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is anyone aware of any interviews or biographies on the man? i'd like to know whether he was an anti-authoritarian who used a form of surrealism as a vehicle for his musings, or a surrealist who used themes of anti-authoritianism in his work.

was he more eisenstein or lynch in other words..

david, Tuesday, 1 January 2002 01:00 (twenty-two years ago) link

not that eisenstein was specifically a surrealist but i tend to think mainly because of the approach to narrative and visual metaphors which montage employed that the movement would have had more in common with surrealism than, say, early hollywood films.

i'm also struggling to think of any clear examples where surrealism and politics are entwined as any kind of real protest. are the two by nature mutually exclusive or are ideas about habitus and structure largely confined to the personal in surrealist work?

david, Tuesday, 1 January 2002 01:00 (twenty-two years ago) link

Politics and Surrealism: any films by Luis Buñuel. Particularly "The Exterminating Angel" and "The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie." I don't know very much about all this, but I think Dali and Buñuel were fairly radical. Buñuel is the most explicitly political surrealist I know of, although I don't know many. All the others are a bit more subtle.

There are no interviews of Kafka, since he only had one story published in his lifetime I think. Millions upon millions of biographies though. Most are completely worthless, as they seem to want to reduce one of the most complex writers of the 20th century to a mama's boy who hated and feared his father. All true, but it's an easy oversimplification.

Ryan, Tuesday, 1 January 2002 01:00 (twenty-two years ago) link

because I think Kafka is G*R*A*T*E I want to post to this thread, but I don't really have any interesting things to say about it.

I don't think he would have considered himself to be a political writer, so I doubt he was using surrealism as a way of getting at the Habsburg Monarchy.

Do you reckon Kafka was the creator of that universe next door world of menace behind the everyday facade type thing that people like David Lynch have been mining ever since?

DV, Wednesday, 2 January 2002 01:00 (twenty-two years ago) link

incidentally, I saw a play called Letters To Felice recently, which dramatised Kafka's correspondence with Ms Felice Bauer in the style of a 1920s silent comedy with all the parts other than Kafka's own sung. It incorporated loads of Kafka's stories in truncated form and was basically a bag of fun.

I think people underestimate how funny Kafka's work is.

DV, Wednesday, 2 January 2002 01:00 (twenty-two years ago) link

somewhat slack use of word "surrealist" in this question (also of "political", actually); eisenstein = no way a surrealist, nor — despite much poncy and-or ignorant theorising later — was he the inventor of montage as technique OR language; anyway, surrealists used (pre-sound) hollywood movies as major source for dreamworld drifting (they would deliberately miss the beginnings and ends of films, where hollywood narrative reasserted itself); breton and aragon were v.political in straight- forward old-skool fashion (breton eventually became a kind of trot; aragon a stalinist)

kafka = not a surrealist in strict terms at all (for example, completely untouched by and hard to integrate into freudian discourse) = *arguably* political at a deeper and/or visionary level than any of above (discerning links between extant euro-capitalist and communist worlds in re managerial bureaucracy as prison of CHOICE rather than imposition) => proof of same eg maybe hostility towards him from for example later (compromised) lukacs?

mark s, Wednesday, 2 January 2002 01:00 (twenty-two years ago) link

Kafka was an influence on Surrealism in the "black humour" stakes. You can't read any interviews with him, but you can see what he had in his library:


Alasdair, Wednesday, 2 January 2002 01:00 (twenty-two years ago) link

yes, well, as i stated at the beginning of the thread, no, eisenstein is not a surrealist. blah blah blah.

as far as the lynch etc thing goes, i would imagine kafka was the progenitor of all that stuff. lynch has acknowledged the writer as being his greatest influence and one of his pet (and so far unmade) projects was an adaptation of Metamorphosis. incidentally, has anyone seen the BBC adaptation of the trial starring kyle maclachlan? saw the orson welles version recently which i thought was ok, mainly because anything with a fat orson welles in makes me laugh.

i suppose the problem with this thread is the vague defintion of 'surrealism.' so kafka isnt a surrealist because his work doesnt implicitly involve freud? firstly, i would argue that isnt particularly accurate, psychoanalysis of a freudian and lacanian variety can be found in the work of both kafka lynch. secondly, i don't accept that surrealism *has* to be defined by its relation to psychoanalysis anyway, and certainly not in direct relation to freud. i don't understand how can you be so confused about what politics is though mark.. nevermind, eh.

david, Friday, 4 January 2002 01:00 (twenty-two years ago) link

Hi David, I suppose you've already read his diary (ed. Max Brod)? That's quite interesting...

