anyone into him?
i'm thinking INTp
anyone into him?
i'm thinking INTp
Last edited by silke; 10-23-2016 at 03:57 AM. Reason: added pics and vids
NiTe imo too
I don't see what's so important about the possibility of extraterrestrial life. It's just more people to declare war on.
EVERYONE PLZ CONTINUE TO UPLOAD INFINITE AMOUNT OF PICS OF "CUTE" CATS AND PUPPIES. YOU KNOW WE GIVE A SHIT!!
Kafka is ENTp it is for sure. My girlfriend is a great fan of him, I heard a read many about him. He is more like ENTp not INTp.
The piece 'Letter To My Father' is basically an autobiography of Kafka's life (in relation to his father), and is a thoroughly interesting read. It can be found here.
Kafka's father was clearly not a nice person, by Kafka's own account. I was wondering what Kafka's type might appear to be from this letter (which wasn't actually sent), and if this typing differs from what people (i.e. you) would otherwise have thought.
I only have a loose and crappy opinion on his type .
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.”
“I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound or stab us. If the book we're reading doesn't wake us up with a blow to the head, what are we reading for? So that it will make us happy, as you write? Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books, and the kind of books that make us happy are the kind we could write ourselves if we had to. But we need books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. That is my belief.”
“I have the true feeling of myself only when I am unbearably unhappy.”
“Better to have, and not need, than to need, and not have.”
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.”
― Franz Kafka
My first impression of him was INXx, Ne-INXj > INXp, but now I think Ni dom is a much closer fit. I think k0rpsy was the first to suggest INTp and that seems alright. At the moment I'm thinking Te(?)-INTp E5 sx/sp. Possibly Fe-INFp? Not entirely sure.
of his works i have only read "The Metamorphosis", but reading it made me think IEI/ILI due to the stream-of-consciousness style in which it was written, not to mention the depressing, fatalistic melancholy of it
from what i remember semantics/themes & speech peculiarities are especially pronounced throughout the story:
crises, sense of time
interdependence of objects, events, and processes
foresight or anticipation
birth and death imagery
mirror and reflection themes
metonymy and synecdoche should probably also be included, but i'd have to re-read for the specific language used.
IXI works fine for me. Typing him adds nothing to his writing.
Dual type (as per tcaudilllg)
Enneagram 2w1sw(1w9) helps others to live up to their own standards of what a good person is and is very behind the scenes in the process.
Tritype 1-2-6 stacking sp/sx
I'm constantly looking to align the real with the ideal.I've been more oriented toward being overly idealistic by expecting the real to match the ideal. My thinking side is dominent. The result is that sometimes I can be overly impersonal or self-centered in my approach, not being understanding of others in the process and simply thinking "you should do this" or "everyone should follor this rule"..."regardless of how they feel or where they're coming from"which just isn't a good attitude to have. It is a way, though, to give oneself an artificial sense of self-justification. LSE
Best description of functions:
"How could we forget those ancient myths that stand at the beginning of all races, the myths about dragons that at the last moment are transformed into princesses? Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love."
-- Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
negativist, Se-valuing, strong Ni
On a subjective note, for what it's worth, I don't think I like his writing all that much. The only work by Kafka I read from start to finish was The Metamorphosis, and that was in 2004 for English 10. But whenever I tried to read one of his novels, I never had a strong desire to continue reading.
My Mom likes Franz Kafka. She said, "Kafka's writing is gorgeous, expressive. Everything he writes I see in images and feel. He's so natural in his writing and so powerful."
"I was crying..." referring to how moved she was by the (ending of) The Metamorphosis.
She also read The Castle: "The Castle -- the nonsense, the paradox(es) really thrilled me . . ."
"Even in our reality, sometimes we get so entangled, and no one believes us. We are condemned, accused with no reason."
"Kafka is such a mind, it's like going in a labyrinth..."
"Kafka has such a uniqueness of writing. Without using too many new words it makes me feel the pain and suffering."
Last edited by HERO; 05-30-2013 at 12:04 PM.
“Nobody will read what I say here, no one will come to help me; even if all the people were commanded
to help me, every door and window would remain shut, everybody would take to bed and draw the
bedclothes over his head, the whole earth would become an inn for the night. And there is sense in that,
for nobody knows of me, and if anyone knew he would not know where I could be found, and if he knew
where I could be found, he would not know how to deal with me, he would not know how to help me.
The thought of helping me is an illness that has to be cured by taking to one’s bed.
“I know that, and so I do not shout to summon help, even though at moments—when I lose
control over myself, as I have done just now, for instance—I think seriously of it. But to drive out such
thoughts I need only look around me and verify where I am.”—Franz Kafka, “The Hunter Gracchus”
Literature: Franz Kafka’s Suffering
Thomas Mann wrote of Franz Kafka: “He was a dreamer, and his fiction is often conceived and fashioned
altogether along the lines of a dream. His works are a laughably precise imitation of the a-logical and
uneasy absurdity of dreams, those strange and shadowy mirrors of life.” Alred Doblin wrote: “What he
writes bears the stamp of absolute truth, not at all as if he had made it up. Curiously jumbled, to be
sure, but organized around an absolutely true, very real, center. . . . Many have said that Kafka’s novels
have the nature of dreams—and we can certainly agree with that. But what is ‘the nature of dreams’?
The spontaneous course they take, entirely plausible and transparent at every moment; our feeling and
awareness of the profound rightness of the things taking place and the feeling that these things concern
us very much” (quoted in Wagenbach, Franz Kafka, p. 144).
I would say that Kafka was not imitating the structure of dreams in his works but that he was
dreaming as he wrote. Without his realizing it, experiences from early childhood found their way into his
writing, just as they do into other people’s dreams. Looking at it this way, we get into difficulty: for
either Kafka is a great visionary who sees through the nature of human society and his wisdom
somehow “comes from on high” (in which case this can have nothing to do with childhood) or his fiction
is rooted in his earliest unconscious experiences and would then, according to popular opinion, lack
universal significance. Could it be, however, that we cannot deny the truth of his works for the very
reason that they do draw upon the child’s intense and painful way of experiencing the world, something
that has meaning for all of us? Rainer Maria Rilke wrote: “I had never read a line by this author that I did
not find relevant or amazing in the most peculiar way.” In this chapter, devoted to Kafka’s suffering, I
cannot hope to do full justice to his work but shall only use some examples from it to show how the
writer, without knowing it, tells about his childhood in what he writes. Kafka scholars who are receptive
to my approach and do not try to apply ready-made psychoanalytic theories to this author will be able
to add an endless number of examples to mine. In any case, having read his letters, I see clear signs of
his childhood suffering on every page of his fiction.
In other words, this chapter is not to be understood as the application of psychoanalytic theory
to a writer of genius or as a literary interpretation of Kafka’s works. It owes its existence both to my oath
of professional secrecy, which prevents me from discussing what I know about the backgrounds of
writers who are still alive, and to the question that kept occurring to me as I was reading Kafka: What
would have happened if Kafka’s despair over not being able to bring himself to marry, over his
tuberculosis—whose psychological significance he saw with great clarity—and over the torments of
insomnia and numerous other symptoms had driven him to seek out an analyst who subscribed to
Freudian drive theory? I know that detractors of psychoanalysis who have had no experience with the
unconscious would smile at such a question and might say Kafka would have had the good sense, after
the first session, not to go back a second time to a situation in which he was so totally misunderstood. I
do not share this assumption at all; I am even convinced that a person like Kafka, who from childhood to
puberty never had the good fortune to find someone who understood him, would not have sensed this
same lack in his psychoanalyst all that quickly. He might have struggled with all his might to find
understanding, the way he did with his fiancée Felice nearly every day for five years. He would have had
equally little success, however, with a psychoanalyst who was of the opinion that Freud had uncovered
all the secrets of childhood and of the unconscious with his Oedipus complex and concept of “infantile
sexuality.” Thus, it is hard to say how quickly Kafka could have freed himself from such an involvement.
