1. The Baffler10/7/2012 min
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    The Baffler
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    • jbuchana3 years ago

      Of all the Kafka I’ve read, the only piece that I have a clear memory of is “The Metamorphosis” Perhaps I remember it so clearly due to the environment I was in. I had recently admitted myself to a psych hospital after an attempted suicide. There was not much to do on the ward, so I read several fiction anthologies, including one that contained “The Metamorphosis.” Another work I read while in the hospital which mad an impression was Herman Melville’s “Bartleby, the Scrivener.” Perhaps ironically, as I put myself back together, Bartleby slowly decompensated until he found himself in an asylum, where he starved to death. I, on the other hand left in a much better state than when I went in.

    • jeff3 years ago

      “I can swim as well as the others,” the narrator says, “only I have a better memory than they do, so I have been unable to forget my formerly not being able to swim. Since I have been unable to forget it, being able to swim doesn’t help me, and I can’t swim after all.”

      Plenty of dark passages highlighted in this article but this might be my favorite.

    • SEnkey3 years ago

      This same quietly suffocating phrase, “no way out”—a Kafkan fragment in itself—appears in another text, a dialogue between an unnamed interlocutor and a chimpanzee named Red Peter who has been seized from his jungle home by humans and eventually learns to behave like one. The ape is also the narrator of “A Report to an Academy,” one of the few stories Kafka finished and published in his lifetime. In the full story, Red Peter expresses his desire for a “way out” and devotes some time to glossing the meaning of the phrase: “I fear that perhaps you do not quite understand what I mean by ‘way out,’” he tells his audience in Willa and Edwin Muir’s translation. “I use the expression in its fullest and most popular sense. I deliberately do not use the word ‘freedom.’ I do not mean the spacious feeling of freedom on all sides”—leaving us to deduce what sort of comparatively inhibited liberty he seeks instead. In the version in The Lost Writings, a dejected Red Peter recounts the story of his capture, before which, he says, he “hadn’t known what that means: to have no way out.” He goes on to explain that he was contained not in “a four-sided cage with bars”; rather, “there were only three walls, and they were made fast to a chest, the chest constituted the fourth wall.” Everything hinges, it seems, on this fourth wall. In the Kafkan cosmology, three walls are presumed. The frightening tragedy is the way one’s own existence constitutes the final barrier.

      • jeff3 years ago

        "A Report to an Academy" was the first thing I've ever read by Kafka. Loved the extra context provided by this piece!