Kaj Bernhard Genell, 2020.
Copyright © K.B. Genell 2020.
Chapter 1.) A short Kafka biography.
A Short biography
Kaj Bernh. Genell
A SHORT BIOGRAPHY. FRANZ KAFKA, A UNIQUE WRITER WITHOUT ANY PREDECESSORS OR SUCCESSORS. K afka is neither a "magical realist" nor a "religious mystic," nor, for that matter, any "writer of Jewish parables." Kafka´s works are Kafkaesque. And the Kafkaesque is the determining factor when it comes to the effect of the entire work. Kafka's works are entirely original, and they are so by the existence of the Kafkaesque. The Kafkaesque - a product - emanates in its purely technical aspect out of a literary form. Kafka's structural, literary form, in which his significant works are put, is based upon a refined mega-structural narrative split, the split between a hero-"voice" and a world-"voice" on the one hand, and conscious unconscious, on the other. This book is much about these splits and their consequences. In another aspect, this book claims that the Kafkaesque connects to Romanticism in a combination that thrives in surpassing Symbolism, Freud's theories, and Freudianism. All these aspects, however, have to do with narratology. Narratology is not an exact science but Aesthetics and hence Philosophy. In a broad sense, Literary Criticism is not science but Reflection, Philosophical Reflection. Whereas Kafka's authorship is very subtle and complex, it is also wholly and utterly unique. It is unique because no other author is even remotely close to having written anything that can even be mistaken to be written by Kafka. There is, at the same time, nothing artificial in it. It is also coherent, and the beauty and truth of these literary works spring from a very rare literary and psychological sensibility and an innate knowledge of writing fiction. On that, many agree. Furthermore, the uniqueness is of such a kind that Kafka is without actual predecessors. There are no successors either, no "Kafka-school," and there will probably never materialize any such thing. Kafka also, in this splendid isolation, has, as we all know, grown to become a "concept," a concept of his own: Cf.: "It was quite a Kafka scenario."; "Almost Kafkaesque!"; "It certainly was a bit kafka." The Collective Mind - in a general sense - has created the concept of "Kafkaesque." which has become an important, almost everyday concept, extending our way of perception. The concept is vital for the understanding of our culture. Our questions regarding this concept, which is somewhat elusive regarding its actual content despite its frequency and importance, are mainly two: 1.: What more precisely do we mean by "Kafkaesque"? 2.: How did Kafka DO to create this "Kafkaesque"? Merely asking for this concept's meaning, of the" Kafkaesque," we find ourselves almost stuck in the classic circular paradox of analysis. Furthermore - since we are trying to describe this effect and the technique that shaped this effect, we are simultaneously executing two studies - truly dependant on each other in a scientifically quite forbidden way - concerning Kafka's works. These analyses are thus mutually dependent on each other! One should generally beware of explaining the technique by the effect and vice versa. In trying to elucidate technique by effect, one could not possibly avoid subjectivity. This study, therefore, is not even pretending to be scientific. It is philosophical. It is philosophical reasoning around a narrative that is split in a twofold manner, around a twofold axis. However, this Philosophical work aims to determine the meaning of the concept of "Kafkaesque," intending to eradicate mystifications. ------------------------------- The first question, simply put. What is Kafkaesque? The American F.R. Karl is known for his book: Franz Kafka: Representative man. I. Edwards reviews this very book and refers to an interview with the author. F.R. Karl claims that the word" Kafkaesque" is misused: "SO just what does this adjective "Kafkaesque" mean? And why does Frederick R. Karl, author of an exhaustive critical biography of Franz Kafka, believe that the word is as misused as it is used? Kafka is the only 20th-century literary figure whose name "has entered the language in a way no other writer's has," Mr. Karl says. But "what I'm against is someone going to catch a bus and finding that all the buses have stopped running and saying that's Kafkaesque. That's not."; "What's Kafkaesque", he said in an interview in his Manhattan apartment, "is when you enter a surreal world in which all your control patterns, all your plans, the whole way in which you have configured your own behavior, begins to fall to pieces when you find yourself against a force that does not lend itself to the way you perceive the world. "You don't give up. You don't lie down and die. What you do is struggle against this with all of your equipment, with whatever you have. But of course you don't stand a chance. That's Kafkaesque." ( I. Edwards in the New York Times ) Is F.R. Karl right here? We notice that he is talking about the effect of Kafka's work, and he only describes it by using simile and metaphor. And simile does not prove anything at all. He mentions what he comes to think of, and he is trying to press opinion of what Kafkaesque is upon others, using his authority as a "Kafka scholar." One might look upon the Kafkaesque as a literary genre term, although it is not evident that there is a genre. There is much confusion regarding the concept of Kafkaesque. By using the concept, some scientists and other authors refer to the way Kafka wrote, while others, by using the concept, refer to the effect of Kafka's works. By using the word "Kafkaesque," some are referring exclusively to a special kind of fictive universe, some sort of ontological sphere, and it is here as if the concept of Kafkaesque could be put alongside f. ex. "supernatural," "surreal," "Helvetic," "Paradisiac." As a literary concept, it is comparable in cultural importance to "Orwellian," but overshadowing this. Concepts referring to experiences of literary works are rarely, if ever, concise. The notions of romanticism, realism, magical realism, symbolism, and surrealism, to take a few, have no precise definitions. In determining literary experience, we deal not only with ideological, cultural, and psychological matters but with tacit knowledge and complex matters concerning the ontology of fiction. Perhaps the concept of "Kafka" might be regarded as an ongoing question in Modernity itself that will prevail no matter how much we try to sort out the problem?. The relation: The "Kafka code" ( the central theme in this book ) => The Kafkaesque is not at all obvious. Many technical aspects were most probably not even known to Kafka himself. We shall take a slow approach to find a fruitful explanation of the special connection between the method and the Kafkaesque by first taking a brief look at Kafka's life. It is, although it has nothing to do with central technical, formal matters, still essential to include some biographical facts concerning Kafka since it is implausible that a work like Kafka's could have been produced by anyone else than Kafka and in another place in another time than in Prague around this very time. Historical phenomena thus - I think – also have an important part in the creation of the concept of Kafkaesque. Kafka is very important, mostly I think, because he has not hitherto been understood, and will not be understood for a long time yet. CHAPTER I. A SHORT BIORAPHY.
The double monarchy of Habsburg during this time was intact, powerful, and wealthy. This superpower was compounded of about fifteen different nationalities, and it was run, since 1848, by the emperor Franz Joseph. Prague is situated on both sides of the river Moldau, almost in the midst of Bohemia. This ancient town 1900 had about 40.000 German-speaking inhabitants, while the majority were 400.000 Czechs. These groups – who were both Christians and Jews, lived almost segregated. Different groups existed side by side "with and against each other," as someone has said. In Prague, 9% of the population were, like the Kafka family, Jews, in 1900. Prague was a more complex city concerning class than, for example, Vienna, the center of power of the Habsburg dynasty, was at this time. In Vienna, with its 1.7 million inhabitants, the group of Jews had rapidly grown to a more predominant group of people, and anti-Semitism was much more trouble than in Prague. The Jewish ghetto of Josephstadt, which was the biggest in Europe, and probably the oldest, had been dissolved in the revolutionary year 1848 when Franz Joseph became ruler, and the Jews had acquired their full rights to marry, etc. In Prague, socioeconomic bonds generally prevented anti-Semitism, except in economically challenging times, when one blamed the Jews as one had done for centuries all over Europe. Official business, government, and institutions were run mainly by German-speaking people, while Czechs handled commerce in general and in the Czech language. Jews in Bohemia were either German or Czech speaking, but they all spoke Yiddish, and many of them in the countryside could read Hebrew. The general Class inequalities in Bohemia were enormous like they were in the empire and Europe.
Prague at this time had a German university with about 17000 students and two German theatres. Kafka could enjoy dramas by August Strindberg and Ibsen, Shakespeare's Hamlet, Lessing's Nathan der Weise, Schiller's, Goethe's, Molière's plays, and those of G. B. Shaw and Arthur Schnitzler. Kafka perhaps attended Verdi's Rigoberto, with Caruso in the main part. The image of the town of Prague varies a lot with its descriptors. Max Brod asserts that the mood of Prague was naïve. It was almost revolutionary when the Zionist M. Buber started his newspaper there or when Karl Kraus came to town. Karl Kraus was the founder of Die Fackel, a Vienna newspaper concentrating on political satire. "Prussia is very generous as far as muzzles concerns." Kraus pointed out. "Austria is the isolation cell, where you are allowed to scream." Kraus, in Prague, during lectures, spoke in front of a roaring, excited crowd in the student club, "Die Halle." The great critic of both political and cultural matters, not least of new-born Psychoanalysis, came to this small cultural club more than fifty times, from 1910 and on. We do not precisely know if Kafka listened to Kraus in person, but it is very likely he did so. From his diaries, we see that he was well informed, widely read, and interested in everything in society. Many Jews in Prague were secular Jews. Kraus had left Judaism, just like f. ex. Wittgenstein did. Kraus later became a forceful opponent of the famous Viennese founder of modern Zionism, Theodor Herzl and Buber. Like Vienna, Prague did not have any radiant cultural figures with the stature of Kraus, i.e., intellectuals, who fundamentally could stir society and stimulate change. Kraus's influence upon Central Europe was enormous, to which many vital scholars, such as Freud, Musil, and Arnold Schonberg, bore witness. Max Brod, FK's life-long friend, would later characterize himself, together with Franz, as Prague-Austrians, which tells us a lot about the two young authors and their social situation. Time was marked by the dominance of the bourgeoisie and, consequently, by a moral of double standards characterized by the oppression of women. Oswald Spengler, another important essayist academic voice, nicknamed "der Untergangster" by Kraus, bluntly asserted, in his Untergang des Abendlandes, that every culture was subject to demolition. His field of study, History of Culture, was physiognomics; Culture was a living organism. Spengler´s historicism was of an extremely impressionist kind, just like Vico´s and Friedell´s. Prague, certainly in juxtaposition to Vienna, had acquired a unique, dense, and slightly ghostly atmosphere for various reasons. Its literature reflects this. Within Czech literature, which stood very close to the classic German Romantic one, a genre marked by mysticism, often called "Ghost literature," might be traced back to Rabbi Yehuda Loew, who wrote the famous fable of the strange Golem. Golem was a small creature made of clay that, in this myth, came to life when a rabbi, Maharal, put a small piece of paper with God's name on it in the mouth of Golem. Loew lived around 1600, and his works were done into pastiche by G. Meyrink, E.E. Kisch, and others. Kafka was part of the very important, somewhat educated German bourgeoisie in Prague during this turbulent time. Around 1910, he rapidly came as a young aspiring author to be a part of Modernism. As a citizen, he never became a revolutionary activist; his early sympathy for anarchism and various socialist movements was known only to a minimal circle of friends. However, it later became an essential subject in many of his short stories and prose poems.