Yet I do not doubt that Kafka’s insomnia and his unrelenting anxiety would have abated or even
disappeared entirely if it had been possible for him to acknowledge and experience in analysis his
feelings from early childhood—especially his anger at not being understood, his feelings of
abandonment, and the constant fear of being rejected and manipulated—and to connect these feelings
with his original attachment figures. Neither do I doubt that his ability as a writer, rather than being
diminished, would even have been enhanced . . .
- The common belief that neurosis is an asset for art may possibly be rooted in an exploitative
attitude that is somehow understandable. We could, for instance, argue: What would the works of
Kafka, Proust, or Joyce be without their authors’ neuroses? Aren’t these the very writers who have
described our own inner perils and inner prisons, our compulsions and absurdities? Therefore, we
would not want them to have been mentally sound, to have written like a Goethe, because then we
would have been deprived of a significant experience and unconscious mirroring. In Kafka’s The Trial, for
example, we experience our own incomprehensible guilt feelings, in The Castle our powerlessness, and
in “The Metamorphosis” our loneliness and isolation; yet the portrayal of these existential situations
does not cause us to despair, for they apply only to Kafka’s “fictitious” characters. Such writers fulfill an
important function for us that we would not like to forgo—that of mirroring—and nothing is required of
us in return. We, as these authors’ posterity, take on, in a sense, the role of their parents, since we, too,
profit from their artistic gifts without having to deal with their actual suffering.
This thought first struck me when I read the letters written to Mozart by his father, quoted in
Florian Langegger’s fascinating study, Mozart—Vater und Sohn. The father wrote: “Above all you must
devote yourself with all your soul to your parents’ well-being, otherwise your soul will go to the devil. . .
. I can expect everything from you out of a sense of filial obligation. . . . I’ll live for another few years,
God willing, pay my debts—and then as far as I’m concerned you can go knock your head against a stone
wall if you’re so inclined” (pp. 86 and 92). These and similar passages don’t quite fit the image of the
loving father that history has handed down to us. But they show very plainly the narcissistic abuse of the
child, which in most cases need not exclude great affection and strong encouragement. After reading
Leopold Mozart’s “loving" letters selected by Langegger, it should come as no surprise to us that
the son outlived his father by only a short time, dying at the age of thirty-seven, and that before
his death he suffered from a fear of being poisoned. Yet how unimportant the tragic fate of this
human being seems to posterity when weighed against his outstanding achievement.
Although the subjective side of an artist’s tribulations usually is of no importance to
posterity, I should like to devote this chapter to the tragic personal life of the writer Franz Kafka.
I do this because I suspect there are numerous patients with a similar background; even though
they may turn to psychoanalysis, they are not helped, since traditional analysts, following in
Freud’s footsteps, generally believe that the work of art is “a substitute for healthy drive
fulfillment,” that is, a sign of neurosis, or, put differently, that as “a product of culture” it is the
result of “drive sublimation.”
If there should be someone like Kafka today (and I don’t doubt that we encounter many
similarly constituted people with a similar childhood history), what would happen if he
underwent an analysis based on the drive theory?
We can find possible answers to this question in the extensive literature about Kafka’s
Oedipal, pre-Oedipal, and . . . even homosexual drive desires. Gunter Mecke, for instance, writes
in “Franz Kafkas Geheimnis” (Franz Kafka’s Secret):
The central subject of The Trial is the test of Josef K.’s sexuality, which he does not pass,
either heterosexually (with Miss Burstner) or homosexually (with the “painter” Titorelli). As a
consequence, K. is finally punished by being sodomized by two bailiffs. [Psyche 35, 1981, p.
From the particulars of this article we can gather what Kafka would have been up against
if Mecke had taken on his analysis. Mecke confesses:
Kafka’s writings have always been far more of a stumbling block for me than they have been
food for thought. . . . Heaven knows why I of all people was assigned the task of giving several
Kafka seminars in succession (beginning in 1970). I led them like a blind man leading the blind,
with growing dismay, finally with a feeling of shame. I positively didn’t feel up to the subject
matter and realized it was driving me to talk nonsense. I was stewing in my own juice and had to
admit—and be told by my very outspoken students—that I too had allowed myself to become an
intellectual counterfeiter with my “interpretations” of Kafka.
Initially, psychoanalysis as a method was of little help to me, sometimes it was a
hindrance; that is to say, with its preconceived constructs it tricked me into taking some leaps in
interpreting individual statements of Kafka’s. It doesn’t work. You have to have wandered
around in Kafka’s labyrinthine system for a long time before you can get your bearings in any of
its individual dead-end passageways. Then, to be sure, the master key can be deduced. . . . I took
to heart the advice of Gardena (in The Castle), who hates the land surveyor K. You have only to
listen to him carefully and then you are on to him. . . . That becomes the heart of my method. Not
infrequently this heart beat so wildly that I felt a kind of fury in me. [p. 215]
This fury can occur when a person is trying to understand something or someone and all
the available tools for understanding fail. That was also the situation Kafka must have found
himself in, and had he undergone analysis, he certainly would have transmitted this feeling to his
analyst, the same way his works sometimes do to his readers, who, after thinking they have
already understood something, are suddenly confronted with an absurd situation. Therefore, we
shouldn’t be surprised at Mecke’s “fury”; it could be reflecting—in the form of the counter-
transference, so to speak—the feelings of little Franz. But—and here is the big difference—
analysts need not put up with the desperate feeling of powerlessness the way a child or patient
must, for they can rid themselves of this unbearable feeling by offering the patient explanations
that ignore his or her plight. In this way they take revenge for their inability to understand and
are happy finally to have a patient under their control. Mecke, too, is triumphant after he is on to
the tricks of the cunning fellow Franz Kafka and describes him as a “poisoner,” who conceals his
“homosexuality” with “schizophrenic cunning” in a language “analogous to the slang used by
criminals.” In his long article, Mecke points out exactly those passages in the story where he
believes he has caught “Kafka the boy chaser” (p. 227) red-handed in his homosexual
fantasies and activities. Mecke is not lacking in thoroughness, but the information about the
homosexual abuse Kafka himself supposedly underwent is presented, without documentation or
support, in a footnote, which merely says: “Abundant evidence, which must be passed over here,
indicates that at the age of fifteen Kafka was homosexually seduced or—what is more likely—
raped.” Without any substantiation! In my supervisory work and in listening to case
presentations in analytic circles, I noticed countless times that no importance was attributed to
information of this nature, because all the emphasis was placed on describing the patient’s “drive
desires” (the child’s guilt).
One has every right to see in a work of literature what one must see in it, for however
contemptuous a reader’s attitude may be, it can have no deleterious effect on the finished work.
