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October 28, 1983 - Image 56

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1983-10-28

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

56 Friday, October 28, 1983

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

Kafka's Stories Re-Issued for His Centennial

.

(Continued from Page 80)

The first said: You have
won.' The second said: `But
unfortunately only in para-
ble.' The first said: 'No, in
reality: In parable you have
lost.' "
Kafka's fanatical artistic
scrupulosity has been com-
pared to Flaubert's in its
vigor.

Ben Ray Redman
stated very well the effect
of reading Kafka: "As al-
ways, Kafka is a fascinat-
ing, tantalizing writer.
His approach to his
readers appears at first
to be as direct as
Chekov's; he seems to es-
tablish contact with us
immediately, and quickly

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wins our confidence.
Here is an author, we
think, who knows exactly
what he wishes to say,
and how to get on with
the business of saying it,
in a style of classic clar-
ity. But then, abruptly,
we realize that we are not
in close contact with him
at all, that he has slipped
away from us and is
dancing on ahead of us,
and around us, always
just beyond our reach.

"His manner is as
matter-of-fact as ever, but
the facts behind the manner
— whatever those facts may

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be — continually elude us
and tease us with their elu-
siveness.
"Kafka's tone remains
that of a candid storyteller;
he leads us on and on,
through incident, descrip-
tion and dialogue, in which
every detail exhibits a crys-
talline clarity; it is impossi-
ble not to understand his
every word, paragraph and
page — but then, sooner or
later, unless we are utterly
bemused by his mesmeric
gifts, we find ourselves pull-
ing up short with a sharp
question: 'What the devil is
the fellow really saying
after all?' What, indeed?"

Kafka's novel, ":The Cas-
tle," has been likened to
Bunyan's "Pilgrims Pro-
gress," symbolizing the
search of man for divine
grace. Max Brod's theologi-
cal interpretation is that
the book is concerned with
the fate of the Jew in a Gen-
,- tile society. Nobel Laureate
Thomas Mann, also opting
for a theological interpreta-
tion, states that "The Cas-
tle" symbolizes "the powers
above" and the book's cen-
tral theme is "the grotesque
unconnection between the
human being and the tran-
scendental; the incommen-
surability of the divine."

W. H. Auden com-
mented, "Had one to
name the author who
comes nearest to bearing
the same kind of relation
to our age as Dante,
Shakespeare and Goethe
bore to theirs, Kafka is
the first one would think
of."

In Kafka's letters to
Milena
(hers
were

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self with it and 'live in the
right.'

Kakfa took this for the
theme of his works,
works that in every sen-
tence bear witness to a
humorously, fantasti-
cally despairing good-
will. They express the sol-
itude, the aloneness of
the artist — and of the
Jew . . ."

THOMAS MANN

-

presumably destroyed) we
get another insight into his
enigmatic personality.
Kafka's earlier works were
translated into Czech by
Milena. Kafka was 14 years
her senior. He had a fiance;
she was married. Their pas-
sion flamed high in the be-
ginning.
Charles Neider notes how
Kafka, lived in constant
fear, writing to Milena, "My
nature is: fear." The word
"fear" in the original is
"angst," which was widely
used by Freud and his fol-
lowers. Neider concludes
that Kafka defended his
fear, although it constituted
his agony; it was his badge
of courage to live with it and
despite it, as he lived with
his tuberculosis.
Kafka's novel, "The
Trial," was dramatized by
Andre Gide and Jean-Louis
Barrault as "Le Proces"
produced by Anta. Barrault
is indicated as portraying
Joseph K as if he were Ham-
let, a man who spends his
evening trying to find outof
what he is guilty (original
sin?) and by whom he is ac-
cused (God?).

- Despite all his inquiry,
he ends up being done
away with "comme un
chien" with no further
understanding of the na-
ture of the identity or
the motives of his
executioners. He demon-
strates the absurdity of
modern society where, as
he puts it, "My passport is
right, but there's always
something about it that's
not correct." He places
himself in 'the center of a
crowd of "dybbuk"-like
characters.

Kafka described his work
as "a new secret doctrine, a
Kabala." Thomas Mann
characterizes Kafka as a
religious humorist. He
notes that Kafka's favorite
quotation from Flaubert
was "Ils sont dans le vrai,"
and that "D'etre dans le
vrai" — to live in the true
and the right — meant to
Kafka to be near to God, to
live in God, to live aright
and after God's will, and he
felt very remote from this
security in God and the will
of God.
Mann concludes that
Kafka's works, born of his
dreams "prove that he was
no unbeliever, but in some
involved fashion of his own
had faith in the good and the
right, and the discrepancy
between God and man, the
incapacity of man to recog-
nize the good, to unite him-

Dr. Joseph Cohen notes,
regarding Kafka's relation-
ship with his father Her-
mann, "The contempt of
father for son was an albat-
ross from which Kafka
could never disengage him----
self. The father's word was
absolute law, and any
transgression was severely
punished . . . though he
(Kafka's father) was a
German-Jewish Czech, he
sneered openly at Jews,
Germans and Czechs, hold:
ing Eastern European Jews
in particular scorn.
"His persistent bullying
of Kafka precluded the pos-
sibility of a normal child-
hood or adult life, negating
the prospect of marriage-
and family since the writer
would always be locked into

JOHN UPDIKE

a child's servitude. Kafka
thus grew up in agonzing
fear of his father and while
he, too, was a German
Jewish Czech, Bar Mitzvaed
at 13, he could claim no
allegiance with Jews, Ger-,
mans or Czechs. . . . Kafka
may never have mentioned
Jews (in his works) . . . but
his works could hardly have
been more Jewish than if he
had written them in He-
brew."

Philip Rahv proclaims
that today Kafka's name
is firmly linked in the
literary mind to such
names as Joyce, Proust,
Yeats, Rilke and Elliot,
"the sacred untoucha-
bles." Rahv states that=
Kafka's concern was
with the ultimate -
structure of human resis-
tance and that he asked
the supreme question:
was war wirklich im all
(what was real in the
world)?

Rahv continues, "Kafka
is the easiest writer in the
world to read so long as one
is content to understand his
words and sentences and
paragraphs without under-
standing his meaning:"
Kafka is to be reread
through a period of years.
Gourmant said that every
great writer is always in the
process of becoming, even
after his death. We are
never done with him; his
fate develops through gen-
erations."

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