Masks of the Prophet: The Theatrical World of Karl Kraus


297 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-8020-5522-2




Reviewed by Renate Usmiani

Renate Usmiani was Professor of English at Mount St. Vincent University in Halifax.


This book provides us with a heavily documented glossary on Karl Kraus’s critical views and acerbic comments on the cultural scene of the period. Grimstad’s central thesis states that Kraus’s criticism was essentially theatrical (“What I write is ... drama”), his concern less the theatre itself (he seldom attended performances) than his fellow critics. These points are well made and fully documented. However, the author makes no attempt to create a portrait of the man (no biographical data, not even birth/death dates) or of the period. Thus, we get a painstaking, scholarly compilation which is of use to the Kraus specialist, but which has little appeal for the general reader.

In arranging his material, Grimstad follows the chronology of the publication history of Die Fackel. Though justified from a scholarly point of view, this arrangement adds further to the fragmentation of the material presented and causes much repetition.

Grimstad’s own evaluation of Kraus’s literary work is at times questionable (e.g., p. 167). The quality of the translation is inadequate, with several gross misunderstandings (e.g., pp. 122, 191). Finally, one wishes the author would confine himself to the area he is familiar with and avoid dangerous excursions into comparative literature; this would have saved him the embarrassment of ascribing Beckett’s Act Without Words to Harold Pinter (p. 64).


Grimstad, Kari, “Masks of the Prophet: The Theatrical World of Karl Kraus,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 23, 2024,