The three of them knew it. She was Kafka's mistress. Kafka had dreamt her. The three of them knew it. He was Kafka's friend. Kafka had dreamt him. The three of them knew it. The woman said to the friend, Tonight I want you to have me. The three of them knew it. The man replied: If we sin, Kafka will stop dreaming us. One of them knew it. There was no longer anyone on earth. Kafka said to himself Now the two of them have gone, I'm left alone. I'll stop dreaming myself.
Jorge Luis Borges
Kafka is one of my very favorite writers. Kafka's fictional world is already so complete that trying to follow in his steps is not just pointless, but quite risky, too. What I see myself doing, rather, is writing novels where, in my own way, I dismantle the fictional world of Kafka that itself dismantled the existing novelistic system.
When I went to Czechoslovakia under the old Communist regime one day in the '80s, I thought to myself whatever I do, whatever happens to me in Prague I'm not going to use the name Kafka, I'm just not going to do it. I won't do it; it's so easy, everyone else does, I'm not going to. I'll write the first non-Kafka mentioning piece.
This brings me back to the image of Kafka standing before a fish in the Berlin aquarium, a fish on which his gaze fell in a newly found peace after he decided not to eat animals. Kafka recognized that fish as a member of his invisible family- not as his equal, of course, but as another being that was his concern.
Jonathan Safran Foer
When I wrote 'Your Republic Is Calling You,' it was Franz Kafka's writing that I had most in mind, and James Joyce's 'Ulysses.' Entirely out of the blue, Kafka's characters receive an order to go somewhere, and when they try to comply, they never quite manage it. Ki-yong in 'Your Republic Is Calling You' is precisely that sort of character.
Ultimately - or at the limit - in order to see a photograph well, it is best to look away or close your eyes. 'The necessary condition for an image is sight, 'Janouch told Kafka; and Kafka smiled and replied: 'We photograph things in order to drive them out of our minds. My stories are a way of shutting my eyes.
Franz Kafka is dead. He died in a tree from which he wouldn't come down. "Come down!" they cried to him. "Come down! Come down!" Silence filled the night, and the night filled the silence, while they waited for Kafka to speak. "I can't," he finally said, with a note of wistfulness. "Why?" they cried. Stars spilled across the black sky. "Because then you'll stop asking for me."
My conception of a novel is that it ought to be a personal struggle, a direct and total engagement with the author's story of his or her own life. This conception, again, I take from Kafka, who, although he was never transformed into an insect, and although he never had a piece of food (an apple from his family's table!) lodged in his flesh and rotting there, devoted his whole life as a writer to describing his personal struggle with his family, with women, with moral law, with his Jewish heritage, with his Unconscious, with his sense of guilt, and with the modern world. Kafka's work, which grows out of the nighttime dreamworld in Kafka's brain, is more autobiographical than any realistic retelling of his daytime experiences at the office or with his family or with a prostitute could have been. What is fiction, after all, if not a kind of purposeful dreaming? The writer works to create a dream that is vivid and has meaning, so that the reader can then vividly dream it and experience meaning. And work like Kafka's, which seems to proceed directly from dream, is therefore an exceptionally pure form of autobiography. There's an important paradox here that I would like to stress: the greater the autobiographical content of a fiction writer's work, the smaller its superficial resemblance to the writer's actual life. The deeper the writer digs for meaning, the more the random particulars of the writer's life become impediments to deliberate dreaming.
You sit at the edge of the world, I am in a crater that's no more. Words without letters Standing in the shadow of the door. The moon shines down on a sleeping lizard, Little fish rain from the sky. Outside the window there are soldiers, steeling themselves to die. (Refrain) Kafka sits in a chair by the shore, Thinking for the pendulum that moves the world, it seems. When your heart is closed, The shadow of the unmoving Sphinx, Becomes a knife that pierces your dreams. The drowning girl's fingers Search for the entrance stone, and more. Lifting the hem of her azure dress, She gazes - at Kafka on the shore
About some books we feel that our reluctance to return to them is the true measure of our admiration. It is hard to suppose that many people go back, from a spontaneous desire, to reread 1984: there is neither reason nor need to, no one forgets it. The usual distinctions between forgotten details and a vivid general impression mean nothing here, for the book is written out of one passionate breath, each word is bent to a severe discipline of meaning, everything is stripped to the bareness of terror. Kafka's The Trial is also a book of terror, but it is a paradigm and to some extent a puzzle, so that one may lose oneself in the rhythm of the paradigm and play with the parts of the puzzle. Kafka's novel persuades us that life is inescapably hazardous and problematic, but the very 'universality' of this idea helps soften its impact: to apprehend the terrible on the plane of metaphysics is to lend it an almost soothing aura.
