Geo-politics & the placement of commas: Karl Kraus

“At a time when people were generally decrying the Japanese bombardment of Shanghai, I met Karl Kraus struggling over one of his famous comma problems. He said something like: ‘I know that everything is futile when the house is burning. But I have to do this, as long as it is at all possible; for if those who were supposed to look after commas had always made sure they were in the right place, Shanghai would not be burning’.”

– Czech composer Ernst Krenek describing a meeting with Karl Kraus in Vienna, in 1932 *

 

Karl Kraus

Karl Kraus in the garden of Janowitz Castle

(Photo credit: Wienbibliothek)

*”Als man sich gerade über die Beschießung von Shanghai durch die Japaner erregte und ich Karl Kraus bei einem der berühmten Beistrich-Problemen antraf, sagte er ungefähr: Ich weiß, daß das alles sinnlos ist, wenn das Haus in Brand steht. Aber solange das irgend möglich ist, muß ich das machen, denn hätten die Leute, die dazu verpflichtet sind, immer darauf geachtet, daß die Beistriche am richtigen Platz stehen, so würde Shanghai nicht brennen.” – Hans Weigel, Kraus: Die Macht der Ohnmacht (Brandstätter, 1986), 128

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