Will, Friday, 4 January 2002 01:00 (twenty-two years ago) link

Also check out Kundera's 'Testaments Betrayed' for the dish on the Kafka/Brod relationship (most particularly Kafka's instructions that his work be destroyed).

Edna Welthorpe, Mrs, Friday, 4 January 2002 01:00 (twenty-two years ago) link

I thought that Welles' attempt at "The Trial" was a damn good try (surely Anthony Perkins' most complete performance?) though would have been even better had OW managed to get his original choice of Jackie Gleason to play the Prosecutor (apparently he was asking for too much dosh so OW stepped in and played the part himself).

Also, surely the best use of a railway station (Gare D'Orsay, pre- musee status) in cinema? (OK, St Pancras in "The Ladykillers" comes close)

Marcello Carlin, Friday, 4 January 2002 01:00 (twenty-two years ago) link

Defn of "surrealism" which excludes the Surrealists (eg primarily Breton/Aragon) = confusing to say the least.
Defn of "political" which says Kafka (who didn't write directly about politics) is more political than Breton/Aragon (who did) = ditto.

Canonic surrealism = absolutely thick with stuff on dreams and sex (Freudian discourse, yeah, OK, a bit loosely). If you want to use "surrealism" to mean something bigger and vaguer, go ahead (everyone else does), but it makes your original question less interesting. My beef: I like Kafka; I don't like the canonic surrealists (B&A anyway; I like Bunuel), so I'd rather say he was doing something they WEREN'T doing. If you can show I'm wrong, cool: go ahead, that's interesting.

Eisenstein WASN'T an anti-authoritarian. I like him too, but not for his politics, which were confused, compromised rubbish.

mark s, Friday, 4 January 2002 01:00 (twenty-two years ago) link

(Welles on K in The Trial: "Obviously he's guilty as hell")

mark s, Friday, 4 January 2002 01:00 (twenty-two years ago) link

Probably the only aesthetic example of surrealism-meets-politics I can think of is McGoohan's "The Prisoner" (although the politics ended up far more personal than civic). And arguably "The Prisoner" was Kafka as written by Chesterton (esp. "The Man Who Was Thursday": "Gabriel Syme had no idea he was so close to London").

Marcello Carlin, Friday, 4 January 2002 01:00 (twenty-two years ago) link

not really a fan of the prisoner, but Chesterton-does-Kafka totally makes me want to be!!

mark s, Friday, 4 January 2002 01:00 (twenty-two years ago) link

personally, yes, i would open up surrealism to a wider definition which although perhaps not being pure-grain surrealism per se (at least in the traditional sense) covers themes of the unheimlich in art.

i actually don't know much about how confused eisenstein's politics were other than obviously he was a commie whose films were part of a propaganda attempt to introduce communism to the masses following the revolution. communism is pretty damn confused anyway, but a lot of 'political/weird (okay, i won't use surrealist this time!)' filmmakers of that era had very confused politics. fritz lang i think is one example. made wonderful expressionist films containing very muddied moral/political messages. the endings and political messages in caligari and metropolis are constant sources of debate for this.

david, Friday, 4 January 2002 01:00 (twenty-two years ago) link

what exactly was welles' interpretation of The Trial then? why did he find him guilty? anyone got any of their own readings on the work? i'd be interested to hear..

david, Friday, 4 January 2002 01:00 (twenty-two years ago) link

I think guilt was what Kafka considered our ontological condition. The Fall from grace, that sort of thing. The Trial is a way to dramatize living in a fallen condition. Just my take.

Furthermore, I think my take on Kakfa's anti-authoritarianism stems from his argument (which I read into "Before the Law" and The Trial) that all authority takes advantage of the absence or distance of God to impose it's own will. In other words, authority takes the place of God, but it is therefore inherently corrupt.

Ryan, Friday, 4 January 2002 01:00 (twenty-two years ago) link

nine months pass...
apparently Franz used to burst out laughing while reading his stories to his friends, and so did they. he IS very funny, which most people overlook, but this is what makes his work so real and so disturbing, much more so than straight-faced types like Sartre.

I always more or less liked Kafka but now I think he's becoming one of my favorite writers. I think I just had the wrong translation before.

