I’ve always been sitting on a fence, sometimes drawn to the technology side, sometimes to the Arts side. After having graduated at a technical school I worked for a year in Klagenfurt. I did serious development work (electronics in that case) and although it was quite interesting to use what I had learned at school, it was nevertheless deeply frustrating. Management forced me to use cheap material, and although I tried to convince them, that we would fail, although I could proof it mathematically (well, it was not hard anyway), they insisted on getting what they asked for and, what a surprise, we failed.
In fact, my frustration was so great that I decided to completely give it up. I went to Vienna and began studying German literature. Of course, as you know, that didn’t last either, and one of the reasons why I went back to computers was … Franz Kafka.
During that first semester at Vienna University something about Kafka was one of the two main lectures. Don’t get me wrong, I had no problem with Kafka, it’s only that I was not interested in his works then. I knew I would read them at a later time though.
And really, I do now. In fact I have finished his major works “The Trial”, “The Castle” and “Amerika”, as well as some of his short stories.
Have you ever read Kafka? It’s interesting. Almost none of his works are finished, but they are somehow addictive. I’ve no idea how he was personally, but I imagine he must have been a very strange man, full of fears, hesitant to the point where he couldn’t get anything done, and if he was even a little like his characters, he must have been very, very lonely.
Many of his settings are more or less surreal, just think of “The Metamorphosis”, that novella about a man who one morning wakes up to find himself changed into a giant a bug. You can find the same absurdity everywhere. It’s all about fate, uncontrollable external forces and laws that determine our life. Where Albert Camus portraits the rebellious character who stands up and fights, even when the cause ultimately is lost, Kafka’s protagonist, called “K.” in many of his works, not only knows he will fail, he doesn’t even get over the planning phase. And if he does, things almost always turn bad immediately. There is no hope and no salvation.
Sounds awful? Actually it isn’t. It’s brilliantly written, it’s interesting, and sometimes there is a weird humor, like in that (most likely) unfinished story about a man who finds himself chased by two bouncing balls. It’s chaplinesque, it’s funny. It’s philosophical like in this other story, “The Burrow”, a story about some undetermined animal living in a burrow in the forest, told from its own perspective, about its fears that someone could invade the burrow, about its strategies for defense, about its indecision, about its fear-born fantasies. Like all of Kafka’s works it is a parable about life, and though it is obsessive and maniac, there is still a part of us in it that we recognize. After all, who is not an obsessive maniac in some respects?
So here I am, reading Kafka, 27 years late, enjoying it thoroughly 🙂
The Song of the Day is “Frozen Fear” from the 2009 Gov’t Mule album “By A Thread”. Hear it on YouTube.