Kafka was no ordinary young man. He regarded himself as a kind of Unmensch, a "Quasimodo," and as being "literature." He thus often did not consider himself a human being. We do not precisely know why. Where are there hidden secrets in his life? Based on information in diaries and letters, we are prone to think that Kafka wrote to survive some ordeal. However, survival probably should also fulfill the needs of his mind. ( The strange thing with survival is that one normally does not survive on nothing. ) The writing was a "way out," but not into emptiness, but instead into delight. We will later discuss the relation Kafka - writing – desire/jouissance. Mainly the Central European culture of those days was a hedonistic, often eroticistic one. Franz Kafka was born in 1883. Franz [Anschel, as was his Jewish name] was the only son, the son of a kosher butcher from the countryside. Herman Kafka was of Western Jewish descent and a successful merchant. His wife, Julie, b. Löwy, of Eastern Jewish, was the daughter of a wealthy well known Prager brewer. Herman was a member of the Jewish community's counsel and the only synagogue in Prague that provided a Czech language service, which was the only language Herman ever fully mastered. Franz never got any orthodox Jewish education since this was not compliant with Herman's determinate vision of the Jewish people's future in Europe. Kafka had three sisters, Valli, Elli, and Ottla, and they had a French governess, Mademoiselle Bailly. The family, who generally had three servants in the house, also had a children's nurse named Anna Pouzarová, not much older than the children themselves, a nurse/playmate of which Franz felt very strongly. G. Rieck asserts that this "forbidden love strongly marks the entire authorship." It was a bilingual home, but he went to German schools. He never grew completely familiar with the Czech language, and he could not write literature in this idiom. Already as a boy, Franz came into conflict with his father. The son got locked out on the balcony in the night for a minor offense, which created psychic trauma. Young Franz never showed any interest in the family business, all the more in art and literature, and hence Herman often treated young Franz with sarcastic Irony. Julie Kafka is hardly mentioned in the diaries, while the father is almost permanently present in these. Franz always sought confirmation from him but hardly ever got any. He also felt physically inferior to his father. In connection with feelings of inability to live, the father more and more stood out as an example of human beings too fit to live. As far as we know, the emotional climate of the Kafka family was neither warm nor cold. There were not much dance and music in the home. Herman liked to play cards in the evening, and when his friends were not available, Julie played with him. Herman seemed to have been all for his business. Religion meant nothing to anybody in the Kafka family. One might get a glimpse of Kafka's boyhood and Prague's surroundings where he lived from the prose collection Betrachtung, where one might perceive the bittersweet and the unattainable as themes. During high school, young Franz took a pronounced negative attitude to romantic verse. Nevertheless, he was, on the contrary, utterly thrilled by the romantic saga, the (Kunst-)Märchen. Kafka was not a prominent scholar in primary and secondary school but more of an average pupil and later student. Emil Utitz, who had been to school with Kafka, later, in a letter to Klaus Wagenbach, gave a vivid and memorable description of F.K.: "If I were to say something characteristic concerning Kafka, it would be that it was not anything special at all with him." He took his high school exam in 1901, and he began to study law at the Ferdinand-Karl's-Universität without any particular interest in the subject. Between 1901 and 1906, he was a student at the University. As a lawyer, he was later able to devote himself to writing in his spare time. This was his idea from very early on. During his lifetime, Kafka would many times stress the vast importance and meaningfulness of the possibility of indulging in writing, and he was mesmerized by literature and words. Kafka, as a teenager, wrote a lot. He seemed to be born with a very fluent literary style. ------------------------------
Already in high school, Kafka became introduced to a famous and influential philosopher of his time, Franz Brentano. He generally is described as a phenomenological thinker. Kafka appears to have been susceptible to observations on perception problems, often called a philosophy of mind, around which Brentano had evolved his philosophical psychology. It is striking how there are ideas similar to Brentano's regarding the mental experience in Kafka's Description of a struggle (1909) and some notes in the diary from 1913. B. Smith and J. Ryan are both referring to signs of the impact of Brentano upon Kafka in a passage in Kafka's early work: "I continued my wandering. But since I as a pedestrian feared the troubles and strains of climbing the steep path, I made it more and more smooth, and then made it sloop down towards a distant valley. The rocks disappeared according to my will, and the wind ceased to blow..." F.K. bases the content upon the" inner life" of the narrator, upon his fancies and wishes. Kafka purportedly draws consequence from the philosophy of Brentano in surpassing it. Brentano always stressed the difference between perception and object and that we are always left with our experience, of which we, while we have this experience, always obliquely at the same time, are consciously aware. We are thus, according to Brentano, aware of what we are aware. Kafka could easily have grabbed this idea and developed it in this manner, as is seen in the example. Practically, however, Brentano, in his philosophy of perception - like Dilthey does - comes into counter-position to the old romantic idealist philosophy. F.B. was heralding Husserl and Phenomenology. The question is whether F.B.'s psychology leads to a paradox in the creation of the idea of two parallel conscious realms. Brentano claims is in his meta-ethics that it is possible to find an objectively valid basis for an ethic, but that this ethics, when in practice, comes into conflict with morality. Brentano still represents Value Subjectivism, but in his crucial work Vom Origin sittlicher Erkenntnis ( 1889), - just 47 pages long - B. holds the concept of Love as the basis for the concept of Right. The antithetical opposition between love and hate plays a crucial role for F.B., and he is founding a moral philosophy upon this contradiction as he perceives it. To say that "A is good" is the same as "it is impossible to incorrectly be loving A.". Brentano's work was reviewed in 1909 in a journal by the British philosopher G.E. Moore, and he in this article deals with B.s problems to determine what is "good in itself", and Moore finds B. “not doing so bad”…. The objections to the thoughts of Brentano were later generally to become more and more distinct, for example, those from M. Schlick in his Problems of Ethics. Brentano's formulation of "what one cannot help but love properly" is highly problematic, since it includes, among other things, the problem of the "correct" versus "incorrect love". Kafka does not mention Brentano at all in his notebooks. Brentano was probably of no significant importance to F.K. F.K. still might have gained essential knowledge of moral philosophy and the philosophy of right by dealing with Brentano's writings, just as he possibly acquired some skill in sophistry by reading the Talmud and other Jewish literature, which he often sought out as a compensation for the lack of intellectual and religious tradition in his own childhood home.
---------------------------------- At Prague University, there was a student Cultural Club, the aforementioned "Die Halle," where one could listen to lectures and discussions concerning political, philosophical, and cultural matters. One night on the 23rd of October 1902, a small, near-sighted, hunchbacked, extremely self-confident boy, Max Brod, held a speech about Schopenhauer's views on destiny at "Die Halle." Since Brod in his speech violently attacked Nietzsche's ideas in this speech and actually named him "Hochstapler" (scammer) and since Kafka very much did appreciate Nietzsche, Kafka afterward approached Brod, and they then violently, discussed these matters. A lifelong friendship started with this quarrel. Max and Franz soon began to study literature together in privacy, the readings of Plato and Flaubert. Kafka, who was fluent in French, due to his love of his childhood nurse, loved to read Flaubert aloud in his baritone voice. Both Brod and Kafka were of course, fluent in both Latin in Greek, even Hebrew since they both passed high school. Franz and Max even translated parts of Plato´s Dialogues, which is interesting particularly for a Kafka scholar, since Plato's style might, to some degree, have affected Kafka's style. Being a solid skeptic and an astute Nietzsche fan, Kafka probably found it very hard to believe in the idea of the Good with Plato, though. During his years at the Carolinum, Kafka also consumed many memoirs and biographies, his favorite lecture throughout his life, together with travel books. He usually read several newspapers and periodicals a day throughout his life, like the Bohemia, Deutsche Arbeit, Der Jude, Der Prager Tageblatt, Hyperion, and Wir. Kafka wrote to his comrades O. Pollak, Baum, O. Kisch, and M. Brod during summer leaves. In the letters, he told them of his consummation of literature and the beauty of the landscape around the idyllic Triesch to the north of Prague, where Kafka used to visit his uncle, the country doctor. Kafka was an assimilated Jew, if it was possible to be "assimilated" at all in Prague. He was utterly irreligious. It seems that he supported secular Zionism more than covering such. Max Brod propagated lifelong for Zionism, moved to Israel, and ended his days in Israel as a convinced Zionist, acclaimed by the establishment as an honorary citizen. Kafka himself was never won over to the Zionist outlook. Friedlander: "Kafka was never a Zionist.". However, Kafka's interest in Jewish identity increased with the years - perhaps as his inner desperation grew. Perhaps in line with his surroundings, with the circle of Jewish intellectuals with which he socialized, he increasingly became aware of Prague's insulation, and many of his friends discussed a future ideal society in Palestine. Towards the end of his life, his studies in the Hebrew language were more intense. He first studied this language in two rounds, first as a 25-year-old and later in 1923 when he was dying. However, it is difficult to prove that this study affected his writing. B. Becker, in her thesis, investigated the possible Kabbalistic influences in F.K.'s authorship. Kafka had read Karl Marx' Zur Judenfrage, written in 1844, where Jewish emancipation is scrutinized. This 88-page book has an essential discussion on power, the power of the mass, the difference between European and American politics and religion, and human rights. It is exceptionally well written, which was often the case with Marx. Marx points at an alleged inherent contradiction between freedom of religious belief and human rights. De Beaumont had earlier invented the concept and idea of human rights in France. Bruno Bauer –the opponent against whom the book explicitly is directed – claims that no emancipation for Jews is possible as long as there are religions. Marx asserts that there is no possible emancipation for the Jews before all humans are socially emancipated. This book also contains a minor discussion of alienation.