Justyn Dillingham (Justyn Dillingham), Sunday, 3 November 2002 07:10 (twenty-one years ago) link

i also like kafka.
have just begun a big re-reading of his stuff. started with 'metamorphosis', about to digest the 'trial' tonight.
well, start it anyway.

donna (donna), Sunday, 3 November 2002 07:30 (twenty-one years ago) link

i have not read 'investigations of a dog', or 'the castle' before.
any thoughts on those? they are next in line in my volume :-)

donna (donna), Sunday, 3 November 2002 07:41 (twenty-one years ago) link

Shit, I was just reading this thread thinking it was happening in real time, then noticed the date of most of the posts was last January.

My very belated 2 cents is that Kafka, being hugely influenced by Freud, was a sort of proto-surrealist. He certainly had a political side -- an interest in Zionism, and his job at the Worker's Accident Insurance Institute gave him a vivid picture of the exploitation of workers. But his genius was to cast his ideas about victimhood in religio-cosmological rather than political terms. In other words, Gogol rather than Bakunin, Kierkegaard rather than Marx, Dostoyevsky rather than Mrs Gaskell were his mentors. (He did like Dickens, though.)

This is what made people like Brecht scorn him as a 'man caught beneath the wheels of history'. But he has outlived Brecht as a literary / cinematic influence for this very reason: he proposes no rationale or remedy for the world of pointless persecution he portrays. And he even gives bureaucratic menace and the sense of guilt it fosters a certain comic charm. So he's much closer to the Gogol of 'A Government Inspector' than the Brecht of 'The Measures Taken'.

Brecht was always after a certain Schweikian lightness, but never achieved it, more often ending up didactic and prescriptive. Kafka, influenced by the Yiddish theatre troupes he saw in Prague, couldn't help being as folksy and entertaining as he was Modern and serious.

Momus (Momus), Sunday, 3 November 2002 10:51 (twenty-one years ago) link

I think people underestimate how funny Kafka's work is.


(well, just the one)

Daniel_Rf, Sunday, 3 November 2002 15:12 (twenty-one years ago) link

I was once in a pre-Internet mailing group (we called them Amateur Press Associations) with a writer who compared himself to Kafka, except this guy claimed he was better because Kafka didn't have his sense of humour. Obviously his self-assessment was absolutely as wrong as it could possibly be.

Martin Skidmore (Martin Skidmore), Sunday, 3 November 2002 16:44 (twenty-one years ago) link

'investigations of a dog' is very disappointing. i have put it away for another time perhaps, it simply became too irritating for me to continue reading it.

donna (donna), Wednesday, 6 November 2002 03:50 (twenty-one years ago) link

one year passes...
i like the comparison of kafka to gogol, though is a while since i have read gogol. i think this might deserve further attention.

mark s seems to posit distance from freud, while momus places him far closer to freud. perhaps this could also be expanded on?

gareth (gareth), Monday, 1 March 2004 14:28 (twenty years ago) link

one month passes...
I read "In the Penal Colony" for the first time last night, fuck!

Dadaismus (Dada), Monday, 26 April 2004 11:59 (twenty years ago) link

yea! that is surprisingly graphic, and, while it does fit the kafka mode in certain ways i guess, it feels different and odd, compared to the rest of his work

gareth (gareth), Monday, 26 April 2004 12:01 (twenty years ago) link

It's probably the most affecting piece of writing I've read in years

Dadaismus (Dada), Monday, 26 April 2004 12:03 (twenty years ago) link

one month passes...
surprised at no one really mentioning the castle (not on ilb either it seems). i think, presently, i like this one best of all, though that may be, as it is the one i have read most recently

so, why the lack of talk about it here on this thread?

i'm still digesting my thoughts on it. obviously being unfinished, it kind of grinds to this abrupt holt, which means the ending part, with the landladys clothes seems to take on exaggerated importance? i don't really understand the significane of this at the end.

charltonlido (gareth), Thursday, 17 June 2004 10:26 (nineteen years ago) link

althuogh, i read the muir translation. something that has been somewhat discredited? or at least out of favour?

lets talk about translations in regard to kafka, how different are they? is this the bulgakov thing all over again?

charltonlido (gareth), Thursday, 17 June 2004 10:32 (nineteen years ago) link

one of the things that strikes me as quite funny about kafkas books is the way that background characters, like, say the assistants in the castle, when they are clinging to the railings for ages, waiting for k to soften and call them back, how much like background characters in a computer game they are, milling around, repeating the same actions, as though waiting for stimulus to bring them something to do

charltonlido (gareth), Thursday, 17 June 2004 10:36 (nineteen years ago) link

How could it end anyway? He actually gets to the castle? I kinda like how it ends, tho I haven't read it in um about 15 years