But the patient in an analyst’s office can easily become the victim of this type of attitude. Just as
Professor Mecke did not read Kafka voluntarily but was, as he says, obliged to teach a series of
Kafka seminars, so too an analyst may taken on a patient whose nature is totally foreign to him,
perhaps because at that moment he happens to need a case for economic reasons. If the patient
then unconsciously confronts him with certain absurdities from his, the patient’s, childhood, this
can easily lead the therapist to adopt an attitude not unlike Mecke’s toward Kafka and will thus
cause him to rely on complicated theories. Should the patient become aware of the therapist’s
powerlessness or complain that he is not being understood, he will be told that he is now
becoming aggressive because the analyst is not responding to his homosexual advances. In my
own training I often heard explanations like this, and it took me a long time to see through their
nature as a defense mechanism on the part of supervisors and other analysts. A well-trained
candidate will inevitably think, “Perhaps there is some truth to it.” And the patient, who sees the
godlike qualities of his or her first attachment figures in the analyst, cannot resist the powerful
grip of the interpretation given, especially if it is presented in a self-assured tone of voice
allowing no room for alternatives. If analysts could acknowledge and experience their
occasional despair over their lack of understanding, then they might gain important access to
their patients’ childhood. At least this has been my personal experience.
Mecke’s article is also characteristic of the psychoanalytic approach based on the drive
theory. One might assume that this approach is definitely a thing of the past and rarely
encountered today; similarly, we would like to believe that “poisonous pedagogy” has no place
in our day and age. Unfortunately, the opposite is true, and there are still frequent attempts to
label the patient (here Franz Kafka) a sly deceiver, whose underhandedness can fortunately be
exposed by using the right keys. Such attempts are a logical consequence of psychoanalytic
training that emphasizes the drive theory.
Of course, not all analysts proceed along these lines: Donald W. Winnicott, Marion
Milner, John Bowlby, Jan Bastiaans, Heinz Kohut, Massud Khan, William G. Niederland,
Christel Schottler, and many others have been able to help creative people substantially because
they were not compelled to trace their patients’ creativity back to drive conflicts and
systematically point out their “dirty fantasies”. Yet Mecke’s contemptuous, deprecatory, even
abusive attitude, reminiscent of the methods of “poisonous pedagogy,” is by no means an
exception; indeed, it is representative of the (unconscious and unintentional) prevailing
tendency in psychoanalysis today. The editorial comment introducing Mecke’s article is an
indication that the official advocates of this attitude regard it as perfectly normal and even as
Drawing on Kafka’s letters, Mecke reads Kafka’s stories and novels as cryptograms, as
encoded artistic messages about the experiences of someone who is on the borderline between
homosexuality and heterosexuality. This new way of interpreting Kafka is presented here by
using his story “The Hunter Gracchus” as an example.
This “new way” of looking at Kafka is not new insofar as someone else had already
treated him the same way Mecke does now. As Kafka’s Letter to His Father makes clear, the
father also rejected, scorned, and at times must have hated the little boy, whose questions he
didn’t understand and simply ignored. Most children whose parents feel threatened by their
child’s very nature suffer a similar fate. If this trauma is repeated at the beginning of
analysis, before an empathic inner object has been established, it can lead to an outbreak of
psychosis. Then we say the patient has encountered his “psychotic core,” failing to take into
account that in his analysis—that is, in the present—he has once again been subjected to a real
trauma. Because he is unable to endure this without a supportive companion, he succumbs to a
In the following pages I shall not apply any pat theories to Kafka but shall attempt to
set down what I learned about his childhood when I read his fiction and, above all, his letters.
By so doing I am also describing indirectly my analytic methodology, which I sum up as the
search for my patients’ early childhood reality without any attempt to spare their parents. The
difference between the psychoanalysis of a literary work and the psychoanalysis of a person is
that in the latter case the articulation of suffering occurs not in the work of art but in the
patient’s associations and reenactments within the transference and countertransference.
However, my attitude toward the child within the adult is the same in both cases.
The twenty-nine-year-old Kafka notes in his diary that tears came to his eyes when he
read aloud the conclusion of his story “The Judgment.” During the night following this
reading (between December 4 and 5, 1912), he wrote to Felice Bauer:
Frankly, dearest, I simply adore reading aloud; bellowing into the audience’s expectant and
attentive ear warms the cockles of the poor heart. . . . As a child—which I was until a few years
ago—I used to enjoy dreaming of reading aloud to a large, crowded hall . . . the whole of
Education sentimentale at one sitting, for as many days and nights as it required . . . and
making the walls reverberate. Whenever I have given a talk, and talking is even better than
reading aloud (it’s happened rarely enough), I have felt this elation, and this evening was no
exception. [Letters to Felice, p. 86]
These words do not go particularly well with the popular image of the modest and
reserved Franz Kafka. Yet how understandable they are, coming from the pen of someone who
had no one throughout his entire childhood in whom he could confide his real and deepest
Max Brod writes in his biography that Kafka’s mother was a kindhearted and wise
woman. (The cliché “a kindhearted woman” still seems to fit biographers’ mother image.) When
we read this, knowing that no one was closer to Kafka than Brod, we realize even more clearly
how lonely Kafka’s life was. His mother, Julie Kafka, whose own mother and then grandmother
died when she was three years old, was essentially a good and submissive child all her life, first
for her father and then for her husband. She was constantly at the latter’s disposal, during the day
to help him in his business and in the evening to play cards with him (“for thirty years, which is
my entire life,” her son writes Felice). Franz was her first child; then in quick succession she had
two more sons, one of whom lived two years and the other only six months. Later, she gave birth
to three daughters when Franz was between the ages of six and nine.
All of Kafka’s writing, including his letters, gives us only an approximate idea of how
much a child of his intensity and depth of awareness is affected by these births and deaths as well
as by feelings of abandonment, envy, and jealousy if he has no one to help him experience and
express his true feelings. (There are parallels in the childhoods of Holderlin, Novalis, and
Munch, among others.) This alert, curious, highly sensitive—but by no means disturbed—child
was hopelessly alone with all his questions, completely at the mercy of the power-hungry
household staff. We often say with a shrug that it was normal in those days for wealthy people to
entrust their children to governesses. (As if what is “normal” were ever the criterion of what is
beneficial.) Certainly there have been many cases of a nurse or governess rescuing a child from
cold and unloving parents, but we must also keep in mind what satisfaction it must have given
oppressed household servants to pass the humiliation meted out to them from “above” on to the
little children in their charge. Since it is difficult for children to tell anyone about what is being
done to them, all the psychological cruelty they experience remains a well-kept secret.
How great, how irrepressible must have been Kafka’s hunger for a sympathetic ear in his
childhood, for someone who would respond genuinely to his questions, fears, and doubts without
using threats or showing anxiety, who would share his interests, sense his feelings, and not mock
them. How great must have been his longing for a mother who showed interest in and respect for
his inner world. Such respect, however, can be given a child only if one has learned to take
oneself seriously as a person as well. How could Kafka’s mother have learned to do this? She
lost her own mother at an age when a child can neither grasp nor mourn the loss. Without an
empathic surrogate it was impossible under the circumstances for her own personality—that is,
her genuine capacity to love—to develop. Inability to love is tragic, but it is not a culpable state.
