Karl Kraus

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My unconscious knows more about the consciousness of the psychologist than his consciousness knows about my unconscious.

Karl Kraus (28 April 187412 June 1936) was an Austrian journalist, satirist, essayist, aphorist, playwright and poet.


  • Everyone is stopped and waiting, maitre d's, hansom cab drivers and governments. Everyone's waiting for the end. Let's hope the apocalypse is pleasant, Your Highness.
    • 1899, quoted in Franz Hare, Jahrhundertwende 1900: Untergangsstimmung und Fortschrittsglauben, Stuttgart, 1998, p. 190
  • There are women who are not beautiful but only look that way.
    • Sprüche und Widersprüche (Dicta and Contradictions) (1909); as translated by Richard Hanser
  • What is the Ninth Symphony compared to a Tin Pan Alley hit played on a hurdy-gurdy and a memory?
    • Sprüche und Widersprüche (Dicta and Contradictions)
  • Der Fortschritt feiert Pyrrhussiege über die Natur.
    • Progress celebrates Pyrrhic victories over nature.
      • Pro Domo et Mundo, 7, „Pro Domo et Mundo”
  • Culture is the tacit agreement to let the means of subsistence disappear behind the purpose of existence.
    • “In these great times,” Harry Zohn, trans., In These Great Times (Montreal: 1976), pp. 73-74
  • Progress … has subordinated the purpose of life to the means of subsistence and turned us into the nuts and bolts for our tools.
    • “In these great times,” Harry Zohn, trans., In These Great Times (Montreal: 1976), pp. 73-74
  • The tyranny of necessity grants its slaves three kinds of freedom: opinion free from intellect, entertainment free from art, and orgies free from love.
    • “In these great times,” Harry Zohn, trans., In These Great Times (Montreal: 1976), p. 74
  • We are sacrificing ourselves for our ready-made goods; we are consumers and live in such a way that the means may consume the end.
    • “In these great times,” Harry Zohn, trans., In These Great Times (Montreal: 1976), p. 74

Die Fackel[edit]

Quotations from Die Fackel as translated in Anti-Freud: Karl Kraus’s Criticism of Psychoanalysis and Psychiatry (1976) by Thomas Stephen Szasz
  • An aphorism can never be the whole truth; it is either a half-truth or a truth-and-a-half.
    • Die Fackel no. 270/71 (19 January 1909)
  • Sexuality poorly repressed unsettles some families; well repressed, it unsettles the whole world.
    • Die Fackel no. 315/16 (26 January 1911)
  • The esthete stands in the same relation to beauty as the pornographer stands to love, and the politician stands to life.
    • Die Fackel no. 406/12 (5 October 1915)
  • My unconscious knows more about the consciousness of the psychologist than his consciousness knows about my unconscious.
    • Die Fackel no. 445/53 (18 January 1917)
  • War: first, one hopes to win; then one expects the enemy to lose; then, one is satisfied that the enemy too is suffering; in the end, one is surprised that everyone has lost.
    • Die Fackel no. 46 (9 October 1917)

Half-Truths and One-And-A-Half Truths (1976)[edit]