Andrew Blood Thames (Andrew Thames), Thursday, 17 June 2004 10:37 (nineteen years ago) link

yes, i agree, but i meant about the clothes, why did they suddenly make this appearance at the end, and have this dicussion about them. or maybe, it was because that was as far as it went

nb: this isnt the actual proper end of the book, its the final 2 chapters tagged on by brod

charltonlido (gareth), Thursday, 17 June 2004 10:39 (nineteen years ago) link

one year passes...

can anyone with this particular copy to hand, tell me what painting this is?

terry lennox. (gareth), Tuesday, 7 February 2006 23:42 (eighteen years ago) link

Oooh, an oppurtunity for me to recommend this excellent Kafka primer by Robert Crumb (containing some his most beautiful work):


chap who would dare to be completely sober on the internet (chap), Wednesday, 8 February 2006 00:25 (eighteen years ago) link

Hey, I read that when it was published as "Introducing Kafka" a number of years back and really enjoyed it. I had no idea until now that it was Crumb, but I was really blown away at the time by how good it was for an "Introducing" book. Now I know why.

Abbadavid Berman (Hurting), Wednesday, 8 February 2006 04:02 (eighteen years ago) link

R Crumb's "Kafka" recommendation seconded. Great stuff there. I wish he'd do more comic adaptations of Kafka's stories.

Mickey (modestmickey), Wednesday, 8 February 2006 05:15 (eighteen years ago) link

that painting looks a lot like something by giorgio de chirico, which brings us back full circle to the surrealism thing again.

nb the surrealists were fascinated by black humour, and majorly influenced by kafka in this sense. see breton's 'anthology of black humour', which i think includes something by kafka (as well as poe! a story about a beer barrel talking to a drunk man iirc!!).

david laughner, Wednesday, 8 February 2006 09:26 (eighteen years ago) link

and yeah, the r crumb book is great.

re: the castle - i was once told by a german kafka studies grad student that there is absolutely, categorically no way you can appreciate kafka 'properly' in english, as you miss out on loads of stuff like 'der schloss' meaning not only 'the castle' but also 'the bridge'.

david laughner, Wednesday, 8 February 2006 09:28 (eighteen years ago) link

The painting on that Penguin is indeed by De Chirico. I used to have that copy of the book, but it's in storage somewhere.

In fact, there are some "interviews" with Kafka. They were recorded by a young Czech called Gustav Janouch and published under the title "Conversations with Kafka".


They read too much like literature to be taken at face value (although Kafka was, of course the man who said "I have no literary interests; I am literature." For instance, one of them (I'm telling it from memory) goes like this:

"Dr Kafka entered the room in a state of some perturbation. "Did you see that?" he cried. "What?" I asked. "Look, out there, on the square! What is it?" I looked, and saw a small dog. "It's a little dog!" I exclaimed. "A dog," said Kafka, looking uncertain, "are you sure?" "Yes, I'm quite sure, it's a little dog!" Kafka shook his head. "It would be good if it were just that. But I doubt it. For you it might be a dog, perhaps, but for others it is... a sign."

Momus (Momus), Wednesday, 8 February 2006 11:00 (eighteen years ago) link

the first post doesn't make any sense at all!

The Man Without Shadow (Enrique), Wednesday, 8 February 2006 11:23 (eighteen years ago) link


Giorgio de Chirico - The Enigma of The Hour.

NickB (NickB), Wednesday, 8 February 2006 11:40 (eighteen years ago) link

i was once told by a german kafka studies grad student that there is absolutely, categorically no way you can appreciate kafka 'properly' in english, as you miss out on loads of stuff like 'der schloss' meaning not only 'the castle' but also 'the bridge'.

-- david laughner (david/laughne...), February 8th, 2006.

I took a course with a German Kafka scholar who talked about the same thing -- for example The Trial is actually called Der Process (sp?) which doesn't quite literally translate to trial and can also just mean, well, process. This is especially great since part of the joke, as it were, of The Trial is that there's never actually a trial.

OTOH scholars of every foreign writer make the same argument about every foreign writer. I still think there's plenty to get out of Kafka in English.

Abbadavid Berman (Hurting), Wednesday, 8 February 2006 13:42 (eighteen years ago) link

yes; I have a friend says the same

cozen (Cozen), Wednesday, 8 February 2006 13:49 (eighteen years ago) link

one month passes...
so i've read "the trial," "the castle" and a book with all the best-known short stories - where do i go from here? the diaries? letters? preferably newer translations as i really don't like the stiffness of the original muir versions. what's the best biography?