I was just interested in directing. So I just kept having a go at trying to write little scripts and get things together, and my wife just had a slip of the tongue and said, "Franz Kafka's It's A Wonderful Life" when she meant to say "Frank Capra's." There it is right there. That's a gag that we could make into something.
I do hang out with girls, I do relax. But I am a hermit sometimes and get a bit too introverted, too 'Jean-Paul Sartre' and intellectual in my head. And it's like a Kafka novel in there, things get nuts. Then I have to remind myself to get out and I will go and play ice hockey with my friends.
Kafka could never have written as he did had he lived in a house. His writing is that of someone whose whole life was spent in apartments, with lifts, stairwells, muffled voices behind closed doors, and sounds through walls. Put him in a nice detached villa and he'd never have written a word.
If you look at the literature of the 19th century, you get things like Kafka and Dostoevsky, who basically write about feeling bored and alienated. That's because we lost contact with the important things in life like work that you enjoy, or the garden, nature, your family and friends.
In the critic's vocabulary, the word "precursor" is indispensable, but it should be cleansed of all connotations of polemic or rivalry. The fact is that every writer creates his own precursors. His work modifies our conception of the past, as it will modify the future." -- Essay: "Kafka and his Precursors
Jorge Luis Borges
Oshima's silent for a time as he gazes at the forest, eyes narrowed. Birds are flitting from one branch to the next. His hands are clasped behind his head. "I know how you feel, " he finally says. "But this is something you have to work out on your own. Nobody can help you. That's what love's all about, Kafka. You're the one having those wonderful feelings, but you have to go it alone as you wander through the dark. Your mind and body have to bear it all. All by yourself.
When I encountered these haunting words from Franz Kafka, I realized exactly why this light sermon about the search for God had struck such a nerve: "Everyday life is the greatest detective story ever written. Every second, without noticing, we pass by thousands of corpses and crimes. That's the routine of our lives.
Oshima's silent for a time as he gazes at the forest, eyes narrowed. Birds are flitting from one branch to the next. His hands are clasped behind his head. "I know how you feel," he finally says. "But this is something you have to work out on your own. Nobody can help you. That's what love's all about, Kafka. You're the one having those wonderful feelings, but you have to go it alone as you wander through the dark. Your mind and body have to bear it all. All by yourself.
All one wants to do is make a small, finished, polished, burnished, beautiful object . . . I mean, that's all one wants to do. One has nothing to say about the world, or society, or morals or politics or anything else. One just wants to get the damn thing done, you know? Kafka had it right when he said that the artist is the man who has nothing to say. It's true. You get the thing done, but you don't actually have anything to communicate, apart from the object itself.
Comparison is the most abused intellectual tool of all. We compare men and women, man and God, good and bad, equal and unequal, forgetting that this sin only results in a punishment so severe that we can't even trace it back to its origins. All we're left with in the end is ambiguity, uncertainty, lethargy and and Kafka!
The Society of North American Magic Realists welcomes its newest, most dazzling member, Louis Maistros. His debut novel is a thing of wonder, unlike anything in our literature. It startles. It stuns. It stupefies. No novel since CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES has done such justice to New Orleans. If Franz Kafka had been able to write like Peter Straub, this might have been the result.
