- a Freudo-Structuralist
Kaj Bernh. Genell
Copyright © Kaj B. Genell 2022
C O N T E N T
I. Preface. Franz Kafka , a unique writer.p.7.
Chapter I. A short Biography. p.11
Chapter II. The Literary tradition &
its influence upon FK.
a.) German romantic Irony
and Saga - the Kunstmärchen:
b.) Gustave Flaubert.
c.) Robert Walser.
d.) Charles Dickens.
ON KAFKA´S LITERARY TECHNIQUE
AND THE STRUCTURE OF HIS WORKS.
Chapter III. The literary work.
i. Trance and Psychoanalysis.
ii. The Kafkaesque. A split Universe.
iii. The extended structure: Unconscious B..
iv. Example: The Trial.
v. Example: The Metamorphosis.
vi. Example: The Country Doctor.
vii. Example: The Verdict.
viii. Example: The Castle; The Bürgel
Chapter VI. Controversies.
a.) Kafka and Judaism.
b.) Kafka and Marxist Theory.
c.) Kafka and Unfinishedness.
d.) The problems concerning the Narrator.
f.) Kafka and change of style.
g.) Deliberation, Irony and Desire.
h.) Kafka and myth.
Chapter V. Conclusion.
P. = The Trial.- / Der Prozeß. ( Originalfassung ),
Nördlingen, 1990 .
PApp.= The Trial.- / Der Prozeß.
Apparatband. Nördlingen 1990.
S.= The Castle.- / Das Schloß.
In der Fassung der Handschrift. Frankfurt
am Main, 2008.
SApp.= The Castle.- / Das Schloß.
Ed. M. Pasley, Frankfurt am
Main , 1983, App.-band.)
A.= Amerika.- / Der Verschollene.
( Amerika ), (
Frankfurt am Main, 2013.
SErz.= Collected stories. - / Sämtliche
Erzählungen. Fr. am Main, 1987.
V.= The Metamorphosis. - /
Die Verwandlung. ( in:
Sämtliche Erzählungen. pp. 56-100. )
HadL.= Preparations …. - /
Hochzeitsvorbereitungen auf dem
Lande und andere Prosa aus dem
Nachlass. ( Ed. M. Brod. ),Hamburg, 1980 .
BeK.= Description of a Struggle. –
/ Beschreibung eines Kampfes und
andere Prosa aus dem Nachlass. In der
Fassung der Handschrift. ( Ed. M. Pasley. )
Frankfurt am Main, 1993.
BraM.= Letters to Milena. –
/ Briefe an Milena. Frankfurt am Main, 2004.
BradV.= Letter to his Father. –
/ Brief an den Vater. ( 1932 ). ( in :
dem Lande und andere
Prosa aus dem Nachlass. Fr. am
Main. 2004. pp. 119-163. )
BradE.= Letters to the Family
- from the years 1922-1924. Briefe
an die Eltern aus den Jahren
1922-24. ( Eds. Cermak/Svatos ),
Frankfurt am Main, 1990.
BraO.= Briefe an Ottla und die
Familie. ( Eds. H. Binder/K.
Wagenbach. ) Frankfurt am
T.= Diaries. - /
Tagebücher, Band I-III. Frankfurt am
Br. I-IV.= Letters.- / Briefe. I-IV.
Frankfurt am Main, 1999.
FRANZ KAFKA, A UNIQUE WRITER WITHOUT ANY PREDECESSORS OR SUCCESSORS.
In an important sense, Kafka is, of course, neither a "magical realist" nor a "religious mystic," nor, for that matter, any "writer of parables." Kafka´s works are Kafkaesque. If Kafka´s works are political, religious, or psychoanalytical is a matter of interpretation. But that they are Kafkaesque is not. They are distinctly Kafkaesque. Kafka's works are entirely original, and they are so by the existence of the Kafkaesque. And the Kafkaesque is the determining factor when it comes to the effect of the entire work. The Kafkaesque - a product - emanates in its purely technical aspect out of a literary form. Kafka's structural, literary form, in which his significant works are put, is based upon a refined mega-structural narrative split, paraphrased upon Freud´s notion of Unconscious, the division between a hero-"voice" and a world-"voice" on the one hand, and conscious unconscious, on the other. This book is much about these splits and their consequences.
In another aspect, this book claims that the Kafkaesque connects to Romanticism in a combination that thrives in surpassing Symbolism, Freud's theories, and Freudianism.
Whereas Kafka's authorship is very subtle and complex, it is also wholly and utterly unique. It is unique because no other author is even remotely close to having written anything that can even be mistaken to be written by Kafka. There is, at the same time, nothing artificial in it. It is also coherent, and the beauty and truth of these literary works spring from a very rare literary and psychological sensibility and an innate knowledge of writing fiction. On that, many agree.
Furthermore, the uniqueness is of such a kind that Kafka is without actual predecessors. There are no successors either, no "Kafka-school," and there will probably never materialize any such thing. Kafka also, in this splendid isolation, has, as we all know, grown to become a "concept," a concept of his own: Cf.: "It was quite a Kafka scenario."; "Almost Kafkaesque!"; "It certainly was a bit Kafka."
The mind has created the concept of "Kafkaesque." which has become
an important, almost everyday concept, extending our way of perception.
This concept has almost become vital for the understanding of our culture.
Our questions regarding this concept, which is somewhat elusive regarding
its actual content despite its frequency and importance, are mainly two:
1. What more precisely do we mean by "Kafkaesque"?
2. How did Kafka DO to create this "Kafkaesque"?
3. Has the Kafkaesque any broader importance and implications to us?
Merely asking for the meaning of the concept of the" Kafkaesque," we find ourselves almost stuck in the classic circular paradox of analysis. Furthermore - since we are trying to describe this effect and the technique that shaped this effect, we are simultaneously executing two studies - genuinely dependent on each other in a scientifically quite forbidden way. These analyses are mutually reliant on each other! In trying to elucidate technique by effect, one could not possibly avoid subjectivity. Therefore, this study that does precisely this is not even pretending to be scientific but is just philosophical. It is philosophical reasoning around a narrative that is split in a twofold manner, around a twofold axis. However, this Philosophical work aims to determine the meaning of the concept of "Kafkaesque" to eradicate mystifications.
The first question is simply put. What is Kafkaesque?
The EFFECT: When it comes to the hero figure, we have a Buster Keaton-like hero in Kafka´s work without any shadow. According to Adorno, the Kafka heroes are “instructed to leave their psyche at the door,.”
We are prone to think that the hero stands close to some wall, shadowless and that we, at the same time, can perceive an extreme contrast. On the one hand, we have a shadowless hero; on the other hand, we seem to have a hero with a giant contrast. One might perhaps say that the impossibility of the description of this effect has led to the creation of a brand new concept derived from the proper name of Kafka: the concept of the Kafkaesque.
One might look upon the Kafkaesque as a literary genre term, although it is not evident that there is a genre. There is much confusion regarding the concept of Kafkaesque. By using the concept, some scientists and other authors refer to the way Kafka wrote, while others, by using the concept, refer to the effect of Kafka's works. By using the word "Kafkaesque," some are referring exclusively to a special kind of fictive universe, some sort of ontological sphere, and it is here as if the concept of Kafkaesque could be put alongside f. ex. "supernatural," "surreal," "Helvetic," "Paradisiac." As a literary concept, it is comparable in cultural importance to "Orwellian," but overshadowing this.
Concepts referring to experiences of literary works are rarely, if ever, concise. The notions of romanticism, realism, magical realism, symbolism, and surrealism, to take a few, have no precise definitions. In determining literary experience, we deal not only with ideological, cultural, and psychological matters but with tacit knowledge and complex matters concerning the ontology of fiction. Perhaps the concept of "Kafka" might be regarded as an ongoing question in Modernity itself that will prevail no matter how much we try to sort out the problem?. The relation: The "Kafka code" ( the central theme in this book ) => The Kafkaesque is not at all obvious. Many technical aspects were most probably not even known to Kafka himself. We shall take a slow approach to find a fruitful explanation of the special connection between the method and the Kafkaesque by first taking a brief look at Kafka's life.
It is, although it has nothing to do with central technical, formal matters, still essential to include some biographical facts concerning Kafka since it is implausible that a work like Kafka's could have been produced by anyone else than Kafka and in another place in another time than in Prague around this very time. I think that historical phenomena have an essential part as requisite and condition in creating the concept of Kafkaesque.
A SHORT BIOGRAPHY
During this time, the double monarchy of Habsburg was intact, powerful, and wealthy. This superpower was compounded of about fifteen different nationalities, and it was run, since 1848, by the emperor Franz Joseph. Prague is situated on both sides of the river Moldau, almost in the midst of Bohemia. This ancient town 1900 had about 40.000 German-speaking inhabitants, while the majorities were 400.000 Czechs. These groups – who were both Christians and Jews, lived almost segregated. Different groups existed side by side "with and against each other," as someone has said. In Prague, 9% of the population was, like the Kafka family, Jews, in this time.
Prague was a more complex city concerning class than, for example, Vienna, the center of power of the Habsburg dynasty, was at this time. In Vienna, with its 1.7 million inhabitants, the group of Jews had rapidly grown to a more predominant group of people, and anti-Semitism was much more trouble than in Prague. The Jewish ghetto of Josephstadt, which was the biggest in Europe, and probably the oldest, had been dissolved in the revolutionary year 1848 when Franz Joseph became ruler, and the Jews had acquired their full rights to marry, etc.
In Prague, socioeconomic bonds generally prevented anti-Semitism, except in economically challenging times, when one blamed the Jews as one had done for centuries all over Europe. Official business, government, and institutions were run mainly by German-speaking people, while Czechs handled commerce in general and in the Czech language. Jews in Bohemia were either German or Czech speaking, but they all spoke Yiddish, and many of them in the countryside could read Hebrew. The general Class inequalities in Bohemia were enormous like they were in the empire and Europe.
Prague at this time had a German university with about 17000 students and two German theatres. Kafka could enjoy dramas by August Strindberg and Ibsen, Shakespeare's Hamlet, Lessing's Nathan der Weise, Schiller's, Goethe's, Molière's plays, and those of G. B. Shaw and Arthur Schnitzler. Kafka perhaps attended Verdi's Rigoberto, with Caruso in the main part.
Max Brod asserts that the mood of Prague was naïve. It was almost revolutionary when the Zionist M. Buber started his newspaper there or when Karl Kraus came to town. Karl Kraus was the founder of Die Fackel, a Vienna newspaper concentrating on political satire. "Prussia is very generous as far as muzzles concerns." Kraus pointed out. "Austria is the isolation cell, where you are allowed to scream."
Kraus, in Prague, during lectures, spoke in front of a roaring, excited crowd in the student club, "Die Halle." The great critic of both political and cultural matters, not least of new-born Psychoanalysis, came to this small cultural club more than fifty times, from 1910 and on. We do not precisely know if Kafka listened to Kraus in person, but it is very likely he did so. From his diaries, we see that he was well informed, widely read, and interested in everything in society.
Many Jews in Prague were secular Jews. Kraus had left Judaism, just like f. ex. Wittgenstein did. Kraus later became a forceful opponent of the famous Viennese founder of modern Zionism, Theodor Herzl and Buber. Like Vienna, Prague did not have any radiant cultural figures with the stature of Kraus, i.e., intellectuals, who fundamentally could stir society and stimulate change. Kraus's influence upon Central Europe was enormous, to which many vital scholars, such as Freud, Musil, and Arnold Schonberg, bore witness.
Max Brod, FK's life-long friend, would later characterize himself, together with Franz, as Prague-Austrians, which tells us a lot about the two young authors and their social situation. The era was marked by the dominance of the bourgeoisie and, consequently, by a moral of double standards characterized by the oppression of women.
Oswald Spengler, another important essayist academic voice, nicknamed "der Untergangster" by Kraus, bluntly asserted, in his Untergang des Abendlandes, that every culture was subject to demolition. His field of study, History of Culture, was physiognomics; Culture was a living organism. Spengler´s historicism was of an extremely impressionist kind, quite like Vico´s and Friedell´s.
Prague, certainly in juxtaposition to Vienna, had acquired a unique, dense, and slightly ghostly atmosphere for various reasons. Its literature reflects this. Within Czech literature, which stood very close to the classic German Romantic one, a genre marked by mysticism, often called "Ghost literature," might be traced back to Rabbi Yehuda Loew, who wrote the famous fable of the strange Golem. Golem was a small creature made of clay that, in this myth, came to life when a rabbi, Maharal, put a small piece of paper with God's name on it in the mouth of Golem. Loew lived around 1600, and his works were done into pastiche by G. Meyrink, E.E. Kisch, and others.
Kafka was part of the very important, somewhat educated German bourgeoisie in Prague during this turbulent time. Around 1910, he rapidly came as a young aspiring author to be a part of Modernism. As a citizen, he never became a revolutionary activist; his early sympathy for anarchism and various socialist movements was known only to a minimal circle of friends. However, it later became an essential subject in many of his short stories and prose poems.
Kafka was no ordinary young man. He regarded himself as a kind of Unmensch, a "Quasimodo," and as being "literature." He thus often did not consider himself a human being. We do not precisely know why. Where are there hidden secrets in his life? Based on information in diaries and letters, we are prone to think that Kafka wrote to survive some ordeal. However, survival probably should also fulfill the needs of his mind. ( The strange thing with survival is that one normally does not survive on nothing. ) The writing was a "way out," but not into emptiness, but instead into delight. We will later discuss the relation Kafka - writing – desire/jouissance. Mainly the Central European culture of those days was a hedonistic, often eroticist one.
Franz Kafka was born in 1883. Franz [Anschel, as was his Jewish name] was the only son, the son of a son of a kosher butcher from the countryside in Märhren, not far from the place where Sigmund Freud´s grandfather lived.
Herman Kafka, FK:s father, was of Western Jewish descent and a successful merchant. His wife, Julie, b. Löwy, of Eastern Jewish, was the daughter of a wealthy well known Prager brewer. Herman was a member of the Jewish community's counsel and the only synagogue in Prague that provided a Czech language service, which was the only language Herman ever fully mastered. Franz never got any orthodox Jewish education since this was not compliant with Herman's determinate vision of the Jewish people's future in Europe.
Kafka had three sisters, Valli, Elli, and Ottla, and they had a French governess, Mademoiselle Bailly. The family, who generally had three servants in the house, also had a children's nurse named Anna Pouzarová, not much older than the children themselves, a nurse/playmate of which Franz felt very strongly. G. Rieck asserts that this "forbidden love strongly marks the entire authorship."
It was a bilingual home, but he went to German schools. He never grew completely familiar with the Czech language, and he could not write literature in this idiom.
Already as a boy, Franz came into conflict with his father. The son got locked out on the balcony in the night for a minor offense, which created psychic trauma.
Young Franz never showed any interest in the family business, all the more in art and literature, and hence Herman often treated young Franz with sarcastic Irony. Julie Kafka is hardly mentioned in the diaries, while the father is almost permanently present in these. Franz always sought confirmation from him but hardly ever got any. He also felt physically inferior to his father. In connection with feelings of inability to live, the father more and more stood out as an example of human beings too fit to live. As far as we know, the emotional climate of the Kafka family was neither warm nor cold. There were not much dance and music in the home. Herman liked to play cards in the evening, and when his friends were not available, Julie played with him. Herman seemed to have been all for his business. Religion meant nothing to anybody in the Kafka family.
One might get a glimpse of Kafka's boyhood and Prague's surroundings where he lived from the prose collection Betrachtung, where one might perceive the bittersweet and the unattainable as themes. During high school, young Franz took a pronounced negative attitude to romantic verse. Nevertheless, he was, on the contrary, utterly thrilled by the romantic saga, the Kunst-Märchen – a highly stylized prose, that in a sense was from the very start a parody of itself.
Kafka was not a prominent scholar in primary and secondary school but more of an average pupil and later student. Emil Utitz, who had been to school with Kafka, later, in a letter to Klaus Wagenbach, gave a vivid and memorable description of F.K.:
"If I were to say something characteristic concerning Kafka, it would be that it was not anything special at all with him."
He took his high school exam in 1901, and he began to study law at the Ferdinand-Karl's-Universität without any particular interest in the subject.
Between 1901 and 1906, he was a student at the University.
As a lawyer, he was later able to devote himself to writing in his spare time. This was his idea from very early on. During his lifetime, Kafka would many times stress the vast importance and meaningfulness of the possibility of indulging in writing, and he was mesmerized by literature and words. Kafka, as a teenager, wrote a lot. He seemed to be born with a very fluent literary style.
Already in high school, Kafka became introduced to a famous and influential philosopher of his time, Franz Brentano. He generally is described as a phenomenological thinker. Kafka appears to have been susceptible to observations on perception problems, often called a philosophy of mind, around which Brentano had evolved his philosophical psychology. It is striking how there are ideas similar to Brentano's regarding the mental experience in Kafka's Description of a struggle (1909) and some notes in the diary from 1913. B. Smith and J. Ryan are both referring to signs of the impact of Brentano upon Kafka in a passage in Kafka's early work:
"I continued my wandering. But since I as a pedestrian feared the troubles and strains of climbing the steep path, I made it more and more smooth, and then made it sloop down towards a distant valley. The rocks disappeared according to my will, and the wind ceased to blow..."
F.K. bases the content upon the" inner life" of the narrator, upon his fancies and wishes. Kafka purportedly draws consequence from the philosophy of Brentano in surpassing it. Brentano always stressed the difference between perception and object and that we are always left with our experience, of which we, while we have this experience, always obliquely at the same time, are consciously aware. We are thus, according to Brentano, aware of what we are aware. Kafka could easily have grabbed this idea and developed it in this manner, as is seen in the example. Practically, however, Brentano, in his philosophy of perception - like Dilthey does - comes into counter-position to the old romantic idealist philosophy.
Kafka does not mention Brentano at all in his notebooks. Brentano was probably of no significant importance to F.K. F.K. still might have gained essential knowledge of moral philosophy and the philosophy of right by dealing with Brentano's writings, just as he possibly acquired some skill in sophistry by reading the Talmud and other Jewish literature, which he often sought out as a compensation for the lack of intellectual and religious tradition in his own childhood home.
At Prague University, there was a student Cultural Club, the aforementioned "Die Halle," where one could listen to lectures and discussions concerning political, philosophical, and cultural matters. One night on the 23rd of October 1902, a small, near-sighted, hunchbacked, extremely self-confident boy, Max Brod, held a speech about Schopenhauer's views on destiny at "Die Halle." Since Brod in his speech violently attacked Nietzsche's ideas in this speech and actually named him "Hochstapler" (scammer) and since Kafka very much did appreciate Nietzsche, Kafka afterward approached Brod, and they then violently, discussed these matters. A lifelong friendship started with this quarrel.
Max and Franz soon began to study literature together in privacy, the readings of Plato and Flaubert. Kafka, who was fluent in French due to his love of his childhood nurse, loved to read Flaubert aloud in his baritone voice. Both Brod and Kafka were of course, fluent in both Latin in Greek, even Hebrew since they both passed high school. Franz and Max even translated parts of Plato´s Dialogues, which is interesting particularly for a Kafka scholar, since Plato's style might, to some degree, have affected Kafka's style. Being a solid skeptic and an astute Nietzsche fan, Kafka probably found it very hard to believe in the idea of the Good with Plato, though.
During his years at the Carolinum, Kafka also consumed many memoirs and biographies, his favorite lecture throughout his life, together with travel books. He usually read several newspapers and periodicals a day throughout his life, like the Bohemia, Deutsche Arbeit, Der Jude, Der Prager Tageblatt, Hyperion, and Wir.
Kafka wrote to his comrades O. Pollak, Baum, O. Kisch, and M. Brod during summer leaves. In the letters, he told them of his consummation of literature and the beauty of the landscape around the idyllic Triesch to the north of Prague, where Kafka used to visit his uncle, the country doctor.
Kafka was an assimilated Jew, if it was possible to be "assimilated" at all in Prague. He was utterly irreligious. It seems that he supported secular Zionism more than covering such. Max Brod propagated lifelong for Zionism, moved to Israel, and ended his days in Israel as a convinced Zionist, acclaimed by the establishment as an honorary citizen. Kafka himself was never won over to the Zionist outlook. Friedlander: "Kafka was never a Zionist.". However, Kafka's interest in Jewish identity increased with the years - perhaps as his inner desperation grew. Perhaps in line with his surroundings, with the circle of Jewish intellectuals with which he socialized, he increasingly became aware of Prague's insulation, and many of his friends discussed a future ideal society in Palestine. Towards the end of his life, his studies in the Hebrew language were more intense. He first studied this language in two rounds, first as a 25-year-old and later in 1923 when he was dying. However, it is difficult to prove that this study affected his writing. B. Becker, in her thesis, investigated the possible Kabbalistic influences in F.K.'s authorship.
Kafka had read Karl Marx' Zur Judenfrage, written in 1844, where Jewish emancipation is scrutinized. This 88-page book has an essential discussion on power, the power of the mass, the difference between European and American politics and religion, and human rights. It is exceptionally well written, which was often the case with Marx. Marx points at an alleged inherent contradiction between freedom of religious belief and Human Rights. De Beaumont had earlier invented the concept and idea of human rights in France. Bruno Bauer –the opponent against whom the book explicitly is directed – claims that no emancipation for Jews is possible as long as there are religions. Marx asserts that there is no possible emancipation for the Jews before all humans are socially emancipated. This book also contains a minor discussion of alienation.
Kafka in 1906, graduated with a Doctor of Law. After the usual practice period, the "Rechtspraktik" - a prerequisite for working in the state administration - F.K. got nine-month employment with an Italian insurance company, Assuracioni Generali, which was headquartered in Trieste - then belonging to Habsburg, at their Prague office. In 1908, he soon got more suitable employment as an investigator at the large Arbeiter-Unfall-Versicherungs-Anstalt in Prague. The insurance system in Bohemia was extensive; over 200,000 contractors and about three million workers were affiliated. Officials' number was on this job not less than 250. Only two of these were Jews.
Kafka FK was an ambitious, resourceful, caring, and much-respected official. He always chose to work part-time but had a good salary and never had severe financial problems, apart from the last years. In Berlin, living with Dora, he was broke. Most often, F.K. lived with the family in different chilly and noisy apartments in Prague's absolute center and rarely rented his own rooms or apartments.
At nighttime Kafka was creative. From 22:30 to 02:00 or 03:00 at night, Kafka occupied himself with his literary work during his "vintage years," i.e., the years 1912 to 1917. His breakthrough novel The Verdict, was conceived during one single autumn night session. During these years, he seems to have been indulged in the creative process instead of sleeping. From 1909 onwards, he wrote a diary, advised to do so by his dynamic, persistent, and optimistic friend Max Brod. It is a sporadic diary, and here literary drafts are mixed with short notes on health status, practical things, and notices about the family members he held very dear.
Kafka's focus was not exclusively on literature. He liked to draw, and he - despite his lack of talent - practiced on his violin, and he was fond of gardening and outdoor life. Kafka often wished to be something entirely other than a lawyer, for instance, an athlete. FK was a good swimmer, and he could, despite his weak constitution, master a horse in terrain. He cared about his health and practiced gymnastics daily in front of an open window from his earliest years. The writer in spe had his rowboat by the river Moldau. He rowed upstream and then floated down, lying on his back in the boat dressed in his usual suit, gliding under the famous Karlsbrücke and the other eight bridges. Kafka was fascinated by naked bodies and beautiful naked bodies in particular; he attended nudist camps, such as the Baltic Sea and health facilities.
Around 1909-1910, trips took Kafka to Northern Italy, Lugano and Venice, Austria, Hamburg, Helgoland, Rügen, and Marienlyst in Denmark. Kafka and Max Brod were to visit Paris together two times. When Max, the music enthusiast, chose to go to the opera, Kafka - who seems to have been almost totally insensitive to music ( although he played the violin at home ) - went to a horse race. When Brod and Kafka were in Italy, they attended an air show outside Brescia. They decided to compete to see who wrote the best record of this event, an airplane race, where the famous French pioneer aviator Bleriot took part.
This article became F.K.'s debut as a writer. The newspaper Bohemia displayed it on the 28/9 1909 with the title Die Aeropläne in Brescia. It contains, apart from a description of a vivid scenery on the countryside, reflections on perfection and courage. It is striking in its precision of thought and its exact and fresh descriptions.
He frequently socialized with a small group of tightly knit friends, young men he had met in school or at the university: Oscar Pollak, Oscar Baum, Max, Otto Brod, and Felix Weltsch. These friends meant a lot to Kafka, and he was cautious not to lose them. They generally met at the cafés in Prague, at the Arco, Café Louvre, Savoy, Imperial, or the Concordia. Many of those boys, because they were all boys, came from families who were well established for generations in the city and had a long tradition of high education in their families than Kafka, at least on his father's side.
Kafka and friends also assembled in more private milieus than cafés. At the Prague pharmacy, Zum Einhorn, one Mrs. Bertha Fanta had created a wonderful cultural oasis, the rumor of which spread through the city. Visitors here were, among others, the mathematician Kowalewski, Max Planck, and also Albert Einstein, and the latter both played the violin, accompanied by Brod on the piano, and talked of his theory of relativity. He also vividly discussed the philosophy of Immanuel Kant. In the Fanta-house, also debates about psychoanalysis were frequent. Sometimes also matters like Spiritism and Anthroposophy. Kafka often was present at the meetings, and he there listened to the famous mystic Rudolf Steiner and even discussed his own life with him later at his hotel.
Probably around 1904 - four years after the appearance of Freud's Traumdeutung - Kafka became aware of Freud's existence. In 1910 he purchased and read Freud's all-new Leonardo da Vinci - a childhood memory, where Freud uses the term "narcissism" for the first time. In the "psychoanalyst bible" at the time, Three essays on sexual theory discuss the concept of "sublimation". Kafka later also read Freud's essay on Michelangelo's Moses statue. The interest in Moses stayed with Kafka, and he commented to the young student G. Janouch a picture of the Moses statue - never missing a chance to criticize an authority - with the words: "'That is no leader. That is a judge, an austere judge.'". This was not Freud's view of Moses, who saw Moses as a tragic hero, a lone hero who doggedly wore his disappointment over the Jewish people.
We can speculate on the "mythology" behind Kafka's world of thought OVERALL and imagination just as much as we can speculate over the "mythology" behind Freud's work in its entirety. In Kafka's case, the answer about his mythology actually might be … Freud.
Kafka owned, what we know, only a few books on psychology and on school philosophy. We know that Kafka studied The Destiny of Man by Fichte. It is a very educational and well-spoken popular display of Fichte's philosophy and his current philosophical idealism. Kafka studied Schopenhauer, Nietzsche's predecessor, together with his sister Ottla. F.K. probably appreciated the antiauthoritarian approach and the constant reference to skepticism. He also was deeply impressed by the anti-authoritarian Kierkegaard's diaries, as well as S.K.'s two early works, Either-Or and the small book by S.K. on Genesis 22, the story of Abraham and Isaac, Fear and trembling.
Maybe Kafka was fascinated by Kierkegaard´s take on religion and philosophy, mingling these subjects into a kind of insidious abstract horror fiction inspired by the Danish author Steen Steensen Blicher. SSB was the creator of The Vicar of Vejlbye, the world’s first detective story, way before Mark Twain.
Kafka himself was very fond of reading aloud in public and sometimes even made speeches which do not match the general myth of him. His way of reciting his own works was, as his friend Oscar Baum testifies, peculiar: F.K. read in a gradually increasing pitch, read the whole short story almost in one breath, and extremely fast, "with blaring tongue."
He, as a young man, was a man full of self-reproach. He was intuitively sensitive concerning changes in moods around him - and to everything, just like Rimbaud. One would today claim that F.K. suffered from Asperger's.
Max Brod was a more social character. Brod, as a writer, was very productive. He had notably published himself in the erotic magazine Amethyst, which Kafka also subscribed to, with Das Tschechische Dienstmädchen. Brod seemed - as already indicated - to have a deep fascination with Prague, while he early became determined to move away. What Brod later came to write about Kafka seems to many as part of a "hagiography." Regardless of this, he was a friend who never let Kafka down, and he was virtually inexhaustible in good and bad times, in word and deed.
Much time was spent by Kafka, before and during his sickness, in sanatoriums in the countryside, often on the Central European Mountain massive. In Prague, Kafka came into contact with Franz Werfel, poet and renowned columnist. For a while, Werfel, charming and extrovert became one of the most ardent young Kafka critics. After having read Betrachtung, Werfel, who at the time was enjoying success with his writings, claimed with strong emphasis: "This book will never be read outside Bohemia!". He was later proved to be wrong. Werfel, who was extraordinarily productive, was part of the expressionist movement, consisting of authors who often came right from the trenches of World War I, writers like Sternheim - who was a millionaire -, Werfel, Edschmid, Heym, and Trakl. F.K. was also acquainted with Musil, who wanted Kafka to write for Neue Rundschau in Berlin, where he was hired as a columnist.
