Kafka: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
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Franz Kafka is among the most intriguing and influential writers of the last century. During his lifetime he worked as a civil servant and published only a handful of short stories, the best known being The Transformation. His other three novels, published after his death, helped to found his reputation as a uniquely perceptive interpreter of the twentieth century.
Discussing both Kafka's crisis-ridden life and the subtleties of his art, Ritchie Robertson provides an intriguing and accessible look at the life of this fascinating author. Using Metamorphosis as a recurring example, Robertson shows how Kafka's work explores such characteristically modern themes as the place of the body in culture, the power of institutions over people, and the possibility of religion after Nietzsche had proclaimed "the death of God."
imperfectly adapted to his environment, and hence without the health that characterizes all other animals: 36 For man is more sick, more uncertain, more mutable, less deﬁned than any other animal, there is no doubt about that – he is the sick animal. (The Genealogy of Morals, III 13, emphasis in original) Third, Alexander the Great is missed because, though his personal greatness was ﬂawed, he could at least give a clear direction to reality by pointing his sword at the gates of India. The
interprets this as the gestures accompanying song, not as the extravagant display of erotic desire. Thus, by a mere misunderstanding, he remains secure from the sexual temptations of the physical world. A day or two earlier, Kafka wrote in the same notebook a drastic portrayal of the physical world, under the heading ‘A Life’: A stinking bitch, bearer of many children, already rotting in places, but which was everything to me in my childhood, which incessantly follows me faithfully, which I
entirely. Part at least of the answer is that Kafka, as the preceding paragraphs have shown, was exceptionally perceptive about the working of institutions in his own day. He shows how easy it is, if 89 Institutions Oppression in Kafka’s penal colony may change its character, but looks unlikely to vanish. In the past, punishments were a public spectacle. They are now conducted shamefacedly in a remote valley. Although the Old Commandant, to whose authoritarian legacy the ofﬁcer is devoted, is
barmaid at the Bridge Inn, spends the night with her, and thereafter describes her as his ﬁancée. But there is the obvious danger that marriage to Frieda could simply reproduce the familiar structure of authority, with a patriarchal husband dominating an acquiescent wife. Kafka had experienced that structure at home, in the primordial institution of the family. In his diary and letters, his father typically shouts and his mother ‘whimpers’. In Kafka’s lifetime, however, opportunities for women to
M Polak, Ernst 16 Prague 1, 23 ‘Prague German’ 23 psychoanalysis 8, 11, 114 Mann, Thomas 21 work: The Magic Mountain 47 Marc, Franz 32 Masaryk, Thomas 95 Moses 118 Muir, Willa and Edwin 24 Musil, Robert 24 work: The Man Without Qualities 24 R Rilke, Rainer Maria 23, 24 Rowohlt, Ernst (publisher) 24 S N T O Tanner, Henry 57 Tolstoy, Leo 111 Trollope, Anthony 27 Olsen, Regine 112 P Pascal, Blaise 111 Paul, St 108, 120, 123 Peters, Paul 88 V Vialatte, Alexandre 24 135 Index Sand,