Karl Kraus: Half Truths and One and a Half Truths: Selected Aphorisms on Reading and Writing

08 November 2019

  • In literary work I find enjoyment, and literary enjoyment becomes work for me. To enjoy the work of another mind, I must first take a critical attitude toward it— transform reading, that is, into work. For which reason I shall more easily and gladly write a book than read one.
  • My readers think that I write for the day because my writings are based on the day. So I shall have to wait until my writings are obsolete. Then they may acquire timeliness.
  • I no longer have collaborators. I used to be envious of them. They repel those readers whom I want to lose myself.
  • I and my public understand each other very well: it does not hear what I say, and I don’t say what it wants to hear.
  • The author is so deep that it took me, the reader, a long time to get to his surface.
  • Something I cannot get over: that a whole line could be written by half a man. That a work could be built on the quicksand of a character.
  • A plagiarist should be made to copy the author a hundred times.
  • An acquaintance of mine told me that reading one of my essays aloud gained him a wife. I count this among my greatest successes. How easily I could have been in this unfortunate situation myself.
  • A good writer does not receive anywhere near the number of poison-pen letters that is commonly assumed. Among a hundred jackasses there are not ten who will admit to being jackasses, and at most one who will put it in writing.
  • Nothing is more horrible than my self in the mirror of hysteria. Nothing is more vulgar than my style in the hands of another. To imitate me is to punish me.
  • In the beginning was the review copy, and a man received it from the publisher. Then he wrote a review. Then he wrote a book which the publisher accepted and sent on to someone else as a review copy. The man who received it did likewise. This is how modern literature came into being.
  • Most writers have no other quality than the reader: taste. But the latter has the better taste, because he does not write—and the best if he does not read.
  • My request that my writings be read twice has aroused great indignation. Unjustly so. After all, I do not ask that they be read once.
  • To write a novel may be pure pleasure. To live a novel presents certain difficulties. As for reading a novel, I do my best to get out of it.
  • Where shall I find the time to do all this non-reading?
  • Let my style capture all the sounds of my time. This should make it an annoyance to my contemporaries. But later generations should hold it to their ears like a seashell in which there is the music of an ocean of mud.
  • When I take up my pen, nothing can happen to me. Fate, remember that.

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