Search

Telegrams of the Soul by Peter Altenberg

A virtuoso Fin-de-Siècle Viennese innovator of what he called the “telegram style” of writing, Altenberg’s signature short prose straddles the line between the poetic and the prosaic, fiction and observation, harsh verity and whimsical vignette.


“If it be permitted to speak of ‘love at first sound,’ then that’s what I experienced in my first encounter with this poet of prose.” So said Thomas Mann of the work of Peter Altenberg. A virtuoso Fin-de-Siècle Viennese innovator of what he called the “telegram style” of writing, Altenberg’s signature short prose straddles the line between the poetic and the prosaic, fiction and observation, harsh verity and whimsical vignette. Inspired by the prose poems of Charles Baudelaire and the Feuilleton — a light journalistic reflection of his day — Altenberg carved out a spare, strikingly modern aesthetic that speaks with an eerie prescience to our own impatient time. Peter Wortsman’s new selection and translation reads like a sly lyrical wink from the turn-of-the-century of the telegram to the turn-of-the-millennium of email.