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Kafka - Anyone Else a Fan?

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  • Kafka - Anyone Else a Fan?

    I have recently procured several of Franz Kafka's short stories and also The Trial, a longer book, and so far I have found them to be very insightful and clever. Has anyone else read any of his stories? What were your respective opinions?

  • #2
    I've read his Metamorphosis, which was quite interesting (what I also found interesting was the difference in the English translation to the German original), but other than reading about his works on various websites, I haven't really read anything else of his. The Metamorphosis was depressing enough. :)

    You might be interested in this site. They've got some public domain English translations, too.

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    • #3
      Kafka is pretty much standard reading. You might turn the question around and ask who has NOT read his work. There have been Kafka vogues over the years, and the journalism (dare I say publicity?) surrounding his work can make him seem more rock star than author. Ignore all that stuff, and just read his work.

      The novels The Trial, The Castle, and America are all worthwhile, although unfinished, of course. The Castle has the same basic structure as The Trial, too, but handles its material in a more ponderous manner, so that it does not so much peter out as collapse, rather like a late Mahler symphony.

      The stories are justifiably well known. "The Metamorphosis," "The Judgement," "A Hunger Artist," "In the Penal Colony," "Jackals and Arabs," "The Burrow" . . . the list goes on and on.

      I suggest you try the stories in German. The language is very simple and lucid.

      LSN

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      • #4
        Originally posted by L_Stearns_Newburg
        Kafka is pretty much standard reading. You might turn the question around and ask who has NOT read his work.
        Um... :oops:

        I read the comic book about him with the Robert Crumb illustrations, but that's about it. Oh, I think there was an adaptation of 'The Trial' in Deadline once. So that's two Kafka-related comics, but no actual Kafka.
        "That which does not kill us, makes us stranger." - Trevor Goodchild

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        • #5
          Dee,

          You might find the Orson Welles version of The Trial an interesting movie.

          Don't worry about it, though. You have a free pass to be "the man without a cultural memory." So you don't read Kafka or Mann or Coleridge? It's not as if you're deprived or anything. I think of you simply as someone who follows his own plaisir in these matters, and to hell with the "standard" reading lists. Your choice, and all that. And it gives you the opportunity to sneer at idiots like me, who have, over a long lifetime, read "western literature" in a fairly systematic way. Clearly, I am passأ©, right?

          LSN

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          • #6
            Jude, thanks for the link, I shall check that out in due course.
            I think I should quite like to have a go at the German versions of several of his stories, though currently I am content reading through the translations. It would, at least, help me remember German which I sadly no longer study. I don't want to forget it, that would be a real shame!
            Of course, I take your point that Kafka is standard reading, which is why I thought it was high time I actually got down to reading it myself. Very depressing, I thought, but very good.

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            • #7
              I have Kafka's Collected Short Stories from when I read him as part of my European Literature degree, but haven't picked it up since then probably, but I enjoyed most of what I read as I recall.

              IIRC we're lucky to have any of Kafka's work since he instructed his friend, Max Brod, to destroy all his unpublished writings and prevent the reprinting of his published works after his death. Fortunately Brod choose to ignore him, but again iirc there's some controversy about how far Brod went in editing Kafka's work before their posthumous publication.
              _"For an eternity Allard was alone in an icy limbo where all the colours were bright and sharp and comfortless.
              _For another eternity Allard swam through seas without end, all green and cool and deep, where distorted creatures drifted, sometimes attacking him.
              _And then, at last, he had reached the real world – the world he had created, where he was God and could create or destroy whatever he wished.
              _He was supremely powerful. He told planets to destroy themselves, and they did. He created suns. Beautiful women flocked to be his. Of all men, he was the mightiest. Of all gods, he was the greatest."

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              • #8
                It's no big deal, really. It is just that the original question, "Has anyone else read any of his stories?", struck me as a bit peculiar -- rather as if someone had asked, "Has anyone else read any of that fellow Shakespeare?" Kafka doesn't quite have the literary and cultural cachet attached to Shakespeare's work, but it's not that farfetched as a comparison. Kafka is part of the modern consciousness. People use the word "kafkaesque" to describe certain types of bizarre circumstances; the reasons should be obvious after reading Der Prozeأ? and "Die Verwandlung."

                Just as is the case with "Shakey," there are undoubtedly intelligent, literate people who haven't read any Kafka (take a bow, Dee), it's just not the expected thing. (We shall henceforth refer to our friend Mr. Crosier as "The Surprising Dee." He's good at that.)

                I just reread "Das Urteil" about 2 months ago, when I was trying to sharpen up my German after not having used it for a long time. Excellent story.

