Edward Timms

Edward Timms is the author of Karl Kraus: Apocalyptic Satirist and co-editor of Visions and Blueprints: Avant-Garde Culture and Radical Politics in Early 20th-Century Europe, a collection of essays to be published by Manchester University Press. He is a fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge.


Edward Timms, 19 April 1990

As the debate about German identity enters a new phase, the work of Marcel Reich-Ranicki acquires a special interest. His career crosses several ideological frontiers: from Pilsudski’s Poland to Hitler’s Germany, from the Communist East to the capitalist West, from traditional Judaism to secular modernism, from radical dissent to conservative orthodoxy. For the last three decades Reich-Ranicki has been a dominant figure in West German literary journalism. His position in 1990, as he celebrates his 70th birthday, has a double aspect. For some his career is an exemplary instance of German-Jewish integration. For others it signals the end of a great tradition of critical dissent.


Edward Timms, 17 March 1988

‘Mayn’t your politics simply be the result of sexual maladjustment?’ This question, unobtrusively formulated in Stephen Spender’s Forward from Liberalism (1937), lurks as a sub-text in some of the most significant writings of his generation. For authors like Auden, Isherwood and Spender, the struggle for sexual freedom was a stimulus to political dissent. Around 1930, the centre of gravity both of their lives and of their writings was displaced to Weimar Germany, where a Reichstag committee on the penal code had resolved to lift the criminal sanctions against homosexuals. Germany was the country where sexual freedom and social progress seemed to go hand in hand. And the fact that the Soviet Union had been the first European country to revoke the laws against homosexuality gave Communism a particular appeal. In conservative Britain, by contrast, male homosexuals risked imprisonment and disgrace. And a crippling system of censorship made it impossible to write frankly about feelings.

Rosa with Mimi

Edward Timms, 4 June 1987

‘It is only by accident that I am whirling in the maelstrom of history,’ Rosa Luxemburg wrote from prison in September 1915; ‘actually I was born to tend geese.’ The subject of this absorbing biography is Luxemburg the goose-girl, the ‘hurt child’ who, according to Elzbieta Ettinger, lurked within the ‘famous revolutionary’. Drawing on previously unknown private letters, this book portrays Luxemburg as a socially insecure and emotionally vulnerable woman. The question left unresolved is how a person so frail and fallible could have become one of the most charismatic figures in the history of revolutionary Marxism.

Mr Lukacs changes trains

Edward Timms, 19 February 1987

When Georg Lukacs joined the Hungarian Communist Party in December 1918, his admirers were taken by surprise. This gifted young man from an affluent Jewish background, then aged 33, had previously devoted himself exclusively to cultural pursuits. After coming into prominence around 1905 as one of the instigators of the Hungarian intellectual revival, he had gone on to make his mark in Germany as a cultural theorist in the tradition of Dilthey, Simmel and Weber. When he settled in Heidelberg in 1912, he seemed set for a distinguished university career. His early inquiries had focused on the relationship between spiritual experience and aesthetic form, summed up in the title of his influential collection of essays, Die Seele und die Formen (1911). His writings displayed a lively awareness of the dependence of literary forms on sociological variables. But there was no sign of a Marxist (let alone revolutionary) perspective.


Jewish Officers

13 September 1990

Commenting on the liberal traditions of the Royal Italian Army, H. Stuart Hughes writes: ‘Here alone, as far back as the early 20th century, one could find generals who were Jews’ (LRB, 13 September). Hughes has evidently forgotten that the Austrian Army, too, included a number of generals of Jewish origin, starting with General Armand von Nordman (killed in action at the battle of Wagram...
SIR In her biography of Rosa Luxemburg, Elzbieta Ettinger attributed the Catechism of a Revolutionary to Bakunin and Nechaev jointly. I am sorry that in my compressed account of her argument (LRB, 4 June) Nechaev’s name was omitted and I am grateful to Mary Lewis for her clarification.


20 February 1986

SIR: In his magisterial article Peter Pulzer asks whether ‘standards have plummeted’ at Cambridge since he was taught History there. May I point out that the author of the book which provoked this question, Roger Scruton, holds a post not at Cambridge but in the University of London. Pulzer rightly ridicules Scruton’s reference to ‘the nihilistic satire of Karl Kraus, the vampiric...

Women: what are they for?

Adam Phillips, 4 January 1996

For anyone interested in the history of psychoanalysis, or indeed, in how people start having new kinds of conversation, The Minutes of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society are an inexhaustible...

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What did Freud want?

Rosemary Dinnage, 3 December 1992

The sharpest comment in Freud’s Women – a huge book, but consistently readable – comes at the end. It would be eccentric, say the authors, to conclude after five hundred-odd...

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George Steiner, 5 May 1988

Memories would seem to come in waves. Just now the Twenties and the Thirties have taken on a vivid presence. Their music, their arts, their decorative styles and fashions are being rediscovered...

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How to be Viennese

Adam Phillips, 5 March 1987

In Fin de Siècle Vienna, politics had become the least convincing of the performing arts. Life, Kraus wrote, had become an effort that deserved a better cause. By the turn of the century,...

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