There are signs of a growing awareness in our society that only a mother’s own growth
and vitality, not a depressing sense of duty, enable her to have warm and respectful affection for
her child. Men who take this awareness to be an invention of the women’s movement need only
look back a bit into the past. Goethe’s mother, for one, wrote her son letters that show clearly
how natural and spontaneous love and respect for one’s child can be. Not a single unauthentic
word is to be found here, no mention of sacrifice or fulfilling one’s duty. Julie Kafka, in contrast,
writes Brod that she would be ready to sacrifice her life’s blood for the happiness of each of her
children. Holderlin’s mother writes in a similar hypocritical vein. But after all, how much blood
does a mother have? And what is the child supposed to do with this blood, when all he needs is a
Her son’s unstilled and desperate hunger for authenticity and understanding, a theme
which, by the way, pervades the six hundred pages of Letters to Felice, is expressed in the
dream referred to earlier: in place of his mother a crowd of people “with expectant and
attentive ear” have gathered for the express purpose of listening to him. And he is permitted to
go on reading, whole nights on end, until they have understood him. But since his doubts and
the tormenting force of his early experiences are just as strong as his hopes, it is Flaubert he
chooses to read aloud. In case his audience, despite his tremendous effort, should not
understand what he is attempting to communicate to them, then it is Flaubert whom they do not
understand—Flaubert, to whom he feels very close but who, after all, is not he. To expose
himself to the risk of meeting with indifference and incomprehension would be even more
painful and would leave him with the tormenting feeling of nakedness and shame. For a child is
ashamed if he has sought in vain for understanding; then he feels like a beggar who, after long
hesitation and a great inner struggle, finally brings himself to stretch out his hand, only to be
unnoticed by the passers-by.
That, too, is part of the human condition—for children to be ashamed of their needs while
adults are not even conscious of turning a deaf ear and often haven’t the vaguest idea of what is
going on right beside them in their child’s soul, at least not if their own childhood is emotionally
inaccessible to them.
Kafka was described by his nursemaid as an “obedient” and “good” child who “had a
The child grew up under the supervision of the cook and the housekeeper, Marie Werner, a
Czech who had lived with the Kafka family for decades. . . . The cook was strict, the
housekeeper amiable but timid toward the father, to whom she always responded in an argument
with, “I won’t say anything, I’ll just think it.” A nursemaid was soon added to these two
“authority figures” and later a French governess, obligatory in the “better” families of Prague.
Kafka rarely saw his parents: his father had set up noisy living quarters on the premises of his
steadily growing business, and the mother always had to be on hand to help him and smooth
things over with the employees, whom the father referred to as “beasts,” “dogs,” and “paid
enemies.” Kafka’s formal training was restricted to being taught table manners and given orders,
for even in the evening his mother had to keep his father company and play “the usual game of
cards . . . accompanied by exclamations, laughter, and squabbling, not to mention whistling.”
The boy grew up in this “dull, poisonous atmosphere of the beautifully furnished living room, so
devastating for a child”; he found his father’s brusque commands incomprehensible and
mysterious, and he finally became “so unsure of everything that, in fact, I possessed only what I
actually had in my hands or in my mouth or what was at least on the way there.” The direction
taken by the upbringing his father gave him added greatly to the boy’s uncertainty. Kafka
describes this upbringing in Letter to His Father: “You can only treat a child in the way you
yourself are constituted, with vigor, noise, and a hot temper, and in my case this seemed to you,
into the bargain, extremely suitable, because you wanted to bring me up to be a strong, brave
boy.” [Wagenbach, Franz Kafka, p. 20]
Seen superficially, this is a description of a “sheltered” home life, a childhood no worse
than many others that have produced more or less prominent and undaunted adults. But Kafka’s
works reveal how a sensitive child can experience situations we still designate today as quite
normal and unremarkable, situations with which our children must live without ever being
able to articulate them like Kafka. If we can be empathic, refrain from trying to spare the parents,
and learn to understand that what Kafka wrote was a description of conditions in his early
childhood and of his reactions to them instead of the expression of his “neurasthenia,” his
headaches, his “constitution,” or his delusions, then we will also become more sensitive to the
burdens we are placing on our children here and now, often simply because we don’t know how
intensely a child receives impressions or what later becomes of them inside him. It may merely
be a matter of a harmless joke at the child’s expense, a trick one plays on him, or a threat one
never seriously intends to carry out but makes only in order to encourage better behavior. The
child, however, cannot know this; he waits, perhaps for days, for the threatened punishment
that never comes but that hangs over his head like the sword of Damocles. Such “harmless”
scenes were often enacted on Kafka’s way to school. In a letter to Milena he writes:
Our cook, a small dry thin person with a pointed nose and hollow cheeks, yellowish but
firm, energetic and superior, led me every morning to school. We lived in the house which
separates the Kleine Ring from the Grosse Ring. Thus we walked first across the Ring, then into
the Teingasse, then through a kind of archway in the Fleischmarktgasse down to the
Fleischmarkt. And now every morning for about a year the same thing was repeated. At the
moment of leaving the house the cook said she would tell the teacher how naughty I’d been at
home. As a matter of fact I probably wasn’t very naughty, but rather stubborn, useless, sad,
bad-tempered, and out of all this probably something quite nice could have been fabricated for
the teacher. I knew this, so didn’t take the cook’s threat too lightly. All the same, since the road
to school was enormously long I believed at first that anything might happen on the way (it’s
from such apparent childish light-heartedness that there gradually develops, just because the
roads are not so enormously long, this anxiousness and dead-eyes seriousness). I was also very
much in doubt, at least while still on the Alstadter Ring, as to whether the cook, though a person
commanding respect if only in domestic quarters, would dare to talk to the
world-respect-commanding person of the teacher. . . . Somewhere near the entrance to the
Fleischmarktgasse . . . the fear of the threat got the upper hand. School in itself was already
enough of a nightmare, and now the cook was trying to make it even worse. I began to plead, she
shook her head, the more I pleaded the more precious appeared to me that for which I was
pleading, the greater the danger; I stood still and begged for forgiveness, she dragged me along, I
threatened her with retaliation from my parents, she laughed, here she was all-powerful, I held
on to the shop doors, to the corner stones, I refused to go any further until she had forgiven me, I
pulled her back by the skirt (she didn’t have it easy, either), but she kept dragging me along with
the assurance that she would tell the teacher this, too; it grew late, the clock on the Jakobskirche
struck 8, the school bells could be heard, other children began to run, I always had the greatest
terror of being late, now we too had to run and all the time the thought: She’ll tell, she won’t
tell—well, she didn’t tell, ever, but she always had the opportunity and even an apparently
increasing opportunity (I didn’t tell yesterday, but I’ll certainly tell today) and of this she never
let go. [Letters to Milena, pp. 65-66]
There have been countless interpretations of Kafka’s The Trial, for this work reflects the
situation in which many people find themselves. Kafka’s profound awareness of this situation,
which made it possible for him to describe it as he did, is probably rooted in the child’s early
experiences, scenes similar to those just described on his way to school. Joseph K. is still in bed
one morning when he is notified that a lawsuit is being brought against him, the rationale for
which is as obscure to him, as illogical, as the attitudes of parents and care givers. He cannot
simply deny the justification of the suit out of hand, however, since there is always something a
child thinks he must conceal, something he feels guilty for and which he always has to face all
Like The Trial’s Joseph K., who tries in vain to find out what his crime is, K., the land
surveyor in The Castle, worries night and day over the question of when he will finally be
accepted as a legitimate member of the community.
