Wednesday, April 13, 2011

K is for Kafka

It is difficult to think of Kafka as a model for emulation. Even Walter Benjamin, who adored him, said that “to do justice to the figure of Kafka in its purity and its peculiar beauty one must never lose sight of one thing: it is the purity and beauty of a failure.” Kafka’s most famous work, The Trial, is an incomplete, unsequenced draft, which Kafka was unable to destroy as he intended. In this way, Kafka is not Kafka alone, but must be seen through the filter of his literary executor, Max Brod. Is it even asked these days whether Kafka’s papers should have been burned? Is there still any room for guilt and uncertainty? Or does the author, like Josef K., disappear into the system that preserves and dissects his corpus? While I may mourn the loss of such an inquiry, I cannot dispute the verdict. Flame touches the page every time Kafka is read. That is enough.

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