A Minor Detail

by Karl Kraus

[Editors’ Note: Karl Kraus (1874-1936) was a Viennese satirist, famed but mostly inaccessible to those unacquainted with the German language. There are translations, including Dicta and Contradicta, translated by Jonathon McVity, and a collection put together by Harry Zohn and published under the title In These Great Times by Carcanet (NY) in 1985. Here’s a squib Kraus wrote in 1915.]

Wanted: a father-in-law to go into the women’s war business with me. Am 33 years old and well known as a women’s wear salesman. No matchm: Box 3378, Berlin S.W.

I suppose "Cherchez la femme" no longer applies here. Go find mama, boy! Where is she? He doesn’t speak of marrying into the business, because the father-in-law himself isn’t in business yet. Normally such people at least said they wanted to find a business and were therefore looking for a wife. After all, they needed a living pretext. This is now eliminated; the father-in-law is the vestige of an obsolete stage of development which still had sentimentality and included a wife in the inventory. That’s over with.

Wanted: a father-in-law. The daughter can be dead if she likes. If she is present at the wedding, fine; if not, that’s all right too. He’ll just take the father-in-law as his sleeping partner. This is an innovation in women’s wear: wear without women.

The glow of classical greatness suffuses our time. Where is the woman whom such a fate will befall, who will perhaps read this ad without knowing that in the final analysis it concerns her? Where does the woman’s wear live? Where does this ready-made apparel of a woman live? Where is she, that I may implore her to go into hiding and kill herself sooner than become the cadaver of this hyena? Men are now dying accidental deaths; women will give birth because two men want to go into business. A heroic age is dawning. Do not mourn what has been. Come, O dawn! Two scoundrels will in these great times shake hands over the dead life of a girl.

‘Die Nobensache’ (1915)

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