J.D. (Justyn Dillingham), Friday, 24 March 2006 06:30 (eighteen years ago) link

which did you like best?

i think the castle might be my favourite book, sometimes

charltonlido (gareth), Friday, 24 March 2006 10:14 (eighteen years ago) link

yeah "the castle" is my favorite, it has a slow comic dreaminess that's hard to pin down.

kafka is one of the few authors who it really really pays to reread: i've probably read "the metamorphosis" like 5 times since high school and it feels fresh and interesting each time.

i like the welles film of "the trial" a lot but he really mucked up the ending!

J.D. (Justyn Dillingham), Friday, 24 March 2006 11:17 (eighteen years ago) link

Can I mention Ivor Cutler now?

Dadaismus, the Male Poster (Dada), Friday, 24 March 2006 11:18 (eighteen years ago) link

I read "The Metamorphosis" a few weeks ago, and I've been bothering one of my teachers to make it required reading ever since. I really did get a lot out of it...

Tape Store (Tape Store), Friday, 24 March 2006 22:48 (eighteen years ago) link

g00b otm

cool app (uh oh I'm having a fantasy), Friday, 16 January 2009 23:00 (fifteen years ago) link

Yeah, Samsa definitely actually transformed into an insect.

ichard Thompson (Hurting 2), Friday, 16 January 2009 23:39 (fifteen years ago) link

I seen it with my own two eyes!

georgeous gorge (bernard snowy), Saturday, 17 January 2009 00:00 (fifteen years ago) link

evidence for:

— everyone in the story accepts that the giant bug is gregor (instead of, like, "hey, there's this bug in the room, where'd gregor go?")
— several people in the story (cleaning woman, three boarders) are amused by gregor rather than terrified
— the family IS terrified, but it could be argued that they act the way any family might if one of its members started chirping like a bug and crawling around
— gregor becomes increasingly ill throughout story and loses his appetite -- because he's eating rotting food!
— kafka said he didn't want any picture of an actual bug used to illustrate the story

evidence against:

— people can't climb walls and ceilings
— "hello, you old dung beetle!"

has anyone ever done a film of this story?

(The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Saturday, 17 January 2009 03:34 (fifteen years ago) link

surely there must be a Polish animation from the 80s or something.

Henry Frog (Frogman Henry), Saturday, 17 January 2009 05:00 (fifteen years ago) link

Having spent a lot of time reading Kafka, I think you're looking for a neat, simple explanation of the kind that doesn't generally exist in Kafka. Yes, the fact that he transforms into an insect probably has some metaphorical significance for the condition of a stressed out, alienated traveling sales dude living with his shitty family, but Kafka stories are never that literal (it was really a dream, he went insane, etc.). You have to take Kafka stories at face value and as existing on their own plane of reality.

Joe Bob 1 Tooth (Hurting 2), Saturday, 17 January 2009 15:54 (fifteen years ago) link

Nabokov gave a marvellous, marvellous lecture on The Metamorphosis, in which he discusses this (there is a great passage where he tries to entomologically determine exactly which kind of insect Samsa becomes). It was published in Lectures on Literature, but the text is also here.

Eyeball Kicks, Saturday, 17 January 2009 16:22 (fifteen years ago) link

am i right in thinking that kafka meant us to assume that

uh SPOILER i guess

gregor samsa didn't literally transform into a "monstrous vermin," and that stress plus living with a truly shitty family had just driven him insane?

in a german class i took a while ago where we read the metamorphosis this was one of the interpretations we discussed. one of the things i like best about the story, and kafka's work in general, is that there are dozens of ways of interpreting it — i would go so far as to say that the best way to enjoy the story is to interpret it in as many different ways as possible. i don't know if i would say that kafka means for us to assume anything that specific, because he seems to have avoided making points that direct and clear-cut, but i do think it's entirely possible that he deliberately left it open as one of several possibilities.

modernism, Sunday, 18 January 2009 10:28 (fifteen years ago) link

It was no dream.

Gorgeous Preppy (G00blar), Sunday, 18 January 2009 11:08 (fifteen years ago) link

best line of the story imo^^^

Gorgeous Preppy (G00blar), Sunday, 18 January 2009 11:08 (fifteen years ago) link

I mean, isn't that what gives the story such power? To wake up turned into a giant beetle or cockroach or whatever is so extreme, so awful, so at odds with what you think of as a likely thing to happen to us first thing in the morning, that it has to be a dream, or a hallucination, or an indication that you've lost your mind. But: It was no dream. No matter what you expected, what your ideas are of the possible, how you conceive of the world, what is happening to you is happening because it's happening.