Kafka would surely have been impressed by the twin ambitions of the modern empathetic state: the need to set up hyper-regulatory bodies preventing you from doing anything yourself, while simultaneously endowing lavish pseudo-agencies to hand out leaflets listing a 1-800 number you can dial to order more leaflets.
when ... I've thought of madness, it seems most easily explained to me as poetry in action. A life of symbol rather than reality. On paper one can understand Gulliver, or Kafka, or Dante. But let a man go about behaving as if he were a giant or a midget, or caught in a cosmic plot directed at himself, or in heaven or hell, and we feel horror - we want to disavow him to proclaim him as far removed as possible from ourselves.
The sad fact is that I love Dickens and Donne and Keats and Eliot and Forster and Conrad and Fitzgerald and Kafka and Wilde and Orwell and Waugh and Marvell and Greene and Sterne and Shakespeare and Webster and Swift and Yeats and Joyce and Hardy, really, really love them. It's just that they don't love me back.
Jenny Offill's Dept. of Speculation resembles no book I've read before. If I tell you that it's funny, and moving, and true; that it's as compact and mysterious as a neutron; that it tells a profound story of love and parenthood while invoking (among others) Keats, Kafka, Einstein, Russian cosmonauts, and advice for the housewife of 1896, will you please simply believe me, and read it?
I think Kafka was right when he said that for a modern, secular, nonreligious man, state bureaucracy is the only remaining contact with the dimension of the divine; the impenetrable omnipotence of bureaucracy harbors is divine enjoyment. It is the performance of its very purposelessness that generates an intense enjoyment, ready to reproduce itself forever.
In Kafka we have the modern mind, seemingly self-sufficient, intelligent, skeptical, ironical, splendidly trained for the great game of pretending that the world it comprehends in sterilized sobriety is the only and ultimate real one "" yet a mind living in sin with the soul of Abraham. Thus he knows Two things at once, and both with equal assurance: that there is no God, and that there must be God.
Kafka's writings often display an insidious power to describe a wholly secular and "factical" world in which the eerie or "unheimlich" elements gang up behind or beneath the ego's awareness and immerse it in a waking dream of something Other, an alien world-order similar to ancient irrationalist cultures (in transition from primitivism to civilized mythos-culture).
I yearn for the darkness. I pray for death. Real death. If I thought that in death I would meet the people I've known in life I don't know what I'd do. That would be the ultimate horror. The ultimate despair. If I had to meet my mother again and start all of that all over, only this time without the prospect of death to look forward to? Well. That would be the final nightmare. Kafka on wheels.
I knew Richard E. Grant, and I went to him and said "Would you like to [play Kafka in the film]?" and he said yeah, and then suddenly I had all these people who were happy to come along. We got a little bit of money from Scottish Screen to pay for it. I got so many favors because I knew people in the business. I was in a remarkably good position. I got so many favors from people. I got the Monty Python technical people.
Don't bend; don't water it down; don't try to make it logical; don't edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly. Only if you do that can you hope to make the reader feel every particle of what you, the writer, have known and feel compelled to share."---Forward to Kafka's Short stories
We possess the Canon because we are mortal and also rather belated. There is only so much time, and time must have a stop, while there is more to read than there ever was before. From the Yahwist and Homer to Freud, Kafka, and Beckett is a journey of nearly three millennia. Since that voyage goes past harbors as infinite as Dante, Chaucer, Montaigne, Shakespeare, and Tolstoy, all of whom amply compensate a lifetime's rereadings, we are in the pragmatic dilemma of excluding something else each time we read or reread extensively.
What does the novel know? It has no practical or educational aim; yet it knows what ordinary knowledge cannot seize. The novel's intricate tangle of character-and-incident alights on the senses with a hundred cobwebby knowings fanning their tiny threads, stirring up nuances and disclosures. The arcane designs and driftings of metaphor - what James called the figure in the carpet, what Keats called negative capability, what Kafka called explaining the inexplicable - are that the novel knows.
...testifying for Dr. Privitera...To these 19 cancer victims, the enforcement of (California) Health and Safety Code Sect. 1701.1, the denial of them medical treatment, albeit unorthodox, albeit unapproved by a state agency, must surely take on a Kafka-esque, a nightmare quality. No demonstrated public anger, no compelling interest of the state warrants an Orwellian intrusion into the most private of zones of privacy.