Kafka in 1906, graduated with a Doctor of Law. After the usual practice period, the "Rechtspraktik" - a prerequisite for working in the state administration - F.K. got nine-month employment with an Italian insurance company, Assuracioni Generali, which was headquartered in Trieste - then belonging to Habsburg, at their Prague office. In 1908, he soon got more suitable employment as an investigator at the large Arbeiter-Unfall-Versicherungs-Anstalt in Prague. The insurance system in Bohemia was extensive; over 200,000 contractors and about three million workers were affiliated. Officials' number was on this job not less than 250. Only two of these were Jews. Kafka FK was an ambitious, resourceful, caring, and much-respected official. He always chose to work part-time but had a good salary and never had severe financial problems, apart from the last years. In Berlin, living with Dora, he was broke. Most often, F.K. lived with the family in different chilly and noisy apartments in Prague's absolute center and rarely rented his own rooms or apartments. At night-time Kafka was creative. From 22:30 to 02:00 or 03:00 at night, Kafka occupied himself with his literary work during his "vintage years," i.e., the years 1912 to 1917. His breakthrough novel The Verdict, was conceived during one single autumn night session. During these years, he seems to have been indulged in the creative process instead of sleeping. From 1909 onwards, he wrote a diary, advised to do so by his dynamic, persistent, and optimistic friend Max Brod. It is a sporadic diary, and here literary drafts are mixed with short notes on health status, practical things, and notices about the family members he held very dear. Kafka's focus was not exclusively on literature. He liked to draw, and he - despite his lack of talent - practiced on his violin, and he was fond of gardening and outdoor life. Kafka often wished to be something entirely other than a lawyer, for instance, an athlete. FK was a good swimmer, and he could, despite his weak constitution, master a horse in terrain. He cared about his health and practiced gymnastics daily in front of an open window from his earliest years. The writer in spe had his rowboat by the river Moldau. He rowed upstream and then floated down, lying on his back in the boat dressed in his usual suit, gliding under the famous Karlsbrücke and the other eight bridges. Kafka was fascinated by naked bodies and beautiful naked bodies in particular; he attended nudist camps, such as the Baltic Sea and health facilities. Kafka was often in daily life strikingly dressed in a thin, very spacious overcoat and a hat and held his head a bit awry. His eyes, blue or greyish of his, bore an intense gaze. He was left-handed. His complexion was unusually dark for a European and similar in hue to many Indians or Pakistanis. Kafka never attached himself to possessions, such as furniture, clothing, photos, or even books. He did not smoke or drink alcohol, coffee, or tea, and he was also a vegetarian. Around 1909-1910, trips took Kafka to Northern Italy, Lugano and Venice, Austria, Hamburg, Helgoland, Rügen, and Marienlyst in Denmark. Kafka and Max Brod were to visit Paris together two times. When Max, the music enthusiast, chose to go to the opera, Kafka - who seems to have been almost totally insensitive to music ( although he played the violin at home ) - went to a horse race. When Brod and Kafka were in Italy, they attended an air show outside Brescia. They decided to compete to see who wrote the best record of this event, an airplane race, where the famous French pioneer aviator Bleriot took part. This article became F.K.'s debut as a writer. The newspaper Bohemia displayed on the 28/9 1909 it with the title Die Aeropläne in Brescia. It contains, among other things, reflections on perfection and courage. It is striking in its precision of thought and its exact and fresh descriptions. He frequently socialized with a small group of tightly knit friends, young men he had met in school or at the university: Oscar Pollak, Oscar Baum, Max, Otto Brod, and Felix Weltsch. These friends meant a lot to Kafka, and he was cautious not to lose them. They generally met at the cafés in Prague, at the Arco, Café Louvre, Savoy, Imperial, or the Concordia. Many of those boys, because they were all boys, came from families who were well established for generations in the city and had a long tradition of high education in their families than Kafka, at least on his father's side. Kafka and friends also assembled in more private milieus than cafés. At the Prague pharmacy, Zum Einhorn, one Mrs. Bertha Fanta had created a wonderful cultural oasis, the rumor of which spread through the city. Visitors here were, among others, the mathematician Kowalewski, Max Planck, and also Albert Einstein, and the latter both played the violin, accompanied by Brod on the piano, and talked of his theory of relativity. He also vividly discussed the philosophy of Immanuel Kant. In the Fanta-house, also debates about psychoanalysis were frequent. Sometimes also matters like Spiritism and Anthroposophy. Kafka often was present at the meetings, and he there listened to the famous mystic Rudolf Steiner and even discussed his own life with him later at his hotel. Probably around 1904 - four years after the appearance of Freud's Traumdeutung - Kafka became aware of Freud's existence. In 1910 he purchased and read Freud's all-new Leonardo da Vinci - a childhood memory, where Freud uses the term "narcissism" for the first time. In the "psychoanalyst bible" at the time, Three essays on sexual theory discuss the concept of "sublimation". Kafka later also read Freud's essay on Michelangelo's Moses statue. The interest in Moses stayed with Kafka, and he commented to the young student G. Janouch a picture of the Moses statue - never missing a chance to criticize an authority - with the words: "'That is no leader. That is a judge, an austere judge.'". This was not Freud's view of Moses, who saw Moses as a tragic hero, a lone hero who doggedly wore his disappointment over the Jewish people. We can speculate on the "mythology" behind Kafka's world of thought OVERALL and imagination just as much as we can speculate over the "mythology" behind Freud's work in its entirety. In Kafka's case, the answer actually might be … Freud. Kafka owned, what we know, only a few books on psychology and on school philosophy. We know that Kafka studied The Destiny of Man by Fichte. It is a very educational and well-spoken popular display of Fichte's philosophy and his current philosophical idealism. Kafka studied Schopenhauer, Nietzsche's predecessor, together with his sister Ottla. F.K. probably appreciated the antiauthoritarian approach and the constant reference to skepticism. He also was deeply impressed by the anti-authoritarian Kierkegaard's diaries, as well as S.K.'s two early works, Either-Or and the small book by S.K. on Genesis 22, the story of Abraham and Isaac, Fear and trembling. Maybe Kafka was fascinated by Kierkegaard´s take on religion and philosophy, mingling these subjects into a kind of insidious abstract horror fiction inspired by the Danish author Steen Steensen Blicher. SSB was the creator of The Vicar of Vejlbye, the world’s first detective story, way before Mark Twain. Kafka never achieved any thorough knowledge in Philosophy. When asked about Kant by Felice Bauer, Kafka answered: ”About Kant, I don´t know anything at all.”
Kafka himself was very fond of reading aloud in public and sometimes even made speeches which do not match the general myth of him. His way of reciting his own works was, as his friend Oscar Baum testifies, peculiar: F.K. read in a gradually increasing pitch, read the whole short story almost in one breath, and extremely fast, "with blaring tongue." He, as a young man, was a man full of self-reproach. He was intuitively sensitive concerning changes in moods around him - and to everything, just like Rimbaud. One might today claim that F.K. suffered from Asperger's. Max Brod was a more social character. Brod, as a writer, was very productive. He had notably published himself in the erotic magazine Amethyst, which Kafka also subscribed to, with Das Tschechische Dienstmädchen. Brod seemed - as already indicated - to have a deep fascination with Prague, while he early became determined to move away. What Brod later came to write about Kafka seems to many as part of a "hagiography." Regardless of this, he was a friend who never let Kafka down, and he was virtually inexhaustible in good and bad times, in word and deed. Much time was spent by Kafka, before and during his sickness, in sanatoriums in the countryside, often on the Central European Mountain massive. In Prague, Kafka came into contact with Franz Werfel, poet and renowned columnist. For a while, Werfel, charming and extrovert, became one of the most ardent young Kafka critics. After having read Betrachtung, Werfel, who at the time was enjoying success with his writings, claimed with strong emphasis: "This book will never be read outside Bohemia!". He was later proved to be wrong. Werfel, who was extraordinarily productive, was part of the expressionist movement, consisting of authors who often came right from the trenches of World War I, writers like Sternheim - who was a millionaire -, Werfel, Edschmid, Heym, and Trakl. F.K. was also acquainted with Musil, who wanted Kafka to write for Neue Rundschau in Berlin, where he was hired as a columnist. When F.K. was studying law, he met with a renowned professor of Philosophy of Rights, Hans Gross, and attended his lectures for three terms. Gross' son, Otto, born in 1877, was to become a friend of Kafka's. Gross junior seems to have been revolting against his father. O.G. was trained as a physician, served abroad, and then became a psychiatrist, settled in Vienna, where he entered in the circles of S. Freud. O.G. distinguished himself as an independent thinker in psychoanalysis, and Freud himself said that there were only two original thinkers he knew of among his friends: CG Jung and Gross. However, Gross slid, because of morphine addiction, into a schizophrenic state, and Jung's attempt to cure Otto G. with psychoanalysis. Hans Gross wanted to have his son incarcerated in a mental institution. Kafka and Otto Gross first met in 1917. Kafka then had already produced what we now know as Amerika and The Trial and published The Metamorphosis. O.G., intelligent and communicative ( his father had died in 1915 ), was interested in everything from psychoanalysis to revolutionary movements. Franz Werfel, Kafka, and Otto Gross, who by then had left the Freud circle, in 1917 grew plans – in the midst of a war - of starting an anarchist magazine, Blätter gegen Machtwillen, but the whole thing stalled due to economic problems and to F.K.'s bad health. Franz and Otto had conversations about psychoanalysis. It has been assumed that the precocious Gross was the developer of Kafka's insights into Freud's thinking. Kafka took a skeptical view of psychoanalysis as a whole, and he never studied it at all. Gross' influence on Kafka came relatively late but may have confirmed individual perceptions, and it might even further have contributed to setting F.K.'s mind and style free. Otto Gross committed suicide in 1920.
H ermann Kafka, Franz´s father, was planning the wedding between Elli and Karl Herman. Karl Hermann had in mind to start an asbestos factory and needed money: the dowry. Herman Kafka went along with this but took counsel from his son, the lawyer, and made him promise not only to be part of the company's board but also to participate in the factory's management, which had around twenty employees. Thus F.K.'s father tried to force his son towards a future as a supervisor of a factory... The marriage and the up of the factory were soon conducted, and Kafka took part in the legal issues, and he frequently visited the factory, which now was led by a hired engineer. Franz immediately tried to withdraw from the father's "trap," which, of course, threatened to take his entire remaining time outside the insurance institution in claims, and - what was for him the overall disastrous matter -: it thus threatened to prevent him from writing. It was precisely in this situation when he really "hated his family," as Corngold writes, and it is probably the first and only time in his life he did so that he wrote the extraordinary short story The Metamorphosis. He had earlier this year encountered Felice Bauer, and they had exchanged a couple of letters, and Kafka probably was determined to marry her dutifully. One might read The Metamorphosis against this background. It is not hard to imagine that Kafka saw marriage as a struggle between himself and his father. In the notebooks, fantasies of punishment, fantasies to be faced with a large court, now appeared. F.K. felt that he betrayed his family. The asbestos factory business ran into difficulties, and it gradually came to cost Herman a small fortune. Franz considered suicide and consulted Max Brod about his problems. Brod wisely talked to Julie Kafka about her son without letting Franz know. In the Letter to his father, Kafka later accused his father of his misery. Letter to his father is no short story but an actual letter. ( Kafka later admits to Milena Jesenská, sending her a copy of the letter, telling her it is full of a lawyer's tricks. ) The letter, written in 1919, far away from Prague, was given by Franz to his mother Julie for further deliverance to Herman, but Julie never fulfilled the wish of her son. It is essential to know that when the 39-year-old Franz wrote this, he already had written what we know as The Trial. Franz now was severely ill in tuberculosis, and the two engagements to Felice Bauer lay behind him. He had also tried to get permission to marry Julie Wohryzek. Kafka, by this time, had been through a lot. As the son emphasizes in the letter, his father, Herman, had been too strong toward him. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, in their Pour une littérature mineure, puts focus on how Kafka's oedipal situation influenced his works. They assert that he reversed the oedipal situation and doubly. The first of these suspensions, according to the authors, was one based on three-digit relations, primarily the Prague societal triangle, with F.K. experiencing his father as a traitor against the rural Bohemian-Jewish-orthodox heritage, the father submitting to the Czech bureaucracy. Franz, however, was able to preserve his respect and love of the Father, only that the son knew that his father was just as oppressed as he was. The second suspension consists of the many transformations of "himself" into an animal, e.g., a dog = "The schizo-animal par préference." Kafka is seeking not freedom but a way out, and he finds this in the non-human: in becoming a beetle. We might compare this identification to other animal figures into which he likewise transmogrifies himself: the monkey, the dog, the giant mole, the badger, the rat. These all are symbols of loneliness: marks of an utterly painful, almost pathological solitude and an extreme outsider position is beyond doubt. In the famous letter, Kafka claims that both he and his father are innocent, both victims and that they are both guilty. Kafka seems, seen from this letter's content, to have compassion for his father, but is this sincere? According to the two Frenchmen, it is that of a "perverse Oedipus." Here one cannot escape the problem of the so-called "authoritarian personality.". The father's relationship can be divided into three or four, more or less distinct levels: [ 1.] The purely emotional. Here we can conclude that Kafka harbored his father's very warm feelings, which were mutual, even if the father almost always demonstrated his superiority. F.K. entertained, even directly, great admiration for his father. [ 2.] Herman required Franz to take over his business and acquire a reputable position in society (asbestos factory). These requirements were significant concerns to F.K. [ 3.] His writing always seemed to him to be incompatible with marriage. [ 4 ]: Herman's unilateral pursuit for assimilation in the Habsburg Empire, as well as his lack of interest in Judaism, in the end, contributed to the alienation of his son. There was always a strong sense of guilt with F.K. concerning the father. Herman had worked hard and dedicated his whole life to his family. Kafka's texts are often fantasies of punishment built upon a sense of guilt. That there are sexual elements in these stories seems clear. One can perceive with F.K. an early attraction to submission, to sadomasochism. Masochism should probably be regarded as a kind of double movement, just like Žižek sees it - as a complex mix of perpetrators and victims' positioning. Deleuze has stressed the revolutionary character of masochism and the humorous element in masochism, noting the Irony in sadism both concerning law and society and the super ego-suppressing Humor in masochism. Several stories and passages in the novels have a theme that alludes to masochism. In masochism, the victim talks through the voice of the torturer. Kafka does not hide the sexual element and the Oedipus situation in his works but very often stresses it. He is amid a taboo, displaying it fiercely. Kafka stays close to the prohibited, even to the downright painful, and to the painfully pleasurable, but also the pleasurable painful and painfully comical. Moreover, in the end, he sometimes is, existentially, close to the life-threatening in his paradoxical fantasies of punishment and on the verge of what he probably can stand emotionally. A crisis in the relationship between F.K. and his beloved sister Ottla is mirrored in The Metamorphosis, where Gregor's sister Grete together with the mother, tries to clear Gregor's room, but Gregor refuses to leave the portrait of a lady in fur on the wall. This story is reflected in the deep open conflict between F.K. on one side Herman and the entire family on the other, in 1912 regarding the asbestos factory. Franz had been asked to help with the factory and to leave the nightly writings aside. At this time, F.K. was actually in utter rage and thought of committing suicide, which he also told Brod. The close friend noted that he had never seen his beloved Franz that upset ever. It is important to note that the letter to his father never was transmitted to Herman. Since it is here too late in life for a reorientation between them, Kafka tries, in writing this letter, to transgress the problem between them by, as G/D claims, turning the causal relation Oedipus-situation around by asserting that this Oedipus situation has its roots in society, actually in a whole neurosis of society. Julie Kafka refused to transmit the letter, probably thinking that this letter could not promote the relationship between Franz and Herman. F.K.: "You seem to have some clue regarding what I want to say, curiously enough. You said a while ago for example: 'I always liked you, even if I never behaved towards you as other fathers use to, just because I simply cannot – like the others can - pretend.'" To Louis Begley, it is evident that Franz hated his father. Since F.K. felt so alien in the world, the feeling of connectedness to his family was always very important to him. Thus he – I think – never wanted a real conflict with his father, risking losing his great affection. Alongside Herman, his sister Ottla was of significant importance to Kafka during his entire life. She was born in 1892 and was the youngest of the sisters. She was very close to Franz, and she had almost the same looks as F.K., with a very dark complexion and deep, intense gaze. Like so many Jews, she early became interested in Zionism and joined a club for Jewish women. She was interested in agriculture and took up farming in the West-Bohemian village of Zürau, to the north of Prague, until the end of the war. She married against her father's will in July 1820 to the Catholic Czech Joseph David and gave birth to Věra in 1921 and Helene in 1923. During the summer of 1922, Franz spent three months together with the young family in Planá. However, Ottla Davidová and Joseph David had an unhappy marriage. Unlike her two sisters, she was a very independent woman, a fact that may have contributed to the tensions. Franz and Ottla had, throughout life, from early childhood until the death of Franz, a close contact and held long secret talks, which took place primarily in the house's bathroom and in a park in Prague's center. In letters to her, Franz stands as quick-witted, conscientious, practical, relaxed, and natural. Significantly, Kafka would rather read philosophy with Ottla than with Max Brod. Brod had an attraction to metaphysics that most likely "discouraged" Kafka. Max had very little of the robust skepticism which was characteristic of Kafka's thought. Ottla's importance to Franz was huge. It must be stressed that their intimate conversations were the most life-close and warmest like Kafka experienced throughout his life. Ottla was, after the death of her brother, totally opposed to the publishing of Kafka's posthumous papers, novels, and other things. H. Zylberberg, who knew Ottla Kafka, writes:
" She never accepted the fact that Kafka's works had been published as the result of someone's indiscretion. Franz had left a will, and his deepest and holiest wish, that everything he had written should be burnt should have been obeyed. Due to all this, she was very angry at Brod." In October 1943, Ottla accompanied, as a helper, a children's transport to Auschwitz, and soon after, she was murdered by the Nazis there. Her daughters escaped when Ottla voluntarily, protecting the non-Jewish husband, separated from his family. Part of what we know about Kafka we know through his diaries and letters. Kafka's diary is a selection of brief notes, drafts of novels, etc. -; the notes are mainly about his health, almost a "medical record", and on how very little he thinks he accomplishes as a writer. Notes are like these: "June 5. Nothing is written.";" June, 13. All-day in bed."; "June, 15. All day in bed." Kafka often suffered from headaches and spent much time in his life, especially the later part of it, after the lung disease outbreak, in bed. He complained of insomnia. When he slept well, he did not write at all! Sleeplessness and sleep is also by F.K. often put in relation to guilt, e.g., in the correspondence with Milena. In a certain and unusual sense, his life was centered around literature, sleep, and his dreams. Franz Kafka - as well as Brod - did not very much like Prague. He often expressed his wish to change location, to move to Berlin, which he managed to do in 1923, for his last winter. Prague was not displaying an intellectually vivid milieu. Kafka's heroes are overwhelming a vulnerable and endangered kind; they are, in one way or another, tormented and always looking – but often half-heartedly – for a way out. By a letter, the four-page letter to Max Brod - the so-called "Rat letter"… -, written on December 4th, 1917, where the F.K. reveals his great fear of rats, one can conclude that Kafka had an obsessive syndrome linked with a cluster of deep anxiety and fear of castration, rooted in the Oedipal situation. Freud's famous patient, Rat man, E. Lasker, had read about Chinese rat torture in the same book as Kafka, i.e., in the French anarchist Mirbeau's Le Jardin des Supplices, which is sometimes referred to as the role model for Kafka's masterpiece In the Penal Colony.
D uring the summer of 1907, Kafka was in Triesch, in the countryside, residing at an uncle's place. He enjoyed himself, bathing and riding a bike, and having a romance with the nineteen-year-old Jewess by the name of Hedwig Weiler. Kafka was 25 years old at the time. In a letter to Brod, Kafka describes her as "very ugly, small, and chubby, with red cheeks and has two large front teeth, which do not fit in the mouth." One can compare F.K.'s heartless description of her with one later made of Felice, in which F.K. thinks Felice looks "like she has a broken nose." F.K. appears to have excelled in describing girls' ugliness, at least in his letters to Brod. Hedwig was born in Vienna in 1888, studied philology and philosophy, and was a social democrat. She later took a degree, and became a Ph.D. in 1914. Franz writes the eleven letters to Hedwig in Prague, where he worked full-time at the aforementioned Italian insurance company. These letters are neither incredibly intimate nor warm-hearted but have more of a mocking tone. Perhaps they are meant to be humoristic. Hedwig did not think they were. She was very reproachful regarding the "Irony" in them. Kafka does not seem very interested in Hedwig, and he seems to have been very depressed at the time. Hedwig calls him a liar in her letters, and Kafka tries to transform the fact that he is lying into something interesting. They did not seem to get along at all. Supposedly Kafka felt inferior to Hedwig, both intellectually and emotionally. The relationship with her might have contributed to Kafka's fear of women. H.W. survived two wars and died in 1953 in Vienna.
T he most remarkable and intense relationship that Kafka ever had and which had the most significant impact on his literary works was with the Berlin girl Felice Bauer. Franz went over to the Brod family one evening in August 1912. When he there first saw Felice Bauer, he believed by her looks that she belonged to the servants. The meeting was marked by several misunderstandings and confusion. Kafka would this evening originally edit his debut collection of short prose together with Max, the Betrachtung ( Looking out ), for Rowohlt's Verlag, an enterprise which now, because of the presence of Felice, instead was left entirely to Brod. Kafka later accompanied Felice to her hotel, gave her by accident his address, and a week later, he typed a letter to her on a paper with the insurance company's letterhead. Here a relationship began, and giant vampirism from Kafka's side one of the most grotesque in literature history. Kafka and Felice are almost exclusively associated through letters. Kafka demanded challengingly detailed answers to his letters twice a day (!) from Felice. Much of what followed in their relationship seems to have happened one-sidedly out of Kafka's fear of marriage. Kafka monitored himself intensely regarding this fear, living for many years, being the only son, strongly victimized under constant pressure from his family to get married. E. Krause-Jensen: "Between 1912 and 1917, he writes incessantly to her, now and then taking back what he has just written, the lines he had just sent away, but he obliges her, however, to answer twice a day. He replaces the marriage contract with a diabolic pact, a sort of "vampire business correspondence," as Deleuze and Guattari put it, an activity that Kafka needs in order to be able to work. 'Motionless,' by his table of existence, Kafka sucks Felice's blood like a spider, weaving his yarn. The only fear he glimpses and perceives, all terrified, through his oversensitive intuition, is that he should perish in his own yarn of words and that the "resort areas" should prove to be dead ends. Therefore he simultaneously is writing short stories on the theme of himself slowly turning into an animal. /..../. " What now followed was an intensely creative period, the most intense of his life, during which Kafka's stronghold to everyday life was the letters to Felice. Franz Kafka did not become engaged to her until June 1, 1914. Kafka's fear of marriage can, according to many, have had its base in sexual agony or even more of a general feeling of not being man enough or in a different sexual orientation. Kafka wrote The Verdict, The Stoker, and The Metamorphosis within just a few months in the autumn of 1912. The Verdict was created in one swoop on the night between the 22nd and 23rd of September 1912, a short story dedicated to Felice. On the 23rd of September 1912, after having completed The Verdict, Kafka wrote in his diary the famous words:" Thoughts of Freud, of course." One might say that this date constituted the birth of the Kafkaesque. During October-November this year, the year of the birth of the Kafkaesque, the inaugurating chapter of Amerika was written, the piece which soon would be published in a magazine under the title "The Stoker" ( Der Heizer ).