When F.K. was studying law, he met with a renowned professor of Philosophy of Rights, Hans Gross, and attended his lectures for three terms. Gross' son, Otto, born in 1877, was to become a friend of Kafka's. Gross junior seems to have been revolting against his father. O.G. was trained as a physician, served abroad, and then became a psychiatrist, settled in Vienna, where he entered in the circles of S. Freud. O.G. distinguished himself as an independent thinker in psychoanalysis, and Freud himself said that there were only two original thinkers he knew of among his friends: CG Jung and Gross. However, Gross slid, because of morphine addiction, into a schizophrenic state, and Jung's attempt to cure Otto G. with psychoanalysis. Hans Gross wanted to have his son incarcerated in a mental institution.
Kafka and Otto Gross first met in 1917. Kafka then had already produced what we now know as Amerika and The Trial and published The Metamorphosis. O.G., intelligent and communicative ( his father had died in 1915 ), was interested in everything from psychoanalysis to revolutionary movements. Franz Werfel, Kafka, and Otto Gross, who by then had left the Freud circle, in 1917 grew plans – in the midst of a war - of starting an anarchist magazine, Blätter gegen Machtwillen, but the whole thing stalled due to economic problems and to F.K.'s bad health. Franz and Otto had conversations about psychoanalysis. It has been assumed that the precocious Gross was the developer of Kafka's insights into Freud's thinking. Kafka took a skeptical view of psychoanalysis as a whole, and he never studied it at all. Gross' influence on Kafka came relatively late but may have confirmed individual perceptions, and it might even further have contributed to setting F.K.'s mind and style free. Otto Gross committed suicide in 1920.
Hermann Kafka, Franz´s father, was planning the wedding between Elli and Karl Herman. Karl Hermann had in mind to start an asbestos factory and needed money: the dowry. Herman Kafka went along with this but took counsel from his son, the lawyer, and made him promise not only to be part of the company's board but also to participate in the factory's management, which had around twenty employees. Thus F.K.'s father tried to force his son towards a future as a supervisor of a factory... The marriage and the up of the factory were soon conducted, and Kafka took part in the legal issues, and he frequently visited the factory, which now was led by a hired engineer. Franz immediately tried to withdraw from the father's "trap," which, of course, threatened to take his entire remaining time outside the insurance institution in claims, and - what was for him the overall disastrous matter -: it thus threatened to prevent him from writing. It was precisely in this situation when he really "hated his family," as Corngold writes, and it is probably the first and only time in his life he did so that he wrote the extraordinary short story The Metamorphosis.
He had earlier this year encountered Felice Bauer, and they had exchanged a couple of letters, and Kafka probably was determined to marry her dutifully.
One might read The Metamorphosis against this background. It is not hard to imagine that Kafka saw marriage as a struggle between himself and his father. In the notebooks, fantasies of punishment, fantasies to be faced with a large court, now appeared. F.K. felt that he betrayed his family. The asbestos factory business ran into difficulties, and it gradually came to cost Herman a small fortune. Franz considered suicide and consulted Max Brod about his problems. Brod wisely talked to Julie Kafka about her son without letting Franz know.
In the Letter to his father, Kafka later accused his father of his misery. Letter to his father is no short story but an actual letter. ( Kafka later admits to Milena Jesenská, sending her a copy of the letter, telling her it is full of a lawyer's tricks. )
The letter, written in 1919, far away from Prague, was given by Franz to his mother Julie for further deliverance to Herman, but Julie never fulfilled the wish of her son. It is essential to know that when the 39-year-old Franz wrote this, he already had written what we know as The Trial. Franz now was severely ill in tuberculosis, and the two engagements to Felice Bauer lay behind him. He had also tried to get permission to marry Julie Wohryzek. Kafka, by this time, had been through a lot.
As the son emphasizes in the letter, his father, Herman, had been too strong toward him. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, in their Pour une littérature mineure, puts focus on how Kafka's oedipal situation influenced his works. They assert that he reversed the oedipal situation and doubly. The first of these suspensions, according to the authors, was one based on three-digit relations, primarily the Prague societal triangle, with F.K. experiencing his father as a traitor against the rural Bohemian-Jewish-orthodox heritage, the father submitting to the Czech bureaucracy. Franz, however, was able to preserve his respect and love of the Father, only that the son knew that his father was just as oppressed as he was. The second suspension consists of the many transformations of "himself" into an animal, e.g., a dog = "The schizo-animal par préference." Kafka is seeking not freedom but a way out, and he finds this in the non-human: in becoming a beetle. We might compare this identification to other animal figures into which he likewise transmogrifies himself: the monkey, the dog, the giant mole, the badger, the rat. These all are symbols of loneliness: marks of an utterly painful, almost pathological solitude and an extreme outsider position are beyond doubt. In the famous letter, Kafka claims that both he and his father are innocent, both victims and that they are both guilty.
Kafka seems, seen from this letter's content, to have compassion for his father, but is this sincere? According to the two Frenchmen, it is that of a "perverse Oedipus." Here one cannot escape the problem of the so-called "authoritarian personality.". The father's relationship can be divided into three or four, more or less distinct levels: [ 1.] The purely emotional. Here we can conclude that Kafka harbored his father's very warm feelings, which were mutual, even if the father almost always demonstrated his superiority. F.K. entertained, even directly, great admiration for his father. [ 2.] Herman required Franz to take over his business and acquire a reputable position in society (asbestos factory). These requirements were significant concerns to F.K. [ 3.] His writing always seemed to him to be incompatible with marriage. [ 4 ]: Herman's unilateral pursuit for assimilation in the Habsburg Empire, as well as his lack of interest in Judaism, in the end, contributed to the alienation of his son.
There was always a strong sense of guilt with F.K. concerning the father. Herman had worked hard and dedicated his whole life to his family. Kafka's texts are often fantasies of punishment built upon a sense of guilt. That there are sexual elements in these stories seems clear. One can perceive with F.K. an early attraction to submission, to sadomasochism. Masochism should probably be regarded as a kind of double movement, just like Žižek sees it - as a complex mix of perpetrators and victims' positioning. Deleuze has stressed the revolutionary character of masochism and the humorous element in masochism, noting the Irony in sadism both concerning law and society and the super ego-suppressing Humor in masochism. Several stories and passages in the novels have a theme that alludes to masochism. In masochism, the victim talks through the voice of the torturer. Kafka does not hide the sexual element and the Oedipus situation in his works but very often stresses it. He is amid a taboo, displaying it fiercely. Kafka stays close to the prohibited, even to the downright painful, and to the painfully pleasurable, but also the pleasurable painful and painfully comical. Moreover, in the end, he sometimes is, existentially, close to the life-threatening in his paradoxical fantasies of punishment and on the verge of what he probably can stand emotionally.
A crisis in the relationship between F.K. and his beloved sister Ottla is mirrored in The Metamorphosis, where Gregor's sister Grete together with the mother, tries to clear Gregor's room, but Gregor refuses to leave the portrait of a lady in fur on the wall. This story is reflected in the deep open conflict between F.K. on one side Herman and the entire family on the other, in 1912 regarding the asbestos factory. Franz had been asked to help with the factory and to leave the nightly writings aside. At this time, F.K. was actually in utter rage and thought of committing suicide, which he also told Brod. The close friend noted that he had never seen his beloved Franz that upset ever. It is important to note that the letter to his father never was transmitted to Herman. Since it is here too late in life for a reorientation between them, Kafka tries, in writing this letter, to transgress the problem between them by, as G/D claims, turning the causal relation Oedipus-situation around by asserting that this Oedipus situation has its roots in society, actually in a whole neurosis of society. Julie Kafka refused to transmit the letter, probably thinking that this letter could not promote the relationship between Franz and Herman. F.K.:
"You seem to have some clue regarding what I want to say, curiously enough. You said a while ago for example: 'I always liked you, even if I never behaved towards you as other fathers use to, just because I simply cannot – like the others can - pretend.'"
To Louis Begley, it is evident that Franz hated his father. Since F.K. felt so alien in the world, the feeling of connectedness to his family was always very important to him. Thus he – I think – never wanted a real conflict with his father, risking losing his great affection. Alongside Herman, his sister Ottla was of significant importance to Kafka during his entire life. She was born in 1892 and was the youngest of the sisters. She was very close to Franz, and she had almost the same looks as F.K., with a very dark complexion and deep, intense gaze. Like so many Jews, she early became interested in Zionism and joined a club for Jewish women. She was interested in agriculture and took up farming in the West-Bohemian village of Zürau, to the north of Prague, until the end of the war. She married against her father's will in July 1820 to the Catholic Czech Joseph David and gave birth to Věra in 1921 and Helene in 1923. During the summer of 1922, Franz spent three months together with the young family in Planá. However, Ottla Davidová and Joseph David had an unhappy marriage. Unlike her two sisters, she was a very independent woman, a fact that may have contributed to the tensions. Franz and Ottla had, throughout life, from early childhood until the death of Franz, a close contact and held long secret talks, which took place primarily in the house's bathroom and in a park in Prague's center. In letters to her, Franz stands as quick-witted, conscientious, practical, relaxed, and natural. Significantly, Kafka would rather read philosophy with Ottla than with Max Brod. Brod had an attraction to metaphysics that most likely "discouraged" Kafka. Max had very little of the robust skepticism which was characteristic of Kafka's thought. Ottla's importance to Franz was huge. It must be stressed that their intimate conversations were the most life-close and warmest like Kafka experienced throughout his life. Ottla was, after the death of her brother, totally opposed to the publishing of Kafka's posthumous papers, novels, and other things. H. Zylberberg, who knew Ottla Kafka, writes:
"She never accepted the fact that Kafka's works had been published as the result of someone's indiscretion. Franz had left a will, and his deepest and holiest wish, that everything he had written should be burnt should have been obeyed. Due to all this, she was very angry at Brod."
In October 1943, Ottla accompanied, as a helper, a children's transport to Auschwitz, and soon after, she was murdered by the Nazis there. Her daughters escaped when Ottla voluntarily, protecting the non-Jewish husband, separated from his family.
Part of what we know about Kafka we know through his diaries and letters. Kafka's diary is a selection of brief notes, drafts of novels, etc. -; the notes are mainly about his health, almost a "medical record", and on how very little he thinks he accomplishes as a writer. Notes are like these: "June 5. Nothing is written.";" June, 13. All-day in bed."; "June, 15. All day in bed." Kafka often suffered from headaches and spent much time in his life, especially the later part of it, after the lung disease outbreak, in bed. He complained of insomnia. When he slept well, he did not write at all! Sleeplessness and sleep is also by F.K. often put in relation to guilt, e.g., in the correspondence with Milena. In a certain and unusual sense, his life was centered upon literature, sleep ( to try to get rid of his terrible head-aches ) , and his dreams.
Franz Kafka - as well as Brod - did not very much like Prague. He often expressed his wish to change location, to move to Berlin, which he managed to do in 1923, for his last winter.
Prague was not offering any intellectually stimulating milieu.
Kafka's heroes are overwhelming a vulnerable and
endangered kind; they are, in one way or another,
tormented and always looking – but often half-heartedly
– for a way out. By a letter, the four-page letter to Max Brod - the so-called "Rat letter"… -, written on December 4th, 1917, where the F.K. reveals his great fear of rats, one can conclude that Kafka had an obsessive syndrome linked with a cluster of deep anxiety and fear of castration, rooted in the Oedipal situation. Freud's famous patient, Rat man, E. Lasker, had read about Chinese rat torture in the same book as Kafka, i.e., in the French anarchist Mirbeau's Le Jardin des Supplices, which is sometimes referred to as the role model for Kafka's masterpiece In the Penal Colony.
During the summer of 1907, Kafka was in Triesch, in the countryside, residing at an uncle's place. He enjoyed himself, bathing and riding a bike, and having a romance with the nineteen-year-old Jewess by the name of Hedwig Weiler. Kafka was 25 years old at the time.
In a letter to Brod, Kafka describes her as "very ugly, small, and chubby, with red cheeks and has two large front teeth, which do not fit in the mouth." One can compare F.K.'s heartless description of her with one later made of Felice, in which F.K. thinks Felice looks "like she has a broken nose." F.K. appears to have excelled in describing girls' ugliness, at least in his letters to Brod.
Hedwig was born in Vienna in 1888, studied philology and philosophy, and was a social democrat. She later took a degree, and became a Ph.D. in 1914. Franz writes the eleven letters to Hedwig in Prague, where he worked full-time at the aforementioned Italian insurance company. These letters are neither incredibly intimate nor warm-hearted but have more of a mocking tone. Perhaps they are meant to be humoristic. Hedwig did not think they were. She was very reproachful regarding the "Irony" in them. Kafka does not seem very interested in Hedwig, and he seems to have been very depressed at the time. Hedwig calls him a liar in her letters, and Kafka tries to transform the fact that he is lying into something interesting. They did not seem to get along at all. Supposedly Kafka felt inferior to Hedwig, both intellectually and emotionally. The relationship with her might have contributed to Kafka's fear of women.
H.W. survived two wars and died in 1953 in Vienna.
The most remarkable and intense relationship that Kafka ever had and which had the most significant impact on his literary works was with the Berlin girl Felice Bauer. Franz went over to the Brod family one evening in August 1912. When he there first saw Felice Bauer, he believed by her looks that she belonged to the servants. The meeting was marked by several misunderstandings and confusion. Kafka would this evening originally edit his debut collection of short prose together with Max, the Betrachtung ( Looking out ), for Rowohlt's Verlag, an enterprise which now, because of the presence of Felice, instead was left entirely to Brod. Kafka later accompanied Felice to her hotel, gave her by accident his address, and a week later, he typed a letter to her on a paper with the insurance company's letterhead. Here a relationship began, and giant vampirism from Kafka's side one of the most grotesque in literature history. Kafka and Felice are almost exclusively associated through letters. Kafka demanded challengingly detailed answers to his letters twice a day (!) from Felice. Much of what followed in their relationship seems to have happened one-sidedly out of Kafka's fear of marriage. Kafka monitored himself intensely regarding this fear, living for many years, being the only son, strongly victimized under constant pressure from his family to get married. E. Krause-Jensen: "Between 1912 and 1917, he writes incessantly to her, now and then taking back what he has just written, the lines he had just sent away, but he obliges her, however, to answer twice a day. He replaces the marriage contract with a diabolic pact, a sort of "vampire business correspondence," as Deleuze and Guattari put it, an activity that Kafka needs in order to be able to work. 'Motionless,' by his table of existence, Kafka sucks Felice's blood like a spider, weaving his yarn. The only fear he glimpses and perceives, all terrified, through his oversensitive intuition, is that he should perish in his own yarn of words and that the "resort areas" should prove to be dead ends. Therefore he simultaneously is writing short stories on the theme of himself slowly turning into an animal. /..../. "
What now followed was an intensely creative period, the most intense of his life, during which Kafka's stronghold to everyday life was the letters to Felice. Franz Kafka did not become engaged to her until June 1, 1914. Kafka's fear of marriage can, according to many, have had its base in sexual agony or even more of a general feeling of not being man enough or in a different sexual orientation.
Kafka wrote The Verdict, The Stoker, and The Metamorphosis within just a few months in the autumn of 1912. The Verdict was created in one swoop on the night between the 22nd and 23rd of September 1912, a short story dedicated to Felice.
On the 23rd of September 1912, after having completed The Verdict, Kafka wrote in his diary the famous words:" Thoughts of Freud, of course."
One might say that this date constituted the birth of the Kafkaesque.
During October-November this year, the year of the birth of the Kafkaesque, the inaugurating chapter of Amerika was written, the piece which soon would be published in a magazine under the title "The Stoker" ( Der Heizer ).
He recognized this short story as his first mature work, and he read it aloud to his friends and to an open audience at a recital evening only a couple of days after it had been created.
In two days (i.e., nights) in November and December, he then wrote The Metamorphosis. After completing this "short novel," Kafka devoted himself to writing his "American novel," the unfinished Amerika. Kafka then suddenly got into a writing paralysis. The non-productivity lasted until Kafka engaged Felice over a year later. During this "latency," Kafka came to realize, even better than before, that he was a great writer, but a writer put in a complicated situation.
Kafka wrote about two hundred letters to Felice, very self-centered ones. A tangible silence, drowned in words, one might say. Judging by them, he seems to have been during this period in a kind of constant crisis. The letters lack fundamentally essential and relevant content. They deal with unimportant details in life.
The catastrophe in Kafka's predicament, and in particular concerning Felice, can be illustrated by the reproduction of extracts from a letter from the correspondence, from what is sometimes called the "dog letter," written in April 1913:
"My real fear - it can hardly be said or heard anything worse - is that I never ever will be able to have you. That, in the most favorable case, I would be limited to like a stray faithful dog to kiss your hand, distractedly passed, which would not be a sign of love, but merely a sign of the desperation of this animal, forever doomed to dumbness and despair. That I would sit next to you and, which already has occurred, to feel your body's breathing and life at my side, and basically be more different from you than now, in my room. I would never be able to attract your gaze, and that for me everything really would be lost, when you looked out the window or when you put your face in your hands. I am ostensibly allied with you, riding with you all through the world, hand in hand, and, that none of this is true. In short, I will forever remain so excluded from you, even if you were suppress to indulge to me, that it would bring you in danger. "
F.K. often returned to the dog-theme. Kafka falls away in the letters to F.B. from the role of capable author to that of a failed suitor, to a complete stranger in relation to human life and existence, to the role of a fleeing animal. Example 2. Kafka in the so-called "wooing letter" in June 1913:
"You already know of my strange predicament. Between me and you stands - regardless of everything else - the doctor. What this man says ought to be doubted. By decisions like these, medical diagnoses are not decisive. If they were, I would not hesitate to take them into account. I was not sick – as I told you, but I still am. Possibly living under other circumstances would make be healthy, but it is impossible to create these other circumstances. The medical judgment (which, as I have already said, not to me unconditionally is true) remains of character: the foreign judgment. My family doctor, for instance, would in his stupid irresponsibility not see the slightest obstacle, on the contrary; yet another, a better doctor might clap his hands together over his head. Consider, Felice: in view of this uncertainty this can hardly be said, and it might sound strange. It is now too early to talk about it. Later, however, it would be too late; there would no longer be any time to talk about such things, just as you do point out in your letter. But it is no longer time for any doubt, at least this is how I feel, and I am therefor now asking you: Will you, during the above, unfortunately not very extensively, outlined premise, think about whether you want to be my wife? Do you want to? "
He wrote a long pro- et contra-list in his diary. He actually wrote to Felice:
"Within me I have always had – and still have – two souls, battling each other. One is roughly the way you want him. (…) The other one is only thinking of his work."
The first betrothal between Franz and Felice lasted between 1/6-12/7 1914, - i.e., only five weeks. Kafka seems to have changed his mind immediately, and he ended up in a state of agony and total despair after the engagement. In a letter to Felice's friend Grete Bloch Kafka revealed – while the negotiations still were held - he found the whole engagement a mistake. Grete told this to Felice and her parents.
The two families' resolution to break up the engagement took place in Berlin in a hotel, Askanischer Hof, in the presence of members from both these families, and Kafka experienced this meeting as a trial against him.
On July 29, 1914, F.K. started to write The Trial. This novel seems to thrive from material tied to the engagement to Felice.
The second engagement to her was initiated three years later, at the beginning of July 1917, and ended soon, shortly after Kafka realized that he had contracted tuberculosis. One night in August, Kafka woke up in his bed, noticing that he coughed blood. He was, as he later mentioned, most of all surprised and then actually delighted, despite the pools of blood on the floor – this because Kafka, by instinct, knew he could at least sleep now, not being bothered by the usual severe headache. Franz went to work as usual the next morning after his Czech maid, horrified at the sight of the blood-stained floor of the apartment, having exclaimed: "Poor Herr Doctor, with you, it is soon running out!". Not until the afternoon of the same day does he go to his doctor! Later Kafka wrote the following lines:
"There is only one disease, neither more nor less, and this sole disease is hunted blindly by Medicine like one is hunting an animal through endless forests."
Kafka's tuberculosis would, mostly untreated, undulate back and forth, sometimes forcing him feverish to bed, sometimes almost wholly subsiding - yet sometimes giving hope to disappear, other times re-issue despair at deterioration. In letters to Milena Jesenská three years later, he would be more bantering and talk about the disease and its outbreak. One can imagine the difficulty in the situation that arose, with fits of tuberculosis including recurrent bouts of fever, in devoting himself wholeheartedly to such advanced writing as his. Maybe he wove part of his thought of the disease into the writing itself. One can also speculate on what effect Kafka's tuberculosis had mentally on Kafka. This disease sometimes brings psychological effects, such as a change of moods. Numerous are Kafka's thoughts and speculations about the disease in his letters and notes. It is quite clear that he seems to have considered that its outbreak originally had to do with the continuous mental struggle that was going on inside him: marriage or writing. In The Diary, he wrote about how "the brain covenanted with the lung behind my back."…On tuberculosis, Kafka wrote to Felice: "The blood does not come from the lung, but a well-aimed blow from one of the fighters."
Kafka did not feel strictly bound by any oath of allegiance to Felice during the periods of engagement, but he several times met with other women during this time. During a trip to Riva in northern Italy, he spotted an 18-year-old Swiss non-Jewish girl, Gerti Wasner, to which he immediately got attracted. They spent several days together. Franz composed thrilling tales in the evenings, which he read to her at breakfast at the hotel. Kafka avoided strong girls and often sought himself very young ones. Perhaps F.K. often liked asexual advances. He found pleasure in having relationships in the form of playmate-playmate. From a young age, he was also the sort of man who clenched tight friendships with men, often for life. He cherished these contacts well.
The second engagement with Felice Bauer also ended in 1917 due to Kafka's tuberculosis. Felice then, in 1919, married and had a child the following year. She died in New York in 1960, at 77 years old, after having sold all Kafka's letters in an auction to pay her medical bills.
During the years with Felice, Kafka wrote nearly all of his major works, such as The Verdict, The Metamorphosis, The Trial, and Amerika.
It has been hypothesized by Friedländer that Kafka would have been almost totally uninterested in women and that Kafka would instead have had an attraction to children of both sexes. Shame consistently is a motive in Kafka's writings, and shame is an entirely natural thing connected to pedophilia, Friedlander asserts. This theory – because we have not got any proof of Kafka being a pedophile - opens up a plausible view of unexpected tragedy. It contributes to a plausible understanding of a prerequisite of F.K.'s work regarding the possible concealment of desire and hence of a duality concealed. It might also, in part, explain his negative attitude to marriage. Some passages from the works point in the direction of FK being attracted to children. There is an abundance of "Quasimodo" creatures in Kafka's texts, of helpers, young boys, and rowdy girls. One can imagine that Kafka had a penchant for non-adults, for the eternal adolescent, as he appeared to many people. According to third parties, e.g., K. Wolff, FK reminded him of an eternal teenager.
A book about pedophilia that Brod lent him made him entirely out of equanimity. He then also compared the reading of such literature to the reading of psychoanalytic writings. In the diary, Kafka often leaves descriptions of young people's beauty, mostly young naked boys. This reasoning by Friedländer, who claims that FK seems to have been a pedophile, can be looked upon in contrast to Brod's biography, with its high-strung description of Kafka as almost a miraculous Saint-like man.
One often connects Kafka with the notion of masochism, and he told Max that he liked to be punished by women. That F.K., together with the prostitutes in brothels in Prague, would have made real his innermost fantasies that altogether met his sexual needs is not likely.
Julie Wohryzek was a Jewess, born in Prague in 1891 and of simple origin. Her father served as a Kustos in the synagogue in a suburb of the capital. Julie worked as a "komptoiristin," a clerk, just like Felice did. F.K. describes J.W. in a letter to Brod as an uneducated girl fond of nice clothing and operettas, and he says she is more of a fun than a sad person. He also emphasizes that she "is not without beauty" but also writes that she is the type of waitress. The two had met in January 1919 in an almost empty pension in Zürau during one of Kafka's first convalescences, when he was quite ill. The two seem to have had good emotional contact, contrary to what seems to have been the case in Kafka's relation with Felice. Kafka never talked of love when he talked of relationships. He was almost entirely unromantic.
In Kafka´s stories, there is nearly no romantic scene whatsoever.
We might find out about the relationship in a letter to Julie's sister Käthe, whom F.K. met in company with Julie in Schelesen. Kafka confided to Käthe in the same way he had to Grete Bloch earlier. In this letter he explains how close Julie and he got to each other and he describes his views on marriage and the essentials of having a family with children and the perception of him as a consumptive official whose highest interest is literature. He writes that he wants to meet Julie but that the question of marriage should be left open.
Following the traditional Jewish custom and Herman's will, Franz Kafka seems to choose a wife with Jewish roots. Franz and Julie got engaged. The wedding was planned to occur in November 1919. It was opposed vehemently by FK.s parents, perhaps because of rumors about Julie's sexual "liberal habits." Herman insulted his son and bluntly told Franz that "a girl just needs to wave her blouse" for Franz to fall for her, and advised him to visit a brothel instead. Julie's father was equally against the relationship. Rieck claims that Julie indeed was the more loving of the two.
In July 1920, they disbanded their engagement. Julie was utterly heartbroken. Perhaps the break was due to Kafka´s meeting with the Austrian young volcanic intellectual Milena Jesenská-Pollak.
In 1921 Julie married a banker, Werner, with whom she later lived in Bucharest and Prague. She was deported by the Nazis to Auschwitz and died there, probably in August 1944.
During his years with Julie, Kafka composed almost no literary works.
Twenty-three years old Milena Jesenská wrote a letter to F.K. from Vienna expressing her great admiration for his short stories. She told him she wanted to translate some of them into Czech. Kafka proudly and thoughtlessly showed the letter to his fiancée, Julie W, and told his publisher to send to Mrs. Polaková copies of all his books. Then the two of them met at a café in Prague in October 1919. They soon began to exchange letters. She was a Czech girl, born in 1896 as the daughter of a famous physician Jan Jesenský in Vienna, a specialist in jaws reconstruction. She was versatile and talented. According to Pawel, Jan Jesenský was a radical nationalist and anti-Semite.
Milena early became involved in radical leftist circles and was politically compromised. She entered avant-garde circles, took drugs, excelled in wearing shocking clothes, and began to study medicine, something his father had always taken for granted. She had from early years been assisting him during surgery. Milena married Ernst Pollak, a jet-set man of letters, an amateur philosopher and a banker, and Werfel and Brod's friend. Pollak also was considered to be something of a "sexual athlete." He was of Jewish descent. In all respects, Milena was rebellious, and this, unfortunately, led her father to incarcerate his daughter - whose mother had previously died - at a mental hospital for nine months in 1917! She managed to escape, though, after that, her father broke all contact with her. She followed Pollak, with whom she married in 1918, to Vienna, where he sought membership in the renowned philosophical club, the "Vienna Circle," under the famous professors Schlick and Carnap's leadership. Ernst consistently refused to give Milena any money. Right after the Great War, there was chaos in Vienna, and it was then especially difficult for a Czech, and indeed for a girl without any thorough education, to get any work there. Milena was even considering becoming a prostitute. She suffered from malnutrition and sought translation jobs, mostly translations from German to Czech.
Kafka's relationship with the powerful Milena became very stormy. They only met a few times IRL. Kafka asked Milena to move to Prague, and Milena wanted Kafka to come to Vienna. It was not long before Kafka, full of growing anxiety, 1921 refused to meet Milena. The continuing correspondence between them developed into a bizarre struggle. It was no longer a "one-way terror" like in the case of the relationship with Felice.
F.K. and Milena were now both of them sick. Kafka's T.B. had deteriorated - something he did not want to face but was forced to realize, among other things, mainly by his sister Ottla. Milena had apparently also had a bout of tuberculosis - and her husband also had become ill, and she told Kafka in letters, that she had to and wanted to take care of Ernst. Milena periodically also was a morphine addict and a cocainist, adventurous as she was. At this time, F.K.'s sister Valli married, which almost shocked Kafka, who was always extremely sensitive to changes. Milena thus did not want to leave her sick husband, and the relationship with F.K. ended in November 1920. From December 1920 to August 1921, Kafka lived at a sanatorium in the Tatra Mountains. In the spring of 1922, Milena visited F.K. in Prague a few times. F.K. generally saw Milena as more robust and had more insight than he, and he knew that she, although sick at the time, was an extraordinary woman fit for life. The last time they saw each other was in June 1923.
Some say that The Castle is about Milena. Kafka began writing this novel on the evening of 27 January 1922, when he arrived at the mountain resort of Spindelmühle in Riesengebirge. M. Blanchot – the French writer hailed by Adorno - is questioning the prevalent assumption that there is a "Milena portrait" in Frieda of The Castle...
Milena divorced Pollak in 1925. She became a resistance activist against Hitler in 1939 and died in Ravensbrück in 1944, aged 48.
During the Milena years Kafka composed The Castle, The truth seeking dog and The Hunger artist.
