A Failed Attempt to Decipher KAFKA
Of late, I finished perusing two much acclaimed fictional works of World-Literature by Czech author Franz Kafka. To tell the trurh, it was the gloomiest experience I had while reading a writer from Europe. The book, 'Metamorphosis and Other Stories', consisted of renowned literary creations by this genius along with a succinct but painstaking biographical sketch. But I intended putting my total concentration only upon two stories (Novella, in other sense), 'The Metamorphosis' & 'The Judgement' with some literary criticisms and post-analysis of the works.
There is no denying the fact, Kafka is widely read and acquainted for his story, The Metamorphosis. The first line of this story is marked as the most engaging and brilliant sentence of twentieth century literary scenario which reads,
"As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect."
This very line produced a thrilling effect across the globe as soon as its publication and carved a name in the history of literature. To be noted, this is the first line of 'Magic Realism' in world-literature and the master of this genre, Gabriel Garcia Marquez was immensely moved by this.
It is claimed, this story is a self-portrayal of Kafka since there are few resemblances of Kafka with the protagonist of the story, Gregor Samsa. It might be coincidence or deliberate. But the issue resemblance is justified.
If we observe keenly Franz Kafka we would see his hatred for his father, quandary attitude towards life, fear of having a healthy sex life and uncertainty in profession. And all these are true to some extent to Gregor Samsa. Kafka prototyped himself as an insect in, The Metamorphosis, and delved into human nature through his family members. Once he was considered the cardinal resource person of the family but this attitude turned out to utter hatred when he became numb. His most loving sister started thinking low about him and wished him dead. This is life actually! Having all these odds, one person was always with him as a rescuer who is none other than his mother, Julie Kafka. She was his safeguard from his autocrat father and to be more specific, this selfish world.
This line, we hope, will aid us to comprehend the inner feeling of Kafka that he is expressing through the protagonist,
"I cannot make you understand. I cannot make anyone understand what is happening inside me. I cannot even explain it to myself."
In the second story, The Judgement, Kafka leads us to a road which is full of gloom, vengeance and failure. George, the central charecter, is a naive-obedient son of his aged-old father. He takes every possibly measure to please his stoic-selfish father but all his attempts turn out null and void. George seems to us a prosaic family-person who craves to be loved. He, like few of us, has a girlfriend (Frieda Brandenfeld) whom he wants to be wedded with but his father questions this act and thinks it a sign of ignorance of his son towards him.
This story chiefly reflects Kafka's unhealthy relation with his father (Hermann Kafka). Kafka had an impulse for literature but his father wanted him to be a lawyer. Not only this, his father always questioned his every move and demeaned him for his worthlessness.
In this very story (The Judgement) it is evident, he was imaginative in some cases. But this is legitimate for a fiction writer, at least we believe. At one point of the story the protagonist of the writes a letter to his friend living in Russia (then Soviet Union) whose business was good at the inception but now failing. But his father deems it a utter deception to him. He thinks his son befools him by concentrating his friend. This also shows likeness with the life of Kafka.
Now, we can turn our attention to some basic facets of Kafka and his works. We might have known the term, 'Kafkaesque' which refers to something meaningless, deceptive and troublesome-complex. Which actually denotes bureaucracy and surrealism in his writings.
English write Walter Benjamin aptly said,
"The works of Kafka is virtually an alienated soul like Paul Klee in art."
A reader can interpret Kafka in three distinctive moods; Medical, Marxist and Freudian. And also from Judaic and Zionist point of view. He used to be an activist of 'Cultural Zionist Movement' engineered by Martin Buber and it is considered one of the crucial ingredients of Kafka-research. Since, he had a Jews religious background, Kafka was not exceptional like other Jews who had a feeling called 'Guiltless guilt' in the modern world. But, we need to remember, he didn't have inclination with any particular religion. He just admired the philosophy of Danish existentialist-philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard.
Max Brod, a friend cum publisher of Kafka's works, is a crucial persona while reading the legend. He, ignoring Kafka's urge to burn all his works, managed to preserve and published them. Max Brod and Kafka were not parallel always, in spite of that, they were bosom to each other till death.
Few Kafka-critics agrue that four factors triggered the widespread recognition that Kafka gained. These factors are Holocaust, Communism, Existentialism and Cold war. And all these subject-matters are justified as his literary success.
Last but not the least, we would consciously look at Kafka's love-life. From the book we came to know, he fell in love six times. But the most important relation that he considered was with, Felice Bauer. Finally, he found his long cherished flame from this lady but they didn't get married. His friend Max Broad asserted, his (Kafka) sex life was very active but he was petrified of failing in bed. "He loved pornography," said Max Broad.
Among her three sisters, Kafka had soft corner for and good relation with the youngest one,Ottla Kafka. They were always in good terms and she sometimes emerged as a soothing shelter for Kafka. But, all of them became hostess in Nazi camp and died there.
With a sombre note, we can terminate this discussion that, POOR Franz Kafka's lifetime being misunderstood by his family has been followed by an even longer literary afterlife being misunderstood by the world.