And if that doesn't have resonance with your life, you probably haven't lived long enough yet. Or you've lived a charmed life. I don't know.

Gorgeous Preppy (G00blar), Sunday, 18 January 2009 11:43 (fifteen years ago) link

one year passes...

has anyone ever done a film of this story?

This story being "Metamorphosis". I saw a Swedish or Norwegian (I think) film of it, when I was but a boy, on BBC2. Need to google this.

tom d: he did what he had to do now he is dead (Tom D.), Monday, 19 July 2010 11:49 (thirteen years ago) link

Swedish, 1976

tom d: he did what he had to do now he is dead (Tom D.), Monday, 19 July 2010 11:52 (thirteen years ago) link

there's a russian film from 2002


and, of course, the TV film of Berkoff's play with Tim Roth as Samsa.

jed_, Monday, 19 July 2010 13:36 (thirteen years ago) link

In the Swedish film you do get to see a great big beetle though, dunno abt the Russian one

tom d: he did what he had to do now he is dead (Tom D.), Monday, 19 July 2010 13:38 (thirteen years ago) link

Best Final Fantasy baddie ever!

Darramouss, Monday, 19 July 2010 13:57 (thirteen years ago) link

Read 'The Castle' recently, I'm still wondering how much kabbalism it allegorises..

henri grenouille (Frogman Henry), Monday, 19 July 2010 14:04 (thirteen years ago) link

My instinct was that Kafka would probably not have known much about the Kabbalah. It's not the sort of thing secular, middle-class Jews would have looked into much. It only became fashionable in recent years for anyone but the most devout religious scholars to study it.

surfer blood for oil (Hurting 2), Monday, 19 July 2010 14:10 (thirteen years ago) link

Google searching suggests that I was right, although there are scholars who think his work is open to that interpretation:

surfer blood for oil (Hurting 2), Monday, 19 July 2010 14:11 (thirteen years ago) link

I wonder if j0hn is on hand to comment over this.

Saw an inetrview with John Banville on Newsnight. His line was that even if 2-3 aphorisms come out of this the excavation of the remains will be worth the bother.

xyzzzz__, Tuesday, 20 July 2010 09:37 (thirteen years ago) link

Manuscripts et al found

gato busca pleitos (Eazy), Tuesday, 20 July 2010 12:29 (thirteen years ago) link

Reading his biography, it was surprising how literal and autobiographical his fiction could be (e.g., Metamorphosis).

bamcquern, Tuesday, 20 July 2010 14:00 (thirteen years ago) link

three weeks pass...

Almost finished "Amerika". What a great, strange, funny book.

Tolaca Luke (admrl), Tuesday, 10 August 2010 16:14 (thirteen years ago) link

one month passes...
five months pass...

The tone of the The Trial is, after all, one in which a false or obscure accusation against K. is relayed in the most neutral terms, without resonating affect. It seems that the grief avowed in the letters is precisely what is put out of play in the writing; and yet the writing conveys precisely a set of events that are bound together neither through probable cause nor logical induction. So the writing effectively opens up the disjunction between clarity – we might even say a certain lucidity and purity of prose – and the horror that is normalised precisely as a consequence of that lucidity. No one can fault the grammar and syntax of Kafka’s writing, and no one has ever found emotional excess in his tone; but precisely because of this apparently objective and rigorous mode of writing, a certain horror opens up in the midst of the quotidian, perhaps also an unspeakable grief. Syntax and theme are effectively at war, which means that we might think twice about praising Kafka only for his lucidity. After all, the lucid works as style only insofar as it betrays its own claim to self-sufficiency. Something obscure, if not unspeakable, opens up within the perfect syntax.


nakhchivan, Friday, 4 March 2011 13:30 (thirteen years ago) link

neat lil gloss on k there

rest of the essay more contingent but also v good

nakhchivan, Friday, 4 March 2011 13:49 (thirteen years ago) link

every once in a while you find someone puts something down you have been feeling in your bones, thank you based butler

Neu! romancer (dayo), Friday, 4 March 2011 13:52 (thirteen years ago) link

Yeah I really liked that -- need to read his letters.

Does anyone know of a good comp of Jewish tales?

xyzzzz__, Saturday, 12 March 2011 08:26 (thirteen years ago) link

one year passes...

anyone read the hofmann translations of the stories?

twittering spinster (k3vin k.), Wednesday, 30 May 2012 18:52 (twelve years ago) link

No but want to!

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 30 May 2012 20:26 (twelve years ago) link

one year passes...

