The Complete Stories Brings Together All Of Kafka S Stories, From The Classic Tales Such As The Metamorphosis, In The Penal Colony, And A Hunger Artist To Shorter Pieces And Fragments That Max Brod, Kafka S Literary Executor, Released After Kafka S Death With The Exception Of His Three Novels, The Whole Of Kafka S Narrative Work Is Included In This Volume PenguinrandomhouseTwo Introductory Parables Before The Law Imperial Message Longer Stories Description Of A Struggle Wedding Preparations In The Country Judgment Metamorphosis In The Penal Colony Village Schoolmaster The Giant Mole Blumfeld, And Elderly Bachelor Warden Of The Tomb Country Doctor Hunter Gracchus Hunter Gracchus A Fragment Great Wall Of China News Of The Building Of The Wall A Fragment Report To An Academy Report To An Academy Two Fragments Refusal Hunger Artist Investigations Of A Dog Little Woman The Burrow Josephine The Singer, Or The Mouse Folk Children On A Country Road The Trees Clothes Excursion Into The Mountains Rejection The Street Window The Tradesman Absent Minded Window Gazing The Way Home Passers By On The Tram Reflections For Gentlemen Jockeys The Wish To Be A Red Indian Unhappiness Bachelor S Ill Luck Unmasking A Confidence Trickster The Sudden Walk Resolutions A Dream Up In The Gallery A Fratricide The Next Village A Visit To A Mine Jackals And Arabs The Bridge The Bucket Rider The New Advocate An Old Manuscript The Knock At The Manor Gate Eleven Sons My Neighbor A Crossbreed A Sport The Cares Of A Family Man A Common Confusion The Truth About Sancho Panza The Silence Of The Sirens Prometheus The City Coat Of Arms Poseidon Fellowship At Night The Problem Of Our Laws The Conscripton Of Troops The Test The Vulture The Helmsman The Top A Little Fable Home Coming First Sorrow The Departure Advocates The Married Couple Give It Up On Parables At the very corner dividing the two streets Wese paused, only his walking stick came around into the other street to support him A sudden whim The night sky invited him, with its dark blue and its gold Unknowing, he gazed up at it, unknowing he lifted his hat and stroked his hair nothing up there drew together in a pattern to interpret the immediate future for him everything stayed in its senseless, inscrutable place In itself it was a highly reasonable action that Wese should walk on, but he walked onto Schmar s knifefrom A Fratricide Trying to review Kafka without simply resorting to a string of tired adjectives claustrophic, absurd, paranoid, circuitous, nightmarish, labyrinthine, despair inducing, paradoxical is a task about as futile as any to be found in a Kafka story but then again, what is any review of a great book if not an exercise in futility You don t need me to tell you Kafka is great, because you know Kafka is great, because everyone knows Kafka is great, and on and on forever Even if you ve never read him, the name probably evokes images of an unfortunate man being turned into an insect or tortured in a penal colony or tried for a crime no one will say You know when a situation is Kafkaesque, just as you know when it s Orwellian or Lovecraftian or Dickensian or Shakespearean Side note ever wonder why women writers are never given the name as descriptor treatment Why no Austenesque or Woolfian When the culture is saturated with an artist s influence like it is with Kafka s, it can seem almost redundant to experience that artist s work firsthand What else can there possibly be to glean The irony, of course, is that the best artists are the ones it s least possible to imitate or explain, and a classic really worth that title will almost always evoke surprise rather than familiarity Kafka reheated two or three times over is not really Kafka at all, no matter how Kafkaesque it may seem at face value Going into the Collected Stories, I thought I knew or less what to expect the existential panic, the desensitizing bureaucracy, the unanswered questions shouted into a disinterested or malevolent void And of course you can find all of that here the stereotypes have an ample foundation in reality.What I didn t anticipate, though, was the heart the tenderness with which Kafka regards even or maybe especially his most ridiculous and self defeating characters the pointlessly dueling pairs in A Little Woman and The Village Schoolmaster, the lonely and pathetic tunnel dweller in The Burrow, the self absorbed rodent diva in Josephine the Singer I was primed to expect a little humor, of a pitch black and cynical kind, but not the snort out loud silliness of the creature Odradek in The Cares of a Family Man or the self parodying pessimism of Reflections for Gentleman Jockeys And whatever I ve come to expect from the nowadays largely predictable and uninspired genre we call magical realism, it has little to do with the almost alien dreaminess of the imagery and atmosphere on display through nearly every story of this collection.Don