Black–White–Red: Grotesques by Mynona, Translated by W.C. Bamberger


Mynona’s self-styled “grotesques” inhabit an uncertain ground between fairy tale, fetishism and philosophy, satirizing everything from nationalism to philanthropy.

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Our Bookseller says:

Mynona, serious philosopher by day and writer of some of German literature’s weirdest short stories by night — who hoped his work would be read by “all modern burglars” — died sick and penniless in Paris (#lifegoals) but left behind a magnificent body of bizarre works. This collection of grotesquery includes some of his political satire, speaks to his kinda freaky obsession with Goethe, and has my personal favorite Mynona tale: “The Magic Egg.” Even though it stars a mummy, a camel, and a massive egg capable of restoring Earth to an Edenic state, it reminds me most of Percy Shelley’s “Ozymandias.” Honestly, reading this when it was first published in 1916 would have shattered my early 20th century brain. – Terry

First published in German in 1916, Black–White–Red collects six bizarre tales by the “laughing philosopher” Salomo Friedlaender, who wrote his literary work under the pseudonym Mynona (the reversed German word for “anonymous”). In this collection, we encounter a tongue-in-cheek showdown between Goethe and Newton, whose theories of color clash in the form of a nationalistic flag; another story presents the inventor of the tactilestylus setting out to capture the residual sound waves of Goethe speaking in his study through a mechanical recreation of his vocal apparatus, with its amplification set to infinite. In “The Magic Egg,” one of Mynona’s most emblematic and curious tales, a man encounters an enormous bisecting mechanical egg in the middle of the desert that houses a mummy and a possible pathway to utopia on Earth.

Mynona, aka Salomo Friedlaender (1871–1946), was a perfectly functioning split personality: a serious philosopher by day (author of Friedrich Nietzsche: An Intellectual Biography and Kant for Kids) and a literary absurdist by night, who composed black humored tales he called “grotesques.” He inhabited the margins of German Expressionism and Dada, and his friends and fans included Martin Buber, Walter Benjamin and Karl Kraus.

Black–White–Red: Grotesques by Mynona, Translated by W.C. Bamberger