He recognized this short story as his first mature work, and he read it aloud to his friends and to an open audience at a recital evening only a couple of days after it had been created. In two days (i.e., nights) in November and December, he then wrote The Metamorphosis. After completing this "short novel," Kafka devoted himself to writing his "American novel," the unfinished Amerika. Kafka then suddenly got into a writing paralysis. The non-productivity lasted until Kafka engaged Felice over a year later. During this "latency," Kafka came to realize, even better than before, that he was a great writer, but a writer put in a complicated situation. Kafka wrote about two hundred letters to Felice, very self-centered ones. A tangible silence, drowned in words, one might say. Judging by them, he seems to have been during this period in a kind of constant crisis. The letters lack fundamentally essential and relevant content. They deal with unimportant details in life. The catastrophe in Kafka's predicament, and in particular concerning Felice, can be illustrated by the reproduction of extracts from a letter from the correspondence, from what is sometimes called the "dog letter," written in April 1913: "My real fear - it can hardly be said or heard anything worse - is that I never ever will be able to have you. That, in the most favourable case, I would be limited to like a stray faithful dog to kiss your hand, distractedly passed, which would not be a sign of love, but merely a sign of the desperation of this animal, forever doomed to dumbness and despair. That I would sit next to you and, which already has occurred, to feel your body's breathing and life at my side, and basically be more different from you than now, in my room. I would never be able to attract your gaze, and that for me everything really would be lost, when you looked out the window or when you put your face in your hands. I am ostensibly allied with you, riding with you all through the world, hand in hand, and, that none of this is true. In short, I will forever remain so excluded from you, even if you were suppress to indulge to me, that it would bring you in danger. " F.K. often returned to the dog-theme. Kafka falls away in the letters to F.B. from the role of capable author to that of a failed suitor, to a complete stranger in relation to human life and existence, to the role of a fleeing animal. Example 2. Kafka in the so-called "wooing letter" in June 1913: "You already know of my strange predicament. Between me and you stands - regardless of everything else - the doctor. What this man says ought to be doubted. By decisions like these, medical diagnoses are not decisive. If they were, I would not hesitate to take them into account. I was not sick – as I told you, but I still am. Possibly living under other circumstances would make be healthy, but it is impossible to create these other circumstances. The medical judgment (which, as I have already said, not to me unconditionally is true) remains of character: the foreign judgment. My family doctor, for instance, would in his stupid irresponsibility not see the slightest obstacle, on the contrary; yet another, a better doctor might clap his hands together over his head. Consider, Felice: in view of this uncertainty this can hardly be said, and it might sound strange. It is now too early to talk about it. Later, however, it would be too late; there would no longer be any time to talk about such things, just as you do point out in your letter. But it is no longer time for any doubt, at least this is how I feel, and I am therefor now asking you: Will you, during the above, unfortunately not very extensively, outlined premise, think about whether you want to be my wife? Do you want to? " He wrote a long pro et contra-list in his diary. He actually wrote to Felice: "Within me I have always had – and still have – two souls, battling each other. One is roughly the way you want him. (…) The other one is only thinking of his work."
The first betrothal between Franz and Felice lasted between 1/6-12/7 1914, - i.e., only five weeks. Kafka seems to have changed his mind immediately, and he ended up in a state of agony and total despair after the engagement. In a letter to Felice's friend Grete Bloch Kafka revealed – while the negotiations still were held - he found the whole engagement a mistake. Grete told this to Felice and her parents. The two families' resolution to break up the engagement took place in Berlin in a hotel, Aska-nischer Hof, in the presence of members from both these families, and Kafka experienced the meeting as a trial. On July 29, 1914, F.K. started to write The Trial. This novel seems to thrive from material tied to the engagement to Felice. The second engagement to her was initiated three years later, at the beginning of July 1917, and ended soon, shortly after Kafka realized that he had contracted tuberculosis. One night in August, Kafka woke up in his bed, noticing that he coughed blood. He was, as he later mentioned, most of all surprised and then actually delighted, despite the pools of blood on the floor – this because Kafka, by instinct, knew he could at least sleep now, not being bothered by the usual severe headache. Franz went to work as usual the next morning after his Czech maid, horrified at the sight of the blood-stained floor of the apartment, having exclaimed: "Poor Herr Doctor, with you, it is soon running out!". Not until the afternoon of the same day does he go to his doctor! Later Kafka wrote the following lines:
"There is only one disease, neither more nor less, and this sole disease is hunted blindly by Medicine like one is hunting an animal through endless forests." Kafka's tuberculosis would, mostly untreated, undulate back and forth, sometimes forcing him feverish to bed, sometimes almost wholly subsiding - yet sometimes giving hope to disappear, other times re-issue despair at deterioration. In letters to Milena Jesenská three years later, he would be more bantering and talk about the disease and its outbreak. One can imagine the difficulty in the situation that arose, with fits of tuberculosis including recurrent bouts of fever, in devoting himself wholeheartedly to such advanced writing as his. Maybe he wove part of his thought of the disease into the writing itself. One can also speculate on what effect Kafka's tuberculosis had mentally on Kafka. This disease sometimes brings psychological effects, such as a change of moods. Numerous are Kafka's thoughts and speculations about the disease in his letters and notes. It is quite clear that he seems to have considered that its outbreak originally had to do with the continuous mental struggle that was going on inside him: marriage or writing. In The Diary, he wrote about how "the brain covenanted with the lung behind my back."…On tuberculosis, Kafka wrote to Felice: "The blood does not come from the lung, but a well-aimed blow from one of the fighters." Kafka did not feel strictly bound by any oath of allegiance to Felice during the periods of engagement, but he several times met with other women during this time. During a trip to Riva in northern Italy, he spotted an 18-year-old Swiss non-Jewish girl, Gerti Wasner, to which he immediately got attracted. They spent several days together. Franz composed thrilling tales in the evenings, which he read to her at breakfast at the hotel. Kafka avoided strong girls and often sought himself very young ones. Perhaps F.K. often liked asexual advances. He found pleasure in having relationships in the form of playmate-playmate. From a young age, he was also the sort of man who clenched tight friendships with men, often for life. He cherished these contacts well. The second engagement with Felice Bauer also ended in 1917 due to Kafka's tuberculosis. Felice then, in 1919, married and had a child the following year. She died in New York in 1960, at 77 years old, after having sold all Kafka's letters in an auction to pay her medical bills. During the years with Felice, Kafka wrote nearly all of his major works, such as The Verdict, The Metamorphosis, The Trial, and Amerika.
It has been hypothesized by Friedländer that Kafka would have been almost totally uninterested in women and that Kafka would instead have had an attraction to children of both sexes. Shame consistently is a motive in Kafka's writings, and shame is an entirely natural thing connected to pedophilia, Friedlander asserts. This theory – because we have not got any proof of Kafka being a pedophile - opens up a plausible view of unexpected tragedy. It contributes to a plausible understanding of a prerequisite of F.K.'s work regarding the possible concealment of desire and hence of a duality concealed. It might also, in part, explain his negative attitude to marriage. Some passages from the works point in the direction of FK being attracted to children. There is an abundance of "Quasimodo" creatures in Kafka's texts, of helpers, young boys, and rowdy girls. One can imagine that Kafka had a penchant for non-adults, for the eternal adolescent, as he appeared to many people. According to third parties, e.g., K. Wolff, FK reminded him of an eternal teenager.
A book about pedophilia that Brod lent him made him entirely out of equanimity. He then also compared the reading of such literature to the reading of psychoanalytic writings. In the diary, Kafka often leaves descriptions of young people's beauty, mostly young naked boys. This reasoning by Friedländer, who claims that FK seems to have been a pedophile, can be looked upon in contrast to Brod's biography, with its high-strung description of Kafka as almost a miraculous Saint-like man. One often connects Kafka with the notion of masochism, and he told Max that he liked to be punished by women. That F.K., together with the prostitutes in brothels in Prague, would have made real his innermost fantasies that altogether met his sexual needs is not likely.
J ulie Wohryzek was a Jewess, born in Prague in 1891 and of simple origin. Her father served as a Kustos in the synagogue in a suburb of the capital. Julie worked as a "komptoiristin," a clerk, just like Felice did. F.K. describes J.W. in a letter to Brod as an uneducated girl fond of nice clothing and operettas, and he says she is more of a fun than a sad person. He also emphasizes that she "is not without beauty" but also writes that she is the type of waitress. The two had met in January 1919 in an almost empty pension in Zürau during one of Kafka's first convalescences, when he was quite ill. The two seem to have had good emotional contact, contrary to what seems to have been the case in Kafka's relation with Felice. Kafka never talked of love when he talked of relationships. He was almost entirely unromantic. In Kafka´s stories, there is nearly no romantic scene whatsoever. We might find out about the relationship in a letter to Julie's sister Käthe, whom F.K. met in company with Julie in Schelesen. Kafka confided to Käthe in the same way he had to Grete Bloch earlier. In this letter he explains how close Julie and he got to each other and he describes his views on marriage and the essentials of having a family with children and the perception of him as a consumptive official whose highest interest is literature. He writes that he wants to meet Julie but that the question of marriage should be left open. Following the traditional Jewish custom and Herman's will, Franz Kafka seems to choose a wife with Jewish roots. Franz and Julie got engaged. The wedding was planned to occur in November 1919. It was opposed vehemently by FK.s parents, perhaps because of rumors about Julie's sexual "liberal habits." Herman insulted his son and bluntly told Franz that "a girl just needs to wave her blouse" for Franz to fall for her, and advised him to visit a brothel instead. Julie's father was equally against the relationship. Rieck claims that Julie indeed was the more loving of the two. In July 1920, they disbanded their engagement. Julie was utterly heartbroken. Perhaps the break was due to Kafka´s meeting with the Austrian young volcanic intellectual Milena Jesenská-Pollak. In 1921 Julie married a banker, Werner, with whom she later lived in Bucharest and Prague. She was deported by the Nazis to Auschwitz and died there, probably in August 1944. During his years with Julie, Kafka composed almost no literary works.
MILENA J. T wenty-three years old Milena Jesenská wrote a letter to F.K. from Vienna expressing her great admiration for his short stories. She told him she wanted to translate some of them into Czech. Kafka proudly and thoughtlessly showed the letter to his fiancée, Julie W, and told his publisher to send to Mrs. Polaková copies of all his books. Then the two of them met at a café in Prague in October 1919. They soon began to exchange letters. She was a Czech girl, born in 1896 as the daughter of a famous physician Jan Jesenský in Vienna, a specialist in jaws reconstruction. She was versatile and talented. According to Pawel, Jan Jesenský was a radical nationalist and anti-Semite. Milena early became involved in radical leftist circles and was politically compromised. She entered avant-garde circles, took drugs, excelled in wearing shocking clothes, and began to study medicine, something his father had always taken for granted. She had from early years been assisting him during surgery. Milena married Ernst Pollak, a jet-set man of letters, an amateur philosopher and a banker, and Werfel and Brod's friend. Pollak also was considered to be something of a "sexual athlete." He was of Jewish descent. In all respects, Milena was rebellious, and this, unfortunately, led her father to incarcerate his daughter - whose mother had previously died - at a mental hospital for nine months in 1917! She managed to escape, though, after that, her father broke all contact with her. She followed Pollak, with whom she married in 1918, to Vienna, where he sought membership in the renowned philosophical club, the "Vienna Circle," under the famous professors Schlick and Carnap's leadership. Ernst consistently refused to give Milena any money. Right after the Great War, there was chaos in Vienna, and it was then especially difficult for a Czech, and indeed for a girl without any thorough education, to get any work there. Milena was even considering becoming a prostitute. She suffered from malnutrition and sought translation jobs, mostly translations from German to Czech. Kafka's relationship with the powerful Milena became very stormy. They only met a few times IRL. Kafka asked Milena to move to Prague, and Milena wanted Kafka to come to Vienna. It was not long before Kafka, full of growing anxiety, 1921 refused to meet Milena. The continuing correspondence between them developed into a bizarre struggle. It was no longer a "one-way terror" like in the case of the relationship with Felice. F.K. and Milena were both sick. Kafka's T.B. had deteriorated - something he did not want to face but was forced to realize, among other things, mainly by his sister Ottla. Milena had apparently also had a bout of tuberculosis - and her husband also had become ill, and she told Kafka in letters, that she had to and wanted to take care of Ernst. Milena periodically also was a morphine addict and a cocainist, adventurous as she was. At this time, F.K.'s sister Valli married, which almost shocked Kafka, who was always extremely sensitive to changes. Milena thus did not want to leave her sick husband, and the relationship with F.K. ended in November 1920. From December 1920 to August 1921, Kafka lived at a sanatorium in the Tatra Mountains. In the spring of 1922, Milena visited F.K. in Prague a few times. F.K. generally saw Milena as more robust and had more insight than he, and he knew that she, although sick at the time, was an extraordinary woman fit for life. The last time they saw each other was in June 1923. Some say that The Castle is about Milena. Kafka began writing this novel on the evening of 27 January 1922, when he arrived at the mountain resort of Spindelmühle in Riesengebirge. M. Blanchot – the French writer hailed by Adorno - is questioning the prevalent assumption that there is a "Milena portrait" in Frieda of The Castle... Milena divorced Pollak in 1925. She became a resistance activist against Hitler in 1939 and died in Ravensbrück in 1944, aged 48.