I usually have Kafka biography in my bathroom. It's a book I can open at random and feel interested in immediately. It's really funny. With this book, since I'm opening it at random and immediately interested, I don't feel the need to read more than I want to read, in that there's not, like, a plot that leads me along. So I can stop whenever.
When Kafka allows a friend to understand that he writes because otherwise he would go mad, he knows that writing is madness already, his madness, a kind of vigilence, unrelated to any wakefulness save sleep's: insomnia. Madness against madness, then. But he believes that he masters the one by abandoning himself to it; the other frightens him, and is his fear; it tears through him, wounds and exalts him. It is as if he had to undergo all the force of an uninterruptable continuity, a tension at the edge of the insupportable which he speaks of with fear and not without a feeling of glory. For glory is the disaster.
The second volume of Reiner Stach's epic biography of Franz Kafka . . . [is] a tangle of counter-grained and often under-sourced life stories, but reading Stach's magnificent narrative (wonderfully translated by Shelley Frisch) straight through brings death, not life, to the forefront. Stach is a compulsively readable writer. . . . [A]s in the previous volume, the prose in The Years of Insight is supple and very appealingly complex--all of which, once again, is perfectly rendered by Frisch.
Directors who have inspired me include Billy Wilder, Federico Fellini, lngmar Bergman, John Ford, Orson Welles, Werner Herzog, Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchcock, Francis Ford Coppola and Ernst Lubitsch. In art school, I studied painters like Edward Hopper, who used urban motifs, Franz Kafka is my favorite novelist. My approach to film stems from my art background, as I go beyond the story to the sub-conscious mood created by sound and images.
How many people today live in a language that is not their own? Or no longer, or not yet, even know their own and know poorly the major language that they are forced to serve? This is the problem of immigrants, and especially of their children, the problem of minorities, the problem of a minor literature but also a problem for all of us: how to tear a minor literature away from its own language, allowing it to challenge the language and making it follow a sober revolutionary path? How to become a nomad and an immigrant and a gypsy in relation to one's own language? Kafka answers: steal the baby from its crib, walk the tight rope.
Modern party-dance is simply writhing to suggestive music. It is ridiculous, silly to watch and excruciatingly embarrassing to perform. It is ridiculous, and yet absolutely everyone does it, so that it is the person who does not want to do the ridiculous thing who feels out of place and uncomfortable and self-conscious... in a word, ridiculous. Right out of Kafka: the person who does not want to do the ridiculous thing is the person who is ridiculous. [... ] Modern party-dance is an evil thing.
David Foster Wallace
Early Morning in Your Room It's morning. The brown scoops of coffee, the wasp-like Coffee grinder, the neighbors still asleep. The gray light as you pour gleaming water- It seems you've traveled years to get here. Finally you deserve a house. If not deserve It, have it; no one can get you out. Misery Had its way, poverty, no money at least. Or maybe it was confusion. But that's over. Now you have a room. Those lighthearted books: The Anatomy of Melancholy, Kafka's Letter to his Father, are all here. You can dance With only one leg, and see the snowflake falling With only one eye. Even the blind man Can see. That's what they say. If you had A sad childhood, so what? When Robert Burton Said he was melancholy, he meant he was home.
One night a friend lent me a book of short stories by Franz Kafka. I went back to the pension where I was staying and began to read The Metamorphosis. The first line almost knocked me off the bed. I was so surprised. The first line reads, "As Gregor Samsa awoke that morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect. . . ." When I read the line I thought to myself that I didn't know anyone was allowed to write things like that. If I had known, I would have started writing a long time ago. So I immediately started writing short stories.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The campus, an academy of trees, under which some hand, the wind's I guess, had scattered the pale light of thousands of spring beauties, petals stained with pink veins; secret, blooming for themselves. We sat among them. Your long fingers, thin body, and long bones of improbable genius; some scattered gene as Kafka must have had. Your deep voice, this passing dust of miracles. That simple that was myself, half conscious, as though each moment was a page where words appeared; the bent hammer of the type struck against the moving ribbon. The light air, the restless leaves; the ripple of time warped by our longing. There, as if we were painted by some unknown impressionist.
