An Evening in the Epstein Palace with Texts by Anton Kuh

Austrian Press Agency (03/25/2009)

A persecuted and forgotten author rediscovers his audience

Vienna – Anton Kuh was an Austrian author, essayist and feature writer who described events surrounding the fall of the Monarchy with humor and satire and sketched the literary customs and mood of the times between the two world wars. As a native of Vienna with roots in Prague’s Jewry, he lived from 1928 to 1933 in Berlin where he was expelled by the Nazis. Anton Kuh’s life was exemplary for an artist of his time: In 1938 he fled from Hitler’s occupation of Austria and landed in New York where he died in 1941. A reading from the works of the author who was briefly forgotten and then rediscovered was held in the Epstein Palace upon the invitation of President of the National Council Barbara Prammer. The coordinator of the exhibition in parliament, Peter Fritz, gave an introduction to the life and work of the author. Actor Stephan Paryla-Raky’s reciting the highpoints of Anton Kuh’s literary creations were received with much applause by the largely attended audience.

The reading took place in the magnificent Epstein Palace. President Barbara Prammer greeted her guests, putting them in the proper mood for the evening by recalling memories of the building’s history. The Epstein Palace was erected during the 19th century at the request of the private financier, Gustav von Epstein, who was known for his charity and commitment to culture. Every year he distributed a huge sum of money (an equivalent today of some 800,000 Euros) to those in need and organized social evenings in his residence to include lectures, concerts and discussions. After the palace on the Ringstraße served a multitude of purposes for centuries, the Parliament is now using it again, keeping Gustav von Epstein in mind, said President of the National Council with pride. She mentioned Leon Zelman, the founder of the Jewish Welcome Service in Austria, who would surely be happy with currenty-day use of the Epstein Palace, particularly also with the excellent progress of the “democracy workshop,” which found its home in the “Epstein” and has been well received by small children and young people alike.

Like Gustav von Epstein, Anton Kuh came from a German-Jewish family in Prague, said the president of the national council when speaking about the theme for the evening. Anton Kuh belonged to the circle surrounding Peter Altenberg, Egon Friedell and Alfred Polgar, she said, recounting his famous answer to the question: “What is a coffeehouse man of letters?” As a journalistic author, he responded in his typically incisive style: “A coffee house man of letters is a person who has the time to think about everything the man outside fails to experience.”

Anton Kuh also became famous as an extemporaneous speaker, somewhat in response to his literary opponent Karl Kraus at Vienna’s concert hall in 1925. In 1928 Anton Kuh went to Berlin and elated Max Reinhardt’s audience with his spontaneous speeches, which unfortunately, were rarely ever recorded for posterity.

Anton Kuh died in New York in 1941; his last wish to have the opportunity to experience the fall of Nazi Germany was never fulfilled, said President Prammer, expressing her satisfaction, however, with the rediscovery of the author who was persecuted by the Nazi Party.

The coordinator of the exhibition, Peter Fritz, represented Director General of the Austrian State Archive Lorenz Mikoletzky, who was unable to attend, and introduced the audience to the literary program on Anton Kuh.

Anton Kuh was born on July 16, 1890 as the son of the editor, Emil Kuh, from Prague and his wife, Auguste Pelsec, from Vienna. He took up contact with the coffee house men of letters and began writing feature stories for the newspapers, “Prager Tagblatt,” “Der Frieden” and “Der Morgen.” He also worked in Berlin for “Die Weltbühne.” The breadth of his writing is reflected in his volumes of essays, such as “Von Goethe abwärts” (1922), “Der unsterbliche Österreicher” (1930) and the collection of aphorisms, “Physiognomie” (1931). Anton Kuh died on January 18, 1941 in New York. Since the 1980s, his works continue to witness a revival in Austria through publications, memories by contemporaries like Milan Dubrovic or Géz von Cziffra and newspaper articles.

Viennese singer and actor Stephan Paryla-Raky, who recited from Anton Kuh’s work “Mann mit dem Monokel” and was received by the audience with hearty applause, is well known for his appearances in the Volkstheater, Josefstädter Theater, Kabarett Simpl and Graz’s Schauspielhaus, as well as his involvement with the international film productions, “Holocaust” and “Wagner.”

For more information and photo of the event, see: