Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Last Days of Humankind

Today is Wednesday, 3 September 2008.

My Dearest Frustrated Reader and Nancy,

Once upon a time, as all the best stories begin (and if I appropriated that from another writer, it is an homage of fitful memory, not theft), there was a great Austrian writer named Karl Kraus (born 1874; died 1936), whose professional and personal career was even vastly more tortured than that of HH.

Or, as both KK and HH would have written in small letters in the edited margins: “??? Even more vastly tortured?”

[Among that which drew HH to KK: we both edit to death.]

Kraus wrote an amazing journal, in the sense of a magazine, Die Fackel, The Torch, a magazine of intellect and quality the like of which has disappeared in our day.

Kraus wrote a gigantic play about the Great War, World War One, The Last Days of Mankind, an attempt to record all the sorrow of that war, a play, he wrote, meant to performed only in a theatre upon the planet Mars, for otherwise every heart would be broken.

Kraus was an outspoken opponent of the Great War, and, had he not been so esteemed, he would have been imprisoned by the fools in Austria-Hungary.

Had Kraus not been Austrian, he would have been a Nobelist for Literature.

Not that Kraus cared.

Once upon a time, HH discovered the works of KK, and, as in a fairy tale, was bewitched by them, and performed them, as a one-person public reading in 1986, as Kraus had once famously performed them in Vienna, probably the first time they were performed in the US in the style of Kraus.

Herewith, the translation of HH.

THE LAST DAYS OF HUMANKIND

By Karl Kraus

(Act V, Scene 54)

[Vienna, October 1914, a month before the end of the Great War.

The dead and wounded crowd the streets, staring like deer caught in headlights.

Rain falls from hell.]

[At his desk, The Writer sits in a pure white spot. An anti-war dissident. He pauses to choose a final word.]

WRITER

Redemption.

[Heard from outside the window.]

NEWSBOY

Exxxxxtra- Ausss-gabuhhhh! Extra edition!

WRITER

The five o’clock edition of the Newspaper of Record. AM or PM, I’ve lost track. Whatever: the dead and wounded march past every window.

[Selecting a newspaper clipping off his desk.]

“Promptly yesterday, at 7.35 AM, the 24th day of August, 1918, were three trees felled near a papermill in the Harz Mountains. With due diligence, within two hours, the trees are scaled of bark, processed into woodpulp, pressed into newsprint, and shipped by truck to a news printing plant.

By 11 A.M., newsboys hawk the Early Edition on the streets of Vienna.

Thus, in a mere 3.5 hours, the Homefront reads news of the Battlefront, of suffering unbearable, on a gray page stemming from green trees among whose brown branches bluebirds had, that very morning, sung."

Read all about it.

TO BE CONTINUED

2 Comments:

Anonymous appreciative said...

Touching, beautiful, and sad.

7:55 PM  
Anonymous trying to be patient said...

Hey "Appreciative" - HH hasn't finished yet. His post indicates "to be continued." He's taking his time, like always, formulating an answer, and in the meantime will probably give us a "musical interlude." That's his style.

Besides, what he wrote so far does not address the comments of Frustrated Reader and Nancy. It is just sadness, half of which is paranthecal commentary on his part, which makes his stuff hard to read because the flow is choppy.

OK, I'll stop critiquing and wait for HH to finish.

8:10 AM  

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