A child’s desperate attempts to adjust to his parents’ inconsistencies, to find meaning and
logic in them, can scarcely be better stated than in Kafka’s story of the surveyor K., who
struggled to gain entry to the castle. How can a child be expected to understand that the same
mother who continually professes her love for him is totally unaware of his true needs and that
he can never gain complete access to her, even though he is physically as close to her as K. is to
Kafka is depicting here in essence a child’s unending efforts to gain understanding, which
will help him to escape loneliness and his isolation among the household servants (the villagers);
this is mirrored in K.’s attempt to see signs of the castle’s favor or rejection in insignificant
chance words and gestures of the village inhabitants as well as in his hope of one day finally
being able to discover a meaning in that absurd world—a meaning that will sustain him and
allow him to become integrated into the community of those living in the castle (the parents).
A child thinks: “The fact that I was born means that someone wanted me, but now no one
is paying any attention to me. Have they forgotten they had me? That can’t be. Sooner or later
they are sure to remember. What must I do to make it happen sooner? How should I behave, how
should I interpret the signals?” He will magnify infinitely the slightest sign of favor, reinforcing
it with many fantasies and wishes, until his hopes are again shattered under the impact of the
undeniable indifference of his environment. But not for long—a child cannot live without hopes
and fantasies, which help him to disguise his unbearable reality. Once again the surveyor K.
builds his castles in the air; again he tries to establish contact, if not with the count himself, then
at least with the count’s underlings.
We can only suppose that as a child Kafka, like the land surveyor in The Castle, was all
alone with his thoughts and speculations concerning the relationships of adults among
themselves and with him; paradoxically, this intelligent child, again like the surveyor K., was
not taken seriously by his family. He, too, was discredited, misled, not paid attention to, shunted
off with promises, humiliated, and ignored—without a single person who was sympathetic and
explained things to him. Only his youngest sister, Ottla, gave him love and understanding, but
since she was nine years younger than he, he had to spend his first years, the most crucial and
formative of his life, in the atmosphere he described in such minute detail in The Castle. The
surveyor K. (like the child Franz) feels that he is the victim of incomprehensible and inscrutable
underhanded treatment; he is continually being subjected to inconsistent behavior; he has been
summoned (is wanted), yet is useless; he is under someone’s total control or is completely
neglected and ignored; he is being humiliated and made fun of, or his hopes are being falsely
raised; vague demands are being made on him that he can only guess at; and he is constantly
unsure of whether he has done the right thing.
He tries to understand his surroundings, to ask questions, to find meaning in all this chaos
and disorder, but he never succeeds. When he thinks he is being made fun of, the others are
apparently in dead earnest; yet when he counts on their being serious, he is made a fool of. This
is what often happens to a child: the parents call it “playing” and are amused when the child tries
in vain to learn the rules of this “game,” which, like the pillars of their power, they will not
relinquish. Thus, the surveyor in The Castle suffers from his inscrutable surroundings, just like a
child without a supportive attachment figure; he suffers from the meaningless bureaucracy
(childrearing principles), the undependable nature of the women, the self-importance of the
employees, and above all from the fact that there seem to be no answers in this environment to
his most urgent existential questions.
Among this great array of people there is not one—with the exception of Olga, who is
also a victim of the system—who might explain to K. what is going on or might be able to
understand him. Yet he never speaks confusedly but always with clarity, simplicity, friendliness,
and conviction. The tragedy of never making any headway with even the simplest, most logical
ideas and always running into stone walls permeates all of Kafka’s works and is also perceptible
in the letters as a constant, suppressed lament. Although Kafka repeatedly gives poetic form to
this lament, and makes it a manifest theme of his fiction, for this very reason it remains
unconnected with its roots in his biography. The suffering caused the little boy by his mother,
who did not understand or even notice the child, is emotionally inaccessible for Kafka as an
adult, whereas the difficulties he had with his father, which fall in a later period, were something
he could grasp and could articulate much better.
Kafka’s friendship with Max Brod as well as his engagement to Felice Bauer left him
ultimately alone, just as he always was with his mother. He once wrote about his relationship
For example, during the long years we have known each other I have, after all, been alone with
Max on many occasions, for days on end, when traveling even for weeks on end and almost
continuously, yet I do not remember—and had it happened, I would certainly remember—ever
having had a long coherent conversation involving my entire being, as should inevitably follow
when two people with a great fund of independent and lively ideas and experiences are thrown
together. And monologues from Max (and many others) I have heard in plenty, but what they
lacked was the vociferous, and as a rule even the silent, conversational partner. [Letters to
Felice, p. 271]
A person who was as lonely as Franz Kafka as a child is unable, as an adult, to find a
friend or a woman to understand him, since he often seeks unconsciously to repeat his
childhood. From the kind of attachment Kafka had to Felice and she to him we can deduce
how he suffered in his relationship with his mother. Julie Kafka not only had no time for her
son, she also was insensitive to him, and when she concerned herself with his welfare she did it
with such tactlessness that she wounded him deeply without meaning to and without his being
able to put his feelings into words, for the child of an insecure mother is so concerned about her
wellbeing that he cannot be aware of his own wounds. The same pattern emerges with Felice.
Kafka’s levelheaded fiancée can understand a great many things but not the world of a Franz
Kafka. That he sought understanding from someone like her in vain and didn’t become aware of
his disappointment for a long time is not surprising when we consider that this man had (and
loved) a mother who had absolutely no access to his world.
He wrote to Felice:
My mother? For the last 3 evenings, ever since she began to suspect my troubles, she has
begged me to get married whatever happens; she wants to write to you; she wants to come to
Berlin with me, she wants goodness knows what! And hasn’t the remotest idea what my needs
are. [p. 312]
And to Felice’s father:
I live within my family, among the kindest, most affectionate people—and am more strange than
a stranger. In recent years I have spoken hardly more than twenty words a day to my mother,
and I exchange little more than a daily greeting with my father. To my married sisters and
brothers-in-law I do not speak at all, although I have nothing against them. [p. 313]
Language and the ability to speak meant everything to Kafka, but because it was not
permissible to say what he felt, he had to remain silent and suffered as a result.
In my reading of Kafka, his Letters to Felice and the novel The Castle provided the keys
to understanding both the man and his works. On the one hand, the letters helped me to grasp
better what was happening in the novel; on the other, the episodes in the novel and the
hopelessness of the hero’s situation shed light upon why Kafka tried for five long years to
explain himself to a woman who was ill equipped to respond to him. The effort he made to
communicate with a partner who, for reasons having to do with her own history, was neither able
nor willing to communicate on his terms would not be tragic if his efforts had not been
accompanied by the compulsion to keep repeating them and to refuse to give up hope at any
price. This absurd compulsion loses its absurdity when we picture a little boy who has no choice
but to attempt to communicate with his mother, since he cannot pick out another. I often had to
think of his predicament while I was reading Letters to Felice, in which, as in The Castle,
Kafka’s earliest relationship with his mother clearly emerges. Her presence was as necessary to
him as “air to breathe,” he wanted to cling to her, have her to himself, but the very thought made
him fearful, since he thought he was asking too much, for she couldn’t give him what he needed.
And so he feared more than anything else that his longing and his hunger for contact were wrong
or inappropriate, simply because his mother couldn’t still that hunger and perhaps for this reason
had difficulty tolerating it as well.
