Synopses & Reviews
Never before or after have the horrors of the "Great War," as World War I was known, been captured as they were by Kurt Tucholsky. The famed Weimar writer, who would become one of Germany’s best-known satirist and journalists, describes surviving in the trenches and fighting a losing battle, the arrogance of the officers and the desperation of the loved ones back home. His writings are similar to those of Heinrich Heine, his role model, in appearing superficially simple, but replete with hidden meanings. They are touching, stirring, and precisely to the point. He makes the war that still looms even into our own 21st century come alive. This is the first bilingual anthology in German and in English of his works on World War I. This edition features an afterword by Noah Isenberg, professor and chair of culture and media at Eugene Lang College—The New School for Liberal Arts, where he teaches film history, criticism, theory, and literature.
About the Author
Kurt Tucholsky was a brilliant satirist, poet, storyteller, lyricist, pacifist, and democrat; a fighter, ladies' man, reporter, and early warner against the Nazis who hated and loathed him and drove him out of Germany after his books were burned in 1933. His contemporary Erich Kaestner called him a "small, fat Berliner," who "wanted to stop a catastrophe with his typewriter." The New York Times hailed him as "one of the most brilliant writers of republican Germany. He was a poet as well as a critic and was so versatile that he used five or six pen names. As Peter Panter, he was an outstanding essayist who at one time wrote topical sketches in the Vossische Zeitung, which ceased to appear under the Nazi regime; as Theobald Tiger, he wrote satirical poems that were frequently interpreted by popular actors in vaudeville and cabartes, and as Ignatz Wrobel, he contributed regularly to the Weltbühne, an independent weekly that was one of the first publications prohibited by the Hitler government." Tucholsky, who occupied the center stage in the tumultuous political and cultural world of 1920s Berlin, still emerges as an astonishingly contemporary figure. As an angry truth-teller, he pierced the hypocrisy and corruption around him with acute honesty. He was a writer with the acid voice of Christopher Hitchens and the satirical whimsy of Jon Stewart, combined with the iconoclasm of Bill Maher. Like Hitchens, Tucholsky wrote a mixture of literary essays, social observations, and political commentary. His irony made the line between his “serious writing” and his “entertainments” almost invisible. The fashionable outsider watched the political "center" disappear, and, in the end, he found himself catapulted out of society altogether. His career was sandwiched between the two most deadly events of his century: the bloodbath of World War I and the scourge of Nazism. Just as the first war launched Hemingway’s lifelong career as a wounded tough guy with a soft spot for guns and broads, Tucholsky discovered the reflexes of an escape artist. He was equally elusive as a writer. In today’s world, a journalist isn’t supposed to write plays, and a playwright isn’t welcomed as a novelist. But in 1920s Berlin, Tucholsky was dealing with postwar realities that required shouting from the rooftops, and any rooftop would do. Peter Appelbaum is emeritus professor of pathology, Pennsylvania State University. He is the author of Loyalty Betrayed: Jewish Chaplains in the German Army During the First World War. He has also unearthed poetry written by German Jewish soldiers, and translated many of those, making them available in English for the first time. He lives in Hershey, Pennsylvania. James Scott is emeritus professor of German at Lebanon Valley College. His scholarly presentations have ranged from Rilke’s prose and Kafka’s short fiction to cabaret in East Germany and communicative testing. He lives in Annville, Pennsylvania.