During the Milena years Kafka composed The Castle, The truth seeking dog and The Hunger artist.
I n July of 1923, on a Baltic Sea trip with his sister Valli and her children, Kafka met Dora Diamant. Dora pretended to be 17, but she was at the time 25, while Kafka was 40. Dora [Dworja] Diamant [Dymant] originally came from Pabiance in Poland, and she was a daughter of a relatively successful Jewish orthodox Chassidic businessman. She seems to have been on the run from the prospects of life within the hometown's narrow Jewish community. Having lived in Krakow and Berlin, in July 1923, she worked as a volunteer taking care of children in Müritz, where she met Franz. They fell in love with each other, spent three weeks together, and soon decided to live together in Berlin. Kafka had, due to his bad health, taken leave from his work. Dora stayed with him in Berlin. Franz wanted to leave old times behind. Dora was teaching him Hebrew, a language he devoted much time to try to master. From time to time, F.K. thought of trying to leave Europe for Palestine. When Kafka met Dora, she held a sermon for the children in the orphanage where she worked, and on one of their first private meetings, she read the book of Isaiah aloud in Hebrew to him. Franz told her that she seemed to have qualities as an actor and urged that she become one, which later also happened. Later, in the autumn, Kafka wrote a letter to Dora's father and asked him for her hand. After consulting a Rabbi, the father answered back with a negative answer. F.K. was not an orthodox Jew, and this fact ended the whole matter. Living in Berlin with Dora was the first time F.K. lived with somebody outside his family. Dora seems to have been a clear-minded, intelligent, empathetic, and strong-willed young woman, and she also seems to have supported Kafka, encouraging him to shift to a more natural approach to life. Nevertheless, during this time, Kafka continued to write his "animal stories," like The Burrow, tales of utter loneliness. Eventually, T.B. forced him off to Prague in March 1924 and in April to the sanatorium Kierling at Vienna's outskirts. This sanatorium was small and quiet, in contrast to a hospital. Dora followed him there and stayed with him. Along with Kafka's friend, the physician Robert Klopstock, she was with him throughout the last time, and very soon, after having been visited by Max Brod and Elli, his eldest sister, Kafka died on June 3, 1924. On June 6, Milena's obituary appeared in Národní Lísty. On the 11th of June, Kafka was buried at the Jewish cemetery in Prague-Strachnitz. After Franz's death, she secretly kept an unknown number of Kafka's notebooks and several letters, which remained in her possession, despite Brod's request to her to give them over to him until they were stolen from her apartment in Berlin in a 1933, Gestapo raid. Dora died in London in 1952, aged 54. During the years with Dora, Kafka wrote Er, and Josefine the singer, his last story.
" A whole bunch of critics seems to have made up their mind to misinterpret him.” ( M. Brod )
M ax Brod - 1884-1968 - was born in Prague in an upper-class Jewish family. His father was a banker. Max studied law and graduated in 1907. He married in 1913 and worked at the postal service in Prague until 1924. In 1910 he became active in the Zionist movement and was in 1918 a founder of the Jewish National Council of Czechoslovakia. Between 1918 and 1929, Max worked as a governmental press and information officer. The receptive, multitalented, and energetic Brod later became a literary critic for Prager Tageblatt and a music critic. In his books, he was strongly influenced by a kind of decadence called "Indifferentism," e.g., Tod den Toten 1906 and Schloss Nornepygge. Brod's early works often display the cultural clashes between Jews and Christians in the early 20ieth century, as in Jüdinnen and Arnold Beer: Das Schicksal eines Juden. Later works frequently reflected Brod's interest in Zionism. Among his most famous works is the erotically charged Die Frau, Nach der man sich sehnt (1927), the historical novel Tycho Brahe´s Weg zu Gott, and a book on ideas, Heidentum, Christentum, Judentum (1921). In his widespread biography of Kafka, Brod emphasizes Kafka as a person possessing a certain distinctive talent, timidity, and a vast mysteriousness, but Brod also describes him as a physically bold person. In Franz Kafka, Glauben und Lehre Brod puts the religious aspect in the center, but also pointed at Flaubert's influence on Kafka. Brod focuses on how the FK´s aphorisms crystallize a doctrine of the "indestructibility" of human life and how Kafka claimed spiritual life as the only true life. Brod, in 1953 adapted Kafka's The Castle for the theatre. Brod here even incorporated the parable Before the Law. Kafka's own "testament," which he left among his papers to Brod, clearly stated:
Maybe I will this time not come on my feet again, / ... / In this case, therefore: my last will concerning all that I have written: Of all that I have written the only books that counts are: The judgment, The Stoker, The Metamorphosis, In the Penal Colony, A Country Doctor and the story A hunger artist. ( The few copies of Betrachtung can be left as they are...). When I say that these five books and this story counts, I do mean by this, that I have no desire that they should be printed anew and be passed on to the future. On the contrary: would they completely go lost, it would suit my real desire. If people want to keep the small books, I will of course not try to hinder that. However, everything else from my hand ( in print in magazines, in manuscripts and in letters ), must without exception, unread ( though I do not object to you looking through them, but rather you did not, and in any case: do not let anyone else see them…) be burned, and this as soon as possible, this I beg you Franz. "
Brod intensely felt he could not complete the wish of his friend, and he did not. This decision has later become very much debated. Through his edits, Brod has mainly of the three novels, 1925-27, left an important and lasting imprint in the entire History of Literature. Many people worldwide have read The Trial, Amerika, and The Castle in the same costume in which MB de facto "handed them over to the world" ... One might in the structure of these editions meet, if not a hidden agenda, yet strong preferences and tendencies, which was all Brod´s own. Many later interpretations of Kafka's works, the “Brodian Kafka,” deal with an imaginary writer. It is this imaginary Kafka, who largely, and for a long time, has become Kafka. Writing about a true, a real Kafka, is still impossible today because of the manuscripts' conditions. Critical editions are of some help, but Brod's damage is irreversible and cannot be overestimated. Beissner has summarized the criticism often nowadays directed at Max Brod:
”Max Brod has made program music out of the works of Franz Kafka.”. It seems evident that Brod, much earlier, should have presented the world with the Kafka heritage in its entirety. However, it can be supposed that Brod himself thought he was utterly loyal to his late friend. In 1939 Brod migrated with his wife to Palestine and did not return to Prague until 1964. He died in 1968 in Tel Aviv.
LIFE AS A BARELY KNOWN WRITER OF SHORT STORIES What was then the big reaction of Kafka in relation to his time's major historical and cultural events? Was it one of actual rebellion, a subversive, revolutionary one, or was he an aesthetic, more interested in using his environment and the horrors of his time for his enjoyment, quite like we know he used people around him, like Felice? The authorship of F.K. has perhaps more to do with Modernity as a spiritual phenomenon than with the war and social struggle's direct experience. His "soulmate" Robert Walser was a more active portrayer of daily social life. Kafka's The Verdict and Amerika were both created before the outbreak of the Great War, i.e., within the Habsburg empire's structure. Kafka's work only in part, or in aspect, mirrors the political and cultural climate. There was a spiritual emptiness, anguish, and rootlessness that Lavelles, Maritain, Mounier, Sartre, and others in existentialism later formulated. This philosophy was mainly about the impossibility of formulating maxims to live by and was affected by Nietzsche's (1844-1900) thoughts. Both existentialism and modernity itself were also about the enormous confusion created by Freud's ideas. The existentialists would later think of Kafka as a clear-sighted predecessor, formulating insights concerning Modern Man's conditions. ---------------------------------------
After his first publication, Betrachtung, Kafka became primarily known among connoisseurs in Prague and Vienna as a writer in the Robert Walser style. He did not seem to seek success as a writer to any prize. On the contrary, he knew that he had enormous talent, and he was determined not to waste it. Kafka worked extremely conscientiously and was careful with every aspect of the craftsmanship, up to the choice of paper and typos. His quarrels with his publishers were endless. His goal was to write something nobody had written before.
DEATH OF FRANZ KAFKA
Kafka died in Vienna from tuberculosis - after many years of sickness - at the age of 40 years and 11 months. He was buried in the Jewish Cemetery in Syranice in Prague in the presence of but a few people, including Dora. On the tombstone, his name is engraved in Czech and German. The names of the parents were added later on the same stone in 1931 and 1934. Kafka´s three sisters do not have any graves. Elli and Valli and their husbands were both murdered between 1941 and 1942, maybe in Lodz, and Ottla in Auschwitz 1943. On a marble stone, close to Franz´ tombstone, are engraved the following: ”In memory of the sisters of the famous Prague-Jewish author Franz Kafka, murdered during the Nazi occupation 1942-1943.”. ------------------------------------------------- -------------------------------------------------
LITERARY TRADITION & ITS INFLUENCE UPON FK.
a.) GERMAN LITERARY ROMANTICISM.
The German Romantic movement around the year of 1800 was very complex in structure, composed of elements of distinct revolt as it was, and at the same time marked by various forms of irony. Irony was the soul and the mark of Romanticism, and this irony was in turn a very complex one, which the writers themselves seldom refrained from pointing out. Thus the assault from Romanticism on Man and society was twofold. It is easy to perceive, that the Kunstmärchen is an assault on the ordinary Märchen. Beneath the surface of purest, seductive beauty there is almost everywhere deep despair lurking. In the Kunstmärchen there is often revealed not only doubt concerning the revolution in France, but also deep existential despair and gloomy sadness. Kunstmärchen has traits of the modern genre of “Dark fantasy”. It is noteworthy that Kafka all his life returned to the German romantic authors, holding them in high esteem. Among the authors of the Kunstmärchen were Ludwig Tieck, Novalis, Clemens Brentano, von Chamisso and E.T.A. Hoffmann. Tieck´s Der blonde E. can be read in connection with Novalis´ Hyazint und Rosenblüte. Tieck´s strange landscape almost returns with Novalis. It resolves in a strange new supernatural - surreal - dimension, which might remind us of the final chapter in FK´s Amerika. The dimension in the fictive universe in the final scenes of H. und R. actually surpasses the ontology of the work. It is kind of fiction within fiction. In this small tale the young man, Hyazinth, grows up in a flowering mountain landscape, and he early senses that he is in love with Rosenblüte, but is driven by a strange anxiety to foreign countries, far away from home. Here with his heart pounding he suddenly falls asleep on a meadow. Then the Dream brings him with music away to something very familiar. And out of the familiar Rosenblüte springs forth and Hyazinth is reunited, not only with her, but also with his parents and his homeland. H. and R. soon get several children, yes many, because – as it is stated in the end of the tale - :”at that time people got as many children as they liked.” It is clearly a parody on the famous educational novel, Bildungsroman, and on the fairy tale as well. The story is far too rash, and it tells it’s moral almost brutally. Strange is that the story ends within a dream. Reality vanishes. By ending within a dream, the story thus forms a solemn, heavenly, eternal cliffhanger. We might think of Novalis´ aphorisms: “… a Märchen [is] in fact a dream-picture /…/ but without context.”; A Märchen is:”… a collection of wondrous things and happenings – for example a musical phantasy.” Kafka later came to surpass Romanticism, in transforming it. He does so in multiple ways. R. Caillois in a classic investigation on the relationship between Romanticism and Modernity: ”/…../ Romanticism essentially found itself incapable of producing myths. Of course it perfunctorily produced tales and ghost stories and fooled itself into the fantastic; but, in doing this, it departed more and more from the myth.”