In July of 1923, on a Baltic Sea trip with his sister Valli and her children, Kafka met Dora Diamant. Dora pretended to be 17, but she was at the time 25, while Kafka was 40. Dora [Dworja] Diamant [Dymant] originally came from Pabiance in Poland, and she was a daughter of a relatively successful Jewish orthodox Chassidic businessman. She seems to have been on the run from the prospects of life within the hometown's narrow Jewish community. Having lived in Krakow and Berlin, in July 1923, she worked as a volunteer taking care of children in Müritz, where she met Franz. They fell in love with each other, spent three weeks together, and soon decided to live together in Berlin. Kafka had, due to his bad health, taken leave from his work. Dora stayed with him in Berlin. Franz wanted to leave old times behind. Dora was teaching him Hebrew, a language he devoted much time to try to master. From time to time, F.K. thought of trying to leave Europe for Palestine. When Kafka met Dora, she held a sermon for the children in the orphanage where she worked, and on one of their first private meetings, she read the book of Isaiah aloud in Hebrew to him. Franz told her that she seemed to have qualities as an actor and urged that she become one, which later also happened.
Later, in the autumn, Kafka wrote a letter to Dora's father and asked him for her hand. After consulting a Rabbi, the father answered back with a negative answer. F.K. was not an orthodox Jew, and this fact ended the whole matter. Living in Berlin with Dora was the first time F.K. lived with somebody outside his family. Dora seems to have been a clear-minded, intelligent, empathetic, and strong-willed young woman, and she also seems to have supported Kafka, encouraging him to shift to a more natural approach to life.
Nevertheless, during this time, Kafka continued to write his "animal stories," like The Burrow, tales of utter loneliness. Eventually, T.B. forced him off to Prague in March 1924 and in April to the sanatorium Kierling at Vienna's outskirts. This sanatorium was small and quiet, in contrast to a hospital. Dora followed him there and stayed with him. Along with Kafka's friend, the physician Robert Klopstock, she was with him throughout the last time, and very soon, after having been visited by Max Brod and Elli, his eldest sister, Kafka died on June 3, 1924. On June 6, Milena's obituary appeared in Národní Lísty. On the 11th of June, Kafka was buried at the Jewish cemetery in Prague-Strachnitz.
After Franz's death, she secretly kept an unknown number of Kafka's notebooks and several letters, which remained in her possession, despite Brod's request to her to give them over to him until they were stolen from her apartment in Berlin in a 1933, Gestapo raid.
Dora died in London in 1952, aged 54.
During the years with Dora, Kafka wrote Er, and Josephine the singer, his last story.
" A whole bunch of critics seems to have made
up their mind to misinterpret him.”
( M. Brod )
Max Brod - 1884-1968 - was born in Prague in an upper-class Jewish family. His father was a banker. Max studied law and graduated in 1907. He married in 1913 and worked at the postal service in Prague until 1924. In 1910 he became active in the Zionist movement and was in 1918 a founder of the Jewish National Council of Czechoslovakia. Between 1918 and 1929, Max worked as a governmental press and information officer. The receptive, multitalented, and energetic Brod later became a literary critic for Prager Tageblatt and a music critic. In his books, he was strongly influenced by a kind of decadence called "Indifferentism," e.g., Tod den Toten 1906 and Schloss Nornepygge. Brod's early works often display the cultural clashes between Jews and Christians in the early 20ieth century, as in Jüdinnen and Arnold Beer: Das Schicksal eines Juden. Later works frequently reflected Brod's interest in Zionism. Among his most famous works is the erotically charged Die Frau, Nach der man sich sehnt (1927), the historical novel Tycho Brahe´s Weg zu Gott, and a book on ideas, Heidentum, Christentum, Judentum (1921). In his widespread biography of Kafka, Brod emphasizes Kafka as a person possessing a certain distinctive talent, timidity, and a vast mysteriousness, but Brod also describes him as a physically bold person. In Franz Kafka, Glauben und Lehre Brod puts the religious aspect in the center, but also pointed at Flaubert's influence on Kafka. Brod focuses on how the FK´s aphorisms crystallize a doctrine of the "indestructibility" of human life and how Kafka claimed spiritual life as the only true life. Brod, in 1953 adapted Kafka's The Castle for the theatre. Brod here even incorporated the parable Before the Law. Kafka's own "testament," which he left among his papers to Brod, clearly stated:
Maybe I will this time not come on my feet again, / ... /
In this case, therefore: my last will concerning all that I have written:
Of all that I have written the only books that counts are: The judgment, The Stoker, The Metamorphosis, In the Penal Colony, A Country Doctor and the story A hunger artist. ( The few copies of Betrachtung can be left as they are...). When I say that these five books and this story counts, I do mean by this, that I have no desire that they should be printed anew and be passed on to the future. On the contrary: would they completely go lost, it would suit my real desire. If people want to keep the small books, I will of course not try to hinder that.
However, everything else from my hand ( in print in magazines, in manuscripts and in letters ), must without exception, unread ( though I do not object to you looking through them, but rather you did not, and in any case: do not let anyone else see them…) be burned, and this as soon as possible,
this I beg you
Brod felt he could not complete the wish of his friend, and he certainly did not. This decision has later become very much debated. Through his edits, Brod has mainly of the three novels, 1925-27, left an important and lasting imprint in the entire History of Literature. Many people worldwide have read The Trial, Amerika, and The Castle in the same costume in which MB de facto "handed them over to the world" ... One might in the structure of these editions meet, if not a hidden agenda, yet strong preferences and tendencies, which was all Brod´s own. Many later interpretations of Kafka's works, the “Brodian Kafka,” deal with an imaginary writer. It is this imaginary Kafka, who largely, and for a long time, has become Kafka. Writing about a true, a real Kafka, is still impossible today because of the manuscripts' conditions. Critical editions are of some help, but Brod's damage is irreversible and cannot be overestimated. Beissner has summarized the criticism often nowadays directed at Max Brod:
”Max Brod has made program music out of the works of Franz Kafka.”.
It seems evident that Brod, much earlier, should have presented the world with the Kafka heritage in its entirety. However, it can be supposed that Brod himself thought he was utterly loyal to his late friend. In 1939 Brod migrated with his wife to Palestine and did not return to Prague until 1964. He died in 1968 in Tel Aviv.
LIFE AS A not widely KNOWN WRITER OF SHORT STORIES
What was then the big reaction of Kafka in relation to his time's major historical and cultural events? Was it one of actual rebellion, a subversive, revolutionary one, or was he an aesthetic, more interested in using his environment and the horrors of his time for his enjoyment, quite like we know he used people around him, like Felice? The authorship of F.K. has perhaps more to do with Modernity as a spiritual phenomenon than with the war and social struggle's direct experience. His "soulmate" Robert Walser was a more active portrayer of daily social life. Kafka's The Verdict and Amerika were both created before the outbreak of the Great War, i.e., within the Habsburg empire's structure. Kafka's work only in part, or in aspect, mirrors the political and cultural climate. There was a spiritual emptiness, anguish, and rootlessness that Lavelles, Maritain, Mounier, Sartre, and others in existentialism later formulated. This philosophy was mainly about the impossibility of formulating maxims to live by and was affected by Nietzsche's (1844-1900) thoughts. Both existentialism and modernity itself were also about the enormous confusion created by Freud's ideas. The existentialists would later think of Kafka as a clear-sighted predecessor, formulating insights concerning Modern Man's conditions.
After his first publication, Betrachtung, Kafka became primarily known among connoisseurs in Prague and Vienna as a writer in the Robert Walser style. He did not seem to seek success as a writer to any prize. On the contrary, he knew that he had enormous talent, and he was determined not to waste it. Kafka worked extremely conscientiously and was careful with every aspect of the craftsmanship, up to the choice of paper and typos. His quarrels with his publishers were endless. His goal was to write something nobody had written before.
Kafka died in Vienna from tuberculosis - after many years of sickness - at the age of 40 years and 11 months. He was buried in the Jewish Cemetery in Syranice in Prague in the presence of but a few people, including Dora. On the tombstone, his name is engraved in Czech and German. The names of the parents were added later on the same stone in 1931 and 1934.
Kafka´s three sisters do not have any graves. Elli and Valli and their husbands were both murdered between 1941 and 1942, maybe in Lodz, and Ottla in Auschwitz 1943. On a marble stone, close to Franz´ tombstone, are engraved the following:
”In memory of the sisters of the famous Prague-Jewish author Franz Kafka, murdered during the Nazi occupation 1942-1943.”.
LITERARY TRADITION & ITS INFLUENCE
A. GERMAN LITERARY ROMANTICISM.
The German Romantic movement around the year 1800 was very complex in structure, composed of elements of both masked and distinct revolt as it was, and at the same time marked by various forms of Irony. Irony was the soul and the mark of Romanticism, and this Irony was, in turn, a very complex one, which the writers themselves seldom refrained from pointing out. Thus the assault from Romanticism on Man and society was twofold. It is easy to perceive that the Kunstmärchen is an assault on the ordinary Märchen. Beneath the surface of purest, seductive beauty there is almost everywhere deep despair lurking. Kunstmärchen has traits of the modern genre of “Dark fantasy.” It is noteworthy that Kafka all his life returned to the German romantic authors, holding them in high esteem.
Among the authors of the Kunstmärchen were Ludwig Tieck, Novalis, Clemens Brentano, von Chamisso, and E.T.A. Hoffmann.
Tieck´s Der blonde Eckbert can be read in connection with Novalis´ Hyazint und Rosenblüte. Tieck´s strange landscape almost returns with Novalis. It resolves in a strange new supernatural - surreal - dimension, which might remind us of the ending of FK´s Amerika. The dimension in the fictive universe in H. und R.'s final scenes surpasses the ontology of the work. It is a kind of fiction within fiction.
In this small tale, the young man, Hyazinth, grows up in a flowering mountain landscape, and he early senses that he is in love with Rosenblüte, but is driven by strange anxiety to foreign countries, far away from home. Here with his heart pounding, he suddenly falls asleep on a meadow. Then the Dream brings him with music away to something very familiar. Out of the familiar, Rosenblüte springs forth. Hyazinth is reunited, not only with her, but also with his parents and homeland. H. and R. soon get several children, yes many, because – as stated in the end of the tale - :” at that time, people got as many children as they liked.”
It is a parody of the famous educational novel, Bildungsroman, and the fairy tale. The story is far too rash, and it tells its moral almost brutally. Strange is that the story ends within a dream. Reality vanishes. By ending within a dream, the story thus forms a solemn, heavenly, eternal cliffhanger. We might think of Novalis´ aphorisms: “… a Märchen [is] a dream-picture /…/ but without context.”; A Märchen is:”… a collection of wondrous things and happenings – for example, a musical phantasy.” Kafka later came to surpass Romanticism in transforming it. He does so in multiple ways. R. Caillois in a classic investigation on the relationship between Romanticism and Modernity:
”/…../ Romanticism essentially found itself incapable of producing myths. Of course, it perfunctorily produced tales and ghost stories and fooled itself into the fantastic; but, in doing this, it departed more and more from the myth.”
Romanticism transcended itself in abandoning exotism, in looking for the center of power, and it searched for myth, thrill, and meaning in the fantastic, in the evasive, in the myth of itself, in the midst of the commonplace, just like Modernism did, creating its myth in the nexus of the new world in the great city. Now Kafka did not follow Modernism suit. The thrill and myth that Kafka created are about the intrapsychic and the inner life of Modern Man. The perception of this myth of Kafka will be condensed into the concept of Kafkaesque. However, we could not find a myth about Prague, modern Prague, in the works of Kafka. Kafka was not exclusively interested in a description of the city of Prague of 1910. ( Kafka had no interest at all in Nationalism. ) In his “myth,” Kafka incorporates episodes and figures from literature together with images of people, individuals appearing homeless and unconnected to each other. Kafka also uses allusions and other unique literary means to tell stories, where connections to real places and familiar milieus are impossible to find. He is severed from the other great modernists, who often underline that they live during the hectic life of the modern urban capital. We partly recognize phenomena in the world of F. Kafka, but as soon as we get closer to the familiar, we realize that we have been fooled. We find ourselves in a caricature of Modernity with trams, trains, and telephones, but we are in a void, and it is like an ancient world and a world surrounding us virtually beyond time. We find ourselves, and many critics have noticed this, in an eternal, ”greyish-brownish,” shadowy Middle Age. Nothing new threatens to break in; nothing old yields for a revival. Nothing disastrous has occurred; nothing of the sort will ever come. The colorful novel Amerika is, of course, the exception. FK´s Amerika is very much a parody in advance of science fiction and fantasy in one crucial respect. Moreover, with Kafka, we are also often in a particular sort of nausea. We always get the feeling that there is something subversive going on in the writings of Kafka.
If one cannot absorb and enjoy the interplay between different vertical layers appearing in the German romantic Märchen, it is improbable that one could accept Kafka's works. To read a Kunstmärchen by Tieck or others literally,” flat” makes reading fruitless.
Irony was characteristic to Romanticism. Irony may often have a highly critical dimension but may here also often have been a passive game. Philosophical speculation can look upon Irony as a form of knowledge, can suggest that Irony is questioning and implicitly also asking itself for meaning, at the same time, like some sort of the Self-consciousness of Self-consciousness. Self-consciousness comes before Irony, is a prerequisite of Irony. However, Irony can be a hint to others that I am in Self-Consciousness. Irony can sometimes be seen, as by Jankélévitch, as a “happy consciousness.” a “Bonne Connaissance,” a concept used by J. in opposite to the “unhappy consciousness” put forth by Hegel in his 1807 Phänomenologie. Irony might, in its extended form, be the intense enjoying of Self-consciousness itself. This might be the case with Kafka. Irony is dynamic in its steady creation of new space. Irony is a rare species of live investigator for truth; - it questions standing as an intermédiare. Irony is a way of mental expansion.
Irony is, among other things, a perfect defense. It defends against every authority and implicitly insists that authority has never been of any use. The Irony is - in itself - never an authority. It is certainly never a compromise! During certain periods in history, it sometimes becomes overexploited, and then it disappears and is replaced, at least for a while, by the straight discourse – before it re-enters the scene again, all fresh. Irony often comes forth in times of change, and often it inaugurates such an era. Irony may, in specific periods – often in media - get a vanguard position and get a position where it has to take care of itself, and it then does not care much about anchoring new hope into new realities - it is confinium – the transition itself and might act in hubris, running wild. It is not dangerous in this state but just fades away. Generally, Irony also has a built-in sustaining power in its antithetical, "dialectical" structure, and this gives the ironist in his confinium, his intermediary, a strong, dangerous sense of freedom; it can be a terrific weapon against oppressors, not for oppressors …, and can ruin many a wall and rampart. The freedom of Irony is a kind of freedom that is freedom from, that is: it is determined as a negation, negative freedom for Kierkegaard Irony was situated between the aesthetic and the ethical stage on the long and winding road to being religious, just like the category of the “interesting” was. The aesthetic has, in the Irony not yet passed into the ethical, the "realization of the common /good/." Irony thus can be used for enjoyment and, as we have seen, more radical in the use of breaking new grounds. Irony is a Negation and a sibling to Adorno´s creative “No” of Negative Dialectics. When Irony serves as the preparer of the new, it is a kind of "double movement". It demands elasticity by its performer, it demands youthful powers, and it requires big funds of talent: the timing of the "ironic means". It is power-consuming in its protracted tension! It is difficult to stop Irony once it has been born. The meaning of Irony is that it is not one. It utilizes the relative and, in this, in its dynamism, it has a utopian character. Thus it can be active, for instance in the central parts of philosophy to re-evaluate and restructure meaning within such a cultural sphere. Irony is seldom the questioning of just one phenomenon; it almost immediately proceeds to subvert a whole cluster of objects. Irony is a relation. Irony has clear limits. It puts in question! It is a negation. Therefore Irony remains a Hegelian dialectical Confinium, because it is quite unable to assert anything new! It is qua Irony no more than a counterpart of something else. But it nevertheless IS and asserts! On a meta-level, it still asserts something. Irony has problematic variants: non-transparent, secret Irony, which is Irony known exclusively to the ironic in splendid isolation: In the non-transparency – i.e., if the ironist does not allow the recipient to notice the Irony - if the ironic means are omitted by the sender, only the ironist himself enjoys the ironic “meaning.” He has thus secretly robbed the world of new meaning to other than himself. The covert ironist is ironist incognito. No one will ever know about the small orgy of the ironist. And it can also be found in a third form, semi-transparent narcissist Irony, hovering between overt and covert Irony. This happens when the recipient is not sure of whether it is Irony or not.
Irony can be attacked. Irony might also be used exclusively as a shield, a shield against having to take a stand. It can be used as a shield against the feeling of utter loneliness and against the insight about this. The loneliness of a lonely ironist can be easier to bear than the carrying of a shield against loneliness by a lonely serious person. An ironic is so to say, “by profession” … a loner. Irony is loneliness per se, and by definition. There are no real ironic masses.
Irony is all relation, never essence, never substance. Why Irony comes up is often a mystery. Solving this mystery can give us the key to the spirit of the time and of its environment of it. The Romantic ideologist Friedrich Schlegel asserted that no great art is produced without Irony. Ljunggren writes about Irony and adds to the description of the Ironic in his The Aesthetic Systems, a shaking portrayal:
“Irony is the genius of the Subject's sovereignty. The brilliant ironist stands above everything, and nothing is sacred to him, nothing of importance except his own Self, and he overrides even this Self. He creates but is not serious about his creations. He elevates them again and is then retreating within himself. Therefore, the artist must be ironic towards his own work; his ideas shall not be understandable to the crowd; His calling is to live and create without purpose, without intention. "
Central to Romanticism and Romantic Irony were the writings of Fr. Schlegel, Die Heimat der Ironie, and Ironie der Ironie, Novalis´ Lichtpunkt des Schwebens, as well as the theories of Karl Solger. The Romantic Irony excelled in the soluble fragmentary philosophical speculation, which sometimes is described as the "Irony of Irony."
The "insidious" thing with Irony also is that it is not just a double in its expression; it caters not only towards an addressee, but it infiltrates and does so to the very extreme its sender, and this one must be on guard against Irony disarming him/her likewise. Thus the German romantics said of their Irony that it could annihilate everything, that it was universal: "Ironie ist der alles vernichtende Blick.”
Among the romantic storytellers, Kafka valued, Franz Grillparzer, stands out. Grillparzer, an Austrian solicitor, 1848 published the small book The Poor Fiddler. G. initially planned it to be an autobiography, but he rewrote it a dozen times over several years, and when it was finally published, it was in a diminutive form and more of a saga compared to the original plan. This book stayed very close to Kafka´s heart his entire life. The Italian Germanicist Claude Magris renders this book central to the ”Habsburgian myth,” a myth that centers around the decay of the empire, a decay that was in part obscured by the complex structure of the literary genre which “Kunstmärchen” composes. One is struck, in reading The Poor Fiddler, by certain similarities in “tone” and "color" to the "greyish-brownish" of the environments in Kafka´s works. There are also other similarities too: Grillparzer was sophisticated, very well educated, and a solid skeptic. He had a deep aesthetic feeling and a gloomy outlook on life. Anarchism is always lurking as a subtext in his works, as it is in Kafka too.
In the center of Grillparzer´s tale, there is the protagonist Jakob, son of a wealthy man, whose life is spent in misery and an overwhelming unhappy love with music. The narrator tells us that Jakob is undertaking psychological investigations, and Grillparzer is anticipating Freud´s ideas in the famous Psykopatologie des Alltagsleben. Jakob is a monomaniac, but not to the degree of Joseph K. Jacob profoundly falls in love with Barbara, a woman who later survives him, and on the last page of the story, she is crying from her heart over him, his death, and his life. Grillparzer´s description of Jacob's inability to play his violin, but his holding on to the playing, is a small masterpiece. Parts of Grillparzer´s implicit reasoning will seem similar to Kafka's reflections on art, music, and life. Kafka, all his life, had sort of an unlucky relationship with music. The most striking similarity is, however, the overall tone and matters on the structural plane. The characters' outlines are mainly built through the display of gestures, movements of hands, feet, and the head of the figures. Jacob is a kind of hero who, placed within tragic Irony, strongly reminds the Kafka heroes' modern reader.
Nevertheless - and this is important - a G.s hero is a whole person, be it a very limited one. He thus is a character, a singularity, and no mere figure. This story's extreme and peculiar sentimentality is often contrasted with skepticism, Irony, bright-eyed reflection, and fleet-footed realism. It is admirable how Grillparzer managed to create a distinct whole out of this, thus many times rewritten story. Grillparzer somehow creates a subtext that is very elusive and haunting.
It is here equally important to mention Heinrich von Kleist, who was greatly admired by FK. Kafka mentions in his diaries his public reading of Michael Kohlhaas: Kafka:
”I read the beginning of Michael Kohlhaas in the Toynbeehalle. It is a real failure. Bad theme, badly executed story; finally I was swimming around in the text, without being able to find any meaning in it at all. During the afternoon I was trembling from hunger to read; I could not even keep my mouth closed.”
In structural ironic, literary discourse, different layers can relate to each other thus: one layer is covering another, and this, the covered layer, will be made visible by the use of ironic means. To be able to perceive Irony in all its complexity, which it gains in structural form, it might be necessary to adopt a kind of “floating attention”, not unlike the one that Freud once demanded from his disciples in Vienna. Perhaps this is the case with Kafka. The probability of this being the case is our main subject of study.
B. GUSTAVE FLAUBERT.
Kafka's favorite writer throughout his life was Gustave Flaubert. Kafka read a lot. Among others: Cervantes, Goethe, Lagerlof, Kleist, Grillparzer, Dostoyevsky, Werfel, Stifter, Keller, Sterne and Strindberg. He encountered the works of Flaubert early in life, probably already in his early teens. Flaubert's radical aestheticism and his intense style fascinated him, and Flaubert's novel style likely initiated what later came to be such a completely independent and unique FK technique. However, Flaubert's works were written in a completely different era and a different cultural context, transitioning from Romanticism to Realism.
Gustave was born in 1821 in Rouen as the son of a doctor, A.- C. Flaubert. He began writing very early and came to study law in Paris as a pretext. By 1843 he had the first version of L’Éducation Sentimentale ready, a somewhat greyish, dreamy, tedious story. This novel, however, came to be FK´s absolute favorite. This book has a circular composition with GF using ”le style indirect libre,” SIL ( free indirect speech ), and is a model example for this style, a style very convenient for satire. GF often worked on a manuscript for ten years. He labored with them. GF: “The pen is a heavy oar.” Often with Flaubert, there is a deep resignation about love and life as a whole. There is also something static about most of them. L’Éducation Sentimentale has a great rhythm, which Kafka enjoyed. Flaubert was influenced by and contributed himself to the famous ideas of poesie pure and l´art pour l´art. Flaubert:
"What seems very beautiful to me, and what I would like to write, is a book that was about nothing at all, a book with no connection whatsoever to the outer world, which solely was kept together by the sheer force of the style of it /…/ a book almost without any subject at all. "
In the following passage, Flaubert´s irony is formed by a sophisticated interplay between rows of events. Flaubert is putting part of the fiction events in sharp contrast to other events, letting them elucidate each other ironically. It is about Rudolphe and Emma Bovary, where R. is seeking contact with E. in the tower of a building high up above the square market in Rouen:
“His arms were folded across his knees, and thus lifting his face towards Emma, close by her, he looked fixedly at her. She noticed in his eyes small golden lines radiating from black pupils; she even smelt the perfume of the pomade that made his hair glossy. Then a faintness came over her; she recalled the Viscount who had waltzed with her at Vaubyessard, and his beard exhaled like this air an odor of vanilla and citron, and mechanically she half-closed her eyes the better to breathe it in. But in making this movement, as she leant back in her chair, she saw in the distance, right on the line of the horizon, the old diligence, the "Hirondelle," that was slowly descending the hill of Leux, dragging after it a long trail of dust. It was in this yellow carriage that Leon had so often come back to her, and by this route down there that he had gone forever. She fancied she saw him opposite at his windows; then all grew confused; clouds gathered; it seemed to her that she was again turning in the waltz under the light of the lusters on the arm of the Viscount, and that Leon was not far away, that he was coming; and yet all the time she was conscious of the scent of Rudolphe's head by her side. This sweetness of sensation pierced through her old desires, and these, like grains of sand under a gust of wind, eddied to and fro in the subtle breath of the perfume which suffused her soul. She opened wide her nostrils several times to drink in the freshness of the ivy round the capitals. She took off her gloves; she wiped her hands, and then fanned her face with her handkerchief, while athwart the throbbing of her temples she heard the murmur of the crowd and the voice of the councilor intoning his phrases. He said —"Continue, persevere; listen neither to the suggestions of routine, nor to the over-hasty councils of a rash empiricism.
"Apply yourselves, above all, to the amelioration of the soil, to good manures, to the development of the equine, bovine, ovine, and porcine races. Let these shows be to you pacific arenas, where the victor in leaving it will hold forth a hand to the vanquished, and will fraternize with him in the hope of better success. And you, aged servants, humble domestics, whose hard labor no Government up to this day has taken into consideration, come hither to receive the reward of your silent virtues, and be assured that the state henceforward has its eye upon you; that it encourages you, protects you; that it will accede to your just demands, and alleviate as much as in it lies the burden of your painful sacrifices."
Monsieur Lieuvain then sat down; Monsieur Derozerays got up, beginning another speech. His was not perhaps as florid as that of the councillor, but it recommended itself by a more direct style, that is to say, by more special knowledge and more elevated considerations. Thus the praise of the Government took up less space in it; religion and agriculture more. He showed in it the relations of these two, and how they had always contributed to civilization. Rudolphe with Madame Bovary was talking dreams, presentiments, and magnetism. Going back to the cradle of society, the orator painted those fierce times when men lived on acorns in the heart of woods. Then they had left off the skins of beasts, had put on cloth, tilled the soil, and planted the vine. Was this a good, and in this discovery was there not more of injury than of gain? Monsieur Derozerays set himself this problem. From magnetism little by little Rudolphe had come to affinities, and while the president was citing Cincinnatus and his plough, Diocletian, planting his cabbages, and the Emperors of China inaugurating the year by the sowing of seed, the young man was explaining to the young woman that these irresistible attractions find their cause in some previous state of existence.
"Thus we," he said, "why did we come to know one another? What chance willed it? It was because across the infinite, like two streams that flows but to unite; our special bents of mind had driven us towards each other."
And he seized her hand; she did not withdraw it.
"For good farming generally!" cried the president.
"Just now, for example, when I went to your house."
"To Monsieur Bizat of Quincampoix."
"Did I know I should accompany you?"
"A hundred times I wished to go; and I followed you—I remained."
"And I shall remain to-night, to-morrow, all other days, all my life!"
"To Monsieur Caron of Argueil, a gold medal!"
"For I have never in the society of any other person found so complete a charm."
"To Monsieur Bain of Givry-Saint-Martin."
"And I shall carry away with me the remembrance of you."
"For a merino ram!"
"But you will forget me; I shall pass away like a shadow."
"To Monsieur Belot of Notre-Dame."
"Oh, no! I shall be something in your thought, in your life, shall I not?"
"Porcine race; prizes—equal, to Messrs. Leherisse and Cullembourg, sixty francs!"
Rudolphe was pressing her hand, and he felt it all warm and quivering like a captive dove that wants to fly away; but, whether she was trying to take it away or whether she was answering his pressure; she made a movement with her fingers. He exclaimed—
"Oh, I thank you! You do not repulse me! You are good! You understand that I am yours! Let me look at you; let me contemplate you!"
A gust of wind that blew in at the window ruffled the cloth on the table, and in the square below all the great caps of the peasant women were uplifted by it like the wings of white butterflies fluttering.
"Use of oil-cakes," continued the president. He was hurrying on: "Flemish manure-flax-growing-drainage-long leases-domestic service."
Rudolphe was no longer speaking. They looked at one another. A supreme desire made their dry lips tremble, and wearily, without an effort, their fingers intertwined.
"Catherine Nicaise Elizabeth Leroux, of Sassetot-la-Guerriere, for fifty-four years of service at the same farm, a silver medal - , value: twenty-five francs!"
"Where is Catherine Leroux?" repeated the councilor.
She did not present herself, and one could hear voices whispering—
"Don't be afraid!"
"Oh, how stupid she is!"
"Well, is she there?" cried Tuvache.
"Yes; here she is."
"Then let her come up!"
Then there came forward on the platform a little old woman with timid bearing, who seemed to shrink within her poor clothes.
The Irony is apparent. However, it is not the auctorial Irony that is the most interesting here, or with Flaubert´s style generally. Weinberg has dealt with the problem concerning the sensitivity of different readers. Brombert asserts:
”Irony in the structure of the novel points to the steady intervention from the author, and conceives sort of an internal commentary.”
Flaubert is maybe the most classical example of ”style indirect libre” (SIL). Some have questioned the concept of SIL and others argue that SIL and Irony are incompatible. A possible third voice in Flaubert´s story would be someone looking over or talking over the narrator's shoulder. We quickly realize that the advanced reader of Flaubert is dealing with more voices than one. Weinberg claims that a third voice implies "uncertainty." Note that this refers exclusively to uncertainty regarding precisely the question: Who is speaking?