t get me wrong Kafka does give us plenty of fear and isolation and failure to communicate and needless cruelty and all those other Kafkaesque buzzwords The perpetual anxiety of his characters, along with the bodily contortions and discomfort that so often accompany it, were literally painfully familiar to me as a sufferer of chronic anxiety The meaningless corporate hoop jumping and purgatorial workplace setpieces are still, as so many have said already, shockingly recognizable in our age of cubicles and Excel spreadsheets And it would be unjust not to mention that Kafka, a German speaking Jew who died in Vienna in 1924, clearly understood the reassuring numbness of bureaucratic ritual and the brutal uses to which it could be put decades before his own sisters and millions of others were sent to die in the Nazis ghettos and concentration camps.But it s not all doom and gloom and humorless jokes from a cruel universe Kafka wasn t some college sopho self styling as a nihilist, arrogantly assured of the rightness of his own unbeliefs So much of his writing, especially the ultra short, flash fiction y pieces that I count as my favorites, are suffused with real curiosity and surprise, even whimsy Yes, I said it Kafka is whimsical Most of his protagonists are sympathetic, if a little aloof, just normal ish working people trying their best to reach an understanding with their neighbors and make sense of a senseless world They re neurotic, yes, but who isn t And for all the stories pervasive uneasiness, there s also a no less pervasive feeling of wonder as if the half dreams that come just before or after real sleep have somehow been captured and made frighteningly tangible.Not every story in this compilation is a masterpiece Half of them weren t published in Kafka s lifetime, and many of those were never completed I was bored by the lengthy, narrative eschewing surrealism of Description of a Struggle, and some of the longer pieces Investigations of a Dog, The Burrow read like tedious philosophical experiments than stories in a strict sense Quite a few of Kafka s works The Hunger Artist being the most famous serve mainly as vehicles for his musings on the creative life, and, while some readers may argue, I tend to find that such writerly navel gazing works best in small doses, if at all Generally speaking, in fact, I think that K is at his best in the very short fictions paragraph or page long impressions that introduce a striking image but don t let us get too familiar There are famous exceptions, of course The Metamorphosis and In the Penal Colony deserve all the attention they get , but for the most part it was the micro stories that inspired the most macro response in me.If I were self aware, maybe I d have taken that lesson to heart and kept this review short too But then again, Kafka has the advantage here he has to condense only the experience of living I, on the other hand, have to condense Kafka. The idea that there exists such thing as a must read book is one of the great fallacies diluting literature To judge a reader unfavourably because a certain book is not on his or her shelf, rather than to praise and learn from the idiosyncratic choices to be found there instead, is to wish for a literature of bland homogeneity To label a book must read is to condemn it to being misunderstood And when that book is by the strange, reclusive, haunted black humourist Franz Kafka, and is given to students to pour over with grave seriousness for hints of political allegory or prophecy, the misunderstanding is so pronounced as to be, in itself, Kafkaesque All those young heads bowed over Metamorphosis, trying their damnedest to see in this giant bug the wisdom of the sage, when the sage himself must surely have been shaking his own head in disbelief at the balls out irreverence of it, maybe even wondering, Is it too ridiculous It s as if some high official had ordained that a sacred text be read and reported on by all those seeking admission to the Castle, but when the applicants receive that text they find in it the trivial rantings of a madman So, desperately, unwilling to crack a smile lest the Castle feel itself mocked, they eke out some tenuous thread of analysis and miss the sacredness, AKA the humour.In speaking of Kafka, Milan Kundera quotes Czech poet Jan Skacel Poets don t invent poems The poem is somewhere behind It s been there for a long time The poet merely discovers itHe goes on to say Indeed, if instead of seeking the poem hidden somewhere behind the poet engages himself to the service of a truth known from the outset he has renounced the mission of poetry And it matters little whether the preconceived truth is called revolution or dissidence, Christian faith or atheism, whether it is justified or less justified a poet who serves any truth other than the truth to be discovered which is dazzlement is a false poet At his best, Franz