Romanticism transcended itself in abandoning exotism, in looking for the centre of power, and it searched for myth, thrill and meaning in the fantastic, in the evasive, in the myth of itself, in the midst of the commonplace, just like Modernism did, creating its myth in the centre of the new world in the great city. Now Kafka did not follow Modernism suit. The thrill and myth that Kafka created is about the intrapsychic and the inner life of Modern Man. The perception of this myth of Kafka is condensed in the concept of the Kafkaesque. We could not however find a myth about Prague, modern Prague, in the works of Kafka. Kafka is not interested in the city of Prague of 1910. In his “myth” Kafka incorporates episodes and figures from literature together with images of people, individuals appearing homeless and unconnected to each other. Kafka also uses allusions and other special literary means to tell stories, where connections to real places and familiar milieus are impossible to find. In doing so he is severed from the other great modernists, who often underline that they are living in the midst of the hectic life of the modern urban capital. We partly recognize phenomena in the world of F. Kafka, but as soon as we get closer to the familiar, we realize that we have been fooled. We find ourselves in a caricature of Modernity with trams, trains and telephones, but we are in a void, and it is like we are surrounded by a very old world and a world essentially beyond time. We find ourselves, and many critics has noticed this, in kind of an eternal, ”greyish-brownish”, shadowy Middle Age. Nothing new threatens to break in, nothing old yields for a revival. Nothing disastrous has occurred, nothing of the sort will ever come. The colorful novel Amerika is of course the exception. FK´s Amerika is in one important respect very much a parody in advance of science fiction and fantasy. And with Kafka we are also often in a certain sort of nausea. We always get the feeling that there is something subversive going on in these writings of Kafka. If one cannot absorb and enjoy the interplay between different vertical layers appearing in the German romantic Märchen, it is improbable that one could accept the works of Kafka. To read a Kunstmärchen by Tieck or others literally, ”flat”, makes reading totally fruitless. Irony was characteristic of Romanticism. Irony may often have a highly critical dimension, but may here also often have been a passive game. Philosophical speculation can look upon irony as a form of knowledge, can suggest that irony is questioning, and implicitly also asking itself for meaning, at the same time, like some sort of the Self-consciousness of Self-consciousness. Self-consciousness comes before irony, is a prerequisite of irony. But irony can be a hint to others that I am in Self-consciousness. Irony can sometimes be seen, as by Jankélévitch, as a “happy consciousness”. a “Bonne connaissance”, a concept used by J. in opposite to the “unhappy consciousness” put forth by Hegel in his 1807 Phänomenologie. Irony might in its extended form be the intense enjoying of Self-consciousness itself. This might be the case with Kafka. Irony is dynamic in its steady creation of new space. Irony is a rare species of live investigator for truth; - it questions standing as an intermédiare. Irony is a way of mental expansion. Irony is among other things a perfect defense. It defends against every authority, and implicitly insists that authority never has been of any use. The irony is - in itself - never an authority. It is certainly never a compromise! It sometimes, during certain periods in history, becomes overexploited, and then it disappears, and is replaced, at least for a while, by the straight discourse – before it reenters the scene again, all fresh. Irony often comes forth in times of change, and often it inaugurates such an era. Irony may in certain periods – often in media - get a vanguard position, and get a position where it has to take care of itself, and it then does not to care much about anchoring new hope into new realities, - it is confinium – the transition itself and might act in hubris, running wild. It is not dangerous in this state, but just fades away. Generally irony also has a built-in sustaining power in its antithetical, "dialectical" structure, and this gives the ironist in his confinium a strong, dangerous sense of freedom, It can be a terrific weapon against oppressors, not for oppressors …, and can ruin many a wall and rampart. The freedom of irony is a kind of freedom that is freedom from, that is: it is determined as a negation, a negative freedom. For Kierkegaard irony was situated between the aesthetic and the ethical stage on the long and winding road to being religious, just like the category of the “interesting” was. The aesthetic has in the irony not yet passed into the ethical, the "realization of the common /good/". Irony thus can be used for enjoyment, but also as we have seen, more radical, in for the use of breaking of new grounds. Irony is a negation and a sibling to Adorno´s creative “no” of negative dialectics. When irony serves as the preparer of the new, it is a kind of "double movement". It demands elasticity by its performer, it demands youthful powers, and it requires big funds of talent: the timing of the "ironic means". It is the power-consuming in its protracted tension!
It is difficult to stop irony, once it has been born. The meaning of irony is that it is not one. It utilizes the relative and, in this, in its dynamism, it has a utopian character. Thus it can be active for instance in the central parts of philosophy to re-evaluate and restructure meaning within such a cultural sphere. Irony is seldom the questioning of just one phenomenon; it almost immediately proceeds to subvert a whole cluster of objects. Irony is relation. Irony has clear limits. It puts in question! It is a negation. Therefore irony remains a confinium, because it is quite unable to assert anything new! It is qua irony no more than a counterpart of something else. But it nevertheless IS and asserts! On a meta-level it still asserts something. Irony has problematic variants: non-transparent, secret irony, which is irony known exclusively to the ironic in splendid isolation: In the non-transparency – i.e. if the ironist does not allow the recipient to notice the irony - if the ironic means are omitted by the sender, only the ironist himself enjoys the ironic “meaning”. He has thus secretly robbed the world of new meaning to other than himself. The covert ironist is ironist incognito. No one will ever know about the small orgy of the ironist. And it can also be found in a third form, semi-transparent narcissist irony, hovering between overt and covert irony. This happens when the recipient is not sure of whether it is irony or not. Such an irony can sometimes be found in Romanticism. Irony is all relation, never essence, never substance. Why irony comes up is often a mystery. Solving this mystery can give us the key to the spirit of the time and of the environment of it. The Romantic ideologist Friedrich Schlegel asserted, that no great art is produced without irony. Ljunggren writes about irony and adds of the ironic, in his The Aesthetic Systems, a shaking portrayal:
“Irony is the genius of the Subject's sovereignty. The brilliant ironist stands above everything, and nothing is sacred to him, nothing of importance except his own Self, and he overrides even this Self. He creates, but is not serious about his creations. He elevates them again and is then retreating within himself. The artist must therefore be ironical towards his own work; his ideas shall not be understandable for the crowd; His calling is to live and to create without purpose, without intention. " Central to Romanticism and Romantic Irony were the writings of Fr. Schlegel, Die Heimat der Ironie, and Ironie der Ironie, Novalis´ Lichtpunkt des Schwebens as well as the theories of Karl Solger. The Romantic Irony excelled in the soluble fragmentary philosophical speculation, which sometimes is described as the "irony of irony". The "insidious" thing with irony is also, that it is not just a double in its expression, it caters not only towards an addressee, but it infiltrates and does so to the very extreme its sender, and this one must be on guard against irony disarming him/her likewise. Thus the German romantics said of their irony that it could annihilate everything, that it was universal: "Ironie ist der alles vernichtende Blick”. Irony can be attack. Irony might also be used exclusively as a shield, a shield against having to take stand. It can be used as a shield against the feeling of utter loneliness, and against the insight about this. The loneliness of a lonely ironist can be easier to bear, than the carrying of a shield against loneliness by a lonely serious person. An ironic is so to say, “by profession” … a loner. Irony is loneliness per se, and by definition. There are no real ironic masses. Among the romantic story-tellers Kafka valued, Franz Grillparzer stands out. Grillparzer, an Austrian solicitor, in 1848 published the small book The Poor Fiddler. It was originally planned to be an autobiography, but he rewrote it a dozen times over a period of several years, and when it was finally published, it was in a diminutive form, and more of a saga, compared to the original plan. This book stayed very close to Kafka´s heart his entire life. The Italian Germanicist Magris renders this book to be central to the ”Habsburgian myth”, a myth that centers around the decay of the empire, a decay which was in part obscured by the complex structure of the literary genre which “Kunstmärchen” composes. One is struck, in reading The Poor Fiddler, by certain similarities in “tone” and "color" to the "greyish-brownish" of the environments in Kafka´s works. There are also other similarities too: Grillparzer was sophisticated, very well educated and a solid skeptic. He had a deep aesthetic feeling, and a tragic outlook on life. Anarchism is always lurking as a subtext in his works, as it is in Kafka too. In the center of Grillparzer´s tale there is the protagonist Jakob, son of a wealthy man, whose life is spent in misery and in an unhappy overwhelming love with music. The narrator tells us that Jakob is undertaking psychological investigations, and Grillparzer clearly is anticipating Freud´s ideas in the famous Psykopatologie des Alltagsleben. Jakob is a monomaniac, but not to the degree of Joseph K.. Jacob deeply falls in love with Barbara, a woman who later survives him, and on the last page of the story she is crying from her heart over him, his death and his life. Grillparzer´s description of Jacob's inability to play his violin, but his holding on to the playing, is a small masterpiece. Parts of Grillparzer´s implicit reasoning will seem similar to Kafka's reflections on art, music and life. Kafka all his life had sort of an unlucky relationship to music. The most striking similarity is, however, the overall tone and at matters on the structural plane. The outlines of the characters are mainly built through the display of gestures, of movements of hands, feet and the head, of the figures. Jacob is a kind of hero which, placed within tragic irony, strongly reminds the modern reader of the Kafka heroes. But - and this is important - G.s hero is a whole person, be it a very limited one. He thus is a character, a singularity, and no mere figure. The extreme and peculiar sentimentality of this story is often contrasted with skepticism, irony, bright-eyed reflection and the fleet-footed realism. It is admirable how Grillparzer managed to create a distinct whole out of this thus many times rewritten story. Grillparzer somehow creates a subtext that is very elusive and haunting. It is here equally important to mention von Kleist, who was greatly admired by FK. Kafka mentions in his diaries his public reading of Michael Kohlhaas: Kafka: ”I read the beginning of Michael Kohlhaas in the Toynbeehalle. It is a real failure. Bad theme, badly executed story; finally I was swimming around in the text, without being able to find any meaning in it at all. During the afternoon I was trembling from hunger to read; I could not even keep my mouth closed.” ------------------------------------------------------------------ In structural ironic literary discourse different layers can relate to each other thus: one layer is covering another and this, the covered layer, will be made visible by the use of ironic means. In order to be able to perceive irony in all its complexity, which it gains in structural form, it might be necessary to adopt a kind of “floating attention”, not unlike the one that Freud once demanded from his disciples in Vienna. Perhaps this is the case by Kafka. And it might be so, that the fact, that this might be the case, is our main subject of study.
b.) GUSTAVE FLAUBERT.
