The Last Days of Mankind: A Visual Guide to Karl Kraus' Great War Epic

Marjorie Perloff (Contribution by) Matthias Goldmann (Contribution by)
& 1 more

Product Details

$38.95  $35.83
Doppelhouse Press
Publish Date
January 01, 2019
8.1 X 8.1 X 0.6 inches | 1.35 pounds

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About the Author

Marjorie Perloff is among America's leading critics of poetry and the author of over a dozen books of literary criticism. She teaches courses, lectures around the world and writes on twentieth and now twenty-first century poetry and poetics, both Anglo-American and from a Comparatist perspective, as well as on intermedia and the visual arts. She is Professor Emerita of English at Stanford University and Florence R. Scott Professor of English Emerita at the University of Southern California as well as being an elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. Perloff's titles include Wittgenstein's Ladder, The Futurist Moment and Frank O'Hara: Poet Among Painters. Several recent books take up the subject of her Viennese heritage, her exile, and Vienna's cultural milieu. The Vienna Paradox (New Directions, 2004) "sweeps elegantly and often amusingly from historical and political events to family anecdotes, from literature to love affairs, from religious (or at least group) traditions to philosophical insights. It is the author's (successful) attempt to come to terms with a Vienna that was her physical childhood home and also a kind of alma mater from which she obtained parts of her identity, derived from what she herself labels 'Kultur' and at the same time a place fraught with dark depths both real and virtual" (The Vienna Review). Her most recent book The Edge of Irony: Modernism in the Shadow of the Habsburg Empire (University of Chicago Press, 2015) was praised by Adam Kirsch in The New York Review of Books and features the seed of the analysis that blooms in her writing on Deborah Sengl's The Last Days of Mankind.


Sengl expressly states that she is not in a position to offer a quick solution for all the injustices of our times. But her works urge us to cast a more open and more empathic view of our environment, and that would already be a very commendable first step.- Acid Rain
Modern fables for adults.- Widewalls
No folly, no mendacity is exempt from Kraus' gaze.
- Marjorie Perloff
When the age died by its own hand, that hand was Karl Kraus'.
- Bertolt Brecht
Certainly eye-catching.
- Publishers Weekly
The Last Days of Mankind is, naturally enough, about the First World War, and about all war, but it is also about what our civilization is and about who we are. That is why, like all great works of art, it is, and will always remain, a 'contemporary' work. Those questions; who we are, what are our beliefs and values, what do we stand for, are as urgent today as they were in 1914-18 and its aftermath. Kraus, like the other three great writers he stands beside (Aristophanes, Juvenal, Swift) [...] is the voice we need to hear.- Michael Russell, author of City of Shadows and City of Lies
[Deborah Sengl's] stunning display of 176 taxidermied rats as actors presenting forty-four scenes from The Last Days of Mankind deliver[s] a bracing test of [the play's] potential. [...] The preparation, costuming and posing of the rats as well as the meticulous attention to miniature props - facsimiles of period newspapers, a factory owner's top hat and bow tie, the sample cases of traveling salesmen, infantry rifles - reflect a deep knowledge of Kraus' text and disciplined commitment to an unconventional representation of its meaning.

The powerful effect of this large assemblage of monochromatic tableaux is heightened by juxtaposition with the preparatory drawings, which were exhibited next to them and are beautifully reproduced in the catalogue. These delicate line drawings all use color, sparingly but pointedly, so that the viewer is inevitably drawn to a comparison with the corresponding tableaux. Seen up close, as they are in the catalogue photographs, which include some unsettling enlargements, every white rat's cocked head, gaping mouth, or crooked claw points back to the linguistic physiognomy of the speakers of a war-contaminated language who people Kraus' drama.
- Leo Lensing, "Karl Kraus at War", Times Literary Supplement
The initial reaction to seeing the white rats wearing the tiny corsets and holding rat-sized guns results in deeply conflicted emotions. Cuteness and horror collide in these miniature scenes. [...] Sengl continues the legacy of acid-tongued Austrian artists from Kraus and Kafka to more contemporary voices like Thomas Bernhard and Elfriede Jelinek. Her adaptation of Kraus' war epic, The Last Days of Mankind, makes it more accessible to audiences and helps to render the experimental play into a more comprehensible whole.
- New York Journal of Books