on October 6, 2010
Fifty-four years ago, the 1953 Knopf Edition was my College graduation present to me. Between then and now I've done a bit of reading and feel free to say that Friedell's way of looking at the past is superior to the way of Hegel, of Spengler, and of Gibbon. I also feel free to say that Friedell's prose style, both in German and in the marvelous Atkinson translation, is almost as good as the style of the Duke de Saint-Simon.
Over the past half-century I've read Friedell at least five times, and never failed to thank the Lord for the privilege.
I'm buying this set to give away as a present and am saddened that, nowadays, when best-seller lists are replete with products of vulgar mediocrity, Friedell is obtainable in nothing but a paperback edition. God knows that only Franco Maria Ricci, or The Limited Editions Club, could provide the book design, typography and binding he deserves.
PS. November 2010
Before giving away the three-volume set, I glanced at it and was saddened by its cheap-looking appearance. Then, for my sins, I read the introduction by the deplorable Allan Janik, surely one of the world's worst writers and, most definitely, one of the world's most retarded thinkers. The penny-pinching publishers did not proofread his stomach-turning text but this was nothing compared to their failure to mention on the title page that the translation was done by the brilliant Mr. Atkinson.
Readers are strongly advised to skip the barbarous Introduction and go straight to Friedell's text. It's poorly printed but it's all there.
on June 9, 2010
I read the three volumes of this masterpiece about 30 years ago, and then, in the course of multiple relocations, the books ended up in boxes and are stored somewhere. I don't even know where exactly. I regret that right now, as I would like to have them available, but am too stingy to buy a new set, what with nosediving Euro and expected inflation etc.
I reviewed Clive James' Cultural Amnesia, recently, and one of the main recommendations there is Egon Friedell. That made me regret my packing policies of long ago.
Friedell was one of those many marvellous Viennese writers who came to grief because of the Nazi rule. In fact, Friedell committed suicide by jumping out of his window, famously calling out a warning to pedestrians. He was that kind of guy. A good character doesn't guarantee good writing, for sure, but in this case, you should believe James and me.
Another re-discovery triggered by James is Lichtenberg. I wouldn't at all be surprised if I re-read that man soon. If I do, you can look forward to an interesting review!
On the negative side, James confirmed my 'stay away' opinion of Walter Benjamin's Arcades Project ruin.
What has that got to do with Friedell? Be patient!