Let's press ahead a little further by sketching out a few variations among short shorts: ONE THRUST OF INCIDENT. (Examples: Paz, Mishima, Shalamov, Babel, W. C. Williams.) In these short shorts the time span is extremely brief, a few hours, maybe even a few minutes: Life is grasped in symbolic compression. One might say that these short shorts constitute epiphanies (climactic moments of high grace or realization) that have been tom out of their contexts. You have to supply the contexts yourself, since if the contexts were there, they'd no longer be short shorts. LIFE ROLLED UP. (Examples: Tolstoy's 'Alyosha the Pot, ' Verga's 'The Wolf, ' D. H. Lawrence's 'A Sick Collier.') In these you get the illusion of sustained narrative, since they deal with lives over an extended period of time; but actually these lives are so compressed into typicality and paradigm, the result seems very much like a single incident. Verga's 'Wolf' cannot but repeat her passions, Tolstoy's Alyosha his passivity. Themes of obsession work especially well in this kind of short short. SNAP-SHOT OR SINGLE FRAME. (Examples: Garda Marquez, Boll, Katherine Anne Porter.) In these we have no depicted event or incident, only an interior monologue or flow of memory. A voice speaks, as it were, into the air. A mind is revealed in cross-section - and the cut is rapid. One would guess that this is the hardest kind of short short to write: There are many pitfalls such as tiresome repetition, being locked into a single voice, etc. LIKE A FABLE. (Examples: Kafka, Keller, von Kleist, Tolstoy's 'Three Hermits.') Through its very concision, this kind of short short moves past realism. We are prodded into the fabulous, the strange, the spooky. To write this kind of fable-like short short, the writer needs a supreme self-confidence: The net of illusion can be cast only once. When we read such fable-like miniatures, we are prompted to speculate about significance, teased into shadowy parallels or semi allegories. There are also, however, some fables so beautifully complete (for instance Kafka's 'First Sorrow') that we find ourselves entirely content with the portrayed surface and may even take a certain pleasure in refusing interpretation. ("Introduction")
The notion that inspired play (even when audacious, offensive, or obscene) enhances rather than diminishes intellectual vigor and spiritual fulfillment, the notion that in the eyes of the gods the tight-lipped hero and the wet-cheeked victim are frequently inferior to the red-nosed clown, such notions are destined to be a hard sell to those who have E.M. Forster on their bedside table and a clump of dried narcissus up their ass. Not to worry. As long as words and ideas exist, there will be a few misfits who will cavort with them in a spirit of approfondement-if I may borrow that marvelous French word that translates roughly as 'playing easily in the deep'-and in so doing they will occasionally bring to realization Kafka's belief that 'a novel should be an ax for the frozen seas around us'.
Very often the test of one's allegiance to a cause or to a people is precisely the willingness to stay the course when things are boring, to run the risk of repeating an old argument just one more time, or of going one more round with a hostile or (much worse) indifferent audience. I first became involved with the Czech opposition in 1968 when it was an intoxicating and celebrated cause. Then, during the depressing 1970s and 1980s I was a member of a routine committee that tried with limited success to help the reduced forces of Czech dissent to stay nourished (and published). The most pregnant moment of that commitment was one that I managed to miss at the time: I passed an afternoon with Zdenek Mlynar, exiled former secretary of the Czech Communist Party, who in the bleak early 1950s in Moscow had formed a friendship with a young Russian militant with an evident sense of irony named Mikhail Sergeyevitch Gorbachev. In 1988 I was arrested in Prague for attending a meeting of one of Vaclav Havel's 'Charter 77' committees. That outwardly exciting experience was interesting precisely because of its almost Zen-like tedium. I had gone to Prague determined to be the first visiting writer not to make use of the name Franz Kafka, but the numbing bureaucracy got the better of me. When I asked why I was being detained, I was told that I had no need to know the reason! Totalitarianism is itself a cliche (as well as a tundra of pulverizing boredom) and it forced the cliche upon me in turn. I did have to mention Kafka in my eventual story. The regime fell not very much later, as I had slightly foreseen in that same piece that it would. (I had happened to notice that the young Czechs arrested with us were not at all frightened by the police, as their older mentors had been and still were, and also that the police themselves were almost fatigued by their job. This was totalitarianism practically yawning itself to death.) A couple of years after that I was overcome to be invited to an official reception in Prague, to thank those who had been consistent friends through the stultifying years of what 'The Party' had so perfectly termed 'normalization.' As with my tiny moment with Nelson Mandela, a whole historic stretch of nothingness and depression, combined with the long and deep insult of having to be pushed around by boring and mediocre people, could be at least partially canceled and annealed by one flash of humor and charm and generosity.
