Academic journal article German Quarterly

Worterbuch der Redensarten zu der von Karl Kraus 1899 bis 1936 herausgegebenen Zeitschrift Die Fackel. Vienna: Osterreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1999

Academic journal article German Quarterly

Worterbuch der Redensarten zu der von Karl Kraus 1899 bis 1936 herausgegebenen Zeitschrift Die Fackel. Vienna: Osterreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1999

Article excerpt

Welzig, Werner, ed. Worterbuch der Redensarten zu der von Karl Kraus 1899 bis 1936 herausgegebenen Zeitschrift Die Fackel. Vienna: Osterreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1999. 1051 pp. DM 236.00 hardcover.

What might a dictionary of Die Fackel look like? It is hard to say, for Die Fackel has no literary analogue. Edited by a single person, Karl Kraus, and written almost entirely by him as well, the magazine's 922 numbers stretch over 37 years (1899-1936), and its contents range from courtroom reporting to aphorisms and poetry. A philological concordance would not be very useful, since Kraus's vocabulary is colloquial rather than recondite or archaic. What makes Die Fackel difficult to follow is its allusiveness. After all, Die Fackel was almost a cultural "weekly" (in the early years, its cover bore the announcement: "erscheint dreimal im Monat). And while Kraus may have become famous for his writings on "great events" such as World War One, his most basic satirical procedure entailed finding problems of world-historical importance in small places. For Kraus, the apocalypse began in petty corruption among, and the bad writing of, little-known Viennese journalists. A comprehensive historical glossary, a work that would provide historical information on key figures and phrases in Die Fackel, would have enormous value both as a scholarly resource and as a guide for casual readers. Of course, a historical dictionary of Die Fackel would be an enormously difficult project. Researching the margins of culture is labor intensive enough. To attempt to correlate such research with the task of producing a full index for Die Fackel would be to take on a massive amount of work, even after Die Fackel becomes generally available as a CD-ROM. As interest in Kraus attenuates, the prospect that these Herculean challenges will be met becomes less likely. We should not expect to have this kind of Fackel Worterbuch anytime soon, if ever.

For the moment, we have Werner Welzig's Fackel Worterbuch: Die Redensarten. It is a large and handsome book-Groper Duden dimensions and art-book sleek. As his title announces, Welzig has organized his Worterbuch around Redensarten, which he defines broadly as "[...] sprachliche Einheiten also, far die anderswo die Begriffe sprichwort, lehnsprichwort, maxime, geflugeltes wort, festgepragte pradikative konstruktion, phraseologisches wortpaar, kompartiver phraseologismus, kommunikative formel and anderes mehr angeboten wird" (13). "Sprachliche Einheiten": the suggestion is that Redensarten are the underlying "linguistic unities," the basic linguistic units of Die Fackel. Here, then, we have encountered the logic behind Welzig's project. For if Redensarten are the primary units, Welzig makes them out to be, they would represent an appropriate structuring principle for a Worterbuch of Die Fackel. Indeed, they would be as appropriate a choice as those other "sprachliche Einheiten," words, are for dictionaries of language. …

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