The Lysoform Face (Das Lysoform-Gesicht)


…is the face of the times, smirking at us from every hoarding. It is one of those pharmaceutical preparations whose names end in -it, -in, -ol, or -form, which humanity has only started to need since it has started to produce them, and without which the conditions which they were created to treat would not exist. But the face with which it presents itself is the very image of the times. Here, where decay is more colourful and louder than anywhere else in the world, you wonder what hit you when you walk past an advertizing hoarding, and time stands still and smirks at you. What a chaotic standstill! A loud-mouthed, working-class art form takes its orgiastic leave of the meaning of life. Madness recommends the food whose tyranny put common sense in this position. The product has become rebellious, and shouts, jumps, and explodes with delight, because the trader wrapped it up in the skin of the customer. There’s not another street corner of progress as wild as ours. The ear can still feel the pressure of the cry of victory which has just ended, whose violence the authorities restricted because paper, not human dignity, was running out. Of the heroic age of the Viennese street, which  is over, except for Sunday, which has been declared a day of unrest, a last highpoint, „Great victory of the Turks over the Russians: Erzerum captured!” lingers in the memory. No gag suppressed the graphical extra edition calls which numb the eyes, the devastating attacks on taste of the pursuit of profit. The cross between Viennese and Jews that is always blocking the pavement, is painted in loving exaggeration on the wall: a variety act of exploitation and charity dances before our eyes, whips up world-weariness to a celebration, and a quadrille of centaurs, half man, half goods, nags us not to be kill-joys. The transcendental countenances of restauranteurs, sadly overshadowed little Jewish boys who promise a merry evening, Aphrodite born of whipped cream, bulldogs with janitor faces, freaks who were born kicking, already wearing rubber soles, brave soldiers, delirious for joy because the no smoking campaign is winning, while the Entente adherents bleed to death because they don’t shop at Jacobi. And over this colourful hell, which set off to exploit the attraction of death for the base motives of life, over this feverish epidemic of the times, over these convulsions of lifeless attractivity and hollowed-out fading away: the sly face of the Lysoform kid, who seems to know what he knows, who could say what he doesn’t want to say, namely what the preparation is good for or against. With the laughing face of one involved in a matter of confidence, who knows what’s what, who has experience in the matter, who has been around, who could tell a few tales if he had a mind to, he keeps his council, and says, „Indespensible for housewives.” Isn’t that how the times say nothing? Isn’t that how they look? The morals which forbid sex, but allow it as the object of humour in restricted circles, admits that it can be a serious matter, and finds that funny. The trader illustrates the danger posed by a knowing shop-boy, who, squinting, and grinning from one ear, which has heard an awful lot, to the other, won’t tell what he knows, at any price, although he may be prepared to talk about it. The passer-by, to whom the advice is being given, is grinned at and decides to make a purchase, because Lysoform is so piquant. This bait is irresistible, nobody can refuse this smart scoundrel, who recommends Lysoform every day, and on Sunday also writes the sales pitch. No housewife, no public authorities. We are surrounded by examples of such a morality, which has been accepted for a long time. It no longer bothers us to be stared and shouted at in this way by all the messengers of hell: we love it. Nobody complains, the cheek isn’t buried in a hail of rocks. And nobody is shocked at the thought that if the city suddenly died out as the result of a merciful spell, these more-than-lively, more than life-sized faces, would survive us, and stare at us as we rot.

Author: Karl Kraus

Published in: Die Fackel Die Fackel KrausWeltgericht1 Kraus Judgement Day I


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