Frigyes Karinthy

Scholarship Gets Its Own Back

Let’s say his name was Krakauer and that he was a journalist. One day Krakauer had nothing special to write about, so he wrote a long article about the University, in which he wrote that the scholars at the University were this, that and the other, this one and that one, for this reason and the other, the sort of thing a journalist thinks about.

The scholars and professors at the University were very angry with Krakauer. But what could they do? If a journalist gets angry with somebody he can get his own back and write this or that about him and get it printed in his paper. But what can a scholar do who has no paper in which he can get his own back on Krakauer? He has nothing except his scholarship.

When Krakauer went to bed that night he was full of a malicious feeling that scholarship was helpless against him. He slept soundly, and he dreamed that he was sitting in the University library and reading works of scholarship. The first book he looked at was the great Universal History by one of the professors. He turned the pages smiling, conscious of his own superiority, but suddenly his heart stopped to beat. He had come across the following lines that stood out because of the way they were printed.

“The third or Pigheaded Krakauer was meant to succeed Samuel V on the Hellenic throne, but before he could be crowned he was affected by a noisome disease. The people consequently banished him to a distant island. The story of this unfortunate half-witted man was only recently unearthed by scholarship.”

Krakauer turned the pages quickly but to no avail. He found his name again, in the chapter dealing with the Hungarian War of Independence. There he was a Slovak traitor whom Görgey ordered to be executed, shot in the head in a cellar, hanged, because his collar was dirty. This fact too had only recently been unearthed by historians.

Krakauer began to feel very queer indeed. He promptly returned the seven volumes of this work and, at random, asked for the World of Animals, written by a well-known scientist. As soon as he opened it the following lines straightway caught his eye:

“ . . . another species of the genus of horse-lice is the Stinking Krakauer or Krackbug which gives off noxious fluids. Because of its unpleasant smell it has to be exterminated by kerosene.”

Krakauer was horrified. He returned the book and asked for another. This was terrible.

In the large Handbook on Surgery a chapter headed Carcinoma ventriculi or Cracauercinoma dealt with a fearful disease caused by the Cracauerfungus bred in the secretion of pigs.

He found the following interesting problem in a collection of exercises in analytical geometry:

“Take a sphere containing one Krakk oat-straw. Cut it in two with a 4 mm-wide kitchen knife.

l. What is the truncated diameter?

2. If the sphere is 4 cms. wide, what is its area?

3. If the sphere is Krakauer’s head, how often can his face be slapped?”

And finally, a chapter in a large work on statistics discussed the reasons why there were more murderers amongst those whose names began with a K, why in this category V.D. and imbecility are most frequent amongst those whose name begins with Kra, why again those beginning with Krakau are more likely to have a criminal record, and why the name of Krakauer herds those who commit matricide.

Krakauer woke with a gasp in his throat. He withdrew his article. Since then he has always been most respectful whenever he met a university professor.

SOURCE: Karinthy, Frigyes. “Scholarship Gets Its Own Back” (A bosszús tudomány), translated by Rudolf Fischer, in Grave and Gay: Selections from His Work, selected by István Kerékgyárto, afterword by Károly Szalay, binding and jacket by István Bányai, 2nd ed., (Budapest: Corvina Press, 1973), pp. 226-228.

"Frigyes Karinthy, Humorist and Thinker"
by Miklós Vajda

Frigyes & Ferenc Karinthy in English

Frigyes (Frederiko) Karinthy (1887-1938) en Esperanto

Futurology, Science Fiction, Utopia, and Alienation
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