Kafka served this truth to be discovered , this dazzlement , as devoutly as any writer I know of This is his legacy freedom Or what Kundera calls radical autonomy When occasionally, to the delight of the scholars, he bogs himself down in allegory In the Penal Colony , Investigations of a Dog , to some extent A Hunger Artist , he fritters away his gift on grand ideals But when in a moment of sheer wilful abandon his imagination takes over and propels him like the country doctor unable to control his horses into the unknown, he is unassailable A Country Doctor is five of the most kaleidoscopic and dizzying pages in history the horses faces lolling like cardboard cutouts in the bedroom window at the end are Kafka s own rebellious muses laughing at him as he curls up in bed with his wound His Hunter Gracchus is a journeyer from beyond, washed up by mistake in the quotidian world The Knock at the Manor Gate , The Test , The Helmsman everywhere there are things in flux on either side of the boundary of dreams Unfinished stories abound, because Kafka does not do finished Even the near perfect Metamorphosis ends with a non ending, and frequently his neatest stories are his most facile Kafka s gift is an inspired one, and inspiration, as we know, doesn t necessarily wait around while we add the finishing touches These fragments are seeds, or bombs, and their author a wily rebel possessed by the Imp of the Perverse, unsure himself whether he is a gardener or a terrorist Just, whatever you do, don t study them Live these stories or leave them alone More dead readings will only clutter our view of them.Fact Kafka is funny.Fact He s not for everyone.Fact He writes to the dictates of his heart, not to preach politics or predict the future And if you don t get him, no one but the most pretentious snob is going to judge you for it There are no must read books The Vulture A vulture was hacking at my feet It had already torn my boots and stockings to shreds, now it was hacking at the feet themselves Again and again it struck at them, then circled several times restlessly around me, then returned to continue its work A gentleman passed by, looked on for a while, then asked me why I suffered the vulture I m helpless, I said When it came and began to attack me, I of course tried to drive it away, even to strangle it, but these animals are very strong, it was about to spring at my face, but I preferred to sacrifice my feet Now they are almost torn to bits Fancy letting yourself be tortured like this, said the gentleman, I ve only got to go home and get my gun Could you wait another half hour I m not sure about that, said I, and stood for a moment rigid with pain Then I said, Do try it in any case, please Very well, said the gentleman, I ll be as quick as I can During this conversation the vulture had been calmly listening, letting its eye rove between me and the gentleman Now I realized that it had understood everything it took wing, leaning far back to gain impetus, and then, like a javelin thrower, thrust its beak through my mouth, deep into me Falling back, I was relieved to feel him drowning irretrievably in my blood, which was filling every depth, flooding every shore. Around me things sink away like fallen snow, whereas for other people even a little liqueur glass stands on the table steady as a statue 4.5 stars.There are stories in this collection and these were by far my favorite kind that clutch and fumble and scrabble across the surface of your mind, entities so eerily misshapen and askew that you don t want to let them in Grimacing and winking, they slither in anyway Before you know it, everything you thought solid and real begins to fall away Reality recedes with a measured, merciless tread Its deliberate pace only intensifies your sense of dread You feel horribly lost and unnerved, yet the world continues to retreat, indifferent to your mounting distress Your cries are in vain It does not falter.You wind up adrift in a realm of blurred, hazy, surreal confusion Left to fend for yourself, you experience a strangeseasickness on landas you travel deeper into bizarre, uncertain terrain You finally lose your bearings entirely disorientation swallows you whole And then, just when you ve given up hope that anything will ever make sense again, it hits you reality didn t leave you behind at all, it merely sloughed off the thin veneer of coherence we tend to obscure it with Kafka dexterously peeled back this fa ade, stripping away our familiar, comforting lies and deceptions they re scattered pitifully over the floor, where their glaring inadequacy is impossible to deny They are futile, meager, and ridiculous, and yet also heartbreakingly, endearingly human.Not only did Kafka reveal many of the ways we distort the world around us, he also had quite a bit of fun examining ways in which we contort our very selves We bend back on ourselves in our desperate attempts