What makes something "Kafkaesque"? - Noah Tavlin
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For a lighter Kafka experience, watch this news parody by The Onion, entitled “Prague’s Kafka International Named Most Alienating Airport”. Even though it’s just a short comedy video, in what way is this Kafkaesque? Do the jokes reference the casual, vernacular conception of the Kafkaesque? Or does it touch the essence of Kafka’s worldview? What about this recent story by the New York Times, about a Muslim community and its attempts to obtain permits to construct a mosque? While it is certainly a difficult and frustrating situation, is it accurate to describe the process as Kafkaesque? Why or why not?
It is often difficult to connect with Kafka’s sense of humor. In this short, eloquent essay (originally a speech), the late David Foster Wallace explains why and how Kafka’s stories are humorous. If you weren’t understanding why Kafka is supposed to be funny, this essay might illuminate his humor, and why it’s such an important part of his work.
Kafka Online has most of Kafka’s best known writings available for free online. Here is another piece (of what we now call) flash fiction by Kafka, entitled An Imperial Message. How does this story relate to the themes of Kafka’s work discussed in this lesson? Does it relate to other themes that were not covered in this lesson?
In this essay for the Atlantic, author Ben Marcus discusses “An Imperial Message.” He says that one can interpret the story as a story about reading. Do you agree or disagree? At the same time, Marcus says that Kafka’s writing often eludes our understanding, and that this is precisely what makes his writing beautiful. Do you also find that Kafka’s writing seems to slip away whenever you’ve almost pinned it down to one meaning or interpretation? If so, that’s okay! Being confused is part of the experience of reading Kafka. For many, it’s an acquired taste.
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