Monday, August 18, 2014

Cafes Reichsrat and Arkaden

Six years ago, I posted on some interwar Viennese cafés of historical interest, including the Arkaden and the Reichsrat. I noted the significance of the Reichsrat in connection with Viennese logicians and Wiener Kreis positivists. Specifically, Kurt Gödel presented some of his incompleteness results there in 1930 (to Carnap, Feigl, and Waismann).

In that post, I ventured a hypothesis about the location of the Reichsrat. It turns out that I was just plain wrong. The excellent logician Richard Zach, has found Café Reichsrat's location 'at the north-west corner of Stadiongasse and Reichsratsstraße/Rathauspark'.

In Café Griensteidl before 1897 (photo by Carl von Zamboni)

There's a new book on Viennese cafés: The Viennese Café and Fin-de-Siècle Culture (ed. Charlotte Ashby, Tag Gronberg, and Simon Shaw-Miller [Berghahn Books, 2013]). The book's coverage reaches beyond Vienna to include papers about early 20th-century coffeehouses in Zagreb and Krakow. Also, there's a paper by Edward Timms called 'Coffeehouses and Tea Parties: Conversational Spaces as a Stimulus to Creativity in Sigmund Freud's Vienna and Virginia Woolf's London'.

The book primarily explores the cafés' contribution to Vienna's intellectual firmament. Central European coffeehouses were great, semi-public venues (what the sociologist Ray Oldenburg calls a 'third place') in which poets, mathematicians, politicians, journalists, psychiatrists, etc. etc. rubbed shoulders and shared ideas. Timms charts some of the relations among the Viennese café Kreise (circles) by means of a diagram (p. 207) that looks like a reproduction of the one he made for the first volume (Fig. 1, p. 8) of his magnificent biography of Karl Kraus. It's a good diagram, but Timms put a more complex one in volume 2 of his Kraus biography (p. 108). The latter diagram locates some of the Kreise in their preferred cafés and has the interesting label 'Vienna Circles: the Field of Cultural Producton'.

(For more about the many Vienna circles, see '"Wiener Kreise": Jewishness, Politics, and Culture in Interwar Vienna' by Wolfgang Maderthaner and Lisa Silverman, in Interwar Vienna Culture between Tradition and Modernity, ed. Deborah Holmes [Rochester, NY: Boydell & Brewer, 2009].)

There's very little about philosophers in the above-mentioned The Viennese Café and Fin-de-Siècle Culture. All I could find was an endnote in Shachar Pinsker's contribution (p. 96 n. 36, where Pinsker says that Wittgenstein and members of the Wiener Kreis frequented the Arkaden Café) as well as a brief mention of Otto Neurath in Steven Beller's paper (p. 56, where Beller says that Neurath and members of the Wiener Kreis often hung out in Café Herrenhof).

Pinsker's article is called 'The Central European Café as a Site for Hebrew and Yiddish Modernism'. It has sections devoted to cafés in Lemberg and in Berlin, but the largest section concerns the coffeehouses of Vienna. In that part of his paper, Pinsker mentions the Hebrew poet Avraham Ben-Yitzhak, about whom Elias Canetti wrote. (Canetti referred to this author as Dr. Sonne.) Pinsker situates Ben Yitzhak in an important group of Yiddish and Hebrew writers who congregated in the Arkaden Café before and during WWI. Based on the memoirs of some of these authors, Pinsker characterizes this café as 'the place in which Jewish immigrants from Galicia felt at home' (p. 86). (The index entry for 'Arkaden Café' doesn't include a reference to Pinsker's discussion.)

Added (August 20, 2014): I noted in my post on Lviv/Lemberg/Lwow that the mathematicians and logicians of that city did much collaborative (and solitary) work in the Scottish Café. Some of those thinkers received part of their education in Vienna, so it wouldn't be surprising if Viennese logicians and mathematicians did some collaborative work in the cafés (as the physicists did).

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