Kafka would have been able to break off with Felice after receiving her first letters had
this not been his first experience. This he cannot do; he is too familiar with the disappointment
he suffers even to recognize it as such. He therefore becomes engaged to her, ends the
engagement at a decisive moment, then later becomes engaged to her again. As the truth about
their relationship becomes increasingly clear and oppressive, he is saved from the engagement by
Kafka recalls their first meeting in one of his letters to Felice:
That night you looked so fresh, even pink-cheeked, and indestructible. Did I fall in love with you
at once, that night? Haven’t I told you already? At the very first you were quite obviously and
incomprehensibly indifferent toward me and probably for this reason seemed familiar. I
accepted it as a matter of course. Not until we rose from the table in the dining room did I
notice to my horror how quickly the time had passed, how sad that was, and how one would
have to hurry. But I didn’t know how, or what for. [p. 81]
Although Felice Bauer lived in Berlin, Kafka met her for the first time in Prague at the
home of friends, where she was also a guest. This marks the beginning of a correspondence
almost ideally suited to the projection of long-pent-up feelings accumulating since early
childhood, for Kafka actually knows just as little about this woman as a very young child
knows about his mother. For the little child, the mother is not an autonomous person but the
extension of his own self. Her availability is therefore of crucial importance to him.
It did not take very long for Kafka to notice unconsciously the similarity between the
cool, levelheaded, and capable Felice Bauer and his mother (“you were quite obviously and
incomprehensibly indifferent toward me and probably for this reason seemed familiar”).
Sometimes such similarities can be sensed in the very first minutes after meeting someone. But
in the ensuing happiness of falling in love, all the long-buried hopes of finding a person who will
listen and understand and care can blossom forth. The return of suppressed hope can restore
vitality and bring a feeling of bliss never experienced before. It is comprehensible if the lover is
at first willing to overlook the initial signs of lack of understanding, of alienation, of uncertainty
in the beloved, or, when this is no longer possible, to blame himself for having too high
expectations, for being “complicated” and different. Of course, he will inevitably feel
disappointed in the partner, but the reasons he gives to explain this can enable him to postpone
admitting the truth for some time. Thus, Kafka begins by complaining about how infrequently
Felice writes (which is not the case at all) in order not to have to complain about the content of
her letters, for we can see from his answers that Felice, like his mother, often urges him to take
care of his health, has virtually nothing to say about his stories, recommends authors he doesn’t
like, is upset about the feelings he expresses, and probably is also afraid of their intensity. In
essence, she seems to be standing unsuspectingly at the edge of a volcano.
When we read the following passages we can easily imagine how upset and confused
Felice must have been by them:
It is now 10:30 on Monday morning. I have been waiting for a letter since 10:30 on Saturday
morning, but again nothing has come. I have written every day (this isn’t in the least a reproach,
for it has made me happy) but don’t I deserve even a word? One single word? Even if it were
only to say “I never want to hear from you again.” Besides, I thought today’s letter would
contain some kind of decision, but the nonarrival of a letter is also a little decision. Had a
letter arrived, I would have answered it at once, and the answer would be bound to have begun
with a complaint about the length of those two endless days. But you leave me sitting wretchedly
at my wretched desk! [Letters to Felice, p. 27]
Dear Fraulein Felice,
Yesterday I pretended to be worried about you, and tried hard to give you advice. But
instead what am I doing? Tormenting you? I don’t mean intentionally, that would be
inconceivable, yet even if I were it would have evaporated, faced by your last letter, like evil
faced by good, but I am tormenting you by my existence, my very existence. Fundamentally I am
unchanged, keep turning in circles, have acquired but one more unfulfilled longing to add to my
other unfulfilled ones; and a new kind of self-confidence, perhaps the strongest I ever had, has
been given to me within my general sense of lostness. [p. 30]
Dearest, don’t let me disturb you, I’m only saying good night, and to do so I broke off in the
middle of a page of my writing. I’m afraid that soon I shall no longer be able to write to you, for
to be able to write to someone (I must give you all kinds of names, so for once you must be called
“someone”) one has to have an idea of the face one is addressing. I do have a clear idea of your
face, that wouldn’t be the trouble. But far clearer than that is an image that now comes to me
more and more often: of my face resting on your shoulder, of my talking, partly smothered and
indistinctly, to your shoulder, your dress, to myself, while you can have no notion of what is
being said. . . .
And don’t fly away! This suddenly comes to my mind somehow, perhaps through the
word “adieu,” which has a certain soaring quality. I think one could derive extraordinary
pleasure from soaring to great heights, if this could rid one of a heavy burden which clings to
one as I cling to you. Don’t be tempted by the beckoning of such relief. Hold on to the delusion
that you need me; think yourself more deeply into it. It won’t do you any harm, you know, and if
one day you want to get rid of me you will always have the strength to do so; but meanwhile you
have given me a gift such as I never even dreamt of finding in this life. That’s how it is, even if in
your sleep you shake your head. [pp. 40-41]
Dearest, please don’t torment me! Please! No letter even today, Saturday—today when I felt
sure it would come, as sure as day follows night. But who insisted on a whole letter? Just two
lines, a greeting, an envelope, a card! After four letters (this is the fifth) I haven’t had a single
word from you. Shame, this isn’t right. How am I to get through these endless days—work, talk,
and do whatever else is expected of me? Perhaps nothing has happened, you just haven’t had
the time, rehearsals or conferences about the play may have prevented you, but please tell me,
who in the world could prevent you from going over to a small table, picking up a pencil,
writing “Felice” on a scrap of paper, and sending it to me? It would mean so much to me. A sign
of you being alive, a reassurance for me in my attempt at clinging to a living being. A letter will
and must come tomorrow, or I won’t know what to do; then all will be well and I’ll stop
plaguing you with endless requests for more letters. . . . [p. 44]
The night before last I dreamt about you for the second time. A mailman brought two
registered letters from you, that is, he delivered them to me, one in each hand, his arms
moving in perfect precision, like the jerking of piston rods in a steam engine. God, they were
magic letters! I kept pulling out page after page, but the envelopes never emptied. I was
standing halfway up a flight of stairs and (don’t hold it against me) had to throw the pages I
had read all over the stairs, in order to take more letters out of the envelopes. The whole
staircase was littered from top to bottom with the loosely heaped pages I had read, the
resilient paper creating a great rustling sound. That was a real wish-dream! [p. 47]
His clinging to her, his hopes, his pleas for her devotion alternate with his fear of being
abandoned and his self-reproaches. Only after some time does he dare to allow a reproachful
tone to creep into his letters, which is then followed by great fear of having now placed
everything in jeopardy.
. . . A letter to Max Brod written in mid-September 1917 reveals Kafka’s insight into the deeper
significance of his illness.
In any case I stand today in the same relationship to tuberculosis as a child does to his mother’s
skirts to which he clings. If the disease comes from my mother, this is even more appropriate,
and my mother with her infinite concern, far beneath the surface of her understanding of the
matter, would have done me even this service as well. I am constantly searching for an
explanation for my illness, for I certainly didn’t catch it by myself. Sometimes it seems to me as if
my brain and my lungs came to an understanding without my knowledge. “It can’t go on like
this,” said my brain, and five years my lungs agreed to help out. [Briefe: 1902-1924 (Letters), p.
