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“In 1983, the publisher Einaudi asked [Primo] Levi to translate Kafka’s The Trial. Infinite interpretations of The Trial have been offered; some underline the novel’s prophetic political character (modern bureaucracy as absolute evil) or its theological dimension (the court as the unknown God) or its biographical meaning (condemnation as the illness from which Kafka believed himself to suffer). It has been rarely noted that this book, in which law appears solely in the form of trial, contains a profound insight into the nature of law, which, contrary to common belief, is not so much rule as it is judgment and, therefore, trial. But if the essence of the law – of every law – is the trial, if all right (and morality that is contaminated by it) is only tribunal right, then execution and transgression, innocence and guilt, obedience and disobedience all become indistinct and lose their importance. “The court wants nothing from you. It welcomes you when you come; it releases you when you go.” The ultimate end of the juridical regulation is to produce judgment; but judgment aims neither to punish not to extol, nether to establish justice nor to prove the truth. Judgment is in itself the end and this, it has been said, constitutes its mystery, the mystery of the trial.”

— Giorgio Agamben, Remnants of Auschwitz: The Witness and the Archive.

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David Lynch recently attended the Rome Film Festival 2017, where the artist and filmmaker received a lifetime achievement award. In a Q&A session addressing his return to the Twin Peaks franchise, Lynch also brought up a separate project that had long been close to him:

“Another project that the director has been cultivating for a long time is an adaptation of Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis, which seems to have arrived at a halt. ‘Once I finished writing the script for a feature film adaptation I realised that Kafka’s beauty is in his words. That story is so full of words that when I was finished writing I realised it was better on paper than it could ever be on film,’ Lynch commented.”

— Gabriele Niola, ScreenDaily.com

“The stories here, including everything not in Penguin’s Metamorphosis and Other Stories, have been arranged chronologically, or as near chronologically as possible, for Kafka often interrupted one story to write another. They are often incomplete, fragmentary or even, so to speak, radically unfinished: you can’t imagine them working any better if they had continued to a conclusion. The very lack of conclusion seems often to be the point.”

— Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian

Franz Kafka (right) with Max Brod’s younger brother, Otto, at the Castel Toblino near Trento, Italy, 1909
Franz Kafka (right) with Max Brod’s younger brother, Otto, at the Castel Toblino near Trento, Italy, 1909

Restlessness. I finished reading Stephen King‘s Cell last week, and have had difficulty picking up (or concentrating on) anything since. I have works by Marguerite Duras, Robert Seethaler, and a very promising biography of Vincent Van Gogh all waiting in the wings, but none have quite made it onto the bedside table.

Instead, I have been enjoying a number of shorter pieces. Among them, John Banville‘s rather glowing review of Reiner Stach‘s Kafka: The Early Years translated by Shelley Frisch (despite being the first in a three-volume series, it was published last) • The Economist has also published a review of Kafka: The Early Years • Paul Binding on Karl Ove Knausgaard • The Rise of Dystopian FictionThe 1910s-1920s artwork of William FaulknerAnd a new study suggests that immersing oneself in art, music, and nature might increase one’s life expectancy (life expectancy aside, it sounds like a good way to live as far as I’m concerned)

 

 

5dc65-kafkaThe novelist and short story writer Franz Kafka was born on this day in 1883. I remember discovering his work as an adolescent, and his work has continued to exert a hold on me ever since. While he is perhaps better known for his short stories, it’s his incomplete novels that fascinate me most: The Man Who DisappearedThe Trial, and The Castle are a trio without equal in Western literature. To mark Kafka’s birthday, I have assembled a selection of articles, interviews, and reviews concerning the writer’s life, work, and legacy. Enjoy! (more…)