The Black Book: Karl Kraus's Etiquette
The conduct book stakes out the boundaries of correct behavior, making instructions for self-management available to anyone who strives for easy social integration. Given its close relation to the mores of the educated classes, it is a rather unlikely genre to employ for the misanthrope looking to repudiate society. Yet in a series of articles in 1905/06 in his journal Die Fackel, the Viennese satirist Karl Kraus alluded to this genre, sharpening its rules to the point of absurdity as a means to completely close down rather than facilitate societal exchange. In Kraus’s etiquette, bad manners come to include all manners. The study of this little-known project enables us to understand Kraus’s obsessive preoccupation with clichéd speech as a critical response to the pathologies of communal life around 1900.