Wednesday, July 10, 2013


Until this week, I had never read any Kafka.  Any.  Ever.  I had lived in Prague, Kafka's home town, almost daily walking past the apartment where he was born and the building where he had attended school, both ostentatiously advertised by historical markers, and yet I had only read a few pages of one story before deciding I found his work unsavory.   I finally read a collection of his stories this week, including famous works like "The Metamorphosis," "In the Penal Colony", "The Judgment", and perhaps less famous, but what ended up being my favorite group of stories, "The Hunger Artist."  I was surprised to find that this time, I not only liked Kafka--I liked him a lot.  I concluded this with a sense of relief because so many writers and thinkers I had long admired held Kafka in near reverence (I regretfully admit that I find I want to have similar opinions to people I admire).  In what way had I changed since my last attempt?  I'm not entirely sure, but for some reason I found the ambiguity, the darkness, the nightmarish strangeness, the abrupt non sequiturs in conversation, to no longer be off-putting and pointlessly bleak, but rather a powerful and uniquely bold manner of portraying what it means to be human--the alienation, loneliness, despair, hope, doubt--by abandoning realism as inadequate to the task.  With relief, now that I've actually read (some of) his work, I can finally wrap my head somewhat around the word "Kafkaesque".  Confronting what I bad previously dismissed as "unsavory" about human character, including my own (and there is something deeply ironic and self-mocking in his stuff), is no longer so daunting, although it has not ceased to be disturbing. 

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