With Flaubert, we often meet with more or less revolutionary thought. The repelling and the sordid mingle with “the natural” is paramount in GFs works. Both Flaubert and Kafka resented conservatism, especially the conservatism of Romanticism like they both resented compromise. Sexuality appearing in broad daylight during the reign of the bourgeoisie is a sign of Modernity being born. The innovative, insidious Flaubertian burlesque inspired surrealism, Rimbaud and it inspired Kafka.
C. ROBERT WALSER.
'Walser is a Kafka inside-out.'
( G. Davenport )
Certain similarities between Kleist and Kafka's writings – a fascinating subject in itself - were pointed out by the Swiss writer Robert Walser ( 1878-1956) in a review of Der Heizer in 1916. Kafka was familiar with Walser, who also was a writer of novels. FK and Walser (1878-1956) were often published in the same literary journals. The novelist R. Musil, working as a newspaperman and critic in Vienna, had to assure the general public that it was about two different writers. They were sometimes using the same literary means. The mood in their short stories made them seem strikingly secretly connected. One of Walser´s most famous short stories was Der Spatziergang, which has some similarities with individual chapters in Franz Kafka's Amerika. His early novel Jakob von Gunten was one of Kafka´s absolute favorites, and this one reminds one too much of the romantic Märchen. One can look upon this book both as a surrealist novel as well as a novel of ideas. It ( as well as Walser´s Der Räuber ) may have inspired Kafka´s Amerika. Concerning the Walser short stories, Kafka's - we are talking about the pieces that are in the debut collection Betrachtung - are more intense and darker in tone. If Walser's works are more marked by playfulness, Kafka, in the early stories of this debut collection, came up with a more radical form of experimental art, with elements that can be characterized in terms of anxiety and the bizarre.
Robert Walser wrote prose as well as poetry. His last book, Die Rose, appeared in 1924, only months after Franz Kafka's death. In 1929 Walser was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and he spent his last twenty-seven years in Waldau and other asylums in Switzerland, showing but slight interest in literature. He died in 1956. A detailed comparative study has been written by H.D. Zimmermann, and another by Böschenstein, comparing FK´s Betrachtung to Walser´s Berliner Skizzen. Walser had a more significant reputation than Kafka had in the early decades of the 20ieth century. Walser has immense qualities.
D. CHARLES DICKENS.
Observing Kafka having literary favorites of a most diverging kind, favorites who also served as raw models in writing to him, like Flaubert and Dickens, whose views concerning literary realism and satirical attack are very different, we are perplexed. The immense flow of images and ideas and good humor in Dickens´ discourse do stand in deep contrast to the darker but rallying tone that Flaubert strikes within the reader. The vivacity in the descriptions of contemporary life and nature are in both authors of the highest rank and are equal to the ones of a Balzac, a Melville, and a Strindberg at their best. We are already familiar with what Kafka learned from Flaubert.
Charles Dickens ( 1812-1870 ) seems, first of all, to have stimulated Kafka in the handling of the detail, with the technique of letting utterly small details change the course of the story. Kafka admired Dickens and the use of the "unexpected detail", a stylistic device, which is also frequent with H.C. Andersen. The sharp-eyed Kierkegaard called it the "unnecessary detail of Andersen." The flow and the ease with which Dickens always told his stories were also merely seductive to Kafka. The overflowing fantasy with Dickens Kafka also did find with Laurence Sterne Dickens´ flow, musicality, and sense for “the seemingly unnecessary detail” make him a great teller of adventures and is part of a technique that makes his book “page-turners.” . The third thing with Dickens that might have been noted by Kafka, might be something G. Orwell later pointed out in his famous essay on Dickens, namely, that his characters seem to be acting in a ”never-never land, a kind of eternity.” This is sometimes also the case with the characters in some of Kafka´s works.
What we are meeting with here also is a forerunner to “expressionist” Entfremdung, [ estrangement ].
From Dickens we might turn toTolstoy, also appreciated by FK. Compare the Russian “formalist” Sklovskij on the metonymical style of Tolstoy:
”With Tolstoy, the concept of estrangement consists in this: he is not calling the object by name, but is describing it as if it was the first time he saw it and also describes events as if it were the first time ever they were taking place; in describing something he uses not ordinary descriptions, but uses partial descriptions used for similar, corresponding parts with other objects or events.”
KAFKA´S LITERARY TECHNIQUE AND THE STRUCTURE OF HIS WORKS.
“The century since Franz Kafka was born has been marked by the idea of "modernism" -- self-consciousness new among centuries, a consciousness of being new. Sixty years after his death, Kafka epitomizes one aspect of this modern mind-set: a sensation of anxiety and shame whose center cannot be located and therefore cannot be placated; a sense of an infinite difficulty within things, impeding every step; a sensitivity acute beyond usefulness, as if the nervous system, flayed of its old hide of social usage and religious belief, must record every touch as pain. In Kafka's peculiar and highly original chastise dreadful quality is mixed with immense tenderness, oddly good humor, and a certain severe and reassuring formality. The combination makes him an artist; but rarely can an artist have struggled against greater inner resistance and more sincere diffidence as to the worth of his art.”
( John Updike )
THE LITERARY WORK.
Traditionally we are dealing with literature as if we are dealing with pure description. When we are talking about literary works, it is as if we assume that a literary work – and the fictive universe of a literary work – is composed through the description. This is not always true, or not at all true in many cases.
Among theorists, only some - like, for instance, Umberto Eco - have realized that in literature, in poetry as well as prose, we might be rewarded with greater insight if we stop talking about descriptions and instead concentrate on literary grips, devices, perceivable by a formalist eye, and upon the troublesome fact, that literature most often deals with deception and mischievous TRICKS. ( Dylan Thomas knew this.)
Never has it been more accurate than in Kafka's case to assert that a short story or a novel forms itself by a massive TRICK. Perhaps to Kafka, the TRICK is more important than anything else.
To some people, this structural and formalist notion is not a very welcome insight. It makes it much harder to interpret and evaluate literary work, and for some people, who have an AGENDA, to explain Kafka´s technique out of the effect that their particular interpretation of the works of Kafka leads them. It is much harder to discuss a literary piece's supposed philosophy if this philosophy works inside a literary structural TRICK, much like inside a magician's mirror.
Noting the use of a TRICK in a literary work does not diminish the piece of art in question. On the contrary:
It takes enormous skill, craft, and talent to seamlessly use a TRICK IN A LITERARY WORK, SO THAT ALMOST NOBODY CAN SEE THAT YOU ARE USING ONE.
We cannot easily discuss anything that seems to be set in a universe with other dimensions than our familiar universe. Moreover, to the typical person, or the ordinary reader of a literary work, any technical reasoning concerning how a novel is built results in almost totally obscuring the experience of the work and is hugely tiresome. It is, as we have hinted at, even to the expert reader, troublesome. How could we comment explanatorily, fruitfully, on something made out of a HOAX? Still, we have to do this if we want to comment upon Kafka, however uneasy this might make us.
Many an earth-bound comment or existence-philosophical argument will have absolutely no ground to stand upon if it turns out that the discourse in question is a mere literary device and based upon a paradoxical construction outside every tangible human experience of the world.
A question like: ”What is the meaning of the work?” only has got an answer on a meta-level. We need to shatter innocence. If we should subtract meaning, this will have to happen through the mediation of structural reasoning around literary tricks. Furthermore, this WILL also be extremely hard.
A Literary work is not mainly ABOUT some particular thing, but it instead WORKS, functions, in a certain way. To reveal this, we will have to use a formalist method and – in this very case – a Freudo-Structuralist approach since the universe of Kafka is built upon the notion and existence of a Freudian Unconscious.
I. TRANCE AND PSYCHO-ANALYSIS.
Kafka started writing literary prose in his teens. He soon discovered his odd ability and tendency to put himself in a half dormant state, some trance, when writing. Without this ability, it seems unlikely that he could have written something close to what he did. Now, writing in this state of trance seems to connect to some form of ecstasy. Kafka: „My terrible calm takes my fantasy away.“ He thus seems to have used an almost pathological state in creation. If this state or condition was a hypnagogic or a hallucinated one, we do not know. What can be inferred from his biography is that creative periods coincide with periods of insomnia and severe headaches. Headaches did not torture him when he refrained from projects that appeared difficult to him, like, for instance, the completion of a novel. Kafka was well aware of this. It must have been a peculiarity to him and a horror noticing that the headaches had a connection to the large artistic projects. His body strongly revolted against his creations and his literary method! What again was this nightly “trance”? Was it a state of “double consciousness”? He was here, so to say, present in two worlds simultaneously, both awake and asleep, partly enjoying imagination, partly aware and writing, using several senses, in a kind of “stream of unconsciousness”? It also seems he loved to be in this state of mind. As if he was addicted to it.
”The main enemy of Don Quixote was not
his fantasy, but Sancho Panza.” (FK)
FK was almost using himself as a ”medium.” Furthermore, FK's stories are about writing itself. These tales - or poems - do not just use writing as a pretext, but writing is displayed, in brilliant disguise, in a discourse of desire, sometimes quite like an erotic act. Kafka thus displays images for this, as in A Country Doctor, where Kafka uses the idea of riding for writing - riding on his pen -and maybe is naming the tales themselves “horses.”
One of the keys to understanding Kafka's writings can be found in the relationship between Kafka and psychoanalysis. Hans Hiebel elaborates interestingly on this subject in his book Franz Kafka, Form und Bedeutung. He has a lot to say about the presence of elements with traditional psychoanalytic color in several of Kafka´s works. Hiebel asserts that one has to discern those narrations by Kafka, that has a structure very much like that of the dream, in having inherent a kind of mechanic of the hieroglyphic kind like that of the dream, for example, A Country Doctor has, from works like The Trial, where there can be found an abundance of conventional dream elements, which almost seem to emerge from examples from the dream theory of Freud. It is a good distinction to do, and necessary for further understanding of Kafka´s literary style. That FK did not align to psychoanalytical thinking, but that he sooner, as a kind of protest, shaped his competitive theory and/or style, is also part of Hiebel´s view here. It seems reasonable. However, Kafka´s theory was not explicit as a theory, but is explicit only in the form of the art it aimed to create. In Kafka, it is not about dreams but about ”simulations of dreams,” Hiebel asserts. This idea seems rather undialectical, though. Hiebel is clarifying his view:
”/…../ and these again are not meant as dreams, but as realities, which are structured like dreams.”/……………../ ”It is apparent that Kafka well knows of the model of psychoanalysis and to a certain extent is accepting this, but sees it as pure ”modelings”, pictures, images of mind, myths, tales, and he disrupts from it every value of explanation as well as therapeutic value. From his explicit utterances one can understand that Kafka is comfortable in a psychological theory of his own, rejecting contemporary psychoanalysis. This competing of theories is, however, restricted to his own literary works, in which his own psychology emerges. This comes about, like we have underlined several times, in a conscious manner, which carries the consequence, that psychoanalysis cannot be used as a ”method” on the works of Kafka and on Kafka as a person.”
It is a remarkable conclusion, that Kafka himself couldn´t be viewed through psychoanalysis because he was creating a competing theory! Hiebel claims that the analyses made by Kaiser and Mecke concerning psychopathological problems in cases of presumed schizoid personality, infantilism, fear of sexuality, fear of homosexuality, etc., with Kafka himself, perceived through his stories, are absurd to undertake. Hibel´s view is that, to understand Kafka´s works, the understanding of the psychoanalytical mythology provides an essential layer within a broad symbolic and mythical interpretation. This seems evident.
II. THE KAFKAESQUE. A SPLIT UNIVERSE
History has really done a great job: it has created the concept of Kafkaesque! Even “Kafka” might almost be said to have become a concept. It is rare for a writer to be known partly through a concept molded after his or her name. What then, is the meaning of the concept of Kafkaesque? Interestingly enough, a small empirical investigation of the ”Kafkaesque” concept has been undertaken by D. Jakob. He has come up with the following characteristics, which should mark this concept:
”Anxiety, uncertainty, frustration, “Verfremdung,” exposure to a cruel fate, anonymous in shape, bureaucratically governed power, terror, dreadfulness, gloom, guilt, despair, judgment, meaninglessness, the resortless, absurdity..”
The concept of “Kafkaesque” can never be fully defined since it belongs to the class of concepts of essence or concepts of style. We can only reflect upon these concepts in strict subjectivity and try to make our views probable. In making views liable, it is crucial to reach a certain consensus. Regarding some distinctive points and in determining the “Kafkaesque,” I think that our conception regarding who the hero of Kafka´s works is, is of significant importance. The following has to be agreed upon: the relationship between the hero and the surrounding world is crucial for determining the content of the concept. The nature of this relationship is hard to formalize. However, determining this very relation seems to be the key to this concept. We might come near to a description by finding out what the Hero of a Kafka story appears to be able to execute and the configuration of the world surrounding the hero. The surrounding world is also an agent, a Spirit in disguise. In this, the works of Kafka are similar to those of symbolism but oddly exaggerated.
“In my dictionary, “Kafkaesque” is defined as a “vision of man’s isolated existence in a dehumanized world,´.”
( Zadie Smith )
When something yearns so bad for a description, but none is given, the world soon normally produces one. In trying to explain what we mean by “Kafkaesque”, we have to refer to the reading of Kafka, and to the remarkable effect, like the noticing of the ”shadow-lessness” or the extreme loneliness of the hero, or to the absolute lack of hope for him: ”a lonely, isolated human being standing opposed to a hostile world, a world that malevolently seems to block every single step towards happiness”.
Reading Kafka´s novels, we are immediately faced with a bizarre problem: on the one hand, we trust the hero; on the other we do not. Conventional intellectual understanding of an actual person is built upon understanding a person through his surroundings and the surroundings through the person. The form of consciousness met with in a Kafka discourse is formed like a grotesque. The grotesque indicates that something ELSE is going on, that is constituted by the exaggeration itself, that shaped the grotesque.
The Technique. The FORM: The basic FORM of the Kafka text is one of ironic, incongruent interplay between S and O. (S)=subject, (O)= object world. The form of consciousness (S) is covering the form of the surrounding world and vice versa, in an alternate process. The reader will come to experience the different layers through the ironic admonition to do so, in order to be able to grasp totality, because in Kafka totality is in Irony. The form of consciousness in the Kafka work constitutes an intellective level of fictive reality. The conceptual part is with the Hero-figure. It is perceived mainly through the speech of the Hero and the narrator´s referring of the thoughts of the Hero, referred in SIL. But also in the continuous evolving of speech and acts through the story. We thus have in the Kafka universe what we might call a division of “Self”. This state of division constituting FK´s fictional universe has many times been suggested, and as explanatory, but has never been explained. W. Emrich – for example - notices how – in the Kafka work - Das Man, [ the generalized human ] of the world of laboring Man is covering the Self.
FK's principal works are constructed in a way that makes it impossible for the hero-figure to make any progress. FK places the hero-figure together with the world that surrounds him. The natural way to tell a story is to tell it so that the reader can understand the hero from his surroundings and the surroundings from the hero. But in Kafka, we have on the one hand the Hero, the Hero-figure's thoughts and action ( which mostly not is depicted in a very corporal way, but by way of speech and occasionally by his movements and gestures ). On the other hand we have the surrounding World, with the other personages. Moreover, there is a distinct difference between the hero-figure and the surrounding world. Around this difference or split, the “cosmos Kafka” is evolving. What happens in the fictive universes of Kafka's novels and short stories has in another, more real fictive universe already happened. This will be explained.
What is displayed in the Kafka-story is not a narrative epilogue but a pseudo-existence, a theatre beyond time, an elaboration, a ”third sphere,” a relevant concept used by Deleuze/Guattari to denote this fictitious fiction. Something always in the prehistory of the tales of Kafka has broken asunder. The main prerequisite of the story is that an irreversible split (x) has occurred. There is no way back to undo the split, to mend it, but there certainly is a wish to do this, among other forces in the stories. The end is set all from the beginning in the story by a kind of cruel logic. “The train has started, - the journey is over.”
The tales are static. [ This is almost a Contradictio in Adjecto.] The telling of the tales is “infinite”, it is beyond time. By use of the dynamic created by the frames - the frames which we will soon closely examine -, Kafka provides, like in an ancient Greek tragedy, dramatic - or Romantic - Irony.
In every tale by Kafka, we might study the Hero along with his thoughts and decisions, thinking that we are watching, picturing, a person. This is perhaps possible, and many commentators on Kafka's works have regarded Joseph K. and Gregor Samsa as persons, literary persons.
We assume that the characters in the Kafka tale are some sort of individuals. Because we ould not read a story any other way.
But others believe that this can barely be done or at least that it is not fruitful. They - Martin Walser, Adorno, and Hiebel - are wisely claiming – and I will repeat this now and then, because of the importance of it - that we have not to do with complete persons with Kafka's stories, but rather with f i g u r e s.
The Hero thus is not an ordinary hero. He has a minimal extension. It seems strange at first sight that we stay satisfied with such a poor figure-hero as a hero, but we do, only because we unconsciously are taking the whole universe of discourse as a description of the person. The very book The Trial, thus constitutes (the picture of ) a person. Not the figure of K. in it. The Metamorphosis constitutes ( the picture of ) a person. Gregor does not. The universe of discourse = a person.
We are always longing to form whole pictures of objects at hand. This we have learned from Gestalt psychology. It is not a strange or unusual thing in literary works to have a crippled caricature as a hero, but when so, we almost always have a stable surrounding world. To have a stable world is not the case with the Kafka text. We are experiencing the “thoughts” of the Hero-figure as well as a picture of the “life” of the surrounding world, and the interplay between these two separate entities gives us the picture of the whole person, the person which constitutes the novel as a whole.
The next step is to investigate the nature of the interplay between (S) and (O), which indeed can be perceived as a conflict. In the Kafka work congruity is death. The tension between (S) and (O) will from now on be referred to as an ironic structure and as the kafka-literariness.
The structure namely, has a certain formal similarity to that of Irony, but the structure of the kafka-literariness in itself also creates an Irony.
Because: - and here comes the strange and surprising thing - when we are watching the Kafka-story and concentrate upon the interplay between hero (S) – ( (S) being the Subject ) and surrounding world (O), the Kafka story still remains inexplicable, and it apparently refers to something genuinely unknown.
We have not yet explained the nature of the Kafkaesque, but we are still in the preliminaries, and we must – after having noted the basic ironic structure, go on in discovering the nature and mechanisms behind both the Irony and the Kafkaesque, noting some of the further criteria: things we discover that we cannot understand at all, negativities in the Kafka narrative, before arriving at the notions of what we can grasp:
Criterion No. I . [ Negativity No.1. ]. We are facing, as a first sign of the Kafkaesque, a Hero – a hero-figure - that is unable to learn from mistakes. It is as if he was cut off from some faculty of mind. The small clerk in The Trial seems to have been stuck in a limbo. He does not have any unconscious!
Criterion No II. of the Kafkaesque [ Negativity No.2. ]. The second criteria is that we in Kafka´s works find ourselves in a very strange world, unlike any other is that the surrounding world around the Hero, the Object part (O), almost always contains pictures that are typical of everybody´s dreams.
This fact is noted by almost every commentator of Kafka´s works. Kafka uses the “language of dreams.” Furthermore, we are here met with certain forms of dream-language that Freud specified and displayed semi-systematically in his famous Traumdeutung, written just a decade before Kafka's works. Thus, Kafka's works might serve almost as a map of “Freudian” forms of dream-language, forms like displacement, condensation, distortion, censorship, etc.. We are noting that there is a connection between Kafka and Freud in the display of content in the object part (O) in FK's novels.
Hiebel has - as we saw - described Kafka´s use of the dream-like style as a simulation of the dream. Hiebel asserts:
”/…/ aesthetical and psychological motivations for Kafka´s simulation of the psychic process.
Kafka´s works seems inherently to be psychology. Not just though by looking at the psychological motivation and the psychological characterization of the figures and so on, but in regarding a “quasi-professional” mimetic psychological mechanism, as psychoanalysis theoretically interprets it and has investigated deep-hermeneutically. The figures in Kafka´s work ( for instance in The Trial and in The Castle ) are not only characterized by wrong actions (/ Fehlleistungen /) symptoms, dreams and so on ; the structure of the text usually is constructed according to the laws of The Unconscious, according to the mechanic, described by psychoanalysis.”
In using the word ”simulation” we are getting very far from the dynamic and determining aspect, which is essential to look for. A Franz Kafka in a trance did not simulate. Kafka did not calculate the effects! We are almost sure that Kafka wrote nearly all of his novels in a ”dreamlike” state, ”portraying inner life”, and we guess that his hallucinate state meant to extract pictures – almost like the famous Romantic philosopher S.T. Coleridge did, when creating his poem of Kublai Khan.
“It is only pictures, Frank!”, as Felice Bauer soothingly wrote to Franz.
The situations that the hero finds himself in are quite obvious dreamlike – by simulation or not …- and certainly that the world surrounding the hero in the Kafka cosmos is constructed under experiences familiar to us from the “world of dreams” and the world of the unconscious. This does not e x p l a i n the uniqueness of the kafka cosmos or the Kafkaesque, though, but it is a necessary, but not sufficient condition, for the existence of the Kafka Cosmos.
The hero is often nightmarish either enclosed in vast buildings or in long corridors or stuck in the infinitely small. He might find himself awkwardly pressed against other people´s bodies, in tiny stuffy rooms or cabinets, or locked out on a balcony, chased by officials, etc.. It is a worried dream. But this is not the whole picture!
Criterion No. III.- [ Negativity No. 3. ]. The third sign of the utterly strange and unique, that, which we might call the Kafkaesque, is that this dreamlike world, which we meet through the senses of the hero, is a world Kafka constructed to serve the following functions:
A.) For the (O) to comment upon the actions of the hero, in organizing itself according to, or in contrast to, the thoughts and actions of the hero. Thus, the surrounding world (O) seems to KNOW - just like Freud´s omniscient Censor and almost like a conscious unconscious, what the hero wishes and fears.
B.) But if this is the case, then the surrounding world must be in contact with the hero, and the whole universe of the novel must be a communicating whole, maybe without any entrance or exit at all.
The primary form of the Irony of the (O) looks like that.. One problem is the kind of status we should give the hero in our model. The hero = the conscious part?
Let´s see what properties this hero/conscious has! We are having a hero, in a certain universe of discourse, a hero that is not in possession of any unconscious, a hero(-figure) that is just half a human being, a quasimodo, wandering about – so to say – in his own unconscious. The Kafka-hero quite like a saga-figure in a middle of a giant globe, the sides of which are covered with pictures which are projections of an unconscious that he does not, any longer, possess, but that are remnants of the unconscious of a world of the pre-narrative.
This split universe of the story itself is created right before the beginning of the story ( before the beginnings of The Trail, The Castle, The Metamorphosis, The country Doctor, etc. ).
The contradiction is set, as the Romantic philosophers used to say. Everything has already happened, and the stories are nothing more than elaborations of what already has occurred. Hence the stories are completely static.
Distinctive for the longer texts by FK on which we concentrate is the dialectical interplay between subject (S) and object (O), where they alternately superimpose each other in a structure of expectation.
As subject (S), we have consciousness, as an object (O) a form of unconsciousness. We might reserve the interpretation of these structural parts a something within the universe of these discourses. In a universe of discourse, things are different from reality. We find ourselves close to universes like in Hoffmann´s The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr together with a fragmentary Biography of Kapellmeister Johannes Kreisler on Random Sheets of Waste Paper and Lewis Carroll´s Alice in Wonderland. The primary distinctions and noticing of the basic structure are again not quite new but can in certain forms be found also with Emrich, Walser, and Schillemeit.
Emrich early underlines the opposition between subject and object. He describes the lucidity of the language of Kafka with expressions like “the saving function of the concrete” resp. “the upraise of things”. Important is Martin Walser´s 1962 dissertation on Kafka, Beschreibung einer Form, as well as a discussion that Schillemeit carries out in Zum Wirklichkeitsproblem der Kafka-Interpretationen, on M. Walser:
”He [ Walser ] has himself studied both the „stable“ in the figures that the heroes are meeting with in the works of Kafka, as well as the ”stable”, ”lasting” in these meetings. Basis in this investigation is the thesis of the distinction figures world. Because, as Walser says: ”Kafka’s world is /…/ the condition without which no repetition may occur. What is taken from an existing world is singular, since it is individual. The characterized, created world on the other hand in this art is as Walser says a ”stereotype planetarium”. He [ Walser ] discerns between two ”orders” in it, one with the hero and one with the counter-side, and he describes the ”paly of orders towards each other”, that constant repeated rhythm of the ”asserting of existence” and of the “upheaval” through the opposite side. Asserting and upheaval is the “form of emptiness” that exists in all the narrated courses, that form which stays the same.”
Schillemeit, looking to determine the different reality levels with Kafka in the fictitious ontology, has with Martin Walser found more a description of a structure than an ontology. Both Schillemeit and Walser are finding the interplay between two sides, aka orders. Like Adorno, Walser also believes that we are not with the hero dealing with a person but with a ”figure”. However, neither Schillemeit nor Walser claims the nature of the play of orders to be one of a play between a conscious and an unconscious of a singularity equal to the entire universe of discourse, the manifest discourse.
III. THE EXTENDED STRUCTURE :
The Trick. What breaks through as lively, meaningful, and … as the Kafkaesque in Kafka's works is not the play itself between (S) and (O), but it is – almost in a Hegelian way - in a Third, the Irony. The Irony is here mainly shaped by the ironic mean, and the ironic mean is something outside of both the conscious and the unconscious part of the universe of discourse. The ironic mean in this structure is what here will be called the “Unconscious B.”.
The Unconscious B. consists of the quite absurd 1.) Will, and, 2.) the quite absurd Fancy or Whim.
These are absurd because the hero cannot really will anything and cannot have any whims, according to the original scheme of division, because the hero is a figure deprived of his unconscious. One cannot have whims without an Unconscious. The source of whims is the Unconscious. Markers in the Kafka-text of will power and whims are in Kafka cosmos several but some are words like ”suddenly” and ”apparently” and many more features in the Kafka text, which I shall show below.
Explanation of Unconscious B.:
Here thus emerges an Unconscious from the f i g u r e, i.e., from the hero within the sphere, which consists of the ”forbidden” Unconscious of his ( the hero ).
This is the Unconscious B. of the f i g u r e, not the Unconscious A. of the work ( situated in (O)! Joseph K. is deprived of his unconscious, which thus is his surrounding world, (O), the bubble in which he lives.
As we already have said Joseph K. is a mere figure.
Figures do not – typically - have any unconscious.( Figures do not typically live, or die.)
BUT, the Kafka-figure (of (S)) has got one. And THIS is the kafkaesque!
Now – against all logic – this happens: Joseph K. finds, every time he makes a decision or gets an impulse, a new Unconscious.
Thus, with this description, we realize that our dichotomic basic scheme has to turn into a trichotomic. Because: when Kafka is letting in the structural part of the Unconscious B, that means the narrator is letting in yet another voice, another “carrier” of the story.
To a Kafka active in trance the whole thing is – consciously or unconsciously - quite simple: all he has to do is to build the most grotesque contrast between the Hero and the Unconscious, and then momentarily let the hero get access to a second Unconscious. With Unconscious B. our hero gets access to self-reflection, which else is absent in the story. He also gets access to everything that the outer world contains of processing of memories, will-power, imagination, whims and fancies, hallucinations, etc.. The interplay seems first to be played between the hero (S) and his surroundings (O) but now we have a third party in the game, yet another “personal unconscious” belonging to the h e r o f i g u r e , ( but to no one else in the universe of discourse ) and we thus gets a double Unconscious, at times, and thus a double split of the consciousness of the hero. Hence the Kafkaesque.
Examples of Unconscious B. will soon be served.
We have transcended Walser's ideas, in the adding of an explanation to what a figure is. Gaining access to Unconscious B. is important to the hero, because he might now momentarily get a “shadow of a soul”, and the hero-figure thus is not a pure automaton governed by Unconscious A. ( O= the “material” ground ). Here we have the explanation of the vertigo of the Kafka tale. We might say that we are noting that while Kafka´s hero does seem to be shadowless, this hero STILL seems to be put in some KIND OF RELIEF against the background. This seems confusing, paradoxical. But this reflects the existence of the double Unconscious. (O + B) A double unconscious is sure to produce a vertigo.
One of the most peculiar things is that the hero-figure creates to himself an Unconscious B., and is helped out, defensively, by it in his speech and his frequent rationalizations and in his ability to fall asleep once something threatens him. He is not able to dream. Unconscious B. does not help him with that! Since the hero is – figuratively speaking - living in the center of a dream within Unconscious A., he cannot dream.
The hero-figure also gets fancies and whims. All of a sudden, Joseph K. “wishes to” open a window, guided by the defense of Unconscious B. to release the pressure of … anxiety. Which the figure is typically not able to feel. Joseph K. is, per definition, unable to get impulses because he has no natural unconscious, being a pure f i g u r e.