Kafka's favorite writer throughout his life was Gustave Flaubert. Kafka read a lot. Inter alia Cervantes, Goethe, Lagerlof, Kleist, Grillparzer, Dostoyevsky, Werfel, Stifter, Keller, Sterne and Strindberg. He encountered the works of Flaubert early in life, probably already in his early teens. Flaubert's radical aestheticism and his intense style fascinated him and it is likely that Flaubert's novel style initiated what later came to be such a completely independent and unique technique of FK´s, although the works of Flaubert were written in a completely different era and in a different cultural context, in a transition from Romanticism to Realism. Gustave was born 1821 in Rouen as a son of a doctor, A.- C. Flaubert. He began writing very early and came to study law in Paris, as a pretext. By 1843 he had the first version of L’Éducation Sentimentale, ready, a somewhat greyish, dreamy, tedious story. This novel however came to be FK´s absolute favorite. This book has a circular composition with GF using ”le style indirect libre”, SIL, ( free indirect speech ) and is a model example for this style, a style very convenient for satire. GF often worked on a manuscript for 10 years. He labored with them. GF: “The pen is a heavy oar.” Often with Flaubert there is a deep resignation in relation to love and life as a whole. There is also something static about most of them. L’Éducation Sentimentale has a great rhythm, which Kafka enjoyed. Flaubert was influenced by, and contributed himself to the famous ideas of poesie pure, and of l´art pour l´art. Flaubert:
"What seems very beautiful to me, and what I would like to write, is a book that was about nothing at all, a book with no connection whatsoever to the outer world, which solely was kept together by the sheer force of the style of it /…/ a book almost without any subject at all. " In the following passage Flaubert´s irony is formed by a sophisticated kind of interplay between rows of events. Flaubert is putting part of the events of the fiction in sharp contrast to other events, letting them elucidate each other ironically. It is about Rudolphe and Emma Bovary, where R. is seeking contact with E. in the tower of a building high up above the square market in Rouen: “His arms were folded across his knees, and thus lifting his face towards Emma, close by her, he looked fixedly at her. She noticed in his eyes small golden lines radiating from black pupils; she even smelt the perfume of the pomade that made his hair glossy. Then a faintness came over her; she recalled the Viscount who had waltzed with her at Vaubyessard, and his beard exhaled like this air an odor of vanilla and citron, and mechanically she half-closed her eyes the better to breathe it in. But in making this movement, as she leant back in her chair, she saw in the distance, right on the line of the horizon, the old diligence, the "Hirondelle," that was slowly descending the hill of Leux, dragging after it a long trail of dust. It was in this yellow carriage that Leon had so often come back to her, and by this route down there that he had gone forever. She fancied she saw him opposite at his windows; then all grew confused; clouds gathered; it seemed to her that she was again turning in the waltz under the light of the lusters on the arm of the Viscount, and that Leon was not far away, that he was coming; and yet all the time she was conscious of the scent of Rudolphe's head by her side. This sweetness of sensation pierced through her old desires, and these, like grains of sand under a gust of wind, eddied to and fro in the subtle breath of the perfume which suffused her soul. She opened wide her nostrils several times to drink in the freshness of the ivy round the capitals. She took off her gloves; she wiped her hands, and then fanned her face with her handkerchief, while athwart the throbbing of her temples she heard the murmur of the crowd and the voice of the councilor intoning his phrases. He said —"Continue, persevere; listen neither to the suggestions of routine, nor to the over-hasty councils of a rash empiricism. "Apply yourselves, above all, to the amelioration of the soil, to good manures, to the development of the equine, bovine, ovine, and porcine races. Let these shows be to you pacific arenas, where the victor in leaving it will hold forth a hand to the vanquished, and will fraternize with him in the hope of better success. And you, aged servants, humble domestics, whose hard labor no Government up to this day has taken into consideration, come hither to receive the reward of your silent virtues, and be assured that the state henceforward has its eye upon you; that it encourages you, protects you; that it will accede to your just demands, and alleviate as much as in it lies the burden of your painful sacrifices." Monsieur Lieuvain then sat down; Monsieur Derozerays got up, beginning another speech. His was not perhaps as florid as that of the councilor, but it recommended itself by a more direct style, that is to say, by more special knowledge and more elevated considerations. Thus the praise of the Government took up less space in it; religion and agriculture more. He showed in it the relations of these two, and how they had always contributed to civilization. Rudolphe with Madame Bovary was talking dreams, presentiments, and magnetism. Going back to the cradle of society, the orator painted those fierce times when men lived on acorns in the heart of woods. Then they had left off the skins of beasts, had put on cloth, tilled the soil, and planted the vine. Was this a good, and in this discovery was there not more of injury than of gain? Monsieur Derozerays set himself this problem. From magnetism little by little Rudolphe had come to affinities, and while the president was citing Cincinnatus and his plough, Diocletian, planting his cabbages, and the Emperors of China inaugurating the year by the sowing of seed, the young man was explaining to the young woman that these irresistible attractions find their cause in some previous state of existence. "Thus we," he said, "why did we come to know one another? What chance willed it? It was because across the infinite, like two streams that flows but to unite; our special bents of mind had driven us towards each other." And he seized her hand; she did not withdraw it. "For good farming generally!" cried the president. "Just now, for example, when I went to your house." "To Monsieur Bizat of Quincampoix." "Did I know I should accompany you?" "Seventy francs." "A hundred times I wished to go; and I followed you—I remained." "Manures!" "And I shall remain to-night, to-morrow, all other days, all my life!" "To Monsieur Caron of Argueil, a gold medal!" "For I have never in the society of any other person found so complete a charm." "To Monsieur Bain of Givry-Saint-Martin." "And I shall carry away with me the remembrance of you." "For a merino ram!" "But you will forget me; I shall pass away like a shadow." "To Monsieur Belot of Notre-Dame." "Oh, no! I shall be something in your thought, in your life, shall I not?" "Porcine race; prizes—equal, to Messrs. Leherisse and Cullembourg, sixty francs!" Rudolphe was pressing her hand, and he felt it all warm and quivering like a captive dove that wants to fly away; but, whether she was trying to take it away or whether she was answering his pressure; she made a movement with her fingers. He exclaimed— "Oh, I thank you! You do not repulse me! You are good! You understand that I am yours! Let me look at you; let me contemplate you!" A gust of wind that blew in at the window ruffled the cloth on the table, and in the square below all the great caps of the peasant women were uplifted by it like the wings of white butterflies fluttering. "Use of oil-cakes," continued the president. He was hurrying on: "Flemish manure-flax-growing-drainage-long leases-domestic service." Rudolphe was no longer speaking. They looked at one another. A supreme desire made their dry lips tremble, and wearily, without an effort, their fingers intertwined. "Catherine Nicaise Elizabeth Leroux, of Sassetot-la-Guerriere, for fifty-four years of service at the same farm, a silver medal - , value: twenty-five francs!" "Where is Catherine Leroux?" repeated the councilor. She did not present herself, and one could hear voices whispering— "Go up!" "Don't be afraid!" "Oh, how stupid she is!" "Well, is she there?" cried Tuvache. "Yes; here she is." "Then let her come up!" Then there came forward on the platform a little old woman with timid bearing, who seemed to shrink within her poor clothes. /……./”
It is hard not to notice the irony in this passage. But it´s not the auctorial irony that is the most interesting here, or with Flaubert´s style generally. Weinberg has dealt with the problem concerning the sensitivity of different readers. Brombert asserts: ”Irony in the structure of the novel points to the steady intervention from the author, and conceives sort of an internal commentary.” Flaubert is a classic example of ”style indirect libre” (SIL). Some have questioned the concept of SIL and others argue that the SIL and irony are incompatible. A possible third voice in Flaubert´s story would then be someone looking over or the talking over the narrator's shoulder. We easily realize that the advanced reader of Flaubert is dealing with more voices than one. Weinberg claims that a third voice implies "uncertainty". Note that this refers exclusively to uncertainty regarding precisely the question: Who is speaking? In Flaubert we often meet with a more or less revolutionary thought. The repelling and the sordid mingle with “the natural” is paramount in GFs works. Both Flaubert and Kafka resented conservatism, especially the conservatism of Romanticism, like they both resented compromise. Sexuality appearing in broad daylight, during the reign of bourgeoisie, is a sign of Modernity being born. The clever insidious Flaubertian burlesque inspired surrealism, Rimbaud and it inspired Kafka. -------------------------------------------------------
c.) ROBERT WALSER.
'Walser is a Kafka inside-out.'
( G. Davenport ) Certain similarities between the writings of Kleist and Kafka – an interesting subject in itself - were pointed out by the Swiss writer Robert Walser ( 1878-1956) in a review of Der Heizer in 1916. Kafka was familiar with Walser, who also was a writer of novels. FK and Walser (1878-1956) in fact often were published in the same literary journals. The novelist R. Musil, working as a newspaperman and critic in Vienna, had to assure the general public that it actually was about two different writers. They were sometimes using about the same literary means. The mood in their short stories made them seem strikingly secretly connected. One of Walser´s famous short stories was Der Spatziergang, which has some similarities with certain chapters in Franz Kafka's Amerika. His early novel Jakob von Gunten was one of Kafka´s absolute favorites, and this one reminds one too very much of the romantic Märchen. It can be looked upon as both a surrealist novel as well as a novel of ideas and may in many ways have inspired and had an influence on Kafka´s Amerika. In relation to the Walser short stories Kafka's - we are talking about the pieces that are in the debut collection Betrachtung - are more intense and darker in tone. If the works of Walser are more marked by playfulness, Kafka in the early stories of this debut collection came up with a more radical form of experimental art, with elements that can be characterized in terms of anxiety and of the bizarre. Walser wrote prose as well as poetry. His last book, Die Rose, appeared in 1924, only months after the death of Franz Kafka. In 1929 Walser was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and he spent his last twenty-seven in Waldau and other asylums in Switzerland showing but slight interest in literature. A detailed comparative study has been written by H.D. Zimmermann, and another by Böschenstein, comparing FK´s Betrachtung to Walser´s Berliner Skizzen. Even if Walser had a greater reputation than Kafka had in the early decades of the 20ieth century, it is clear that he was underestimated.
d.) CHARLES DICKENS.
Observing Kafka having literary favorites of a most diverging kind, favorites who also served as raw models in writing to him, like Flaubert and Dickens, whose views with respect to literary realism and satirical attack are very different, we are perplexed. The immense flow of images and ideas and good humor in the flow of Dickens´ discourse stand in deep contrast to the darker, but rallying, tone which Flaubert strikes within the reader. The descriptions of contemporary life and nature are in both authors of highest rank and are equal to the ones of a Balzac, a Melville, a Strindberg, at their best. We are already familiar with what Kafka learnt from Flaubert. Charles Dickens ( 1812-1870 ) seems first of all to have stimulated Kafka in the handling of the detail, with the technique of letting utterly small details change the course of the story. The flow and the ease with which Dickens always told his stories were also simply seductive to Kafka. The third thing might be something G. Orwell later pointed out in his famous essay on Dickens, namely, that his characters seem to be acting in a ”never-never land, a kind of eternity”. This is sometimes also the case with the characters in some of Kafka´s works. Dickens´ flow, musicality and his sense for “the seemingly unnecessary detail” makes him a great teller of adventures, and is part of a technique, which makes his book “page-turners”. What we are meeting with here also is “expressionist” Entfremdung, [ estrangement ]. Compared to Sklovskij on the metonymical style of Tolstoy:
”With Tolstoy the concept of estrangement consists in this: he is not calling the object by name, but is describing it as if it was the first time he saw it and also describes events as if it were the first time ever they were taking place; in describing something he uses not ordinary descriptions, but uses partial descriptions used for similar, corresponding parts with other objects or events.”
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