Translated, with an introduction, by W. C. Bamberger / July 2022 / 4.5 x 7, 72 pp. / 978-1-939663-84-9
Black–White–Red, first published in German in 1916, 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”). Mynona’s self-styled “grotesques” inhabited an uncertain ground between fairy tale, fetishism, and philosophy: a peculiar form of slapstick that satirized anything from nationalism to philanthropy. 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, as well as a striking invention that captures the residual sound waves of Goethe’s voice. 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. Other stories see dead lovers arise from their graves to drive off in casket cars and a would-be philanthropist seeking the good life through an offering of tissue to strangers on the street.
“Mynona created a new kind of literary genre, which not only went beyond the inventions of Scheerbart but which also anticipated Dada, surrealism, and above all, contemporary literature of the absurd.”—Kurt Tucholsky
Mynona, a.k.a 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 Grotesken. His friends and fans included Martin Buber, Walter Benjamin, and Karl Kraus. He died in Paris, ill and in poverty, after Thomas Mann refused to help him emigrate to the United States.
“Charming, inventive, and indeed droll.”
—Tom Bowden, The Book Beat