In his biography Brod tells what happened after Kafka bid farewell to Felice:
The next morning Franz came to my office to see me. To rest for one moment, he said. He had
just been to the station to see F. off. His face was pale, hard, and severe. But suddenly he began
to cry. It was the only time I saw him cry. I shall never forget the scene, it is one of the most
terrible I have ever experienced. I was not sitting alone in my office; right close up to my desk
was the desk of a colleague. . . . But Kafka had come straight into the room I worked in, to see
me, in the middle of all the office work, sat near my desk on a small chair which stood there
ready for bearers of petitions, pensioners, and debtors. And in this place he was crying, in this
place he said between his sobs: “Is it not terrible that such a thing must happen?” The tears
were streaming down his cheeks. I have never except this once seen him upset quite without
control of himself. (Franz Kafka, pp. 166-67]
On the basis of his letters, we have the choice with Kafka, as we do with patients, of
speaking and writing about his “narcissistic character,” his “intolerance of frustration,” his
“weak ego,” anxiety, hypochondria, phobias, psychosomatic disturbances, and the like, or of
looking for and finding in his life and works information about the kind of childhood he had; in
other words, of looking at his symptoms not as undesirable or wrong forms of behavior but as
visible links in an invisible chain.
If we do not take our patients’ suffering seriously, especially that of early childhood, our
diagnoses will remain in the realm of normative, moralizing value judgments. As long as
psychoanalysis is unable to free itself from these judgments, it is no wonder—and apart from
unconscious resistance and fear, there is probably good reason—that creative people are highly
suspicious of it.
Kafka, like Flaubert and Beckett, could not possibly know he was portraying what he
experienced in childhood in his novels and stories. His readers, too, regard his works as products
of his imagination, emanating from his brain, his talent, his artistic genius, or whatever one
chooses to call it. There is no doubt that Kafka was a writer of genius, and it is his ability to see
the universal in the concrete and yet portray it concretely that gives us the very special
experience that comes from reading his works. The form he gave to his writing seems to show
him to be a very conscious artist with words, but since its content stems from the depths of his
experience, it has the power to affect our unconscious deeply and directly. This is why his words
provide so many young people with their first confirmation that what they find in their interior
world is not necessarily madness.
The usually absurd situations portrayed by Kafka can easily be read as symbols of
“general conditions,” and the extensive Kafka scholarship is full of such interpretations, which
may indeed all be correct. We surely will not go wrong if we see in “A Hunger Artist” the
problem of the individual’s isolation in mass society, of spiritual hunger, of exploitation, of
so-called exhibitionism and the like; or if we speak of racial discrimination, the deceptiveness of
appearances, and hypocrisy in connection with “The Metamorphosis”; or understand “In the
Penal Colony” as an anticipation of the concentration camps or emphasize the primacy of the
religious problem in The Castle and the ethical one in The Trial. All this is
legitimate, but it ignores the fact that Kafka gained his knowledge about these deeply human
and essentially everyday situations by means of the stored-up memories and feelings the
world of his childhood produced in him. Like everyone else, he had to dissociate these
feelings from his initial experiences with his first attachment figures, but they were preserved
within, and like every great writer, he was able to transfer them in his imagination to
-- Thou Shalt Not Be Aware: Society's Betrayal of the Child by Alice Miller
- from Banished Knowledge by Alice Miller; p. 33: “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who
loves him is diligent to discipline him,” we read in Proverbs. This so-called wisdom is still so widespread
today that we can often hear: A slap given in love does a child no harm. Even Kafka, who had a very fine
ear for spurious undertones, is supposed to have said, according to a witness, “Love often has the face of
violence.” I consider it unlikely that the witness quoted Kafka correctly, but Kafka forced himself, as we
all do, to regard cruelty as love.
Can there be such a thing as cruelty out of love? If people weren’t accustomed to the biblical
injunction from childhood, it would soon strike them as the untruth it is. Cruelty is the opposite of love,
and its traumatic effect, far from being reduced, is actually reinforced if it is presented as a sign of love.
- from The Trial by Franz Kafka (Translated by Breon Mitchell); pp. 49-53 (Initial Inquiry): The
people below conversed quietly but animatedly. The two parties, which had appeared to hold
such contrasting opinions before, mingled with one another, some people pointing their fingers at
K., others at the examining magistrate. The foglike haze in the room was extremely annoying,
even preventing any closer observation of those standing further away. It must have been
particularly disturbing for the visitors in the gallery, who were forced, with timid side glances at
the examining magistrate of course, to address questions under their breath to the members of the
assembly in order to find out what was happening. The answers were returned equally softly,
shielded behind cupped hands.
“I’m almost finished,” said K. striking his fist on the table, since no bell was available, at
which the heads of the examining magistrate and his advisor immediately drew apart, startled:
“I’m completely detached from this whole affair, so I can judge it calmly, and it will be to your
distinct advantage to pay attention, always assuming you care about this so-called court. I
suggest that you postpone your mutual discussion of what I’m saying until later, because I don’t
have much time, and will be leaving soon.”
There was an immediate silence, so completely did K. now control the assembly. People
weren’t shouting back and forth as they had at the beginning; they no longer even applauded but
seemed by now convinced, or on the verge of being so.
“There can be no doubt,” K. said very quietly, for he was pleased by the keen attention
with which the whole assembly was listening, a murmuring arising in that stillness that was more
exciting than the most delighted applause, “there can be no doubt that behind all the
pronouncements of this court, and in my case, behind the arrest and today’s inquiry, there exists
an extensive organization. An organization that not only engages corrupt guards, inane
inspectors, and examining magistrates who are at best mediocre, but that supports as well a
system of judges of all ranks, including the highest, with their inevitable innumerable entourage
of assistants, scribes, gendarmes, and other aides, perhaps even hangmen, I won’t shy away from
the word. And the purpose of this extensive organization, gentlemen? It consists of arresting
innocent people and introducing senseless proceedings against them, which for the most part, as
in my case, go nowhere. Given the senselessness of the whole affair, how could the bureaucracy
avoid becoming entirely corrupt? It’s impossible, even the highest judge couldn’t manage it,
even with himself. So guards try to steal the shirts off the backs of arrested men, inspectors
break into strange apartments, and innocent people, instead of being examined, are humiliated
before entire assemblies. The guards told me about depositories to which an arrested man’s
property is taken; I’d like to see these depository places sometime, where the hard-earned goods
of arrested men are rotting away, if they haven’t already been stolen by pilfering officials.”
K. was interrupted by a shriek from the other end of the hall; he shaded his eyes so that
he could see, for the dull daylight had turned the haze into a blinding white glare. It was the
washerwoman, whom K. had sensed as a major disturbance from the moment she entered.
Whether or not she was at fault now was not apparent. K. saw only that a man had pulled her into
a corner by the door and pressed her to himself. But she wasn’t shrieking, it was the man; he had
opened his mouth wide and was staring up toward the ceiling. A small circle had gathered
around the two of them, and the nearby visitors in the gallery seemed delighted that the serious
mood K. had introduced into the assembly had been interrupted in this fashion. K.’s initial
reaction was to run toward them, in fact he thought everyone would want to restore order and at
least banish the couple from the hall, but the first rows in front of him stood fast; not a person
stirred and no one let K. through. On the contrary they hindered him: old men held out their arms
and someone’s hand—he didn’t have time to turn around—grabbed him by the collar from
behind; K. wasn’t really thinking about the couple anymore, for now it seemed to him as if his
freedom were being threatened, as if he were being arrested in earnest, and he sprang from the
platform recklessly. Now he stood eye-to-eye with the crowd. Had he misjudged these people?
