally, the trouble with that is that it excludes me. Either that or I 'm with the snobs. there seems to be no in-between. This book made me feel uncomfortable.

Anybody with an interest in German literature is going to run into Karl Kraus s
Howard Cincotta
Dec 16, 2013 Howard Cincotta rated it really liked it
Jonathan Franzen is an angry man. Or at least his public persona is. And he first found this wellspring of anger in his early 20s, lonely and caught in a web of social and sexual frustration, as a student and aspiring novelist in Germany. Germany is also where he discovered another publically angry man: early 20th-century journalist and critic Karl Kraus, Viennese publisher of the icy intellectual journal Die Fackel (The Torch).

Kraus is relevant today, Franzen argues, because he early recognize
Mar 22, 2017 nana rated it liked it
loved franzen's annotations. admittedly kinda still ??? about kraus. sorry, franzen.
What a completely wretched book. The design and execution of this book is perfectly awful: the millions of notes elucidating Franzen's translations of Kraus' cranky texts are buried at the back of the book. And since Kraus is completely unintelligible without the notes, one has to constantly flip back and forth between the text and the notes. And not that the notes are that much help: Franzen had to bring on not one but two specialists to try and decode Kraus' gibberish, and even they frequently ...more
Marcus Philip
Mar 28, 2014 Marcus Philip rated it it was amazing
Anyone who's heard me speak of Jon Franzen knows that I went into this book ready to hate it. A brilliant fiction writer, Franzen knows how to come off like an utter crank in his nonfiction like it's his true expertise in life. He does little to remedy this in his thin complaints against new media and the Information Age (for all his intellectual acuity, he fails to make the fairly obvious distinction between the tools of the modern era and how those tools get misused by the duo of a passively-m ...more
Aug 08, 2016 Hanna rated it liked it
Ich liebe Kraus, ich mag Franzens Romane, und ich fand die Herangehensweise an das "Kraus-Projekt" unheimlich spannend, aber ich bin unsicher, was ich von diesem Buch halten soll.

Die ausufernden Fußnoten machen es, selbst für jemanden, der an akademische Texte mit vielen Fußnoten gewöhnt ist, recht mühsam zu lesen. Kann nur empfehlen, zuerst die Fußnoten zu ignorieren und für den Kontext den Essay zur Gänze zu lesen, und dann von vorne zu beginnen und die Fußnoten mitzulesen.

Franzen setzt die F
Stephanie Byrne
Jun 08, 2014 Stephanie Byrne rated it liked it
I really enjoyed the first half of this book that focused on Kraus' 'Heine and the Consequences'. This was largely due to Kraus' writing. His loaded sentences were a pleasure to read. His sharp wit (and anger, really) had be chuckling to myself throughout. The focus on content vs form was also very interesting. Had the book ended after this deconstruction I would have given the book four stars.

It was the second half of the book that really let me down. At first I didn't mind Franzen's footnotes
Jan 08, 2014 Ken rated it really liked it
What a singular volume.

Take a long hard look at the cover (this may be one book you CAN judge by the cover). The word Kraus is set in SMALL type than the words "Jonathan Franzen" (the volume is ostensibly a translation of the Austrian aphorist/essayist Karl Kraus).

Don't take my rating as a judged of this as a translation of Kraus (on rhat basis, it's a 2-star book). I found myself fleeing to other books with more typical transalation of Kraus' aphorisms - "The German Library", "Half Truths &
Dec 28, 2015 chirantha rated it it was amazing

Kraus spent a lot of time reading stuff he hated, so as to be able to hate it with authority.

Oh, footnotes, don’t ever leave me! I love you in Pale Fire, I love you in Infinite Jest; I love you in the sprawls of Eco and your cameo in The Kiss of the Spider Woman! Here you are again, for my bright and scarlet lips.

On the surface, The Kraus Project is a new translation of the eponymous satirist’s most derisive essays but beneath the sheets, in those lascivious footnotes, Jonathan Franzen hides an
Scott Middleton
Jan 08, 2014 Scott Middleton rated it really liked it
As a fan of Jonathan Franzen, Austrian history, and old grumps, this book was written just for me. While Kraus's essays, even in English translation, are as dense as a black hole, Franzen's footnotes provide the necessary detangling. What's more, Franzen and his researchers sometimes confess to not understanding Kraus themselves, which made me feel better about my skills of reading comprehension.

Franzen's attempts to apply Karl Kraus's Viennese vitriol to 21st-century America is consistently am
Benny Beauch
Aug 12, 2014 Benny Beauch rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, essays
For me, this book really stretched out my thinking, it took me a very long time to read, as I had to put it down between the first two big essays for quite a while. The reason, i think, it was hard to read is because you Kraus uses a lot of smaller examples from his own time to highlight larger problems of his own time, the footnotes are extremely helpful in following this, because most people today don't know about literary and journalistic rivalries in pre-war Austria and Germany (also, other ...more
Felix Hayman
Sep 23, 2014 Felix Hayman rated it really liked it
How does one define a moment in history? Through the events that surround the minutes and hours or the reflections of the witnesses or even the writings of the time? And how do you interpret ideas in history some 100 years later? Through the musings of historians or the social scientist, or do you, through the sheer love of the language try to interpret the ideas as a refraction of the moment today?

Jonathan Franzen has attempted to understand the refractions of these worlds through five essays b
Sean K. Cureton
Aug 13, 2014 Sean K. Cureton rated it liked it
Less a formal academic translation than a personal side project and mini memoir, Franzen's prose here is as consistently incisive and immediate as any one of his others works of fiction and rhetorical exposition. While the copious amount of footnotes will strike some readers as nattering and innocuous at best, whiny and pretentious at worst, anyone already enamored of and with Franzen as a great writer of American letters will be sure to feel completely at home with this slim little volume.

Jan 09, 2015 Doug rated it liked it
I heard of this book when Mallory Ortberg panned it on her blog and professed a loathing of Franzen. While I've enjoyed the Franzen I've read, she did highlight some passages from Kraus Project that made him come off as a self absorbed ass. My local library has a pretty thin selection so when I saw something I recognized I decide to give it a try. I ended up liking it a lot more than I expected. Yes, Franzen seems conceited in parts and his disdain towards writers that use Twitter and other soci ...more
David Hochman
Jun 29, 2015 David Hochman rated it really liked it
Really, a Franzen autobiographical essay (in the footnotes) masquerading as a translation and critical treatment of two extremely dense essays by the master Karl Kraus. The first essay is more or less accessible, the second considerably more challenging. Where you do get a joke it's usually pretty funny, but it's rare that you get one at all. Franzen does an expert translation, and it ought to be since he's spent decades returning repeatedly to the quest. Some of the wordplay is untranslatable, ...more
The American Conservative
"Where Franzen succeeds most is with a simple act of rebranding. Early on he refers to Kraus as 'the Great Hater,' which is an accurate summation of his career in Vienna, but it’s also clever. A hater today is accused rather than made or born proper; the word is an accusation most often leveled by makers of bad art against goons who, using their varying abilities of articulation, say they don’t like their bad art. But hatred was Kraus’s art, and like any artist in any of the other literary mediu ...more
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Jonathan Franzen is the author of The Corrections, winner of the 2001 National Book Award for fiction; the novels The Twenty-Seventh City and Strong Motion; and two works of nonfiction, How to Be Alone and The Discomfort Zone, all published by FSG. His fourth novel, Freedom, was published in the fall of 2010.

Franzen's other honors include a 1988 Whiting Writers' Award, Granta's Best Of Young Ameri
More about Jonathan Franzen...

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