Joseph. K., the hero-figure seems to us to have a very narrow field of perception. We might look upon the amnesia of Joseph K. as belonging to the philosophical Category of the Sudden, discussed by Kierkegaard in The Concept of Anxiety.
And this all – the levels of different kinds of consciousness within a universe of discourse - constitutes the main treats of a theory of the kafkaesque, as presented in this book.
iv. EXAMPLE of theory: THE TRIAL.
“Someone must have been telling lies about Joseph K.; he knew he had done nothing wrong, but one morning he was arrested.”
Let us take a brief look at the episode with the apple in the introductory chapter of The Trial. After having been declared arrested, but denied breakfast, both Franz and Willem offer him breakfast from a night cafe nearby. Joseph K. is returning to his room, and angrily throws himself on his bed:
"... and took an apple that he the night before had prepared for breakfast. Now it was his only breakfast and in any case / ... / much better than the breakfast from the filthy night cafe would have been. "
The apple is from the period before the x, ( the split in the pre-narrative ), i.e. before the arrest of Joseph K., an apple prepared for himself to eat on the birthday morning.
Mythically this apple can be looked upon as a blend of the Eris´ apple in Homers' Iliad, and of Eve's apple in Genesis, and the apple of the Sleeping Beauty in the Romantic saga. In The Trial, the Apple has "survived" into the new realm into the story, the virtual universe. The apple of The Trial is a "tragic apple”, because it is a reminder of the old, and it is the beginning of the end. Perhaps this apple is emblematic – an entrance to the sleep, “the big sleep” (Chandler), or fictitious fiction. Perhaps Joseph K., in his thought already having eaten the apple the night before, and so the apple is a part of the mediation into Wonderland! Joseph K. has not brought much with him, no friends, memories, books or anything, but just an apple. Another option is to see the narrator as ironizing over Joseph K. and over the story's entire cosmos. ( Solid Irony.). We don´t know if we have a covert Irony here. The word “apparent” or “ostensible”, [“scheinbar”], might indicate that Kafka is playing with Irony here. This very word serves as the creator of ambiguity. But it is delivered in an ”unsure position”, because we do not know, in this SIL, who is talking.
Kafka uses Unconscious B. most elegantly in The Trial. A small grain of doubt cleverly is sown on page one, a doubt affecting the entire novel. Thus it almost becomes a detective story. It has been read and looked upon as such.
After a long talk, during which K. wonders by what right the guards are arresting him, the guards Franz and Willem underline that they are the closest to K. in the entire world. They are exchanging looks, and they are acting through gestures. We might come to think of G. Simmel and Benjamins' theories on the importance of gesture to Kafka. The guards are examples of the ”two men-theme” with Kafka. These Erinyes have a twin pact. They have their task in common, and we might find them in several of Kafka´s works. They are often juveniles, half-grown, and sometimes half-figures, Quasimodos. Their presence creates a kind of limbo level between the hero (S) and the main power, in (O). In a play between opposites like in the Kafka cosmos, the parties' contours grow more and more distinct, the longer we proceed in the game. Who is winning the game seems settled.
Nevertheless, Joseph K. is looking for a solution until the bitter end. One of the other accused, merchant Block, sits waiting for the end of his process. Joseph K. finds waiting meaningless, but the co-accused, Block, disagrees:
”- Sitting and waiting is not pointless, but trying to intervene by oneself is pointless..”
Generally, the hero-figures in Kafka's works are watching things from underneath - from a worm´s perspective. They have small aspirations. Sometimes it seems as if their highest goal on earth is to survive. Everything ends in a feeling of being an object claustrophobically locked up within a big Irony. It seems as if Kafka first has to scare his reader in order later to play with him or her by the loosening of the pressure. Joseph K. will never get out of the trial alive.
The two men, in Chapter One, are constantly bullying him.
"That's true, you know, you'd better believe it," said Franz, holding a cup of coffee in his hand which he did not lift to his mouth but gave K. an apparently meaningful look, [” /scheinbar bedeutungsvoller Blick/ ] that could not actually be understood.”
This passage does not tell more about the look, in positive respect, than it was a long one. The rest of the description is pure speculation from part of the narrator. This beautiful description of the gaze depicts the vast distance between the outer world, the world of objects (O), and that of the hero-figure (S).
Joseph K. descends the stairs from the fifth floor in the house where he is looking for the Commission of Inquiry. This is the house – or one of the houses – where the court is, but Joseph K. leaves without any results, but, in descending these stairs, he, all of a sudden, determines to return, not being satisfied with not reaching what he is looking for.
“On the first floor, his search began for real. He still felt unable to ask for the investigating committee, and so he invented a joiner called Lanz - that name occurred to him because the captain, Mrs. Grubach’s nephew, was called Lanz - so that he could ask at every flat whether Lanz the joiner lived there and thus obtain a chance to look into the rooms. It turned out, though, that that was mostly possible without further ado, as almost all the doors were left open and the children ran in and out. Most of them were small, one-windowed rooms where they also did the cooking. Many women held babies in one arm and worked at the stove with the other. Half-grown girls, who seemed to be dressed in just their pinafores, worked hardest running to and fro. In every room, the beds were still in use by people who were ill, or still asleep, or people stretched out on them in their clothes. K. knocked at the flats where the doors were closed and asked whether Lanz the joiner lived there. It was usually a woman who opened the door, heard the enquiry and turned to somebody in the room who would raise himself from the bed. "The gentleman's asking if a joiner called Lanz, lives here." "A joiner, called Lanz?" he would ask from the bed." "That's right," K. would say, although it was clear that the investigating committee was not to be found there, and so his task was at an end. There were many who thought it must be very important for K. to find Lanz the joiner and thought long about it, naming a joiner who was not called Lanz or giving a name that had some vague similarity with Lanz, or they asked neighbors or accompanied K. to a door a long way away where they thought someone of that sort might live in the back part of the building or where someone would be who could advise K. better than they could themselves. K. eventually had to give up asking if he did not want to be led all round from floor to floor in this way. He regretted his initial plan, which had at first seemed so practical to him. As he reached the fifth floor, he decided to give up the search, took his leave of a friendly, young worker who wanted to lead him on still further and went down the stairs. But then the thought of how much time he was wasting made him cross, he went back again and knocked at the first door on the fifth floor. The first thing he saw in the small room was a large clock on the wall which already showed ten o'clock. "Is there a joiner called Lanz who lives here?" he asked. "Pardon?" said a young woman with black, shining eyes who was, at that moment, washing children's underclothes in a bucket. She pointed her wet hand towards the open door of the adjoining room.”
Joseph K. makes up his mind not to return.
” But then the thought of how much time he was wasting made him cross, he went back again /…./.”,
Joseph K. then finds the court after a decision in a sudden rage, just because he has made up his mind to find it. So it seems. Unconscious B. here supplicates and acts upon Unconscious A.. The object world (O) is changing “dialogically” just because of the very impatience of Joseph K. according perhaps to a typical “dream logic”. The decision ( of (S)) thus is determinant to the world (O). Thus Unconscious B. shows its sovereignty and puts the narrator in a (nice) difficult position.
Joseph K. is about to leave the attics in the suburb:
“K. became aware that he was standing in front of the way out, and that the young woman had opened the door. It seemed to him that all his strength returned to him at once, and to get a foretaste of freedom he stepped straight on to one of the stairs and took his leave there of his companions, who bowed to him. "Thank you very much," he repeated, shook their hands once more and did not let go until he thought he saw that they found it hard to bear the comparatively fresh air from the stairway after being so long used to the air in the offices. They were hardly able to reply, and the young woman might even have fallen over if K. had not shut the door extremely fast. K. then stood still for a while, combed his hair with the help of a pocket mirror, picked up his hat from the next stair - the information-giver must have thrown it down there - and then he ran down the steps so fresh and in such long leaps that the contrast with his previous state nearly frightened him. His normally sturdy state of health had never prepared him for surprises such as this. Did his body want to revolt and cause him a new trial as he was bearing the old one with such little effort? He did not quite reject the idea that he should see a doctor the next time he had the chance, but whatever he did - and this was something on which he could advise himself - he wanted to spend all Sunday mornings in future better than he had spent this one.”
As a “bodily signal of freedom”, anxiety appears from Unconscious B., and is revealed, just to become concealed again. Worry over bodily sensations is yet another sign of freedom. Joseph K., when out in the fresh air again, after the visit in this “courthouse”, feels sick.
Example B. Chapter 5, The flogger.
Joseph K. passes past the lumber-room in the corridor at the bank where he works and suddenly feels an irresistible yearn to look for what´s inside. Joseph K. opens the door, and it turns out that this very action's randomness is just apparent. In fact, Joseph K. has to be guided by an Unconscious, an Unconscious that he – according to our theory - has not got. Thus: Unconscious B.. Hence the Irony, and Irony here=the kafka-effect, the Kafkaesque.
The two guards, Franz and Willem, are sitting in the lumber-room. They are waiting for flogging because of the complaints filed by K.. The two seem to be in the room, but outside temporality!
On the following day, when K. opens the door again, they are still there ( or: they are there again ) together with their mysterious torturer. After this incident, the strange thing is that Joseph K. acts as if the inhabited lumber-room could be regarded as his own hallucination, and as if the presence of the guards in there were not real, since he simply orders for the cleaning up of this room!!
This is – by added self-Irony - a double Irony.
He is not calling the police! These facts add yet another dimension, or should we say: affirms our dimensions here sketched. Here is indicated by the narrator, that Joseph K. (S) does not believe in the existence of Unconscious A.(O), but orders other members of this very universe ( Unconscious A. (O)) in the bank to clean up in the universe of discourse. We find ourselves as readers in a complete vertigo. The whipping of the guards takes place in the Unconscious sphere, in (O). In the Unconscious A. of Joseph K. there is a lumber chamber (!) – thus yet another unconscious, the Unconscious of Unconscious A.! ( The “Lumber chamber” sure is Kafka´s mocking and caricature of Freud´s idea of the Unconscious.)
After visiting his lawyer, Joseph K. gets a sealed letter to a painter of portraits, called Titorelli. He lives on the other side of the city, in a tiny apartment on top of a building on its outskirts. After taking various twists and turns, walking narrow, winding stairs, stairs with steps of alternate height, Joseph K., guided by a hunchbacked thirteen years old, laughing girl, finally gets inside Titorelli´s “office”. K. is politely requested to sit down and asked to give his opinion of a painting. Titorelli´s picture is a custom-portrait of a judge. It is semi-finished and sloppily painted, "uneven in outline.". Behind the judge, in the portrait one can spot a shapeless shadow.
On closer inspection, Joseph K. notices that it is an image of Justice, with its scales. It is the Roman Justitia, not Greek Dike. Dike was with the Greeks depicted only with a stick, the stick with which he chastised his sister, Adike, ( Injustice. ). Justitia has, in the Titorelli chapter, small wings on her feet. Joseph K. thinks she resembles the Greek goddess of victory, Nike, but he then sees that it is in fact …the goddess of hunt. K. finds, however, that it is inconsistent with the law to link up with the chase. He realizes, of course, that it is the judge who gave the order for this version. A conventional symbol, Justitia, here is used in a "distorted" state to emblematically show a characteristic bypath, on which History itself seems to proceed. Bypaths are as crucial with Kafka as “unnecessary details” are. Here one might also think of the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor in Kafka's Amerika version as a parallel. Amerika's goddess of freedom does not have the torch of Enlightenment in his hand, but rather a sword, swinging it in the air. Titorelli is a rather lousy painter, selling ghastly paintings, showing Josef K. landscapes with trees with sprawling branches. The motifs are frequently the same – Romantic ones. On the other hand, the painter appears to be both well taught in the prevailing legal doctrines and equipped with a considerable acumen portion. He also seems very polite and benevolent. Joseph K. is not precisely dissatisfied with Titorelli, but more with what Titorelli, with poorly suppressed joy, has to say about the court, and in particular about the rules for acquittal. The content of those indeed rhymes with the backlight message of the portrait: "the prey" shall not escape!
Some kafkaists say that Titorelli is molded after Sigmund Freud´s Leonardo. Like the historical Leonardo da Vinci, Titorelli is multitasking, restless, he does not care about women, is talented, and never finishes anything. The language of Titorelli is learned and well-modulated. In studying the original manuscripts, we are noticing very few alterations in this chapter by Kafka's hand. It seems as if Kafka here was using his education in law, and he is letting Titorelli very cleverly expose the possibilities at hand for the accused. P. Glen asserts that what Titorelli tells about the Law is tales of what the law has formerly been, before modern society, before Modernity turned Law into a formal, predictable process, in our society of reification, defamiliarization and alienation. Thus – according to Glen – what Titorelli tells are legends that do not at all apply to reality. Often legends and commentaries are invented in support of the existing power. Legends are often part of commentaries. It seems that Kafka had a passionate interest in paragraphs and commentaries, and it might be that he almost is formulating an aesthetic and philosophy of commentaries in his works, perhaps in connection with the ideals which he got from Flaubert concerning the good novel, which solely ought to be held together by its own force.
”Paradise was the place where everyone knew of everything, but nobody explained anything. The world before the Fall, before the commentary.”
( Cioran )
Now the situation for the accused, according to Titorelli is the following: There are three possibilities. The accused may choose A.) absolute ( real ) acquittal B.) apparent ( ostensible ) acquittal, C.) deferment. Any real acquittal does not, in reality, exist. The “apparent,” or “ostensible” is a “category of eternity,” which is also pointed out by Titorelli himself. The ostensible belongs to what Hegel named the category of “ bad eternity.” By the use of the ostensible, one cannot advance. “The ostensible” purports to be something else and more than a negation. In a group of people who are questioning something, it is as if somebody kept claiming the importance of keeping on with this very questioning. To assert that something exists “in ostensibility” is an assertion covering up a simple binary distinction by claiming that one ought to take a closer look at the surface of either absence or presence, without telling why.
The judicial system in the manifest story does not at all take into account the possibility of innocence.
Unconscious B. provides Joseph K. with the strength to make small decisions of zero importance in order for him to delay the inevitable outcome of the process. Kafka´s arrangement in this unfinished novel is exquisite. Since the verdict already is “set” in the pre-narrative, the exciting thing now is to try to figure out, by the manifest story, the nature of the judicial system that already, beforehand, has convicted Joseph K., because we might guess that this system might be very similar to the system we are met within what we may name the “show trial” in the novel. However, we do not know anything about the original system, the extensive system behind it. Hence we will be left in uncertainty with the true nature of both.
Adorno, Deleuze, Derrida et.al. all are claiming that Kafka is one of the most essential writers when it comes to the mechanisms of power and critique of power. Dahlberg asks himself if it is ”the forms of the process of justice, that is the object of criticism here, or if it is ideas of law and justice, that comprise the target for the satire of Kafka.”. Thus: maybe the ideas of Morals and Ethics are on trial?
Even Kafka´s skepticism can be looked upon as a kind of profound negation. Concerning the anti-authoritarian treat, there is also such a treat inherent in Jewish humor where jokes about the Rabbi are not uncommon and intricate jokes about Yahve. Kafka is not, however, not typical of Jewish humor, which often defends the status quo. But, are parable-like tales like Before the law, Odradek, and The Hunger Artist making fun of the parable as such? Moreover, if they are, what has this to do with skepticism? Kafka: "They are no allegories.. "It should be underlined that the structures of power displayed in The Trial and The Castle displays a very odd, peripheral world. How peripheral it is we do not know.
We have here telephones, but we seldom have radio or newspapers. We are left in an unknown landscape that has a certain similarity to our own. The utter uncertainty is here Kafkaesque.
With von Kleist we can easily perceive the diversification of power in society and the contours of real people. With Kafka, the contours are rather sharp in the object world of Unconsciousness A., while we are lost in a haze when it comes to the subject part, the hero-figure. We might clarify our view by comparing Joseph K. of The Trial with Camus' hero Merseault in his novel The Stranger (1942): Merseault is accused not only for the murder of an Arab, but also, implicitly, for having no soul, and M. barely protests against this himself. He wants to be hated while waiting to be beheaded in his colonial State. Merseault is, in a way, a caricature of Joseph K. Merseault thus is a caricature of a caricature. Camus never reaches the power of Kafka. Kafka does not with The Trail depict a real situation, which Camus, more or less, does. Camus, all his life was a great admirer of Kafka, and himself soon regarded The Stranger as a failure.
Chr. Eschweiler and several others claim that the manuscript Ein Traum ( A Dream ) should be placed as a genuine part of The Trail. To Adorno and others this seems almost absurd. It would be most unlikely had Kafka permitted his hero to dream. None of Kafka´s main heroes are – if we look away from the suggestion made by Chr. E. - ever dreaming. If they are, their dreams - like Gregor´s before the transformation - are referred superficially. Joseph K. dreaming could be seen as a complete absurdity. The reason for this is of course the technique used by Kafka. Joseph K. dreaming would be against the principle of ego-split,((S)/(O)) and the function of it. A hero deprived of his unconscious cannot possibly have any dreams at all, and he could not interpret them if he had had any. Kafka most probably lifted out A Dream from The Trial, because it did not meet the requirements set by the frame. None of the Kafka-heroes are dreaming anything. But they very often are falling asleep, or are at the verge of doing so. A dream, published in 1917 in Die Selbstwehr; has fewer dimensions than Kafka´s tales used to have, probably – paradoxically – just because this story is a particular temporality. There is nothing Kafkaesque about it, but it is merely a Romantic horror story. The story is lacking levels, and it is therefore lacking lack.
A common interpretation of The Trial is that it is about a moral defeat, a life wasted, the self-destruction of Joseph K.. The essence of the novel thus seems as the result a verdict from within, the real agent being conscience itself, and the novel itself is a giant discussion on guilt and shame ending up with a suicide. Joseph K. however always hopes “for the best”, and he is thus a true believer in the credo quia absurdum absurdist philosophical tradition from Tertullian.
Perhaps The Trial never was completed by FK, because it was impossible to do so, by very strong structural reasons.
The ( Aristotelian ) Peripeteia in The Metamorphosis according to common interpretations of this story, occurs when Gregor Samsa gives up hope.
Some interpretations The Trial has tried to assert a peripeteia to this unfinished novel too. If there is a peripeteia in The Trial, then the novel can be interpreted in a very distinct way. Most interpreters see a peripeteia in The Metamorphosis but none at all in The Trial. And here the order of the chapters of course is of extreme importance.
Many interpreters perceives in the In the Cathedral-chapter which includes the famous parable Before the Law a peripeteia, where Joseph K. is thought to get insight in his own fate. Eschweiler as well as Uyttersproot sees a peripeteia here. Eschweiler claims that Joseph K. dies redeemed and that The Trial has the character of a classic Kunstmärchen, á la Tieck. E. sees The Trial originally as a morality, containing a peripeteia and thus resembling not only the Kunstmärchen but also the classic Bildungsroman. One might - I think - question if there really is a peripeteia in The Trial, no matter how the chapters might be arranged.
Eschweiler is like many others not happy with the order of the chapter, an order wilfully created by Brod. ( See: my chapter about Brod. ) This scepticism is adequate. The chapters of The Trial were found by Brod in a box, where FK had put them, and they were not in any apparent order.
I think it is important to have SOME order when it comes to the chapters in The Trial, but that it is not necessarily essential. Why so I think will be clear later on.
In the discussion above on Flaubert, we noticed that with the theatre-like”remote remark” Flaubert was flirting with the reader, in the “remote comment” from the narrator. This distinct turning to the audience with direct remarks - in Flaubert´s anarchist´s rage over the state of things - would put these remarks in strong relief against the rest of the discourse. We sometimes see this happen in the Kafka discourse, and already from the start.
What is seen by Flaubert, in Madame Bovary, can be looked upon as a germ to what we experience by Kafka.
Furthermore: what is ordinary, but strong, Irony, by Flaubert, turns into a Split Universe by Kafka.
The Trial begins with the remark upon the innocence of Joseph K., delivered by the Unconscious B., - to evoke the reader's skepticism. Because: why should the narrator be trusted? Thus we are thrown into the story by this remark. This beginning cannot be SIL, style indirect libre: it is not a normal way of displaying the thoughts of the hero. It is either the narrator or somebody standing close to the author who is talking. This narrator has put himself in a delicate position, because he seems to know a lot of things. He seems to know:
[ 1.] the nature of evil.
[ 2.] that Joseph K. have done no evil things.
[ 3.] that there is reason to suspect that Joseph K. has been an slander object.
[ 4. ] the conditional relation: had this slandering not occurred, Joseph K. would not have been arrested.
There are many theories in kafkalogy on what kind of crime Joseph K. has been accused of. Some actually thinks he is guilty of a crime, and that the narrator is in collusion with Joseph K.. Has there been a rape of Miss Bürstner or Mrs. Grubach?
Has he committed a crime we cannot even guess?
Wilhelm Emrich claims that the crime of Joseph K. is that he does not know the Law.
Is this a satire over a judicial system or is it a psychography of Franz Kafka? This is what I.W. Holm asks himself. But Holm ends up in regarding The Trial to be a novel, either about literature itself or a novel as a political act.
Some say, that since Joseph K. is trying to find out what he is accused of, he is guilty.
Some say, that since he permits the two men to execute him, he is guilty.
Joseph K. claims in the end:
”Logic is unshakeable, but it cannot resist a human being who wants to live.”
He dies in+of shame, after having accused his executioners of being actors:
“K. suddenly turned round to face the two men and asked, "What theatre do you play in?" "Theatre?" asked one of the gentlemen, turning to the other for assistance and pulling in the corners of his mouth.”
In indirect speech (SIL) we are told about one of the guards ( policemen ) who come to deliver the message about the arrest:
“There was immediately a knock at the door and a man
entered. He had never seen the man in this house before. He was slim but firmly built, his clothes were black and close-
fitting, with many folds and pockets, buckles and buttons
and a belt, all of which gave the impression of being very
practical but without making it very clear what they were
This can aesthetically be seen as pure comic and it might psychologically be explained as part of a Freudian “Abwehrung”, a warding off. It is more a Gogolian kalembur than it is characterization. Another feature in this novel is the immaculate logic with which it is told.
EXAMPLE: THE METAMORPHOSIS.
. ”The Metamorphosis as existential crisis
refers in an obvious way to a splitting of
the conscience into conscious and unconscious.”
( B. von Wiese )
“One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking up from
anxious dreams, he discovered that in bed he had been
changed into a monstrous verminous bug. He lay on his
armor-hard back and saw, as he lifted his head up a little,
his brown, arched abdomen divided up into rigid bow-
like sections. From this height the blanket, just about
ready to slide off completely, could hardly stay in place.
His numerous legs, pitifully thin in comparison to the rest
of his circumference, flickered helplessly before his eyes.
‘What’s happened to me,’ he thought. It was no dream.”
Rudolph Binion in the essay What the Metamorphosis means:
”The first generation Kafka-critics has looked upon The Metamorphosis, like upon his other mysterious tales, in different ways, as a mixture of naturalism and the supernatural, or of realism and surrealism, or as an allegory or a pure psychotic projection.”
Binion agrees with Beissner in that The Metamorphosis must not be interpreted literally. But Binion himself belongs to those who believe that Gregor has not been transformed at all. Gregor just thinks he has been transformed, according to Binion. But this is, of course, not what the story tells us. Fr. Beissner claims that the bug body ”is a delusion by the sick hero.” This hypothesis is strengthened, according to Beissner, by the famous 1916 illustration by Ottomar Starke showing a man in a bathrobe tearing his hair in despair outside of a room.
The story “itself” is not about a hallucinating hero. Gregor really is transformed, and much of the interest in the story from readers and commentators have been linked to the question: why was Gregor transformed? There are two main answers: 1.) due to a conflict with the father and 2.) due to a conflict with Gregor vs. society. The hero in The Metamorphosis is from the start transformed into a bug, but he still seems to have the thinking capacity of an ordinary human being. The true hero, according to our scheme above, thus is the conscience of Gregor, the bug (S). Everything around this very conscience, including the body of Gregor, the bug, is (O) the surrounding world (A.). We will return to this.
We have in The Metamorphosis again a kind of splitting of the ego. To scrutinize this - in order to be able to link it to “the Kafka effect” - we might briefly compare Kafka´s story with other similar stories, containing a split of the ego.
In Dostoyevsky’s classic story The double, the hero, the titular councilor Golyadkin, wakes up in a state of confusion and wishes himself back to his dream, a dream not related to the narrator. Subsequently, the reader grows aware that a splitting of the ego has occurred at the very moment of awakening. But the nature of the split, in fact, emerges later in the story.” Another Mr. Golyadkin, yet exactly the same as he himself” occurs, and then the first Mr. Golyadkin can hear from his servant the terrible words: ”No, the master isn´t at home.” This is because the intruder, the later Mr. Golyadkin, has taken over the place. The Double might be interpreted fantastically as a pure Romantic tale. This – although with greater difficulty - goes for The Metamorphosis as well and maybe with R.L. Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, too, just as easily as one is able to interpret this tale psychologically. Dostoyevsky furthermore has seen to that he has a narrator that is not very sure of himself but opens up to alternatives. The narrator:
”It is possible that this was not the thought of Mr. Golyadkin at all, but anyway, he all of a sudden felt very uneasy.”
And he is thus consciously imagining. This is not at all the case with Kafka. Quite the contrary.
Gregor wakes up as a bug. This is one of the most famous scenes of transformation in modern literature. But the transformation is only partial. Gregor seems to have kept his human thinking, hic human conscience, while he has completely lost his human body. We are having in The Metamorphosis, just like in The Trial, a conscience fighting against an outer world, and we might interpret these two sides according to the same pattern as earlier, as a Conscious narratively put up against an Unconscious. The story continues:
“‘What’s happened to me,’ he thought. It was no dream. His room, a proper room for a human being, only somewhat too small, lay quietly between the four well known walls. Above the table, on which an unpacked collection of sample cloth goods was spread out (Samsa was a traveling salesman) hung the picture which he had cut out of an illustrated magazine a little while ago and set in a pretty gilt frame. It was a picture of a woman with a fur hat and a fur boa. She sat erect there, lifting up in the direction of the viewer a solid fur muff into which her entire forearm disappeared...”
Gregor thus finds himself in his small room, a room familiar to him from the pre-narrative. He is looking at the picture of the woman in furs, the picture he has put on the wall in a small frame. The story seems concentrated upon the growing self-knowledge of the hero-conscience. At the same time, we follow the struggle of the hero to get in contact with the object side of reality (O), and his tries to make himself understood and be accepted as he is, and to accept himself as he is. We also follow the struggle of the persons around him to grasp and handle the occurrence and situation. The ambivalence of all the protagonists is easy to understand. Kafka underlines that what we have to do with is no less than a human conscience, yet if it is hampered by the loss of will, fancy, and furthermore: body.
“If they were shocked then it would no longer be Gregor's responsibility and he could rest. If, however, they took everything calmly, he would still have no reason to be upset, and if he hurried he really could be at the station for eight o'clock.”
In his struggle towards Unconscious A. the hero is, in fact sentenced to death already from the beginning. The conscience part ( Gregor ) is constructed so that when Gregor wakes up at the beginning of the story, he has both wishes of a human kind and also wishes – like food – that are wishes of a bug. There are thus thoughts that are dependent on the structure of his body. He has a conscience that is longing for rotten cheese. These thoughts belong in a sense to the object part, to Unconscious A.. And Gregor´s human thoughts are related to his bug thoughts in such a way that the first ones monitor the second ones. Gregor – the human – thus notes that ”the bug” likes it under the sofa, not on it. Thus the leading thought of Gregor is a human one. The body of the bug is in the service of Gregor, the human, and the body forgets (!), integrated as it is, that it is all tired on the occasions when Gregor “himself” feels aroused or hopeful. The bug body is tired when Gregor is gloomy. Gregor as a human, tries to convince himself that he is human; he cares about his sister, and he is overwhelmingly happy when he notices that he still is moved by music. He does not burst into tears, though…
Unconscious B., has invaded Gregor when he looks upon the picture displaying the lady in fur, which he wants to ”mount” with his bug body - the body belonging to Unconsc. A.. Gregor has climbed the wall and presses himself against the glass of the painting. Here Unconscious B. is the soul of the trichotomic universe. Gregor´s surroundings are the unconscious part, belonging to A.. Gregor has no other unconscious other than the surrounding world. Thus it is impossible to him to unconsciously mount the picture.. Unconscious B. is trying to hide what Unconscious A. has produced. ( Unconscious A. has hung the picture.). This is vertigo, and the Kafkaesque. The enjoyment of sheltering the picture and feeling the cold glass belongs to the soul of Gregor, a soul that he does not – according to the logic of the technical process - possess. One cannot have a soul unless one has an unconscious. We have here, in a nutshell, the triplicity of the Kafka technique, the Kafka effect, the Kafkaesque deconstructed.
Anybody who wants to read the story fantastically, he or she may, of course, regard Gregor´s climbing on the portrait as a completely natural thing to do. Thus, not enjoying the story is declaring everything as normal as possible, entering the trap that Kafka has set. On the other hand: enjoying the story, and enjoying Kafka, is enjoying the extra Unconscious B..