Some writers are the kind of solo violinists who need complete silence to tune their instruments. Others want to hear every member of the orchestra-they'll take a cue from a clarinet, from an oboe, even. I am one of those. My writing desk is covered in open novels. I read lines to swim in a certain sensibility, to strike a particular note, to encourage rigour when I'm too sentimental, to bring verbal ease when I'm syntactically uptight. I think of reading like a balanced diet; if your sentences are baggy, too baroque, cut back on fatty Foster Wallace, say, and pick up Kafka, as roughage. If your aesthetic has become so refined it is stopping you from placing a single black mark on white paper, stop worrying so much about what Nabokov would say; pick up Dostoyevsky, patron saint of substance over style.
The beautiful unruliness of literature is what makes it so much fun to wander through: you read Jane Austen and you say, oh, that is IT. And then you turn around and read Sterne, and you say, Man, that is IT. And then you wander across a century or so, and you run into Kafka, or Calvino, or Cortazar, and you say, well that is IT. And then you stroll through what Updike called the grottos of Ulysses, and after that you consort with Baldwin or Welty or Spencer, or Morrison, or Bellow or Fitzgerald and then back to W. Shakespeare, Esq; the champ, and all the time you feel the excitement of being in the presence of IT. And when you yourself spend the good time writing, you are not different in kind than any of these people, you are part of that miracle of human invention. So get to work. Get on with IT, no matter how difficult IT is. Every single gesture, every single stumble, every single uninspired-feeling hour, is worth IT." Richard Bausch
That is the definition of truth, it is the thing you must not say. 'The miracle into which the child and the poet walk' [Tsvetaeva] as if walking home, and home is there... The thing that is both known and unknown, this is what we are looking for when we write. We go toward the most unknown and the best unknown, this is what we are looking for when we write. We go toward the best known unknown thing, where knowing and not knowing touch, where we hope we will know what is unknown. Where we hope we will not be afraid of understanding the incomprehensible, facing invisible, hearing the inaudible, thinking the unthinkable, which is of course: thinking. Thinking is trying to think the unthinkable: thinking the thinkable is not worth the effort. Painting is trying to paint what you cannot paint and writing is writing what you cannot know before you have written: it is preknowing and not knowing, blindly, with words. It occurs at the point where blindness and light meet. Kafka says-one very small line lost in his writing-'to the depths, to the depths.
The usual short story cannot have a complex plot, but it often has a simple one resembling a chain with two or three links. The short short, however, doesn't as a rule have even that much - you don't speak of a chain when there's only one link... Sometimes... the short short appears to rest on nothing more than a fragile anecdote which the writer has managed to drape with a quantity of suggestion. A single incident, a mere anecdote - these form the spine of the short short. Everything depends on intensity, one sweeping blow of perception. In the short short the writer gets no second chance. Either he strikes through at once or he's lost. And because it depends so heavily on this one sweeping blow, the short short often approaches the condition of a fable. When you read the two pieces by Tolstoy in this book, or I.L. Peretz's 'If Not Higher, ' or Franz Kafka's 'The Hunter Gracchus, ' you feel these writers are intent upon 'making a point' - but obliquely, not through mere statement. What they project is not the sort of impression of life we expect in most fiction, but something else: an impression of an idea of life. Or: a flicker in darkness, a slight cut of being. The shorter the piece of writing, the more abstract it may seem to us. In reading Paz's brilliant short short we feel we have brushed dangerously against the sheer arbitrariness of existence; in reading Peretz's, that we have been brought up against a moral reflection on the nature of goodness, though a reflection hard merely to state. Could we say that the short short is to other kinds of fiction somewhat as the lyric is to other kinds of poetry? The lyric does not seek meaning through extension, it accepts the enigmas of confinement. It strives for a rapid unity of