You guys. What. The. Fuck.


copter (waterface), Thursday, 20 June 2013 13:43 (ten years ago) link

In the unending critical Easter-egg hunt for the secret meaning in Franz Kafka’s fiction, Friedländer has retrieved the gay egg.

乒乓, Thursday, 20 June 2013 13:55 (ten years ago) link

in a way it's almost refreshing to see someone actually criticize kafka, or try to, but i can't take anything by self-regarding homophobic nitwit joseph epstein seriously.

(The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Thursday, 20 June 2013 19:55 (ten years ago) link


"They're all such schmucks. Really mired in thirties radicalism."

A deeper shade of lol (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 20 June 2013 20:59 (ten years ago) link

if woody allen dictated dk's pronunciation of "nabokov" two lines later it's the best argument ever for the auteur theory but it was probably keaton.

the white queen and her caustic judgments (difficult listening hour), Thursday, 20 June 2013 21:04 (ten years ago) link

Rant/Using ILX as a blog/soapbox follows (just a heads up).

Today would've been Kafka's 130th birthday. Google Doodle is paying homage to him.

And I think back at what a bizarre last year and a half it has been: from moving to a different country, to aging parents on constant verge of death, to failed or unstable career moves.

Today was the due date to pay my IRS tax return, as well. As a Canadian living in the US, it bothers me that I had to move here. But I guess things never go as planned. And now I, too, feel like a monstrous vermin, crawling around the sewers of Los Angeles. When once health and exercise were an important part of my routine, now I struggle to have a decent quality of life and avoid breathing in crazy particulates when running on a hot, empty suburban street, where people initially looked at me strangely and locked their doors as I approached them. I guess they weren't used to having someone run around their safe and pretty neighbourhood. Ghost town.

All of it puts into question your self-worth, I suppose. And to add insult to injury, the American government is prepping for a cute role as police state. Canada, as spineless as their government officials are, follow along, and will now share all data with them. I wonder how long it'll take Canada Student Loan to figure out I'm not really in the country and force me to pay an exorbitant amount of money each month. I guess renewing my passport might tip them off.

It's a good thing I don't do drugs, because all this has upped my paranoia. I hardly use my fancy iPhone and don't post or talk about personal things on Facebook, Instagram, Skype and other suspicious software. I guess you can say posting this rant on ILX is my breaking point. I don't know. I might want to become a US citizen one day and from mine and others' experience when crossing the border, it seems like they'll point to anything that can make you a criminal or unwanted in the Land of the Free™. I guess their making a big deal of the smallest things is their defence mechanism. Meanwhile, the Harper Government has a plan of its own to destroy our country. I guess I should start defriending my anarchist and socialist friends. Or I don't betray who I really am and get on that RetroShare app. But encryption adds another level of suspicious activity, as one headline reads, "NSA: If Your Data Is Encrypted, You Might Be Evil, So We'll Keep It Until We're Sure". Then there's "US Postal Service Logging All Mail for Law Enforcement", "Never Trust Facebook", "The Criminal NSA", "The Fallacy of Human Freedom", "DHS Watchdog: 'Intuition and Hunch' Are Enough to Search Your Gadgets at Border", the Utah Data Center. Maybe I should cancel my Verizon service as soon as my contract is up. Maybe surrounding myself with good people will help me deal with all this.

I'm sure LA has wonderful people, but I sure wish I would stop meeting crazy artists, charlatans, opportunists, money-hungry businessmen, and start meeting, you know, normal people. Not that Vancouver doesn't have their share of crazies, but the ratio for crazy-to-normal seems higher here. Concrete jungle, for sure. But so many people want to move down here. Colour me confused, I guess.

I guess in the end I should stick to using the few good opportunities I've been given to my advantage and plan my Great Exodus as soon as possible. That's possibly the silver lining in all of this -- barely.

I always replay an incident from university in my head. It was my last final before graduating -- my Eastern European literature class. I lived just a few blocks from campus, in a 2-bedroom basement suite. I woke up an hour early because I tend to stress out easily and get paranoid about the smallest things, as you can tell from this rambling. My exam is at 8:30 and I am ready to leave by 8:00. As I go to open the door, I notice the door is locked. I unlock the knob but realise the top lock can only be opened with a key. The key had always remained in the keyhole for this very reason, I realised. But there was no key. In other words, the lock from the inside required a key to unlock the door. With no key, there was no way to open the door. I look to the only window large enough for me to exit, but there were bars protecting it. I remember thinking I wished I had some handyman tools at that point, but luckily I had my trusty mobile phone. Except no one picked up. I sat there for 45 minutes and someone finally came. I was late to my exam but while I waited I wrote a note to my prof explaining exactly what surreal conditions prevented me from being on time. When I got to class, I handed him the note and he handed me my exam questions. I had to choose one. I wrote an explanation of the term Kafkaesque.

