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Kafka: Two Parables October 17, 2016

Posted by anagasto in art, philosophy.
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Many of Kafka’s stories are depressing and  can’t be read  just anytime, unless indeed they are very short, shocking, and absurd like this one:

Give Up!

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An Imperial Message

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Kafka’s greatest parable is about the dying Emperor of China who is sending out a personal message to you.
You are his subject.
Kafka explains why it will take infinitely long for this message to reach you :

English version:

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old beijing city wall

The Beijing city wall : the larger version of the photo is at http://www.studiolum.com/wang/chinese/kessel-beijing/004.jpg

German original:

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Before the Law

A man is spending most of his life waiting at the door of The Law to be allowed in, but the guardian discourages him with vague warnings about the greatness of his purpose and the insignificance of his person.

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roadside-thistles

So he doesn´t try. Instead, often bored and sometimes desperate, he watches the guardian and every one of his features including the lice in the fur of his coat collar. —

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roadside-poppies

He has to wait for years and years, and just before he dies he is told that the door had been kept open only for him.

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In Kafka’s writing, nature is nothing, and the people are everything, but they are drab and faintly cruel. There are however tiny little specks of light: private fun of the verbal kind.

Kafka’s ultimate greatness is in his style and does not translate.
Just as Hemingway set a standard for the English language, Kafka re-invented German on a level not reached since Goethe.

But, while Hemingway established a rather simple ideal of economy easy to grasp and imitate, Kafka expanded the language, its possibilities, its vocabulary and also its syntax more than anyone had ever done in prose including even Goethe who could only show his reach in verse.

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The translations are from the website of Ian Johnston

About Kafka’s life and  his city see
http://victorian.fortunecity.com/vermeer/287/index.html  —  (quote) “Well, what can you say about a man who lived at home until he was 40 (more or less), despite difficult relations with his father, had a crappy job, tried to pass himself off as a slacker claiming he did nothing but sit around and accomplished next to nothing, cf. the Letter to his Father, was terminally depressed, believed he was an utter failure (according to his father’s standards), and proved to be one of the greatest writers of the 20th century (even if against his own wishes)?”

A great collection of Kafka texts in German :  http://www.textlog.de/32121.html
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