Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Kafka's humor & pathos

I shall never get home like this; my flourishing practice is lost; a successor is robbing me, but to no purpose since he cannot replace me; in my house the loathsome groom wreaks his havoc; Rosy is his victim; I refuse to imagine it. Naked, exposed to the frost of this most wretched of times, with an earthly cart and unearthly horses, I roam about, an old man. My fur coat is hanging from the back of the cart but I cannot reach it, and no one from the agile rabble of patients lifts a finger. Duped! Decieved! One response to a mis-ring of the night-bell - and there's no making amends. - Kafka (from "A Country Doctor")

The country doctor ends up, as do other Kafkan protagonists - the bucket rider, the hunter Gracchus, most of all K. the land surveyor - neither alive nor dead, neither in true motion with a purpose nor in stasis. Expectations - theirs and ours - are thwarted by the literal, the realm of fact. We do not know whether Kafka is or is not allegorizing the Jewish condition in his time and place, or his own situation as a writer. Somehow we apprehend that Kafka gets away with his own mode of ngation: cognitively there is a release from repression, and the country doctor's fate is exemplary in a Jewish way, or has some relation to the experiential cost of Kafka's confirmation as an author. - Harold Bloom

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