And it seems like it's always like this. One is always waiting for another to open that locked door to let her in. As much as one is ready to go, it is very much a prisoner in a cell situation. It is not you who decides when to take the next step, it is the step, the external factors, the situation out of your grasp that comes looking for you.

I know I'm not the only one in this situation or with these feelings and that many others understand from experience. And many others are in far worse situations. But if the beginning of understanding is the wish to die, I don't know if I want to understand.

I apologise for the above. You can go back to your regularly scheduled programme.

c21m50nh3x460n, Wednesday, 3 July 2013 19:14 (ten years ago) link

I wonder how long it'll take Canada Student Loan to figure out I'm not really in the country and force me to pay an exorbitant amount of money each month.

or, y'know, you could just pay back your obligations.

JACK SQUAT about these Charlie Nobodies (jon /via/ chi 2.0), Wednesday, 3 July 2013 19:17 (ten years ago) link

If I had the money, I would. If you live outside, there is one single monthly amount, regardless of your income. So I would probably pay more than someone who owes $100k.

They only lower your monthly payment (drastically) if you live in the country.

c21m50nh3x460n, Wednesday, 3 July 2013 19:24 (ten years ago) link

To your point, though, I would much rather move back and pay whatever I need to, because it would probably be pretty darn low and doable, and it would save me this headache. But I have no one left in Canada. I'm currently saving up to move back, though. It's a slow process, because we pay thousands of dollars for my grandparents' due to their illnesses and such.

c21m50nh3x460n, Wednesday, 3 July 2013 19:28 (ten years ago) link

happy birthday franz kafka!

Treeship, Wednesday, 3 July 2013 19:33 (ten years ago) link

also, sorry to hear about all of that crimson hexagon.

Treeship, Wednesday, 3 July 2013 19:36 (ten years ago) link

Thanks, Treeship.

c21m50nh3x460n, Wednesday, 3 July 2013 19:43 (ten years ago) link

two weeks pass...


Consider this incident, which took place as he was dying of tuberculosis, and knew it. One day, when he was walking in a Berlin park, Kafka saw a little girl crying. He asked her why she was sad and she told him that she had lost her doll. Oh no, Kafka said, her doll was not lost - the toy was simply off on an exciting adventure. Understandably sceptical, the girl asked for proof. So Kafka went home and wrote a long, detailed letter from the doll, and gave it to the little girl the following day. Then, every day for the next three weeks, he gave her an additional letter. It seems that the doll had met a boy doll, and become engaged, and then married. By the end of the three weeks, the doll was setting up her marital home and the little girl no longer missed her mute companion.

(The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Thursday, 18 July 2013 07:25 (ten years ago) link

nine years pass...

The last translation of The Diaries is totally fine. Kafka is very, very transmissible.

But still the cover looks rad and it's great to see talk of this collection.

Kafka’s last surviving diary entry. @rossmbenjamin has accomplished something truly monumental with this translation. https://t.co/FxadScmJMJ pic.twitter.com/cLdtD1NqHo

— Merve Emre (@mervatim) January 6, 2023

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 11 January 2023 10:47 (one year ago) link

Does gaydar exist and if it does would it have been detected in Kafka's writing, e.g., his diaries, and how much suffering could not have occurred? I remember precise descriptions of male antagonists in The Trial. How does gender make you aware of other people?

youn, Monday, 16 January 2023 21:20 (one year ago) link

Well, chew on that, youn.

Me reading that Franz Kafka had a *lot* of sex with women because he adored femininity but found the act physically uncomfortable and considered himself extremely unattractive despite being conventionally good looking:


— Matilda, Battle Maiden 🐶 (@DESTINOOOOOOOO1) January 24, 2023

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 25 January 2023 14:58 (one year ago) link

one year passes...

*look at how they massacred my boy*

‘The thing that is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world.’ pic.twitter.com/3bCrlQ91P1

— Elvis Buñuelo (@Mr_Considerate) June 10, 2024

xyzzzz__, Monday, 10 June 2024 11:11 (four days ago) link

that must be completely unlistenable

glumdalclitch, Monday, 10 June 2024 12:02 (four days ago) link

"The Vacuous politics of Franz Kafka" sounds illiterate.

xyzzzz__, Tuesday, 11 June 2024 09:59 (three days ago) link

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