impression, an experience rendered in its wink of immediacy. And so too with the short short... Writers who do short shorts need to be especially bold. They stake everything on a stroke of inventiveness. Sometimes they have to be prepared to speak out directly, not so much in order to state a theme as to provide a jarring or complicating commentary. The voice of the writer brushes, so to say, against his flash of invention. And then, almost before it begins, the fiction is brought to a stark conclusion - abrupt, bleeding, exhausting. This conclusion need not complete the action; it has only to break it off decisively. Here are a few examples of the writer speaking out directly. Paz: 'The universe is a vast system of signs.' Kafka in 'First Sorrow': The trapeze artist's 'social life was somewhat limited.' Paula Fox: 'We are starving here in our village. At last, we are at the center.' Babel's cossack cries out, 'You guys in specs have about as much pity for chaps like us as a cat for a mouse.' Such sentences serve as devices of economy, oblique cues. Cryptic and enigmatic, they sometimes replace action, dialogue and commentary, for none of which, as it happens, the short short has much room. There's often a brilliant overfocussing. ("Introduction")
Do not forgive. Forgiveness accuses before it forgives. By accusing, by stating the injury, it makes the wrong irredeemable. It carries the blow all the way to culpability. Thus, all becomes irrepairable; giving and forgiving cease to be possible. For nothing saves innocence. Forgive me for forgiving you. The sole fault would be one of position: the one and only fault is to be "I, ", for it is not identity that the Self in myself brings me. This self is merely a formal necessity: it simply serves to allow the infinite relation of Self to Other. Whence the temptation (the sole temptation) to become a subject again, instead of being exposed to subjectivity without any subject, the nudity of dying space. I cannot forgive - forgiveness comes from others - but I cannot be forgiven either, if forgiveness is what calls the "I" into question and demands that I give myself, that I subject myself to the lack of subjectivity. And if forgiveness comes from others, it only comes; there is never any certitude that it can arrive, because in it there is nothing of the (sacramental) power to determine. It can only delay in the element of indecision. In The Trail, one might think that the death scene constitutes the pardon, the end of the interminable; but there is no end, since Kafka specifies that shame survives, which is to say, the infinite itself, a mockery of life as life's beyond.
Depending on the contemporary mood, Orwell oscillates from Saint George to George the Seer to George the Sage. What other thinker has been both so fervidly claimed and derided by both the left and right? Who else except Kafka do we credit with having seen the sinister future? When the NSA spying scandal broke in June, Amazon sales of Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four vaulted more than 6000 percent. The connection of Big Brother with the NSA might have been hysterical and spurious, but it was also testament to our sentimental, kneejerk affection for Orwell, to the fact that he remains the default scribe whenever our paranoia is fondled by the ominous machinations of realpolitik. The utter clarity and goodness of his intellect seem something of a miracle when one considers how many of his fellow writers botched the most pressing moral and political tests of their time. He could smell bullshit and blood a continent away: When a passel of leftist intellectuals was hailing the Soviet Union as humankind's only hope, Orwell was persistent in pointing out that Stalin was a monocratic lunatic.
It is entirely conceivable that life's splendour forever lies in wait about each one of us in all its fullness, but veiled from our view, deep down, invisible, far off. It is there, though, not hostile, not reluctant, not deaf. If you summon it by the right word, by its right name, it will come. This is the essence of magic, which does not create but summons Franz Kafka, 18 October 1921 Es ist sehr gut denkbar, dass die Herrlichkeit des Lebes um jeden und immer in ihrer ganzen Fe¼lle bereitliegt, aber verhe¤ngt, in der Tiefe, unsichtbar, sehr weit. Aber sie liegt dort, nicht feindselig, nicht widerwillig, nicht taub. Ruft man sie mit dem richtigen Wort, beim richtigen Namen, dann kommt sie. Das ist das Wesen der Zauberei, die nicht schafft, sondern ruft. Kafkas Tagebe¼cher, 18 Oktober 1921