Now Kafka was not at all satisfied with the ending of The Metamorphosis. It seems that he did not think it was integrated. The story should – after all – be held together according to the necessity-condition of Flaubert. When Gregor is a dead, necessity is not there any longer. After the death of the hero, the whole story seems dead.
In Gogol´s story The Overcoat, the clerk Akaky Akakyevitch after having turned into a ghost, makes the novel one-dimensional, especially when the” influential person” gets robbed of his coat. After the death of “the first” Akakyevitch, no Irony exists any longer, but the story just displays vengeance toward the corruption and evils of society. Maybe we in The Metamorphosis can spot influence from Kleist´s Michael Kohlhaas. Gregor´s sister, Grete, stretches and turns her soft body in the end of The M., just like the horses, miraculously recovered in health after starvation, do, after the death by beheading of their master, in the final chapter of Kleist´s novel.
The Hero has got neither sudden impulses nor willpower; hence it would be absurd to experience any hero-figure to be considering suicide. Suicide is not an option for a figure, but for a person! Still, Gregor ( the figure ) manages to commit suicide by starving himself to death. This, thus, is an act by Unconscious B. Suicide surpasses Unconscious A., the (O).
The meaning of the story is obvious in its epigrammicality: the man who feels like a vermin becomes a vermin. But it is the form that is important.
EXAMPLE: A COUNTRY DOCTOR
"Temporary calm can still be
achieved by me through works like “A country
doctor”, provided, of course, that I might create
something like that ( very unlikely ). Real bliss
can be spoken of, though, only if I can
elevate the world into the true and unchangeable.”
(FK, Diaries )
The very dramatic story A Country Doctor is a story written in 1st person sing. , and the ”I” of the story is, at least to the naked eye the hero and the doctor of the title of the story. The 1st person telling is common among Kafka´s animal stories, but not in the novels, although Kafka tried to write The Castle in 1st person, but left it for 3rd person, free indirect speech.
If we want to compare the structure of this story to The Trial, we may note that what has occurred in the pre-story/-narrative of A Country Doctor mainly are three things: [ 1.] the doctor has grown an old man. [ 2.] His horse has died. [ 3.] It has been an unusually cold winter.
This we come to know subsequently. The main precipitants are: a.) the doctor, b.) Rosa, the servant girl, c.) the young farmhand employed by the doctor, and d.) the sick boy in the faraway village. In the way this story is written, Kafka cannot possibly introduce any Unconscious B., at least not with the doctor, but with other figures. A kind of vertigo is created from the extremely close relationship the doctor form with the others, especially with the sick boy; - the doctor eventually ends up in the boy´s bed, and this one is puffing into his ear: ”You too have been shaken off someplace!” The doctor feels ashamed. Unconscious B. is in this story probably just the night bell and things said by Rosa.
The doctor is summoned to a village, to a sick boy in the middle of the night. The doctor immediately finds out that his horse happens to be dead. Rosa still wants the doctor to go, and when the doctor observes that she is in fear of being raped by the farmhand, he, by accident ( ! ) opens up the doors of the pigsty, where two beautiful horses can be seen.
"You never know what you have in store in your own house."
Says Rosa, rapidly. The doctor and Rosa join in laughter. In some way this line seems to be a travesty of Freud´s famous 1900 utterance of “not being master of one´s own house.” With this travesty we have an Unconscious B, here. Rosa, who thus is described in 3rd person is omniscient, and thus possessing an Unconscious, in referring to Freud, is inventing psychoanalysis over again, despite of her most probable lack of higher education.
The horses crawl out of the small pigsty, like they were born all over again. Rosa – the sole person mentioned by name in the story - hides in the house, chased by the farmhand. With Rosa something is at stake for the doctor in the story. The doctor is urged away by the farmhand, and leaves on the sledge. Leaving Rosa stands out as a crime.
The doctor very soon finds himself in the faraway village by the boy´s bed. The boy tells the doctor that he wants to die. The doctor now sees all that happens as caused by the gods. He thinks of Rosa, but he cannot do anything about the situation, since he … cannot manage the horses. “The boy can be right that I want to die too.". The boy seems to have cancer, or maybe syphilis, since he has a large wound. The inhabitants of the small village take the clothes off the doctor, probably inspired by primitive medicine and put him to bed together with the boy. A small children´s choir sings:
"Off with his clothes, and that will cure the boy,
and if it doesn’t: kill him!
because he´s just a doctor.
`cause he´s just a doctor."
In the bed the doctor and the boy are talking to each other. “You seem to have been shaken off somewhere.” the boy says, omnisciently. ”Young man, I say, the fault with you is, that you have no supervision.", the doctor replies. But this is – in fact - what the boy has. The doctor returns home. But this time the journey takes what seems to be an eternity :
“I’ll never come home at this rate. My flourishing practice is lost. A successor is robbing me, but to no avail, for he cannot replace me. In my house the disgusting groom is wreaking havoc. Rosa is his victim. I will not think it through. Naked, abandoned to the frost of this unhappy age, with an earthly carriage and unearthly horses, I drive around all by myself, an old man. My fur coat hangs behind the wagon, but I cannot reach it, and no one from the nimble rabble of patients lifts a finger. Betrayed! Betrayed! Once one responds to a false alarm on the night bell, there’s no making it good again — not ever.”
Hans Hiebel thinks that the bell in the night refers to Kafka´s own writing, to Kafka´s own “psychoanalytic” method and that The Country Doctor is a self-accusation. Much in the way that one might read The Hunger Artist, and several other stories. We might look upon this short story as upon a poem, but also like upon a dram, or as unlocking a human Unconscious. Or we might look upon the story as something that is looking upon interpretation. We have alternatives. Has Kafka here left a secret message, or does he want to mock and challenge psychoanalysis, or [ 3.] - which is very likely to be the case - : does Kafka both want to use psychoanalysis, and challenge it. Or [ 4.] Kafka wants to challenge psychoanalysis, mock it, and – equally - mock himself.
Kafka seems – all the same – to be extremely fond of Freud´s theory of “Trieb” and of advocating his theories. We can look upon the servant girl Rosa as an entire Freudian riddle. To Freud the Unconscious seems to be constructed partly of a kind of riddles. In A Country Doctor Freud´s theory emerges in bright caricature with Kafka´s use of the horses, with the use of the colors “rose” and “red” and the relativity of time. Rosa is the object of desire, of lust, but she is also the truth-teller.
The doctor is called way. The doctor is tempted by his work and by Rosa, and by the duty to do right. The farmhand acts from his youth, vigor and industriousness. The formal position of the doctor as a superior is undermined. The farmhand sentences the doctor to death travelling on the roads in an earthly carriage, but drawn by unearthly horses, in taking Rosa from him. Thus The Country Doctor has almost the same theme as The Verdict. The doctor has been too keen to follow the sound of the night bell. Only the doctor has heard the bell, and in fact: the bell can only be heard by the doctor.
”Once one responds to a false alarm on the night bell, there’s no making it good again — not ever.”
VII. EXAMPLE: THE VERDICT
”For Miss Felice B.
It was a Sunday morning at the most beautiful time in spring. George Bendemann, a young merchant, was sitting in his private room on the first floor of one of the low, poorly constructed houses extending in a long row along the river, almost indistinguishable from each other except for their height and color. He had just finished a letter to a friend from his youth who was now abroad, had sealed in a playful and desultory manner, and then was looking, elbows propped on the writing table, out of the window at the river, the bridge, and the hills on the other shore with their delicate greenery. “
The short story The Verdict is perhaps, structurally and in composition, the most complicated and dynamic that Franz Kafka wrote. It also belongs to those works he was explicitly pleased with himself, and also read out loud in public for a general, just weeks after he wrote it. This "Bendemann history," is formally rooted in a Gogolian dark farce tradition, but Kafka breaks through the Gogol narrative form.
Crucial in Kafka's entire development, and a turning point to him, was probably this conception of The Verdict. This seems both Kafka and his commentators agree on. The Verdict was written in September 1912. From the fourth letter to Felice Bauer:
"/.../ This spring will appear at Rowohlt’s in Leipzig a ”Jahrbuch fur Dichtkunst”, edited by Max. It will contain a small story by me: ”The Verdict”, which will have a dedication:” Miss Felice B.”-Is this to deal too freely with your rights? As this dedication already is put onto the story since a month and the manuscript is no longer in my possession? Is it a valid excuse that I have forced myself to take away the additional remark: ”To Miss Felice Bauer.”, so that she should not always just get gifts from others”? Generally I cannot see that the story has the slightest to do with You, apart from the fact the occurring of a girl carrying the name of Frieda Brandenfeld, thus, as I noticed afterwards, has her initial letters of her name in common with Yours./…./ .”
This novel mainly follows patterns known from traditional narrative tradition. One can say that it is in a way a typical short story; it has a well-rounded shape. It follows the classic novella grip: [ 1 ] in the beginning it is mentioned that the hero is looking at a river, - at the end he drowns himself in it. The story thus follows suit Tjechov´s recipe for fiction. And: [ 2 ] it is close to the French classical tradition, i.e.: taking into account the unity of time, space and action. Perhaps the personages in this story have a greater plasticity than other figures in Kafka stories.
The nexus of the story is a letter and a lie. The letter is as part of a Greek drama, which takes place "off stage”. On the whole, this story many features that are classic in shape, - has often been noted. The story is much a story of an upcoming marriage. The main characters are Georg (the hero), his friend, his father, and Frieda, his fiancée. We are dealing with three writers of letters: Georg´s, the friend´s and Georg´s father´s. We are getting key points to the meaning of the story through Georg's reasoning, his considerations about what can be written to his friend. Georg has been engaged to Frieda. He after much hesitation decides to add this in the end of the letter to his friend in St. Petersburg, we are told. The letter will never be sent. It will later go down with Georg in the river.
As for Frieda: “He often talked to her about her friend and their distinctive letter writing affairs." The friend is not likely to come to their wedding, says Georg. And the reason for non-invitation, he explains to Frieda in an evasive way, is [1.] he did not want to upset his friend, [ 2 ] he would avoid that the friend would feel a.) hurt, b.) bothered, c.) jealous d.) dissatisfied and therefore would soon travel back, and then e.) would feel lonely. Frieda says: "But if you have friends like that, Georg, you should not have engaged.". Georg in the bad faith letter to the friend:
"The best news I have saved for last. I have engaged with a girl of good family, named Frieda Brandenfeld. She settled here in town first since you left, why you hardly know her. It will be well better times to tell you more about my fiancée, and I shall confine myself today to tell you that I am very happy, and our friendship has changed only in the sense that you, instead of having just an ordinary friend, now you have a happy friend. Also, You might in my fiancée, who cordially greet you and which urgently himself will write to you, make a sincere friend, which of course for a bachelor is not entirely without significance. I know that there is little to hold you back from make us a visit, but would it not be the right moment to push aside all obstacles to the time of my wedding? In any case, do as you want or think is best. "
Poverty lies not here just in the style. And the key question in the explicit argument is not about the friend to come or not, but more: what is it to have a friend? So, the young merchant Georg gives us a picture of his entire life in a few lines. ( Compare Kierkegaard's words: "Whoever writes his defense, actually write his verdict.".). But the verdict is not carried out by Frieda, but by Georg´s old father, who out of sickness seem rejuvenated by the struggle with the son. His father shows him his own face like in a mirror ( the mirror of the friend´s existence ). Georg jumps into the river.
The short story is an intricate game of power. In the center Georg stands, with his “parallel figure” in St. Petersburg as well as two different correspondences. The way that the father in the revelation of his ( perhaps imaginary ) correspondence with "friend" takes over and shows Georg's betrayal - his egotism - against the friend, and sentence him to death, is quite reminiscent of Strindberg´s play Paria. That the Kafka story would have a religious tone and moreover allude to Christianity, with Georg as Christ, is asserted by Robertson, Ellis and others, and also to form a critique of the Christian God of the crucifixion. Psychoanalytical interpreters have noticed the cry of the housekeeper, she exclaims: ”Jesus!” and all three women in the story are seen as one. But in what way will Georg save humanity? Kafka himself did not know what the story was about but asked Felice Bauer about the meaning of it. ( Maybe it is in fact the case that Kafka wanted to tell Felice, by this story, - in transparent secrecy - that he was a liar? Having said so, he would have no obligations.)
In Kafka's "Urteil" und die Literaturtheorie, Zehn Modellanalysen, ( Ed. Jahraus / Neuhaus.) Anz in a discussion of psychoanalytical interpretations claims the difference between The Verdict and other stories. The Verdict may have elements like homoerotic, the incestuous, elements of repression, displacement, which can be interpreted psychoanalytically, or elements, which are influenced by the psychoanalytic theory. The friend in St. Petersburg is Kafka´s secret life-wish, to be an author. And ( strangely enough? ) this friend seems to be very much appreciated by the old father.
The story seems as sprung from Kafka's identity-crisis / life-crisis in the choice between becoming a writer, and getting married. On Georg's "mental state", compare Thomas Anz: " Son of remarkable spiritual absence /..../ ".. Is Georg vanishing as a bourgeois man, while Kafka as a writer - as the St. Petersburger friend, ( Georg´s “Doppelganger”, his double ), survives? Martin Greenberg has written an analysis of The Verdict, in which the Russian friend "is" literature. The conflicts are: Kafka may not betray literature, and he may not admit that the goal of all his writing is to reach out to his father, Herman. Everything in this drama is like sprung out of a dream, and it is certainly “dream-like”, in a way that is direct. Cf. above: Hiebel´s distinction. Kafka is not using Freud, he here just discovers Freud to himself, and in the process of writing.
VIII. EXAMPLE: The Castle. THE ”BÛRGEL EPISODE”
In The Castle there is an episode that we might call The Bürgel episode. In certain older volumes, in several languages, this part is unfortunately, because of its great quality. The surveyor K. searches for a solution of his problems of not getting a work in the village. Has his case been treated, or are his papers lost? His highest wish is meeting the elusive Count West-West. In Herrenhof, in the middle of the night, he is out searching in a corridor of the hotel. He is looking for Erlanger, a low official. K. does not know which door to try. Instead of Erlanger he bumps into a secretary Bürgel, secretary of Herr Friedrich. The hierarchies are vast in this lonely village. Bürgel is awake, but is lying in his bed. K. thinks it would have been better if the room had been empty, so he could have used the bed himself. K. is – all of a sudden – extremely tired. Bürgel in turn complains for having been disturbed. Once he is awake he cannot fall asleep again, he says. Still Bürgel asks K. to stay. At five o’clock people will wake up in the hotel, and it is four o’clock now. K. is sitting leaning at the bedpost. He just wants to sleep. But Bürgel wants K. to talk since Bürgel only can fall asleep when talking. Thus B. talks widely about his work and his doings, while K. slowly is falling asleep. Bürgel now is getting more and more awake and his talk now touches more and more of what is central to K. in his search. Half asleep K. hears B. ranting about the nightly hearings of the secretaries and on how the counterpart of the secretaries really might gain something out of these discussions, especially if the client arrives without notice. ( Just the way K. has. ). K. thinks himself close to being asleep: ”Klappere, Műhle, klappere, du klapperst nur fur mich.” he mumbles, in accordance with an ancient German rural folk song. ( ”Gabble on, gabble on!”). It appears from the Bürgel talk on nightly visits, that ”this is a position when it is close to impossible to refuse a request”. When Bürgel has explained the fact that every secretary, including himself, has the right to fulfill any request from any client and poses the final question on the request of K., at this moment K. is asleep. “K. was fast asleep, cut off from everything that happened.” ( Unconscious B. . .).
Erich Heller asserts that it would have been just as bad if K. had been awake: he would still not have understood. When K. wakes up, at the knock on the door, he is staring at Bürgel as if he sees something strange. It seems that K. has heard what B. said. K. recovers though and his final words on the meaninglessness of waiting echoes in space. K. is leaving Bürgel´s room laughing, without saying goodbye.
The meaning of this episode is obvious that it is set by the conditions that there is very little hope for K..
It is quite clear that it was given “by the conditions” that K. would fall asleep. He fell asleep with assistance from Unconscious B. when offered by Unconscious A. to put forth his request. The Kafkaesque thus appears in the interplay between Unconscious A. and B.. Mingled with the meaning of despair there is comic here. The raw comic of the situation is at the same time the most floating, schwebend, Kunstmärchen-aesthetical-ly speaking.
Sometimes Kafka by commentators is treated as a humorist. Thomas Mann, Guattari/Deleuze, Dahlberg and Weltsch belong to these. Mann calls Kafka a ”religious humorist”. And “writing in the spirit of holy satire”. But is it really humor? Kafka is not trying to handle reality with humor, but he is actually using humor, in using it to accuse him. Kafka´s humor is highly strung active Irony and self-Irony. He creates greater and greater tensions, and does not ever loosen them up. Maybe the laughter of Kafka is a bit like the laughter of Gogol. We might come to think of an ”art noir” and “humor noir”. Kafka in conversations with Gustav Janouch.:” My laughter is like a wall of concrete.” But we must remember that everything in Kafka´s own work are functions of the fundamental dialectics of Consc+Unconsc1+Unconsc2. All the logic and metaphysics of the Kafka stories are logics and metaphysics set in this triplicity. And what is written ( including what you are reading now ) and said and can be written and said about these works are and will always be written and said OUTSIDE of this logic. This is of course both very comical and very sad. But knowing this helps.
“However, it was beginning to grow dark, so he quickened his pace. The castle, its outline already beginning to blur, lay as still as always. K. had never seen the slightest sign of life there. Perhaps it wasn’t possible to make anything out from this distance, yet his eyes kept trying and wouldn’t accept that it could lie so still. When K. looked at the castle he sometimes thought he saw someone sitting quietly there, looking into space, not lost in thought and thus cut off from everything else, but free and at ease, as if he were alone and no one was observing him. He must notice that he himself was under observation, but that didn’t disturb him in the slightest, and indeed — it was hard to tell whether this was cause or effect — the observer’s eyes could find nothing to fasten on, and slipped away from the figure. This impression was reinforced today by the early coming of darkness. The longer he looked, the less he could make out, and the further everything receded into the twilight.”
A.) KAFKA AND JUDAISM.
” I was not brought into life by the heavy
down-sinking hand of Christianity like
Kierkegaard was, and I have not caught the
remotest tab of the prayer mantle, floating
away, like the Zionists have. I am
the end or the beginning. ”
( Franz Kafka )
The family Kafka was not religiously strictly practicing Jews. It was a divided family: the father was the Western Jew, secular, "Viertagejude" – i.e., he visited the synagogue the required four times per year - while his mother came from a Eastern Jewish sphere with more traditional Jewish values, which however never became predominant at all. The Kafka’s were simply mainly bourgeois. Kafka had experienced - if not in person - the persecution and harassment of Jews in Prague. He could see from a window rioting directed against the Jews could read about lawsuits against people who murdered Jews. Comrades to him, like Oscar Baum, were beaten up in the streets by Czechs just because they were Jewish boys. His father's shop had escaped looting; only the mob did not believe that his father Herman's shop was actually Jewish, because it carried a Czech bird name. Kafka could also not have failed to be influenced by anti-Jewish trials like the French Dreyfus process and even more upset over some other processes with Jews as protagonists, including the utterly tragic Tisza-Eszlár affair 1882 in Hungary and the Hilsner trial, which concerned the ritual murder in 1899 of a Christian woman, Agnes Hurza. Both of these trials touched Kafka, as they did many, very strong. Many thoughts by FK emanates from the fact that he was a Jew, but his upbringing and schooling and socializing was strongly influenced by the German bourgeoisie, and a secular German classical tradition. There are very few traces from the works of FK that leads to the Torah. One might track the rabbinical - sometimes, but then in what seems to me to as parodies, parodies for instance of rabbinical iterations, in Kafka's thinking, as well as in his letters, and parodies of Jewish reasoning and Jewish folklore in different passages in his works. One might also imagine that more than a "Jewish" homelessness syndrome, a rootlessness is displayed, which might refer more to his position of an existential outsider. It can´t be ruled out that it has been a necessary but not sufficient condition for many of the world's important innovators, that they belonged to a traditionally educated and sometimes vulnerable minority. But equally obvious is thus, in terms of the Jewish, that one can assert that Jewishness, being Jewish, was not at all a determinant factor regarding the uniqueness of Franz Kafka's works. Kafka's relationship to the Jewish was – judging from what we know of him - rather distanced, even frivolous, and often very ambivalent. One may here, for example, read Binder´s extensive Kafka-Handbuch II, to make oneself clear of the compre-hensive documentation of Kafka's irreligiousness and his lack of interest in Jewish studies, etc. That he towards the end of his life got increasingly interested in the Hebrew language, and that he occasionally discussed a possible emigration to Palestine, is a fact. He put forward a proposal to go to Palestine to Felice, at the first meeting, but many have regarded this more as a greeting phrase, He came up with this idea on their first meeting, at Brod´s and never discussed it again at great length. Kafka asked Dora to go to Paris, to settle there. Berlin, Munich, Paris o. Palestine, were possible places for settlement, considered by FK. Kafka was not very fond of Prague.
"/ ... / I admire Zionism and am disgusted by it."
It is often held the similarity between Kafka's short stories and the Jewish storytelling tradition. And the truth is that Kafka's head seems to have been full of parables of the kind often found in the Jewish tradition and Jewish penmanship. His attitude to this tradition seems to have been complicated. Zimmermann's reasonable conclusion regarding Kafka's relationship to the Jewish is:
"Kafka is a heretic, as Scholem writes, a heretic who does not adhere to any creed: he is an individualist who educates his own beliefs."
Kafka's knowledge of Jewish religious tradition and Jewish mystique was very limited. He was not a "schooled mystic". Least of all, I dare say. Zimmermann´s view also is, like that of many other Kafka scholars, ( it is now a very well-researched fact ), that Kafka was never a Zionist. It would thus be wrong to say about Kafka, that he was a Jewish author, because he does not at all write in the tradition of Jewish authors, but shapes his own style all from the beginning. Zimmermann, like Heller and Adorno, is very skeptical of Brod´s try to claim Kafka as a religious writer, but he nevertheless concludes that FK is something of a mystic. Franz Kafka was basically an almost constitutional skeptic. He was never religious, and never an explicit political writer either. The Jewish holocaust historian Friedländer asserts that there is no influence from the Jewish kabbalah on Kafka That Kafka occasionally seems to portray the Jewish people does not mean that the Jewish are the premise for his uniqueness as a writer. He himself would not have liked to be defined as a "Jewish writer", in the sense that what he writes mainly ought to be seen in light of the Jewish tradition or the 'Jewish cause'. History has shown that Kafka is appreciated by a majority of the world's readers. He has got a universal appraisal. Kafka, and numerous other Jews in Prague at that time, had become much too assimilated to secular Western culture to feel themselves residents of Judaism. They perhaps found no affiliation anywhere.
Many argue that The Trial and Before the Law are religious allegories as they claim that The Castle is, too, - not necessarily Jewish - and that Joseph K. is on the way to paradise! Death is, they say, equal to the heavenly light streaming towards Joseph K.. There is a glimmer of light in the parable, when the man is looking into “the law”, where it flows out from the gate that now should be closed. The light halo is indeed a universal symbol of something sacred. But that which shines from the inside through the opening might, ironically, be nothingness. In the centre of the law, beyond the commentators, it might like with the centre of the ancient Hellenistic Pythagorean mysteries, which in fact consisted of nothing at all! ( Just the Pythagorean priests knew about this.)
Significant to Kafka´s way of writing parables and parable-like tales is no doubt the connection to the Jewish tradition, but in his treatment of this tradition he is almost harassing it. His parables most often are anti-parables, impossible to interpret. The traditional Jewish parable is didactic and used mainly as commentary of authority and it represents a tradition which in turn has become an authority in itself when is an not solely an intellectual pun or a Jewish joke. When Kafka uses the parable he refuses to be part of any tradition, or to transmit ”truths” or even give any clue about the “proper interpretations”. He simply ridicules the parable as well as every authority... We might here think of Montaigne´s words on commentaries as well as Kafka´s own treatment of the Prometheus myth and of the comments which has been the result of his change of this myth.
B. KAFKA AND MARXIST THEORY
Many commentators of Kafka – especially in the 1950ies and 60ies - started out from a Marxist perspective and have seen FK as illustrator of the idea of Entfremdung, displayed by Marx in the Paris manuscripts ( in ”Nationalökonomie und Philosophie” ).
This idea of KM – an ontological/sociological one – probably erupts from another term: alienation, which can be found by the early Hegel, the important inspiratory of Marx. Hegel - a philosopher of purely metaphysical kind, a philosopher of Conscience - introduced the concept of "Entfremdung", estrange-ment, in connection with an analysis of the division of labor. Karl Marx defines alienated labor as: labor in order to own. The prerequisite for this definition is class analysis and a criticism of existing capitalist bourgeois economics.
To Hegel – who was a solid bourgeois character, much to bourgeois even to Goethe …. - alienation was an experience of the outer world as hostile and strange, an experience that could be overcome with an inner maturing process. With Marx alienation was seen as only existent within a capitalist economy and could only be overcome with a social revolution.
Most clearly reflected is this kind of experienced estrangement with respect to Kafka´s works in the animal stories by Kafka, as well as in the history The building of the Great Wall of China, Bense for instance claims. In aesthetics we have come to speak, linked to the original concept of alienation, about the effect of Estrangement (not least through the works of Brecht) and we can meet this effect with Kafka too, and we might see the effect of estrangement as a part of the concept of the Kafkaesque. It is thus part of the effect of the technical efforts of Kafka. This very effect is typical of the genre of literary expressionism (Trakl, Brecht, Morgenstern), and expressionism in turn has long been associated with the works of Kafka, and it was early hinted by the historian Kasimir Edschmid that Kafka´s works belonged to Expressionism. The effect of estrangement was, acquired by artistic VERFREMD-UNG ( making something or someone unfamiliar, strange, foreign - a literary trick ) according to him, describing alienation, reification, linked to modernity, modern technique and the effects of modern economy. Expressionism was however an individualist movement, and as such, according to Marxist theorists, alienated.
Alienation was regarded as a symptom as well as the modern artist himself was. Kafka appeared in the midst of this debate on alienation, and he came to illustrate the lonely artist in an alienated world: The big debate around Kafka and alienation had started. It took place primarily in Germany, France and in the newly shaped Czechoslovakia. Important contributors were among others Goldstücker, Garaudy, Riemann, Mittenzwei, Seghers and Kusak.
Marxist writers have found Kafka's The Metamorphosis, The Trial, etc. in special to be descriptions of the alienated man in the high capitalist society. Kusak:
”Kafka seems to me as the paramount realist of the 20ieth century, and he saw it [alienation] better than anybody else.” ”/…. / he [ Kafka ] saw the horror of his time .” /…../”As Marxists we must not only see the influence of reality upon Kafka, but also how Kafka can help us solve the enigma of reality.””.
Ernst Schumacher, around the year of 1968, in 'Kafka vor der neuen Welt':
“Has not this rightly rejected vulgar sociological approach been replaced, namely with the philosophically idealistic view, and finally with an existentialist, which does Kafka as little right as the other views? They set out with the man's estrangement, that Kafka as few other contemporaries could conceive and portray literary. It follows, that this estrangement would simultaneously be the eternal category of the human being and that human failure is inevitable and must be borne stoically, like Kafka's characters do. I think this kind of "philosophizing" is improper for a true Marxist. ".
”We commonly see Kafka, not as a discoverer of new worlds, but as the shipwrecked. Personally I have to say, that I cannot see the shipwrecked...”
”Marxists have claimed that this conflict ( the inner versus family, the Jew, social society ) ultimately has character of a conflict between classes. Due to his personal situation Kafka experienced the oppositions between classes and the alienation in a more intensified form.”
Main themes are, according to Garaudy, the following three: a.)The animal The theme of awakening: Man is a being, doubting his life. ( Report to an academy, The Metamorphosis, The Burrow.) b.) The search – Theme of searching for a new and a truer life. ( The Trial, The Castle.). c.) Theme of the unfulfilled. ( In all of Kafka´s works.)
”Literary creation is to him the technique of overcoming alienation. Poetry is the opposite of alienation.”
In the early 20ieth century, in the aftermath of the war, discussion on culture often was centered on the concept of disaster like with Spengler. The German sociologist Max Weber also played a part with his ideas of organization theory and was interested in what organization creates, and what can make this run wild. Organization is in itself a potential iron cage for modern Man, according to Weber. The existence of organization, as well as of institution, might thus lead to revolt and chaos. Weber himself had a personal background very similar to that of Kafka.
Thus Kafka often also is seen as a dystopian writer, alongside Orwell, prophesizing about a society marked by very little freedom for the common man.
Borges claims that Kafka´s three great novels consciously are unfinished to better be able to express the scenery of infinity. So do Dahlberg and Meschonnic, too, believe that these novels were meant to have no endings? I doubt that this is the case. Sometimes one might think of The Castle or Amerika, that they truly are compositional disasters, and Kafka seems himself to express thoughts in this direction. But let us see what the very incompleteness of Kafka´s novels might actually tell us. Let us first look at the views on Kafka expressed by Zadie Smith. She has written two essays on Kafka. Like Adorno, she claims that Kafka is not writing novels in a conventional meaning of the word “novel,” but she still obviously fears him in her role as an author of novels herself.