Half-Truths and One-And-A-Half Truths: Selected Aphorisms (1990) as translated by Harry Zohn
  • I hear noises which others don't hear and which disturb for me the music of the spheres, which others don't hear either.
  • Many share my views with me. But I don't share them with them.
  • In one ear and out the other: this would still make the head a transit station. What I hear has to go out the same ear.
  • I have often been asked to be fair and view a matter from all sides. I did so, hoping something might improve if I viewed all sides of it. But the result was the same. So I went back to viewing things only from one side, which saves me a lot of work and disappointment. For it is comforting to regard something as bad and be able use one's prejudice as an excuse.
  • I and my public understand each other very well: it does not hear what I say, and I don't say what it wants to hear.
  • I no longer have collaborators. I used to be envious of them. They repel those readers whom I want to lose myself.
  • What is my love? That I amalgamate the bad features of a woman into a good picture. And my hatred? That I see the bad features in the picture of a bad man.
  • When I read, it is not acted literature; but what I write is written acting.
  • If I return some people's greetings, I do so only to give them their greeting back.
  • I trim my opponents to fit my arrows.
  • Many desire to kill me, and many wish to spend an hour chatting with me. The law protects me from the former.
  • Nothing is more narrow-minded than chauvinism or race hatred. To me all men are equal: there are jackasses everywhere, and I have the same contempt for them all. No petty prejudices!
  • I would have stage-fright if I had to speak with every one of the people before whom I speak.
  • I like to hold a monologue with women. But a dialogue with myself is more stimulating.
  • Since the law prohibits the keeping of wild animals and I get no enjoyment from pets, I prefer to remain unmarried.
  • Many things I am experiencing I already remember.
  • Only he is an artist who can make a riddle out of a solution.
  • Today's literature: prescriptions written by patients.
  • Nestroy's words ought to apply to an artist and an idea: "I have made a prisoner, and he won't let go of me!"
  • Most writers have no other quality than the reader: taste. But the latter has the better taste, because he does not write - and the best if he does not read.
  • Hate must make a person productive; otherwise one might as well love.
  • Sound opinions are valueless. What matters is who holds them.
  • It is better not to express what one means than to express what one does not mean.
  • The real truths are those that can be invented.
  • One shouldn't learn more than what one absolutely needs against life.
  • Sentimental irony is a dog that bays at the moon while pissing on graves.
  • Language is the mother of thought, not its handmaiden.
  • The closer the look one takes at a word, the greater the distance from which it looks back.
  • My language is the common prostitute that I turn into a virgin.
  • The making of a journalist: no ideas and the ability to express them.
  • Education is what most people receive, many pass on, and few have.
  • One of the most widespread diseases is diagnosis.
  • Psychoanalysis is that mental illness for which it regards itself as therapy.
  • So-called psychoanalysis is the occupation of lustful rationalists who trace everything in the world to sexual causes - with the exception of their occupation.
  • Psychoanalysis: a rabbit that was swallowed by a boa constrictor who just wanted to see what it was like in there.
  • Psychology is as useless as directions for using poison.
  • How is the world ruled and led to war? Diplomats lie to journalists and believe these lies when they see them in print.
  • War is at first, the hope that one will be better off; next, the expectation that the other fellow will be worse off; then, the satisfaction that the other fellow isn't any better off; and, finally, the surprise at everyone's being worse off.
  • A fine world in which man reproaches woman with fulfilling his heart's desire!
  • Christianity has enriched the erotic meal with the appetizer of curiosity and the dessert of remorse.
  • The immorality of men triumphs over the amorality of women.
  • Moral responsibility is what is lacking in a man when he demands it of a woman.
  • The woman takes one for all, and the man all for one.
  • I am not for women but against men.
  • A "seducer" who boasts of initiating women into the mystery of love is like a stranger who arrives at a railroad station and offers to show the sights to a tourist guide.
  • There is no more unfortunate creature under the sun than a fetishist who yearns for a woman's shoe and has to settle for the whole woman.
  • To divide people into sadists and masochists is almost as foolish as dividing them into eaters and digesters. In all cases one must disregard abnormalities; after all, there are people who are better at digesting than they are at eating and vice versa. As regards masochism and sadism, it is safe to say that a healthy person displays both perversities. The only ugly thing in each case is the word. The one derived from the novelist Leopold von Sacher-Masoch is particularly degrading, and it is hard not to let one's taste for things be spoiled by the designation. Nevertheless, a man with an artistic imagination will manage to let an authentic woman turn him into a masochist and an inauthentic one into a sadist. One knocks the latter's educated unnaturalness out of her until the woman is revealed. If she already is a woman, the only thing left to do is adore her.
  • True jealously wants not only fidelity, but the proof of fidelity as an imaginable situation. A jealous man is not content with his beloved not being unfaithful. Precisely that which he is not doing does not leave him in peace. But since there is no proving what is not done and the jealous man insists on proof, he ends up settling on proof of unfaithfulness.
  • A man's jealousy is a social institution, a woman's prostitution an instinct.
  • Nothing is more unfathomable than a woman's superficiality.
  • Many women would like to dream with men without sleeping with them. Someone should point out to them that this is utterly impossible.
  • A woman who cannot be ugly is not beautiful.
  • A woman is, occasionally, quite a serviceable substitute for masturbation. It takes an abundance of imagination, to be sure.
  • Women at least have elegant dresses. But what can men use to cover their emptiness?
  • The superman is a premature ideal, one that presupposes a man.
  • When someone has behaved like an animal, he says: "I'm only human!" But when he is treated like an animal, he says: "I'm human, too!"
  • The devil is an optimist if he thinks he can make people meaner.
  • The world is a prison in which solitary confinement is preferable.
  • "A cigar," said the altruist, "a cigar, my good man, I cannot give you. But any time you need a light, just come round, mine is always lit."
  • Solitude would be an ideal state if one were able to pick the people one avoids.
  • Squeeze human nature into a straitjacket of criminal justice and crime will appear!
  • Family life is an encroachment on private life.
  • Life is an effort that deserves a better cause.
  • The development of technology will leave only one problem: the infirmity of human nature.
  • You don't even live once.
  • Keep your passions in check, but beware of giving your reason free rein.
  • To be human is erroneous.
  • Lord, forgive them, for they know what they do!
  • There is no doubt that a dog is loyal. But does that mean we should emulate him? After all, he is loyal to people, not to other dogs.[1]

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