                LSN

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                • #9
                  I've read Kafka. It seemed to be very much the thing to do back in the days when everyone was wearing long raincoats and listening to Joy Division. I would say that Metamorphosis made the most impact on me. It freaked me out to realise that if I turned into a huge insect then, with the best will in the world, my family probably wouldn't be able to love me any more. Of course, this situation could be a metaphor for all sorts of things from developing an unpleasant disfiguring disease to becoming a Blair supporter. Scary stuff. 8O
                  \"...an ape reft of his tail, and grown rusty at climbing, who yet feels himself to be a symbol and the frail representative of Omnipotence in a place that is not home.\" James Branch Cabell

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by L_Stearns_Newburg
                    It's no big deal, really. It is just that the original question, "Has anyone else read any of his stories?", struck me as a bit peculiar -- rather as if someone had asked, "Has anyone else read any of that fellow Shakespeare?"
                    Quite.

                    Though strangely, my peers generally do not seem to have read Kafka. I don't think any of my friends of my own age that I talked to today had read any of his stuff, although many of my teachers surely had read his works, and indeed one even commented to that effect.

                    I can see why he is held in such esteem. Jude, that website you showed me looks most excellent, I paid a visit and it seems to be an invaluable resource so thanks for that.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by L_Stearns_Newburg
                      Kafka is pretty much standard reading. You might turn the question around and ask who has NOT read his work.
                      Originally posted by HawkLord
                      Originally posted by L_Stearns_Newburg
                      It's no big deal, really. It is just that the original question, "Has anyone else read any of his stories?", struck me as a bit peculiar -- rather as if someone had asked, "Has anyone else read any of that fellow Shakespeare?"
                      Quite.

                      Though strangely, my peers generally do not seem to have read Kafka. I don't think any of my friends of my own age that I talked to today had read any of his stuff, although many of my teachers surely had read his works, and indeed one even commented to that effect.

                      I can see why he is held in such esteem. Jude, that website you showed me looks most excellent, I paid a visit and it seems to be an invaluable resource so thanks for that.
                      With respect to LSN's comment about Kafka being 'standard' reading I do wonder where he's referring to. Standard in the US? In Europe? Certainly here in the UK I didn't read any Kafka until I went to University, and only then because I was taking a Literature degree. So I was at least 19 before I read any Kafka, although to be sure I was aware of his 'Metamorphosis' and probably 'The Trial'.

                      The term 'Kafkaesque' may be familiar to most people but ask them to define it and I wonder how many could do so accurately. I'm not surprised that HawkLord says none of his friends have read Kafka, just as I'm not surprise that most people continue to be unfamiliar with Citizen Kane or Psycho although they've doubtless heard of them and could probably tell you the ending to both.
                      _"For an eternity Allard was alone in an icy limbo where all the colours were bright and sharp and comfortless.
                      _For another eternity Allard swam through seas without end, all green and cool and deep, where distorted creatures drifted, sometimes attacking him.
                      _And then, at last, he had reached the real world – the world he had created, where he was God and could create or destroy whatever he wished.
                      _He was supremely powerful. He told planets to destroy themselves, and they did. He created suns. Beautiful women flocked to be his. Of all men, he was the mightiest. Of all gods, he was the greatest."

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        The answer is, "Places where people read books."

                        I first read some Kafka stories when I was about 14, and that was in the U.S. I read a couple of his stories ("The Metamorphosis" and "Jackals and Arabs") and The Trial (the Muir translation) when I was in the penultimate year of high school -- this was for the comparative literature phase of what is laughably called "English" in the U.S.

                        Really, guys, it's pretty well-known stuff. I cannot speak to the question of whether the general curriculum might have been "dumbed down" since I escaped from school.

                        LSN

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                        • #13
                          I would add that I read and wrote a paper on "In the Penal Colony" for first year university literature (English department).

                          I read The Trial again and The Castle and a pile of stories (this time in German) during university 3rd year for a course in upper division German Language and Literature -- this was on the 20th Century German novel. I was a grizzled 19 year old veteran of university at the time.

                          Note that this was on the way to a bachelor's degree in mathematics & physics. So it was hardly a "hard core" literature program.

                          LSN

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                          • #14
                            A friend who is an avocat once told me he had gotten about half-way through The Trial and felt he couldn't go on with it. He laid the book aside (and has never completed it) and read stories instead. He very much liked "The Metamorphosis" and "The Judgement" and a few others, but couldn't finish "In the Penal Colony," either.

                            "What was the problem?" I asked, curious why he couldn't finish the novel or that particular story.

                            Accustomed to speaking in court, he is usually pretty articulate. In this case, he uncharacteristically fumbled for a vague answer.

                            Finally I suggested that perhaps the extremely legalistic atmospheres and the presence of a cold, distant, and ultimately inscrutable bureaucracy might have seemed oppressive to the point of serious discomfort. He agreed that was probably it. I didn't think it polite to mention his connection with such a world in his daily life *might* have had something to do with the strength of his reaction.

                            LSN

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                            • #15
                              Some recommended Kafka stories:

                              "The Judgement"
                              "Jackals and Arabs"
                              "A Hunger Artist"
                              "In the Penal Colony"
                              "The Burrow"
                              "Investigations of a Dog"
                              "Before the Law"
                              "Imperial Messengers"
                              "The Metamorphosis"
                              "The Stoker" (first chapter of the novel America)

                              LSN

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