Smith – primarily known and widely and justly appreciated for her novel White teeth – is well-read concerning Kafka, but she seems wholly insensitive to the play with different levels and structures played by Kafka. ( The Irony. ) She is not alone in reading Kafka one-dimensionally. It is of limited interest to recognize how such a reception of the Kafka discourse, and a modern one from our century, by its utter simplification promotes the blurring of the picture of Kafka.
Zadie Smith refers to Walter Benjamin´s words:
”In order to justify the phenomenon of Kafka in its purity and special beauty, it is required not losing sight of one sole thing: it is beauty and purity evolved out of a failure.”
( I would not call it a failure to sell millions and millions of books, even if it is posthumously. )
Smith notes that Kafka failed in completing the three novels. And according to ZS, one thing is required of a novel: it is completed and in a consequent narrative line. Kafka does not meet this requirement. But – even if what SZ says is true – what Benjamin wrote might refer to something else than what ZS is talking about. ZS also claims that Kafka fails in writing about what novelists usually write about, but she also asserts that, what Kafka is writing about, is something just as important as it is tough to grasp, and it is, to everyone, a private matter. And then, I think it is not exactly a failure.
”In this tension between the written and the unwritten [within laws as such] one might also make a connection to Kafka´s unfinished manuscript The Trial. It consists in important parts by unwritten text, both in the form of lacunas between chapters and unwritten parts of chapters. Part of the incomprehensibility with the trial in the novel on one hand and The Trial as a novel on the other lies in these contextual voids. This in turn means that there exists an analogy between the difficulty in the reading of the novel and the difficulty for K. in getting knowledge about the law and what he is being accused of.”
”One might even say that the fragmentariness of the novel forces the reader to participate more actively in his interpretation. It is a situation similar to that of a judge, when he finds that the crime at hand is not described in the law, but yet he is obliged to judge in the spirit of the law. This question of understanding and recognizing is a theme in the novel and a recurring theme in the authorship of Kafka´s /…./.”
But nowhere in his diaries or in discussions with his friends has it come clear that FK wishes to produce incomplete discourses. Quite on the contrary: he is extremely troubled over the fact, that he only is able to produce short texts. The guess that Kafka intentionally left his manuscripts the way they are is very wild. We must underline the difference between fragmentariness and the state of something being unfinished.
Karl Vennberg, in an essay 1945, asserts that Kafka did not plan to complete any of his novels. FK.. Adorno, along with Cl. David, refuses to call these books ”novels”.
It is common among kafkaists to divide the works of Kafka into two different categories and to regard those as distinctly diverse: the short stories and the novels. Each chapter in the three novels is extremely well rounded in their compositions, and they could almost serve as short stories too. In his Mythe of Sisyphe, Camus empathetically pointed out that every chapter was like a well-played game of chess or like a musical act in a symphony. And to Kafka himself, it presented no problem to use chapters from novels as short stories. ( The Stoker, An imperial message, A Dream, Before the Law.). I believe that we are dealing with a genuine fragmentariness that was not deliberate and that this tells something about Kafka´s technique and strengthen the overall view presented here. Kafka never completed The Trial, The Castle or Amerika probably since he grew aware of that his ( poor ) Hero-figure could never be understood as a Person. He never finished these manuscripts because he worked on the novels displaying different levels of consciousness and these consciousnesses were not really placed in the realm of Time. The technical part of Kafka´s handling of creation was a style of the static. Every event can be linked back to the Pre-narrative. The preconditions, which are inherent, and from which the hero is created as a sub-class, leads to an almost morbid solution to a problem concerning artistic and aesthetic effectivity, that will thus lead the tale into being quite immobile with respect to time and space and action, a mini-universe, and sometimes like in The Verdict to appear like a small French Classicist sketch or a mini-drama of an antique Greek kind. Or the story heading towards a catastrophe already given by the preconditions, a catastrophe, as if the whole narrative is a delay awaiting an inevitable disaster, a description of a struggle against a cruel fate. Kafka is aware that the preconditions are fully provided. The story oscillates between (S) and (O). The moments of freedom are all deviations from the main discourse, like side stories, almost poetry-like. Or they are like glances emerging through a window, or like looks upon such glances. We can imagine the inner landscape of Kafka, the events on this private stage, ( made so extremely official ) behind which a vivid Unconscious works as stage manager.
It is almost a poetical style. I have to stress that I don´t think that Kafka himself had any clear or formalized view of this. Kafka never finished his novels because he felt as an artist that there was no possibility for the creation of an organic whole. He probably was very sensitive to compositions where every part was necessary in creating such a rounded whole, just like Flaubert had been. Probably it was the nature of the very hero-figure that also troubled FK. Kafka could be rather satisfied with Gregor and Georg in the short stories, but not with Karl, Joseph K. or K. because they grew formless and grotesque. The “timelessness” of the figure slowly grew into non-existence. In The Metamorphosis – a Sinfonietta noir - it was possible to handle the problems connected to the split of Gregor due to the actual plot, which has a peripeteia.
Kafka probably looked upon the novels as complete artistic disasters, and that it would have been immoral to even try to finish them within the plans he had made up for them. He could not create logic out of the accidental, and thus he left them unfinished, and he kept them probably as reminders. Of course it could not have been an easy decision, because FK himself of course realized that many chapters of these unfinished novels contained excellent artistry.
Part of the structure of the novels is to give an overall answer to the question of the person, whose psyche is described in the form of a universe. The three novels implicitly contain one major question: why has this happened? In the pre-narrative the unveiling of the answer to this must be organically interwoven in the work. Such is the case – I think – in the short stories The Verdict, The Metamorphosis and A Country Doctor. But Kafka saw, that if the narrative itself was not logical in its form, as in the short stories, the answer would not follow. We don´t know the whole plot when it comes to Karl Rossmann or Joseph K. or the land surveyor K.. Associated with the term "necessity" is “regularity”, - a story logically follows the path marked out by fate or following in the track of what already has happened. In The Castle we slowly come to know a hero-figure, which in his imagination - or dream - dreams himself up, based on what he had been in the past as a person. The new, manifest, story bears all the marks of repetition. All the actions from Ks side are such that they do not at all feel like original ones. In the world of The Castle, K. is looked upon with a growing irritation from the people in the village, who do not care much about him, like he does not care about them either. He is just a trouble, barely tolerated, and sometimes met with resistance, sometimes with a grain of kindness. He seems to be the rebel of the village, but he isn´t at all. He is a conformist, looking for a place and for power too, often through woman. The village stands solid. Since K. is not in a position to invest anything, he is receiving nothing in return. Probably it is a less explicit Irony in The Castle, because the hero is not attacked from “outside” like Joseph K. in The Trail but he is more of a failing intruder himself.
Surveyor K. is a figure. He is the conscious part, and the surrounding world is his unconscious. It is not strange then that The Castle has a much weaker interplay between (S) and (O) than is to be found in The Trail, since K. has a fixed idea and the reaction of the Unconscious to a fixed idea is much poorer than the reaction of the Unconscious to a sense of guilt or shame and to thoughts of defense and escape.
I think that it may be, that Kafka through his technique has managed to lift up for our scrutiny the mystical in human existence like [ 1.] our capacity to will on the one hand , and [ 2.] our whims and fancies, our fruits of imagination, on the other. But why would this technique, among all other techniques, be able to make us more aware of the human predicament than the others? By his technique Kafka has developed a world in which we never are able to enter; it is not parallel to our own, but by adding a new dimension, Kafka displays a striking caricature of the world and of the human being.
D. The problem concerning
The narrator is closely allied to the hero in the novels. The ”Style indirecte libre” ( here abbr.: SIL ) is, as we have already seen with Flaubert, referring to a style, where the narrator looks upon the world from the view of the hero, without the story being written in the 1st person. SIL also leaves room for external comments from the side of the narrator on the hero. Fine analyst Martin Walser claims about The Trial an Irony and with concern to the narrative perspective:
”By a split into one obvious narrator and a perceiving hero everything becomes ironized and K. becomes a caricature.”
The Kafka story often begins with an implicit question, and evolves into a puzzle, and some kind of truth is sought for. The story becomes sort of the negation of negation, to use an old dialectical concept from G.W.F. Hegel. In his dissertation Walser claims that the narrator is not visible in FK´s works and that this in turn leads to the missing of a distance to the events of the stories, and we are thus deprived of temporal distancing, he asserts. Is this true? Perhaps it is up to every reader to decide if there is a narrator or not. The lack of temporal distance seems obvious, but I am not sure it has to do with the lack of a prominent narrator. In L. Sterne´s A sentimental Journey, one of Kafka´s favorite books, there is a very protruding and talkative narrator, and yet time seems to stand still the whole book through.
Behind many tales by FK there is ( anyway, somehow! ) a narrator, the joy of whom it is to place a suspicious proposition, or a delicate problem, before our eyes in order to be able to ”watch us” sweat while the story develops. The solution to the puzzle might be “hidden” in the obvious, like in E. Allen Poe´s The purloined letter. One ought to read The Trial as if there is an inner monologue in it. But in saying so I am of course interpreting, I am not describing a narrative device. The clue to the meaning of The Trial is not reached by using the narratological point of view. Since the meaning is evasive, we still might enjoy passages in The Trial getting the same narratological ironic pleasure which we are getting from Flaubert in reading his Emma Bovary. Perruchot writes on the narrative style of Flaubert: ”What is perceived there … it is the contour of delirium, of rationalization, of the discourse of the unconscious.” With Kafka, as well as with Flaubert, the universe is put forth in an ironic style indirect libre (SIL). Expressions like ”without wanting to”, ”he did not himself know”, ”without noticing it himself”, ”unconsciously”, and ”as it seemed” and “obvious”, ”apparent” are frequent. The narrative with Flaubert is full of reservations and apparent denials, all of which turns the reader to a strange kind of distanced reception. But we must have in mind, that the stylistic devices – with Flaubert as well as with Kafka - are functions of a determining deep structure.
There is something very strange with the narrator´s voice with Kafka – especially in the novels – that even seems so odd, that it even has led to speculations among interpreters of a fourth person involved . Joseph K. adjusts meticulously to his surrounding world, as if he is always listening to it. Nothing is displayed in the novels where the hero isn´t present. This is not unusual with authors using SIL, like for instance J. Austen. The body of the hero is nearly never mentioned. He seems disembodied and being pure mind.
It is of narratological interest to observe what is happening in The Metamorphosis after the death of hero Gregor. What kind of picture has the remaining Samsa family of all the things that have occurred? Kafka here surpasses Tieck and Hoffmann in fantastics, but Kafka´s story have certain similarity to Novalis´ Hyazint und Rosenblüthe. Grete voluptuously stretches her young body in the final scene in The Metamorphosis: the nightmare finally is over. Gregor, the bug, is dead. Life is about to begin again. But how can a story emerge at all from within a kafka-tale? A kafka-tale is – as we shall see – a closed universe. The new Samsa family apparently has left Gregor and the ”bug incident” behind. The family has severed Gregor, the son, from the bug. Thus we are, in a way, back into something like the universe of Tieck´s or Novalis´ Kunstmärchen – because the Samsa´s has experienced the complex bug-man of Gregor, but they still effectively manage to deny this experience. Somehow a totally new, qualitatively different, story starts to unfold in the ending pages of The Metamorphosis. And one determining, important layer is suddenly gone. Thus we find ourselves in an unusual vertigo in this ending of this story, because this ending is striking in its lack of tension and in its “ordinariness”, in its “non-Kafkaesqueness”. This problem presented itself as both huge and interesting also to Kafka himself. He wrote a number of endings of The Metamorphosis. And this story also generated fan fiction already during Kafka´s lifetime.
Many commentaries of Kafka´s works are centered upon the “Freudian dream symbolic”.
Fraiberg: ”If his tale reaches the effect of satire and social caricature, it is because dream itself is a caricature of life.”; ”dream is in some respect an allegory”. Fraiberg, and many other critics, seem to forget that lots of authors are using dream symbols, without ever reaching at all the effect that Kafka does. Fraiberg refers to Ch. Neider who asserts that in Kafka it is all about ”Freudian allegories”. Fraiberg admits however that the originality of Kafka only might be understood through the associations in Kafka´s mind. And we are back on square one. Kafka using Freud´s theories is an obvious fact, I think.
Kafka most likely though has an autonomous position in relation to Freud, but that Freud and his works are on stage in Kafka´s writings, cannot be doubted. Kafka is a commentary on Freud. Without Freud Kafka´s works had never been written and without knowledge of Freud they do not function to their fullest potential. Symbols exist, according to Freud, talking about the symbols of the Unconscious, in order both to hide and to reveal. To investigate the reuse and the transformation of such an intricate pseudological system with Kafka is of course very complicated.
Kafka is in an utterly important aspect a comment on Freud. He is not opposed to Freudian thinking, or to the thoughts of Freud, but most definitely Kafka points at the fact, that the cleft elucidated by the works of Freud, was a cleft with which Man was to continue living with even after the introduction of psychoanalysis, (as well as after the Modernist revolution) like Man had had to do before Freud, but more unconsciously.
Kafka stands shoulder to shoulder with Freud, who never thought, in the later part of his life, that Man ever could be molded into a unity where the conscious and the censor would not continue fighting each other. Kafka´s modernism was not related to that of the Dadaists or to that of the surrealists at all. Kafka is not a modernist in such any openly provocative way. He is not that interested in being modern as the modernists such as the Symbolists actually were. The modernists were self-consciously modern, in a narcissist way, which Kafka almost never was. The modernists were often quite boisterous, but Kafka was humble and elegant, or indifferent. Many of the modernists were as artists and cultural phenomena short-lived, whereas Kafka survived into the 21st century.
FK was never a populist, but he wrote what he “had to” write, by an inner urge, an “inner necessity”. He is not provoking for the sake of provocation. He is not actually tearing down psychoanalysis or tradition. He has got an Irony and skepticism of his own. He is an enjoying sceptic.
The feast of mysticism can be found in the commentators of Kafka, not with Kafka himself. Some critics say that Kafka´s works can be looked upon as parables. I do not agree. Kafka experimented with a lot of different forms and genres, and there can be found poetry, parable and conventional narrative all intertwined in the production of his. An indication of his view is that he absorbed Flaubert´s aforementioned idea of “writing about nothing at all”. That is an important clue to his entire understanding of what was supposed to be going on in literature.
One might say that Kafka from the start objected to the use of a fixed and absolute meaning, i.e. to the use of conventional parable. What we however are prone to look upon as parables among FK´s works – no matter what Kafka himself thought – are the small stories like Before the Law and The Hunger Artist. They seem to be of existential philosophical nature, and they also are close to Jewish parable and to Jewish tradition.
Parables can be found in Kafka´s works, according to Emrich, but these parables are not unambiguous, but they ”may perhaps be interpreted by looking at the relations of the figures to each other” he claims. ( Thus they are no parables, I think.) The word ”symbol” loses its meaning with Kafka, according to E..” . Kafka´s relation to the parable is discussed at length by the very sensitive Meschonnic who claims that FK´s works are accessible only on a meta level, as meta-fables:
”This language born out of spiritual anxiety, this minute pointillism where the exaggeration of realism, the presence of things not only becomes a fable, but a fabulous fable/…/.”
R. Karst reversely claims that the ambiguity in Kafka does not permit the use of the concept of allegory attached to his works. It is equally impossible to talk about symbolism in general, with Kafka, and we are not met by traditional epic or symbolism here, according to Karst. Petr Rákos, much like Emrich, investigates the possibility to look upon the ambiguity as meta-meaning per se! Kafka, finally, himself resented the word of ”parable” on the occasion when Buber was about to publish two of his ”animal” stories in his journal. Instead of the title ”Two parables”, Kafka insisted upon them simply to be named ”Two animal stories.”.
(Among the many interested in the semiological / linguistic / symbolic perspective we find Pavel Trost, M. Bense, Tauber, Meschonnic and H. Richter. Among the works investigating the stylistic-narratological field are W. Emrich´s, M. Walser´s Kafka, Beschreibung einer Form, and Oscar Walzel´s early Logik in Wunderbaren.)
F. Kafka and change of style
It was a conscious choice for Kafka to put himself in the trance-like condition. He seemed to be in contact with every impulse of his mind when in this trance. This also seems to have been his greatest joy in life, the looking inside and the reporting of it. We might also think of his love of formulating himself in words, reported by Dora. Kafka easily identified with others, and he could set himself as an onlooker, something which often disturbed him:”/…/ have been listening to myself, now and then kind of from the outside, like to the whimper of a kitten.” But this gift, that was irritating in daily life, was an asset when it came to writing. Kafka never saw any personal-ethical problem in writing in this way. He is feeling no guilt of using this method, using his talent for putting himself in the act of self-observation, this intense peeping. Yet Kafka often felt guilty. Maybe writing was also connected to a kind of sorrow. But Kafka indulged in this way of writing and never seriously considered any other way of writing or any other way living. Literature was what mattered. He did not mind if his writing caused problems or sufferings to himself or to others, like to Felice Bauer. Thus we can see that the need to write was to FK immensely strong.
Kafka indulged in intense writing his entire adult life, with very few 6 months long breaks, and he knew his capability as an artist. Kafka seems to have been well aware of certain basic problems regarding his technique. Thus when Kafka started to write the late novel The Castle, he actually began writing it in 1st person. Within short he changed his mind and returned to his usual style indirect libre. When Kafka started to write The Castle it seems as if he tried to break up from his usual technique, to avoid the split universe. The reason that this novel is unfinished might of course theoretically be due to lack of time.
It seems to have been impossible to him to start a revolution by changing technique. In writing in 1st person he had had to let the hero become a person, because without SIL there would be no split. Kafka probably was so very much in love with the play close to the split between Unconscious A. and B., amusing himself with always mocking the heroes with this split, and was stuck in the yarn of the Kafka-technique. Kafka never left his technique – which aimed at the Kafkaesque – something which led to the situation that he was writing novels, or sketches of novels, that he never was going to be able to publish. The short stories posed no such problems. They contained the surrealistic turns (in accordance with the famous Reverdian /Bretonian recipe) as well as immediate connections of a Freudian sort between the parts. The static in the composition displayed no apparent problem in short stories. It does not matter in a short story if the reader is aware of, that everything is settled from the start, but in a novel this is not possible. Defeatism is hard to build a novel upon. Almost no character in the Kafka cosmos ever changes. Miss Bürstner, Joseph K., the guards Franz and Willem and K.s women in The Castle, they all stay the same. Gregor Samsa probably is the exception of the rule. In Kleist´s Michael Kohlhaas, which is about a process, like The Trial is, and about the road towards an execution, there is a peripeteia, in the talk between Kohlhaas and Martin Luther. In regarding the structure of Kafka´s retrograde novels one might think of Proust, and A la recherche du temps perdu, where part I, The love of Swanns, is written first and then, immediately afterwards, the final part VIII. The whole work has a circular structure.
Kafka however often talked about changing his style, and of writing things not only altogether different but also better. He told Dora so in the winter 1923/24. But when he wrote The Burrow, one of his last stories, he had actually not changed his style at all, since 1912.
DELIBERATION, IRONY AND DESIRE
“K. was silent. He knew what was coming, but suddenly detached from the exhausting work as he was, he devoted himself next to a pleasant fatigue and looked out the window toward the other side of the street, of which he from the place where he was able to spot no more than a small triangular section, some walls of some buildings between two storefronts. “
( The Trial )
Kafka in the midst of the “misery” of displaying a rigidly divided artificial universe, sometimes displays in his works an image or a sense of a “serene” Freedom. He here uses primarily two methods: the first freedom [ 1.], is the Irony-like Schweben ( hovering ) between Unconscious A. and Unconscious B.. The actions and of fancy/whims of the Unconscious B. contrasts the strange actions and whims of Unconscious A. clothed in Freudian images. The second kind of freedom/deliberation [ 2.] is poetic, and thus in its very essence quite different. We might in The Trial, The Castle and Amerika meet with gorgeously beautiful sceneries, images seemingly directed right towards us, like off-topic lines, not at all directed as A.-part to the heroes. We are here outside of the triplicity form, free from the structure, and are given a kind of liberation by the narrator or the author:
”It was a small crowd on the levitated terrace under the roof with bricks on it. Three steps on a staircase down to the garden. The full moon shone and it was a hot June night. Everybody was very happy, we laughed at everything; when a dog was barking, we laughed at that.”
( Kafka, fragment.)
”Karl stood astonished in the open air. The house’s growing steps led downward without railings. All he had to do was go down and turn a little bit right into the alley leading to the country road. In the clear moonlight, you couldn’t get lost. Below in the garden he heard the duplicated barking of the dogs who had been released to run around in the shadow of the trees. You could hear them just enough in the silence as they made great leaps through the grass.”
( Amerika. p.100.)
In Chapter 7. of The Trial a strange beauty outside of every process is displayed with the notion of the snow:
”Outside the snow was falling in the dim light./…./. The thought of the trial no more left him.”
Quite the same sort of poetry we meet with in Amerika, in the final chapter as well as in the balcony scenes in this novel. The balcony itself is in its essence somewhat “deliberated” in its position in relation to the house and the life in the house. We are stepping out on a balcony, and it leads us nowhere. It leads us to freedom in that it is an asylum. On the balcony the figure almost turns into a person, by some rather strange necessity.
Freedom in the works of Kafka´s is thus partly perceived by an [ 1.] aesthetic of levitation, (An Ästhetik des Schwebens), in connection to the tension between the two instances of the Unconscious, and freedom then consists of a maximum of Irony, and partly [ 2.] freedom is of a purely poetic kind, and freedom in poetry carries with it a minimum of Irony, by evading the contradiction of the structure of the work.
Kafka is ironic stereology. He pretends to write books, novels, but we are in the Kafka works constantly deprived of the structure of the ordinary world. We find ourselves with Kafka in a waste land, in a land that slopes towards eternity. Dickens´ landscape is not only real and concrete; it is, like that of Balzac, built upon solid economy. Their stories are about careers and about consciences in a capitalist economy. We might, for a contrast, assert that Kafka´s landscape displays an economy of desire in fantastic subjectivity. Kafka´s form can be characterized by the concept of Irony.
Discussing Irony, it is here essential to refer to Friedrich Schlegel and his interesting theories of the novel in articles from around 1810 in Athenäum, Lyceum and other journals. Schlegel confers the mythology of novels with the mythology of gods by Homer, and the mythology of Christianity with the novel in France during several centuries after Middle Age. Schlegel meant that there was a need for a mythology in every novel. Kafka has a mythology tied to the theories of Sigmund Freud, within a certain Irony, that is. Søren Kierkegaard asserted that using covert Irony, i.e. using Irony in one´s own secrecy and superiority, was morally corrupt, no matter the reason for the use of it. The Irony of Kierkegaard within his famous ”indirect communication” is however of an intimating kind: he is trying to draw the reader closer to himself by using an ironical attitude and by trying to make the reader join him in laughter ( Irony is a mean in indirect communication, in the art of the most effective communication.). The Irony of Kierkegaard is not really a Socratic one, which would be one, the maieutic one, using pure deception. Kierkegaard´s Irony is a pleasant chit-chat, where he tries to associate with the reader, make the reader willingly and - at least half - consciously put himself in alliance with Kierkegaard himself. Now Kierkegaard´s Irony may be social and overt, but his method isn´t, and it is thus immoral. The reflection of Kierkegaard is highly sophisticated, and it is almost impossible to figure out what his true aim is (finally) with all his writings, what his message is. Irony might be a highly strung consciousness of ethics, as Kierkegaard claims it is, but it can often, with Kierkegaard himself too, be seen as evasive and sceptical. We might here remind ourselves of the richness of Irony and how essential Irony can be to the discoveries of one´s own Self and one´s self-consciousness, and to the joys of these discoveries.
It is not out of the ordinary to find people who have read Kafka, and to find them describing the experience by using of the concept of Irony. It is equally difficult to make these readers explain what kind of Irony it is. The Irony of Kafka is mainly, according to my perception, to be found on a meta-level, and on the structural level. There is a rather overt Irony with Kafka that is directed towards the Freudian concepts. But the essential Irony is of another kind. It is not the question of whether the intention is an ironic one or not, but if the structure that has strong similarity to the one in “standard” Irony. The novels and some of the short stories are structured much like Irony, according to the structure of common Irony. We might say that Kafka is, or is dealing with, a kind of questioning meta-Irony. The literariness of his works is from a certain point of view residing on an immense semantic hieroglyph or psycho-linguistic move. His technique probably has its roots in Kunstmärchen. Kafka seems to begin his tales in the lofty domains where the German Romantic writers ended their stories. Kafka transcends Romantic Märchen in using his subtle ironic split, in a way that already has been implied in 2013 by Chr. Eschweiler. The result of Kafka´s technique is expansion of the novel as a whole at the expense of the hero. Hereby the hero is subject to Irony by the surrounding world, an Irony that bears resemblance to Romantic Irony.
Kafka´s views on life & Life as Literature.
Kafka had no elaborate philosophical views, but one might distinguish a few main ideas on Life recurrent in his reflections and reasoning. These are all marked by resignation and views of the artist as a martyr, of thoughts of holiness, and of its opposite, of guilt and shame and of not belonging anywhere, of even – as I already said – of not being human at all. Some of his daydreams belong to Negative Theology, are forming a Via Negativa, and do not present any positive goals. "Away from here, that's my goal."( FK ).
Kafka did not hide his nihilism. He ruled out from an early age – just like Kierkegaard - ordinary living, and his life instead became a life of writing: ”I am nothing but literature.” Perhaps he was unable to act in any other way. Having writing itself as a life might be seen under the aspect of anorexia, but this anorexia seems to have fed him. Cf. FK´s late story The Hunger Artist.
”Kafka thus allies himself with death. Creation
takes over from living.”
(Th. W. Adorno )
Kafka´s writing is about the betrayal of existence concerning the possibility to reach the Real. But it is also about jouissance through Irony in writing; writing is a means for him to reach the Real.
Kafka´s primary means of writing is his technique, the Consc+Unconsc1+Unconsc2-technique.
Writing is also his object of desire, which often serves as a model, as an object for description, i.e., in meta-narrative. More precise: the Kafkaesque is his object of desire. By using this same technique, Kafka desires life through and in art (itself). And we are not surprised by the fact that in using this method. In this method, unconscious powers are multiplied. Kafka comes up with many materials that might be labeled “obscene,” “shadowy,” and utterly grim. This is quite natural. His sensitivity is heightened, and the use of the Unconscious is prolific. Hence he reaches his inner continents and what seems to be sometimes perverted content is the steady irritation of Kafka´s alluding to Freudian symbolism, which is a way to the truth.
I believe the aspect of the Kafka narration called “irritation” by G. Schneider is interesting. We might think of this irritation in terms of lust and desire. Irritation is a stimulus, a stimulus of desire, sought by Kafka, and it is as if he held on to this course of irritation in deep passion.
The works of Schopenhauer leads us in the right direction because we can be sure that our will to a great extent determines the nature of our conceptions. Our conceptions depend on what we desire, and what we fear the most.
The object of desire is present in the works of Kafka, along with the process of reaching for it. The reach for the desired object through literature is perverse.
”J´ai le droit de jouir de ton corps, peut me dire quiconque, et ce droit, je l´exerçai, sans qu´aucune limite m´arrète dans le caprise des exactions que j´ais le gout d´y assouvir.”
( ”The Maxim” in Donatien Alphonse
François de Sades Philosophie dans
le boudoir. 1890, posth. )
Kafka´s writings also constitute a fulfilled desire. It is not uncommon amongst interpreters of FK to look upon the short stories as if they were some kind of unreleased desire. And several commentators are talking in terms of sublimation or of ”sexual infantilism”. Kafka´s stories are not emerging from the ordinary desire of an author of literature, which mostly is a try to cling to reality, or to excite the feeling of it in describing it. Kafka´s stories do not constitute a search for a reality beyond, and they are not a longing, but it is an achieving a universe of itself and pure enjoyment, and by its very nature thus a fulfilled desire.
Kafka often tortures his hero-figure, and sometimes even kills him. Kafka uses perversion both in form and in subject. I am however convinced that Kafka´s technique instigated his choice of subjects not the reverse.
Kafka uses perverted writing in splitting the subject´s conscience and he is “covering up” his style by using thematic perversion, like in The Penal Colony, where sado-masochist eroticism is the subject. Much has been written on this subject by Sartre, Deleuze and Merleau-Ponty, as well as by Lacan and Horkheimer/Adorno especially with regards to the works of de Sade. Probably Kafka was directly influenced by de Sade, as well as by Mirbeau and Sacher-Masoch. The emptiness of de Sade´s Philosophie dans le budoir is however both as philosophy and as art all too obvious. It is, like all pornographic literature extremely repetitive and thus lacking in structure. Quite as Lacan says, this book is neither enlightening as philosophy nor concerning insights in the psychological nature of desire. However, one might still, in reading it, reflect upon the social conditions required for perversion to be able to flourish this openly. The French Marquis moves perversely into the area of his sadism, but it is at the same time dissolute sadism within a specific framework that is characterized by rationality. On the other hand, Bataille is never rational but let his lust and anarchy controlled by primitive wishful thinking regarding, and concerning both sexuality and economics.