to force our baffling existence to have some sort of ultimate meaning We scuttle along deformed, wracked with denial and guilt, smiling vacantly, expectantly Far too frequently, these inner and outer contortions are also how we manage to fit in with our fellow human beingsIt occurred to me that perhaps my long body displeased him by making him feel too small And this thought although it was late at night and we had hardly met a soul tormented me so much that while walking I bent my back until my hands reached my kneesSometimes, in our efforts to connect with others, we re even forced to resort to hideous,painful contortions, such as steps or wordsGood god, he fucking gets it.The really brilliant thing about Kafka is that, often than not, after experiencing all this nightmarish absurdity, one ends up laughing right along with him at the underlying insanity of it all His mischievous agility, unpredictable playfulness, and delightfully skewed impressions tinge many of these tales with a surprising amount of satisfyingly dark humor And, after all, isn t a wicked sense of humor one of the best ways to deal with the exasperating inscrutability we often come up against in this crazy, mixed up world.Overall, reading Kafka kind of feels like taking a trip along a M bius strip You seem to fade in and out of reality You start off walking on the floor, and then suddenly, you re certain you re lurching across the ceiling M bius strips, however, are ingeniously twisted they actually only have one side Strictly speaking, there is no up or down, in or out So too with Kafka you feel off balance, bewildered and queasy by the crumpled deformities you encounter as you travel through a gnarled, grotesque landscape, but there s something strangely familiar underneath it all, something you can t quite put your finger on.Then you end up exactly where you began, and you finally understand your journey You realize that you haven t been going in and out of reality, but that reality has instead been presented in a disturbingly crooked, yet somehow far truthful, manner.Momentarily freed from your habitual defenses, you catch a glimpse of the elusive face of the world as it is Welcome home. I think it s a little mistake to judge Kafka considering only The Metamorphosis There s a whole different view on things in some of his stories You re not going to find a nice, warm, fuzzy, Care Bear kind of book that line made sense in my mind But some of his stories do show another side of him I personally like the psychological twisted, complicated, claustrophobic and absurd ones with a weird sense of humor yes, he can be funny and infinite interpretations But that s just me.I liked most of his stories, a few names come to mind I don t know why and in no specific order A Hunger Artist , a disturbing yet beautiful story about an alienated artist In the Penal Colony Eleven sons and its poetic descriptions A dream loved its disquieting atmosphere is that making sense The Great Wall of China A Report to an Academy fresh air The Problem of Our Laws that gives you a feeling of despair, because you find yourself being governed by people noble people you ll never meet with their rules that you re not supposed to understand A Fratricide kind of shocked me The Cares of a Family Man , short stories like that leave you thinking about what the heck he was writing about.Kafka is a complicated writer, that s true But the difficult ones often help you to see ordinary things from another perspective And yes, that s not always sunshine and rainbows, but that s the other inevitable side of life He mostly described awful, absurd, stressful, weird and confusing situations that human beings experience on daily basis Sadly, I can relate to his labyrinths of endless bureaucracy A lot.This writer is not for everyone And there s nothing wrong with that In my humble opinion, he was a man who was able to write, among many other things, something like Before the Law a parable that appears in one of my favorites novels such a familiar feeling So my connection with him was instantaneous It s a shame that mostly happens with people that died a couple or hundreds of years ago No Lake House around here, huh God, I hated that movie Anyway, Before the Law is a short and great example of one of the many sides a Kafkaesque universe has.Feb 23, 14 Also on my blog.
Flaubert.Kafka first studied chemistry at the Charles Ferdinand University of Prague, but switched after two weeks to law This offered a range of career possibilities, which pleased his father, and required a longer course of study that gave Kafka time to take classes in German studies and art history At the university, he joined a student club, named Lese und Redehalle der Deutschen Studenten, which organized literary events, readings and other activities In the end of his first year of studies, he met
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