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Franz Kafka

“[T]o vibrate in sympathy with Kafka’s strings,” wrote Vilém Flusser (“Waiting for Kafka,” in: Writings, 2002, p. 151). According to Flusser, Franz Kafka’s work should not be read with an analytical eye, but should be listened to, in the sense of letting it resonate inside us and penetrate into the deepest nooks of our souls. He recognized an unarticulated and even unarticulateable cry, “cries to the heavens” (ibid., p. 152) between the lines. Flusser was not so much interested in the semiotic aspects of Kafka’s writings, but rather in the sonorous aspects of his work, resembling John Cage’s compositions (Deleuze and Guattari, Kafka, 1986).

Flusser finds two complementary features in Kafka’s work: its form and language and its immediacy. Kafka’s Prague German was “the driest […] German” (“Waiting for Kafka,” p. 151) of bureaucrats and bourgeois families with Czech language inuences. This mix caused the grotesque effect of inadequacy, called Kafka’s irony, shared by all Prague German writers. It was a totally inappropriate means of expression for Kafka, but the only authentic one, for his approach to reality took place on the theological level (ibid., p. 152). Thus, it should not be called Kafka’s literary style, but rather Kafka’s predestination. His uniqueness lies in the fact that he used irony for self-examination even to the point of self-destruction. (ibid.) The immediacy of Kafka’s writings makes it impossible for Flusser to maintain a critical distance. Flusser’s own personality vibrates with Kafka’s as they are both strangers to the language (Prague German speakers), to the religion (Jews in a Catholic environment), and to the country (members of a minority). Flusser confesses that he sees a close companion in Kafka. Their closeness resembles Samuel Beckett’s two metaphysical clowns in the play Waiting for Godot (French original 1953). They both performed/encoded the existential homelessness of humankind trapped in language, realizing with irony and intensity the horror of divine nausea (“Waiting for Kafka,” p. 155). The title Waiting for Kafka is a word play. Flusser reached towards transcendence of human life through close relationships to his fellows. That is why he wrote that he was “waiting for Kafka.”

Original article by Jana Horáková

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franz_kafka.txt · Last modified: 2021/11/05 17:47 by