With Kafka, thus desire is both subject and object. Writing in the case of Kafka is confused writing, despite its clarity. It is confused because he writes writing. It is writing as experience, as communication and as creation in desire. In order to write Kafka needed clothes from the wardrobe of Freud, to take on and off, in rational non-rationality and in autoerotic teasing of his senses, in a play of fulfilled desire, as well as in a play with this play.
Kafka often indulges in advanced sado-masochist wishful thinking. All the preconditions and tools were handily found, since the way to unconscious already have been explored by Freud.
Psychoanalysis was sneezed out of Freud´s very erotic nose. To Kafka no drug stimulus were needed; he in fact enjoyed looking at the walls of his inner rooms through all his aliases (i.e. the tales, not the heroes), walls ornated by strong inner forces with, sometimes, caricatures of the Freudian symbolic. Limits for his fantasy were only set by his fear of awakening. Psychoanalysis itself was fulfilling a curious unconscious dream and a desire in the heart of Europe. It was not only the teaching of deliberation and a psychological practice, but it was also a joyous sometimes quite bourgeois reflection concerning inner life. And it became fashion. It could be revolutionary used by anyone with enough imagination and literary technique. Kafka himself was not indulging in the fashionable chitchat in the cafés on psychoanalysis. Kafka felt that he could use psychoanalysis in an extended way, both bringing forth psychoanalysis and criticize it, in bringing forth what he himself had to say with his historical reality, such as WWI, is held at arm length´s distance. “As though conducting an experiment he [ Kafka ] studies what would happen if the results of psychoanalysis were to prove true not merely metaphorically but in the flesh.” ( Adorno, 1967, p. 251.). Reality is brought forth by Kafka casually, en passant, and in fragments. The passing by is a kind of perversity, too.
Kafka does many things simultaneously. He desires, he is tormenting himself, he uses satire, and he is in a surrealist manner mocking culture, social order, law, religion and he despises the bourgeoisie. Perversion is his tool and it is intense participation, by intensely not participating at all. It is to draw near in distancing oneself. It is a variation of the grotesque, the grotesque which attracts by being repulsive.
KAFKA AND MYTH.
Once in a while we might read an article about Franz Kafka´s relation to science. This might be an essential subject for those interested in the connection between his life and works, since it is generally supposed that Kafka´s work is an emblematic picture of Western society's transformation into a modern one.
When writing about literature, it is almost impossible to avoid dealing with myths not only concerning the author himself ( what Proust named the method of Sainte-Beuve ) but myths contemporary to the works that are on the subject. No literary text emerges without the author dealing with contemporary values, concepts, and power structures. Moreover, in turn, these are almost always based upon certain myths held in a certain very high reverence. Part of the common myth in any society is science. Part of Modern society, as Kafka met with it, around the year of 1910 in Europe, was A.) Science, B.) Romanticism, C.) Symbolism, D. Freud. ( Religion had ceased to be an important myth, as it used to be.)
A. SCIENCE as a CONTEMPORARY myth
Industrialism had recreated and transmogrified society in every way. Industrialism was a function of Western science. Kafka was ambivalent in his relation to science. On the one hand, he was a born skeptic, but on the other hand, Kafka was mesmerized in an almost childlike manner by the new technology of Modernism, and perhaps he did not realize in the same way as Nietzsche did the dangers of this technology. Nietzsche clarifies the human situation in modernity, how Man replaced God with technology and with science, progress and Liberalism. It has, for N., thus come a "revaluation of all values"... People in the West after Dostoyevsky, Kierkegaard, and Marx may be seen as spiritually lost, as Blanchot later formulates it. F. Kafka, however, did not react quite like Nietzsche. He reacted more "unphilosophical." We might ourselves acknowledge how these texts, through their "sympathetic-antipathetic" approach, depicts the attitude of modern ambivalence. In the novels, one might find critiques of civilization, for instance in The Trial and the Amerika. In Amerika - a Dickens' pastiche, according to F.K. himself -, it is in the details that this is most appalling.
Every technical device – technique, which is a derivate of science - like a door, a telephone, a tram wagon, a telegraph, an airplane, a steamboat – were all technical miracles to Kafka, and he had almost a religious fascination for these things. Nevertheless, there were many things about science that he did not embrace at all. Kafka was not impressed by doctors. He was struck by tuberculosis but always claimed that there was just one human disease and that this was a spiritual one. The one representative for science that Kafka took a shot at was the expert.
In novels and drafts to short stories often – in the shape of the myth – scientists, capitalists, geologists, historians, doctors, explorers and travel writers appears. Kafka ridicules all these people. They almost always fail, and FK pictures them as failed authorities. Authorities are creating mythological chaos. Kafka contrasts chaos in mythology by order of literary form.
Kafka is an expert in putting in question authorities.
ROMANTICISM as a CONTEMPORARY myth
Romantic and Modernist fiction generally displays a strong and effective underlying layer beneath the manifest content. There is a myth under the explicit surface, serving as a contrast and a mediator of meaning. By putting a myth as a background, counter-voice – we might like a reader with the hero judge the myth, and we are thus also able to evaluate the hero through the myth.
Myth is generally not at all created by the common man but is inserted either by incredible inventive people or by the ruling class, the state's executive power.
It is a false history, which the ruling power is good at creating, and which the ruling class is perfectly willing to bouncing off. This history keeps claiming that myth originates from the depths of the people, from the soul of the ( most extra-ordinary ) People, and the inner depths of man ( or race ). Throughout the ages, some gave the Myth a shimmer of being the Truth of Man, but it has only served the power elite and the status quo. Myth is a conservative invention. ( Most 20th Century famous writers on myth were also conservatives, like Karen Armstrong, Aby Warburg, R. Graves, Kolakowski, etc. )
The myth also can stand forth from facticity, letting a facticity become a myth and a truth of its own.
Romanticism had a flair for the Märchen, the romantic tale. This Märchen generally does not stand in opposition to the actual ruling power, to society, the King, or another ruler. The Märchen generally is in contact with a general divine power of unknown origin, to which it is subordinate. Roger Caillois:
”Romanticism found itself essentially incapable of producing myths. Of course, it produced tales and ghost stories willingly and lured itself into the fantastic. In doing so, however, they more and more severed themselves from the myth.”
Modernism transcends Romanticism in that it abandoned the exotic in search of the heart of Power, and Modernism created a myth in the midst of the contemporary, commonplace: in the middle of the new world, in the modern super-capital.
Myth in Romanticism concentrates almost entirely upon the relation to the Unknown. Furthermore, a lot of Romanticism's success is its understanding of how to soothe the public's mind with the preoccupation of manners to deal with fear.
As an example of a famous Gothic Romantic novel, we might cite the conservative Victor Hugo. The following excerpt shows genuine Gothic Horror drama, which probably entirely fell short of compliments on Kafka's part. Hugo´s The Hunchback of Nôtre Dame de Paris 1831. On Quasimodo, the hunchback himself:
“The presence of this extraordinary being caused, as
it were, a breath of life to circulate throughout the entire cathedral. It seemed as though there escapedfrom him, at least according to the growing superstitions of the crowd, a mysterious emanation which animated all the stones of Notre-Dame, and made the deep bowels of the ancient church to palpitate. It sufficed for people to know that he was there, to make them believe that they beheld the thousand statues ofthe galleries and the fronts in motion. And the cathedral did indeed seem a docile and obedient creature beneath his hand; it waited on his will to raise its great voice; it was possessed and filled with Quasimodo,as with a familiar spirit. One would have said thathe made the immense edifice breathe. He was everywhere about it; in fact, he multiplied himself on allpoints of the structure. Now one perceived with affright at the very top of one of the towers, a fantasticdwarf climbing, writhing, crawling on all fours, descending outside above the abyss, leaping from projection to projection, and going to ransack the bellyof some sculptured gorgon; it was Quasimodo dislodging the crows. Again, in some obscure cornerof the church one came in contact with a sort of living chimera, crouching and scowling; it was Quasimodo engaged in thought. Sometimes one caught
sight, upon a bell tower, of an enormous head and a
bundle of disordered limbs swinging furiously at the
end of a rope; it was Quasimodo ringing vespers or
the Angelus. Often at night a hideous form was seen wandering along the frail balustrade of carved lacework, which crowns the towers and borders the circumference of the apse; again it was the hunchback of Notre-Dame. Then, said the women of the neighborhood, the whole church took on something fantastic, supernatural, horrible; eyes and mouths were opened, here and there; one heard the dogs, the monsters, and the gargoyles of stone, which keep watch night and day, with outstretched neck and open jaws, around the monstrous cathedral, barking. And, if it was a Christmas Eve, while the great bell, which seemed to emit the death rattle, summoned the faithful to the midnight mass, such an air was spread over the sombre façade that one would have declared that the grand portal was devouring the throng, and that the rose window was watching it. And all this came from Quasimodo. Egypt would have taken him for the god of this temple; the Middle Ages believed him to be its demon: he was in fact its soul.”
( V. Hugo, NddP, Livre IV, chap.III.. )
One might think that such a prolific symbolism and Hugo´s attempts to create a feeling by adding spooky details and quantifying these, and not by subtlety and layers, was dissatisfactory to highly sensitive Franz. Kafka very early realized that the shallowness, overload, and desperation of Romantic prose in general in the novel of Hugo are apparent. Romanticism was in the form of the Gothic novel, quite abhorrent to Kafka. In Hugo´s Quasimodo, the search for love is a prominent theme. Love, as salvation, is non-existent by Kafka. The short story The Country Doctor is an exception. Romanticism was, to sum up, in the form that openly referred to mysticism, foreign to Kafka. Nevertheless, in its covert and subtle forms, he loved.
In the journal Athenäum, which was published around the millennium shift of 1800, foreboding the magnificent Hegel and his Phänomenologie, Fr. Schlegel´s pen is glowing from enthusiasm in the new ideas, and the new landscape that is opened up by the Romantic Philosophers is inspiring to those who want to indulge into poetics. Romanticism is in part Poetics itself.
Schlegel claims that contemporary poetry in Preussen does not have any mythology and that it is, in essence, mythology that makes poetry work. The old folk's ha mythology, Schlegel says. He is aware that, in his own country, they cannot possibly muster a gang of old Greek gods and stuff them up as a myth background or sub code. However, he sees it as necessary to have a layer like that, to be able to reach the goal of Romantic Poetry. This goal is quite another one from the classical goal because Romanticism above all wanted the effect of Das Schweben. Schlegel then directs his mind to the new mythology, which he thinks is the soul's mythology. The human soul. Even modern Romantic writers in the U.S.A. would vividly agree with Fr. Schlegel on this. For instance, the prolific authors of the Atlanta-school, like Truman Capote, Harper Lee, and McCullers, know that it is essential to have a resonance in myth to reach the layers of dream hallucination where meaning is born. Without alluding to the secret symbols of the age, the mythology, all epic is empty. One might call this mythology or something else.
Around the year 1800, it was hard for the Romantics to set mythology for the entire human soul. Such mythology is an impossible project.
Mythology has to be a kind of description, a tale of something, a system explaining something, rasterization.
Romanticism sought to create a mythology for the Soul, for the heart of the heart's human understanding, using Romanticism itself as an object. With the Self deeply invested in silent Nature, in dreaming Nature, using symbols inspired from the philosophy of Schelling, where elves, blowers, Aurora, and Der Blaue Blume, ( Novalis ) play roles, and where everything is referring to Romanticism itself, and Romanticism AS art. Romanticism, and Romantic love an understanding, is thus mainly all about itself. The underlying myth is mythology rooted in the pure ideas of Romanticism itself.
In Romanticism, the poets also used the fact that Christianity just was won over, surpassed, ad the poets of this school hence might use their mythology ambiguously, and the readers of Romantic Poetry might be all delighted by the vision of a world beyond, without often realizing that the vision they thus had gotten a hint to, was not the Christian paradise at all, but something else. Romanticism was an atheist but used their freedom to allude to anything they wanted to. They stood free to every belief, but without saying so.
Idealism traditionally is a denomination for a philosophical view according to which reality is determined by the ( human ) conception of it. Transcendental Idealism, like, for instance, that of Hegel´s, claims that everything is spiritual. The origin of Philosophical Idealism was Jena and Tübingen in former Preussen. For six years, Jena was the birthplace and growing-pot for these ideas, and the majority of those men, who were to become leaders of this movement, gathered here or had intense contact with people who studied here. Those who later became known as ”the Romantic Movement” were: Fichte, Shelling, A. and Fr. Schlegel, Ludwig Tieck, Fr. Schleiermacher, Steffens, Hegel ( after leaving Frankfurt, where Friedrich Hölderlin had deeply influenced him.) Later, J.W. von Goethe and Friedrich Shiller, (Uber naive und sentimental Dichtung.). They were active in Jena between 1798 och 1804.
These years Europe was transforming. Napoleon became Tsar of France. The Jena-group's main interests – apart from the revolutionary events, the upraising of nationalist movements, and Dichtung in general - were the philosophy of the professor of Königsberg Immanuel Kant. Kant´s Kritik der Reinen Vernunft, Kritik der Praktischen Vernunft och Kritik der Urtheilskraft, had an enormous influence and spurred the younger philosophers to try to go „beyond Kant, “ or to “serve the premises to Kant´s conclusions,” as Schelling put it. Schelling would later become a keystone to Romanticism and its poets, but to all the real Romantic theorist philosophers, the most vital voice was Hegel´s.
Hegel´s breakthrough in the academic world of Prussia came with the enormous dissertation ( Theil I ) of Phänomenologie des Geistes. (1807 ). It was finalized ( but worked upon since 1804 ) while the Prussian and French armies had set up their camps before Jena's battle. The French defeated the Prussian army.
The masterpiece was written at a tremendous pace, and Hegel feared he would go all insane from exhaustion.
Hegel´s, Fichte´s, Schelling's, and Hölderlin´s dialectics did span, not just over logic, but also over the universe, over nature, philosophy, and art. Schelling´s concept of “Ur-Bild” was to become archetypical for more than a century ahead. The prefix of “Ur” was constructed to nominate or designate a presupposition for the idea and the idea's concept. ( We might notice the influence of this thinking in poetry, but all kinds of science, including psychology and psychoanalysis. In a way, Freud was the child of Schelling. ) The boundaries between art and science were like in a simple stroke rubbed out. Romantic came, through the miracle of terminology, to be able to aspire upon scientific status. In this magical idealism, which like magic, often saw itself as an object, ideas similar to the psychic life of the philosophers of the day would, in inspired clothing, reach the land of the beyond. Nature is a petrified wand of an unknown witch, and Nature also was an “encyclopedic index” to the soul. Sensibility took to the scene, and water was declared to be “a moist flame.” In a couple of years in the midst of Europe, the old poetry of Sappho had been accentuated into eternity.
Even in science, nothing was the same. A science of evolution was developed before that of the concise and empirical Darwin. Comparative anatomy was born, and Carus presented ideas of a plan according to which life evolved. Lorenz Oken marked that plants and animals were born from a giant “Ur-slime.” None of these thoughts had emanated if Schelling in 1797-99 had not shaped the terminology and the vision of enthusiastic Nature.
In contrast to Hegel, Schelling was stuck in teleology. He assumed that the development of the world had a purpose, set by God. “Nature is becoming Nature. Nature is unconscious Sense in the process of becoming a Self.” Nature had an urge, a “Treib.”
Parallel to Romanticism in The Netherlands, Spinoza ( in Prussia promoted by Jacobi ) had refused to see any difference between organic and inorganic. Spinoza had a principle of universality, much like what was proposed by Schelling et consortes.
Later Schopenhauer, in his Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung gave his answer to both Kant and he Romantic philosophers, presenting his ambiguous concept of "Das Ding an sich." Arthur Schopenhauer's Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung was published in 1818, just a few years after Hegels Logik I & II ( sequels to the Phenomenology ), books that made Schelling stop publishing anything at all. Schopenhauer concentrates on the mysterious psychic entity of the Will.
“Hence the subject of the will is immediately given for Self-consciousness, it cannot be defined or described what Will is; it is rather the most immediate of all we know of, yes, it is so immediate, that it will have to through light on everything else. Everything else is mediate ( mediating ) entities.”
Without knowing anything of Schopenhauer´s work, until 1854, the year of his death, S. Kierkegaard would present a philosophy concentrated upon the Will and upon personal choice ( the essence of Will ) and upon Innerlighed, (Da.) i.e., Sincerity of Heart.
Thus Romanticism slowly, through wise and more prosaic thinkers like Schopenhauer and Kierkegaard and others, was marginalized from the general consciousness. Nevertheless, Romanticism still would stay, like an echo, and like a myth, in the realm of the common UN-conscious.
When Fr Schlegel puts forth his theory of the myth's importance, he is probably aware that myth is a means for power. Romanticism was a rebel, itself. Furthermore, Romanticism was a question mark. Moreover, it was lust to Schweben.
Romanticism was sidelining religion, and it created a place for symbols about life and Man and served as a catalyst for freedom, emanating from Freud's ideas.
Like Hegel and several of the Romantics, Freud created his new paradigm in the midst of a haze and a crisis.
Later on, or simultaneous with Freud, Kafka, like he was mirroring him and his time, was able to create a universe of art, using Freud and Romanticism and myths.
Kafka himself was also a Romanticist, insofar as he admitted the view of art as vitally important to personal truth, but he also was a Romanticist in his view and action, that art is the joy of the heart. The play with the myth has to be a joy of the heart. Furthermore, it is crucial to notice that the play with the myth with Kafka is in no way a protest towards Freudianism.
C. Symbolism as a Contemporary MYTH.
During the early 20th Century a row of French writers, drawing upon ideas from Schiller and Medieval mysticism claimed that poetry and literary should catch the soul of objects, of events of life as a whole. Literature was seen as the highest mean to get to the truth about reality. Among these poets were: Jean Moréas, Charles Morice, Laurent Tailhade, Maurice Barrès, Charles Viguier, Félix Fénéon, Gustave Kahn. René Ghil, Francis Jammes, Jules Laforgue, Pierre Louÿs, Stuart Merrill Francis Vielé-Griffin, Henri de Régnier, Émile Verhaeren and Maurice Maeterlinck.
Kafka did not like mysticism. The beauty and essence of art should not, according to him, rely upon anything else than art itself. Kafka was a sceptic, through and through. He was a “purist” and among Modern Art he could not stand were both Dada – which he saw as puerile - and Symbolism, which was to him far to sentimental, and sentimentality was not cherished by FK.
D. FREUD and FREUDIANISM as a CONTEMPORARY myth
Kafka was open to Freud's ideas, although he did not ever – as far as we know - confirm them. Kafka both mocked Freud and asserted the truth of his ideas! That he did both these things is a strange fact that gives Kafka´s work a striking richness, originality, and a contrast effect.
Nevertheless, now one question nearly poses itself. What was Kafka´s using of Freud as a myth like? How was the bot lifting the importance of Freud, as well as highlighting a problem with Freudianism?
This problem might be fancifully rephrased thus:
The problem with the reverence regarding the Freudian Censor.
Amnesia is regulated from our innermost realm, or more precisely, for Freudian analysts, from the Censor. Nevertheless, our inmost inner is never such that it asserts that amnesia ought to be permanent. It is planned to be temporary. Our inner world does not have absolute censorship by the type: ”Such thing must not happen!” Thus it ought to be erased from the protocol!” No, our inner has – and we do not know why – kind of an absolute demand for truth. Curiously enough, it has an insight in that everything a: has a value of its own, an innate value, a value per se ( in sich ), AS OCCURRED. Moreover, b.) it also has a mediating – instrumental – value, insofar as all events can contribute to creating the most honorable possible human being, for every possible length of any life, where this inner subject is serving.
It is thus possible to imagine that the Censor always has Death in view. Because the innermost inner spot, IS not the individual, is not identical with the individual, but the Censor is an essential and mysterious part of the scary and intricate system that composes Man. Furthermore, the Censor is omniscient. He knows almost everything.
Certain phenomena in this picture of Man makes everything quite uncertain. What? Well, we do not know the exact agenda of the Censor? Who is THE MASTER of the Censor? It most certainly is primarily not me ( in my case ). The answer is: we do not know.
The Censor seems to have unlimited memory. Furthermore, the Censor seems to be extraordinarily bright. Even in service with the dumbest person on earth, the Censor has a clear head. The Censor seems to possess almost supernatural wisdom.
We do not.
How does the Censor know that A.: We cannot stand to remember the first day in school when we tripped on a threshold and hit a tooth so bad that we lost the tooth. Moreover, how does the Censor, or the Censor´s cousin know, that it is any method in that we always get nausea when seeing a missing tooth or spotting a first-grader?
Alternatively, has the censor nothing to do with nausea. Do the Censor and those who are responsible for nausea have responsibility for two different departments?
Before we continue, we should let ourselves remember that the Censor is not an instance with any knowledge of anything else than our person's history and the experiences that we have made.
OR HAS HE?
Maybe he has been much more observant than I have. When I have been busy looking only at beautiful girls, HE might have taken time to observe all kinds of things, like furniture, clothing, weather, manner of speech, yes, God only knows! Maybe our Censor and we do not have very much in common. Maybe our Censor has LEARNT things that we have not?
Maybe the Censor was the one who picked up things from the books we read when we just were having the trouble of figuring out what meanings of the words were that we thought we knew…..
Maybe the Censor and we have not at all the same background? Maybe he is the wise guy that we always dreamt of being? The Censor also knows what is best for us. Of course, if he is that clever. Maybe our Censor is like Einstein?
Moreover, THIS is the important thing. Even if the Censor is the most competent person in the world, he STILL only is human. He does not have anything to do with universal, absolute truth.
This is important. Freudian or other psychoanalysts claim that it is as if the messages from the dream and the Censor, which sometimes are referred to in art and literature, these symbols, in conjunction to events, CARRY UNIVERSAL TRUTH.
Art might rightly refer to our amnesia and point at the truth of, but seldom the limitation of, the Censor. As Freud put him forth, a Romanticist, who does not know a thing about the Censor, might believe that there inside every person is truth. The Romanticist, who is eager to create a myth out of a person's kernel, sometimes thinks he has the truth. Furthermore, when Schlegel wants to create a myth based upon Man's inner kernel, it is this dedicated inner area he is referring to. This inner kernel might make us come to think of the Censor. Or not.
Schlegel´s vision is, in short, built upon a vision of universal knowledge of the soul.
Now, back to the tooth and the schoolboy. We might scrutinize how on earth the Censor can know about what the boy can stand to remember. The actual case with the tooth.
The Tooth. The Censor does notice from his central spot that we are hurt and losing the tooth. The Censor knows that we are a small child and that we are getting terrified and shameful.
The Censor concludes in a matter of seconds, that it is not the case, that such a small boy can stand this amount of scariness and shame. The Censor realizes that SOME children, who are brave and tough, might stand it, but not this very child, as a person.
It seems like the Censor might think that if the boy forgets this, he might be a better adult. But of course, the Censor thinks, or have thought long ago, that erasing of every unpleasantness might not be a proper thing to do. After all, one never knows if this child NEEDS this memory in the future. It is no way of knowing that. Perhaps it would be a solution if we did it like this: we hide the memory behind a riddle. IF the child is very eager to know what happened on the first day in school, IF HE IS DEAD EAGER, let him know. He must solve a puzzle, however. Thus the Censor is letting the memory of the tooth remain and does not erase it. Not at all. The Censor also constructs a series of LEADS to the precarious memory of the tooth. For the emergency rescue.
By any connection to something white, and at the same time a little edgy, the Censor lets the individual, who now grows up to a man, experience discontent. So the Censor is exceptionally smart in his plan, based upon fairness, justice, and thoughtfulness. The Censor lets the adult experience this uneasiness, and then somebody says it is a riddle in it. He is looking at some mountains with snow on. Rocky mountains. What makes him so uneasy?
Suppose the adult man, who as a boy tripped and hurt himself, now remembers and can come to grips with the old event. Moreover, free himself from the terror and shame? Because to realize all this by experiencing Rocky Mountain was a good thing.
Now, let us ask the Censor what he thinks of why the memory was kept! Well, it is not easy to say.
“I am not an innocent bystander exactly.” says the Censor, watching, ogling, and looking sly… “Maybe,” continues the Censor, ”I have not much of choice. Maybe the system could not be arranged – for TECHNIVSAL REASONS - so that some memories are set to delete. An erase system would be tricky to construct. “Somebody probably arranged beforehand so that I, the Censor, HAD TO exist and had to HIDE the unpleasant memories.” the Censor says.
I had to be. I am, as a matter of fact, a tragic hero. “Lots of intelligent people are trying to outsmart me, all the time.”, the Censor complains. Amazingly no human being has ever asked himself ( or any other person ) if possibly his Censor is lying! Nevertheless, maybe it would be too tricky a thought to think. We cannot easily imagine a person with a Censor being a liar.
Let us return to our main subject, Franz Kafka, or more accurately, Kafka´s novels. Say that Kafka is investigating, through his MYTHICAL use, the Freudian theory and the Censor. Now, we thus have a set of truth values linked to symbols. Through the use as a symbol system, these truth values are questioned. Nevertheless, Is the Freudian Censor questioned as a.) a simple Abwehr-mekanism, or as b.) a VERY CLEVER organizer of the human psyche ( the Einstein-Censor ) or maybe the all wrong picture of c.) the Censor, that he knows everything, and that he is in connection with God or someone like that?
Another thing of interest with the mythical overt layer in Kafka´s work is that the way/pattern of ABSORBTION and of interpretation, typical when reading Kafka, tends to spread.
As many others have pointed out, it is possible to read texts not written by Kafka as Kafka texts, like Don Quixote.
Kafka´s discourse also contains, as a myth, Symbolism. Symbolism deals with universal symbols. Freud´s theory is a diagnostic manual, where symbols only refer in some cases while they do not do so in other. The symbolist canon and the Freudian enlighten each other ironically. Hence a bi-mythicality appears. Furthermore, the bi-mythical situation dominates the Kafka universe.
This complexity is what makes the mythical sphere by Kafka so alive! Because we do not know which Censor is referred to. We only observe the product of a Censor working ( just like in everyday life ). However, the nature of the myth about the Censor – which may not be mythical at all – varies, which makes the Myth scary! We do not know the amount of doubt with which Kafka regarded the Censor. Moreover, this is good for the Kafka novel.
Here Kafka has two myths as underlying layers, or three: The Romantic, the Symbolistic, and the Freudian.
Thomas Mann once lent his friend Albert Einstein a book by Kafka. Einstein allegedly returned the book to him with the comment: ‘I couldn´t read it; the human mind is not complicated enough.’
My entire reasoning dwells around questions of form, around a technical aspect, and I am letting this aspect wholly determine Kafka´s work, both to its genesis and reception. The biographical aspect plays a secondary role in my work.
In Kafka´s stories, events appear behind a 3-D-veil of satire. His works are reminiscent of Romantic writers and the burlesque Irony of Flaubert. We might indeed discern Kafka´s voice as a voice similar in its Irony to the one we experience between the folks in the market square in Rouen and the chit-chatting of Adolphe and Emma in Madame Bovary. We might sometimes think that Kafka plays with our expectations, no matter how static we believe the novels are. Kafka pretends to write actual stories while playing a bizarre game, searching for hidden treasuries of the Unconscious. Kafka acted from a kind of superiority with his mind focused on displaying and enjoying semi-erotic tension in Irony. We appreciate Irony per se, following the genuine Philosophy of Conscience and Beauty of the Romantic tale-tellers. Still, Kafka also uses his Irony in multiple ways to loath the pretentious. With the pretentious, we may not only refer to power, justice, and authority and Freud but also generally to the commentary as we have seen, as a critique of reason. We suspect that the elegant display of the two unconscious levels ( Unconscious A and B ) is a brilliant illumination of the idea of the omniscient Censor as put forth by Freud. Kafka makes in his investigation two Censors battle.
He creates elaborations of very simple themes, not even themes, but situations. It is not the question about wayward fantastic excurses but remarkable expansions on what has occurred, seen in a split universe of mind. What is certain is that what has happened has happened. As readers of the elegies of Kafka, we are baffled and stunned because we are by Kafka exposed to the mystery of a veritable split mind. We study Kafka’s tales – even the unfinished ones – with a passionate interest in ourselves. We know that Kafka has created traps for our thought. The beauty of these traps shows itself. The traps are embedded in the technique. The meaning of the technique, the sense of the technique, is not Kafkaesque. The Kafkaesque is the immediate effect of the technique. The essence of both the technique – the use of the two levels – and the Kafkaesque is still undiscovered. We have only just begun to understand Kafka. Kafka is very important, mostly I think, because he has not hitherto been understood, and will not – as a creator of an alternative psyche - be understood for a long time yet.
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