part one of: silence, word, act

As promised, the first part of Karl Kraus' Silence, Word and Act.

Hey, for you who think translating Kraus is one of life's ho hum tasks, you try it.

Oh, and a word about word. Kraus uses the simple little noun to mean something more than that description of each one of the bits in this sentence. There is a sense of one's own word, one's own breathing in the bits of the sentence, that odd, unownable what you sound like. Bakhtine, if I can trust the translations, used Word to mean something similar.

"This is how silence and breaking silence are related. It is, as with so much that the conscience undergoes, not a contradiction. Because the silence was not reverent awe before an act behind which the word, in so far as it really is one, never retreats. It was simply concern: revulsion against the other word, against those, that the act accompanied, caused them, followed them, against the great dungheap of words of the world, which cannot and ought not to be respected. And the silence was so loud, that it was almost already speech. Now the chains fall off, because the chains themselves see that the word is stronger. It happened without my intending it, it was no act of decision, no plan here and there; there are moments, still, when even the machine has respect, and even in cases where we only expect suggestions, there is also room for inspiration. I have imagined my part for too long; then, as I lived a summer month in the middle of the silence of the most untouched landscape, where I bitterly suffered from the roar that filled everywhere else. It had to happen: after fifteen months in which these fearful heralds of victory rose to such a pitch of noise, from the possessed cashiers of world history down to the unescapable helpful cries of the extra editions, that after all the time even the herald of the greatest cultural bankruptcy that this planet has ever seen would make himself heard, were it only to prove that language itself has not yet been strangled. Really, I’m conscious of the fact that he who does not risk his head in the face of certain things doesn’t have one to risk. But what use is the exchange of heads against the fame of having had one? when with the head the word has also been confiscated, that it has to give! When the same machinery against which he charges, can make a mute of him in return! He will show it that there is more to him than merely his mite, that his endurance is something wholly different; that he can cannot harmonize the circumstances of a world romper room, in which the guns go off by themselves, with the divine plan to let the grass [Gras]and the mind [Geist] grow, and that reproaches a human race that tramples down both. Certainly, rather wager the head under these circumstances than through silent witness of such things to have posterity cast its doubts on you, one would have done better to have none, even if one were merely a German writer, circa 1915. But since the mute victim in these all too great times has still less value and effect then the Word; since it is nothing so exemplary as murder, as that which now everyone can, ought and must do – just because of this the word is liberated from itself. Even the word ought, in this moment, to do what it must; and I am corrupt enough to concede: possibly this state has proved, through its recognition of an exception to the state of exception, that in it as in every state with absolutist inclinations there yet lives a little endpoint of feeling for its cultural ruins. That it even has one last tear to give from a woeful perception that we will, when this adventure is dreamed through all the way, wake up on a bloodier battlefield, to the unlimited firesale managed by the epoch’s hyenas, out of whose infinite emptiness the new power will arise, repressed in the ghettos of hell for centuries and now corrupting the earth, conquering the air and stinking to high heaven. It may be that conservatives, from vocation or from birth, the nobility, church and warriors themselves have lost their spirits before the unbeatable foe, so they will combine with it out of alleged necessity. Perhaps they may, as though out of some enigmatic duty of universal vulnerability, commit frauds daily – but at some point they will notice the value of words that their courage no longer can coin for them, but shame, and that other feeling, which heals in the mightiest places: regret. Thus, all hail the weakling mighty ones! Let the lord enlighten them in their slumbers!"


Anonymous said…
Hello. And Bye.