Monday, 22 April 2013

My Growing Obsession with Kafka

Who is Kafka and why are there photographs of him everywhere?

This was my first encounter with writer Franz Kafka, as through reading various photography theory (Walter Benjamin, Roland Barthes) this one photograph of Kafka kept popping up...

Often referenced by various writers, naturally my first reaction to Kafka was "why are all these really good writers referencing a child?" Thankfully after a quick google search I realised this is a photograph of him as a child and that he passed away in the early 20th Century and has a huge bio of literature...

Attempting a read at one of his most famous texts Metamorphosis, 1915 left me even more confused about the relevance of his work as it's certainly got nothing to do with photography (I presumed it did from reading Benjamin). 

My next experience with Kafka was reading What is a Minor Literature? in Deleuze and Guattari's profound text Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature, 1986. I can safely say that when I first read this text i was NOT ready...And already being highly confused about Kafka it left me literally baffled. This was not a good period for my intellectual progression and I'm inclined to blame Kafka...

So after forgetting about Kafka for a few [university] units I returned to Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature some months later. And read it again, and again until it finally made sense. It's now one of my favourite texts- I often find with philosophy (especially writer Guattari) that at first I'm frustrated by it and sort of angry that i "don't get it" and I curse the words as being mumbo jumbo. But after thorough reading and understanding there is a sense of reward for just simply "getting it". 

Understanding this and reading a fantastic interview with Guattari (Click here for interview) made Kafka make more sense, so I returned to Metamorphosis and his other texts with a understanding of what a minor literature actually is: literature existing without a pretext of cultural language and a body of references that is generically recognisable. 

It took me a long time to discover that Kafka remains of the greatest writers of the 20th Century, and i am still finding out exactly how. Through this, my obsession grows.

Currently reading Conversation with Kafka by Gustav Janouch, 1971.

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