What Kafka actually published himself, in short-lived journals and limited editions of very slim volumes, amount when collected to some 300 pages. Brod Brod took the publication of these as sufficient justification for publishing the rest, the bulk of Kafka’s writing, thereby (it is said) ignoring the advice of a Viennese wag, whom he anxiously consulted about the propriety of such a step, and who said he was sure it would be all right, if only Brod destroyed some unwanted writings—why not his own?

( Source: Anthony Thorbly – Kafka's Narrative: A Matter of Form, in Bloom, H. (ed.): Kafka, p. 23. )

Could you explain to me the meaning of the word "wag" in the context of the sentence. The possible meanings of this verb does not fit. Is the meaning of the second part of the sentence as follows: Brod ignored and did not destroy Kafka's literary work. In fact he ignored the advice of a "Vienesse wag" (?) who recommended to destroy only minority ("unwanted") of Kafka's work. What is meant by the appendix "why not his work?". Is this related to Brod's literary work?

  • A wag is a person given to uttering inconsequential humorous remarks, such as his tongue-in-cheek advice to Brod that he burn some undesirable works--starting with Brod's own works. – StoneyB on hiatus Aug 18 '15 at 15:51

The most likely meaning is this (from the Cambridge Dictionary):

wag (noun, old-fashioned, informal) = a humorous person who likes to make jokes

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Sounds like a possible contraction of "Viennese Wagnerite", an admirer of Richard Wagner's music, living in Vienna.

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  • 1
    Can you provide a reference that such people are known as wags? A more conventional definition seems much more likely. – choster Aug 18 '15 at 17:24
  • No, I can't provide a reference, and I did not know of that definition of 'wag' (didn't come across it in my search). Thanks for a helpful hint! – Victor Bazarov Aug 18 '15 at 17:30

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