Kurt Tucholsky

„I cannot recall just how and when we first met. It must have been during the 1980s, when I was a student at university and he had been dead for almost fifty years.“

This is the opening passage of an article I wrote for issue 32 of „Matrix – A Review for Printers and Bibliophiles“. It was published in 2014, four years after I had completed the book the article is all about: „Mir fehlt ein Wort“ (I am at a Loss for a Word), an hommage to Kurt Tucholsky, his writings, his virtuosity of the German language, his playfulness as to aliases.

Matrix 32: Article about the artist’s book on Kurt Tucholsky

Kurt Tucholsky (1890-1935) was a journalist, writer and essayist in Weimar Republic. His mastering the German language is outstanding. He saw a second world war coming. He opposed Hitler‘s party as powerful as he could; and he was able to do so extremely well-directed since he had studied law and earned a PhD. His writings are as relevant and unsettling today as they were back in the 1920s and 1930s. He pointed out that socialists and communists faced much more severe sentencing at court than conservatives and fascists. He described how economic networks in the weapons industry had their own notion about wars paying off for them. He stressed that since these companies made their profit selling weapons, they quite naturally had a dislike for peace. He got stripped off his German citizenship by the Nazis in 1933 and died two years later in his Swedish exile. It was long believed that he took his own life, but in recent years it was suggested he might have died of an accidental overdose of sleeping pills.

Inserts printed for Matrix 32

One rather unusual feature of this artist‘s book is it being made completely of spoiled sheets. Infact, the sheets have been printed as spoils deliberately. The reason for this is simple: the book‘s underlying story tells of a young printer collecting spoiled sheets from the bin, taking them home to have a good read. He had collected the texts he liked most in three portfolios, sewn in Prussian Archive Binding. After him fleeing Germany for America in 1933 these portfolios end up on the desks of the Nazi party and thus were turned into files of the enquiry used for prosecuting and eventually expatriating Kurt Tucholsky.

The portfolios are sewn in a special historical technique: the Prussian Archive Binding. This was used in Prussia‘s offices for files that were kept in the archives. The binding is designed for adding documents in any shape and size whenever they come in. So, over the years additions could always be made to the files. It turned out to be the perfect way of binding for these portfolios since they would – according to the background story – eventually become metamorphosed into legal files.

Prussian Archive Binding and boxes

The artist‘s book „Mir fehlt ein Wort“ – technical data:
Portfolio 1: „Die er kennt, sagt er du“ (Whom he knows he is on first-name terms with)– how to go about the German language in general and books in particular, containing 30 texts, plus one typewriter manuscript (A4).
Portfolio 2: „Aber das wäre dann keine Reklame für den nächsten Krieg“ (But this would not be advertising the next war)– how to go about war and peace and the world out there, containing 29 texts, plus one typewriter manuscript (A4)
Portfolio Z: „Laß ihn in Ruhe“ (Leave him in Peace) – how to go about art and artists, containing 12 texts.

One of Tucholsky’s texts and the typewriter manuscript

Each portfolio measures 29 x 61 cm. Prussian Archive Binding, cover from beige archive board. All texts are in German and hand set from metal type (several founts). Printed letterpress on various qualities of paper, mainly deckled edge. Portfolios sit in a corrugated cardboard box. The total edition is limited to 12 copies (only 6 copies of Portfolio Z). Published in 2010, exactly 75 years after Kurt Tucholsky‘s death.
The typewriter manuscript tells the background story about the young printer in Weimar Republic, which is fictive. Mixed in with Tucholsky‘s writings are ten essays by fictional authors trying to give the master a voice over topics at the start of the 21st century.
The Special Editon comes with all three portfolios in one box. It is copies 1 to 6
The Normal Edition comes with either Portfolio 1 or Portfolio 2 in a box. It is copies 7 to 12

Insert in Matrix 32

There is a special blogpost on my essay blog dating back to July 2014 when the article in Matrix 32 was out, plus another blogpost dating back to December 2012.

Matrix is a publication of the Whittington Press which is located in a former gardener‘s cottage at Whittington (Gloucestershire), some 40 miles west of Oxford (UK) and run by Rosalind and John Randle. The address for contact ist: The Whittington Press, Lower Marston Farm, nr. Risbury, Leominster, Herefordshire, HR6 0NJ