May 25, 2007
ROOTING FOR THE BOOT:
The state is always wrong and the individual is always right. Don't old habits die hard?:
The term Kafkaesque answers to a deep anxiety in us about power being wielded cruelly (Howard Jacobson, 26 May 2007, Independent)
Does literature serve us ill sometimes? Or, to put that another way, do we sometimes learn the wrong lessons from it?
What if Joseph K. was guilty? "Someone must have been telling lies about Joseph K," is how Kafka's great novel The Trial begins, "for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one fine morning." But what if no one was telling lies and Joseph K really had done something wrong?
Part of what makes that opening so chilling is its understated menace. The morning is fine. Terrible things happen in storms, in literature as in life, but at least you get a bit of warning with a storm. Our greatest dread is catastrophe striking when we least expect it, when the weather's good, all seems right with the world, and our defences are lowered. Unprepared, we are at our most vulnerable.
And more vulnerable still when the attack comes not only from a clear blue sky but through an agency unknown. Someone. An unidentified person or persons, acting we don't know where or when or why. It's all surmise. Not "someone was telling lies about Joseph K" but someone "must have" been telling lies about Joseph K. A deduction, in the dark of day, working backwards from the inexplicable arrest. Inexplicable, because the man is innocent.
Assuming that he is.
Does anyone actually root for Kafka's characters? Posted by Orrin Judd at May 25, 2007 8:15 PM