Had he overestimated the effect of his speech? Had they been pretending all the time he was
speaking, and now that he had reached his conclusions, were they fed up with pretending? The
faces that surrounded him! Tiny black eyes darted about, cheeks drooped like those of drunken
men, the long beards were stiff and scraggly, and when they pulled on them, it seemed as if they
were merely forming claws, not pulling beards. Beneath the beards, however—and this was the
true discovery K. made—badges of various sizes and colors shimmered on the collars of their
jackets. They all had badges, as far as he could see. They were all one group, the apparent
parties on the left and right, and as he suddenly turned, he saw the same badges on the collar of
the examining magistrate, who was looking on calmly with his hands in his lap. “So!” K. cried
and flung his arms in the air, this sudden insight demanding space; “I see you’re all officials,
you’re the corrupt band I was speaking about; you’ve crowded in here to listen and snoop,
you’ve formed apparent parties and had one side applaud to test me, you wanted to learn how to
lead innocent men astray. Well I hope you haven’t come in vain; either you found it entertaining
that someone thought you would defend the innocent or else – back off or I’ll hit you,” cried K.
to a trembling old man who had shoved his way quite near to him “—or else you’ve actually
learned something. And with that I wish you luck in your trade.” He quickly picked up his hat,
which was lying at the edge of the table, and made his way through the general silence, one of
total surprise at least, toward the exit. The examining magistrate, however, seemed to have been
even quicker than K., for he was waiting for him at the door. “One moment,” he said. K. stopped,
looking not at the examining magistrate but at the door, the handle of which he had already
seized. “I just wanted to draw your attention to the fact,” said the examining magistrate, “that
you have today deprived yourself—although you can’t yet have realized it—of the advantage
that an interrogation offers to the arrested man in each case.” K. laughed at the door. “You
scoundrels,” he cried, “you can have all your interrogations”; then he opened the door and
hurried down the stairs. Behind him rose the sounds of the assembly, which had come to life
again, no doubt beginning to discuss what had occurred, as students might.
Last edited by HERO; 07-07-2013 at 03:47 AM.
In the second vid Franz Kafka looks slightly better than I always imagined.
On a subjective note, I hate his writing.
On a objective(?) "note", existentialism has never been my cup of tea, being quite foreign to me even though I haven't followed a set in stone way. It's not just Kafka, but Sartre. especially his dialectic criticism I find utterly crap, and so on. I would rather stick to Plato.
"[Scapegrace,] I don't know how anyone can stand such a sinister and mean individual as you." - Maritsa Darmandzhyan
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“Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time.”
― Maya Angelou
“You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.”
― Jonathan Safran Foer
“The secret of happiness is freedom, the secret of freedom is courage.”
― Carrie Jones, Need
ILI-Ni E5w4 sp/sx or so/sp (def contra-flow). I was very much into him during high school, but now I couldn't stand rereading him.
Last edited by Amber; 12-14-2014 at 10:49 AM.
I lean ILI > IEI
Mortal, mortal, what would you
With that beauty once was yours?
Perishable is the dew,
And the dust endures.
Just to clarify, I wasn't actually serious.xSTj (ESTj > ISTj) for Franz
Originally Posted by George W. Bush
Franz Kafka: ILI-Ni? (Normalizing subtype) [INTp-INFj?]
- from The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America by Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld; p. 105:
A history of persecution can produce a variety of psychological reactions, including despair, paralysis, surrender, even shame. Another reaction, however, is a compulsion to rise, to get hold of money or power and cling to it—to be so successful that you either can’t be targeted or at least have the resources to escape. Franz Kafka, who was Jewish, wrote in a 1920 letter to a Catholic friend that the Jews’ “insecure position, insecure within themselves, insecure among people,” makes “Jews believe they possess only whatever they hold in their hands or grip between their teeth” and feel that “only tangible possessions give them a right to live.”
- From The Castle: The Definitive Edition by Franz Kafka; p. xxxi-xxxix (“Homage” by Thomas Mann):
Franz Kafka, author of this very remarkable and brilliant novel, The Castle, and of its equally extraordinary companion-piece, The Trial, was born in 1883 in Prague, son of a German-Jewish-Bohemian family, and died of consumption in 1924, at the early age of forty-one. His last portrait, done shortly before his death, looks more like a man of twenty-five than of forty-one. It shows a shy, sensitive, contemplative face, with black curly hair growing low on the forehead, large dark eyes, at once dreamy and penetrating, a straight drooping nose, cheeks shadowed by illness, and a mouth with unusually fine lines and a half-smile playing in one corner. The expression, at once childlike and wise, recalls not a little the best-known portrait of Friedrich von Hardenberg, called Novalis, the seraphic mystic and seeker after the “blue flower.” Novalis too died of consumption.
But though his gaze makes us conceive of him as a Novalis from the east of Europe, yet I should not care to dub Kafka either a romantic, an ecstatic, or a mystic. For a romantic he is too clear-cut, too realistic, too well attached to life and to a simple, native effectiveness in living. His sense of humor—of an involved kind peculiar to himself—is too pronounced for an ecstatic. And as for mysticism : he did indeed once say, in a conversation with Rudolf Steiner, that his own work had given him understanding of certain “clairvoyant states” described by the latter. And he compared his own work with “a new secret doctrine, a cabbala.” But there is lacking to it the hot and heavy atmosphere of transcendentalism; the sensual does not pass over into the super-sensual, there is no “voluptuous hell,” no “bridal bed of the tomb,” nor the rest of the stock-in-trade of the genuine mystic. None of that was in his line; neither Wagner’s Tristan nor Novalis’s Hymns to the Night nor his love for his dead Sophie would have appealed to Kafka. He was a dreamer, and his compositions are often dreamlike in conception and form; they are as oppressive, illogical, and absurd as dreams, those strange shadow-pictures of actual life. But they are full of a reasoned morality, an ironic, satiric, desperately reasoned morality, struggling with all its might toward justice, goodness, and the will of God. All that mirrors itself in his style: a conscientious, curiously explicit, objective, clear, and correct style, which in its precise, almost official conservatism is reminiscent of Adalbert Stifter’s. Yes, he was a dreamer; but in his dreaming he did not yearn after a “blue flower” blossoming somewhere in a mystical sphere; he yearned after the “blisses of the commonplace.”
The phrase comes from a youthful story by the writer of these lines, Tonio Kroger. That story, as I learn from his friend, compatriot, and best critic, Max Brod, was a favorite with Kafka. His was a different world, but he, the Jew of eastern Europe, had a very precise idea of the art and feeling of bourgeois Europe. One might put it that the “aspiring effort” which brought to birth a book like The Castle corresponded in the religious sphere to Tonio Kroger’s artist isolation, his longing for simple human feeling, his bad conscience in respect of the bourgeois, and his love of the blond and good and ordinary. Perhaps I shall best characterize Kafka as a writer by calling him a religious humorist.
The combination sounds offensive; and both parts of it stand in need of explanation. Brod relates that Kafka had always been deeply impressed by an anecdote from Gustave Flaubert’s later years. The famous aesthete, who in an ascetic paroxysm sacrificed all life to his nihilistic idol, “littérature,” once paid a visit with his niece, Mme Commanville, to a family of her acquaintance, a sturdy and happy wedded pair surrounded by a flock of charming children. On the way home the author of the Tentations de Saint Antoine was very thoughtful. Walking with Mme Commanville along the Seine, he kept coming back to the natural, healthy, jolly, upright life he had just had a glimpse of. “Ils sont dans le vrai!” [“They are in the truth!” or “They are right!”] he kept repeating. This phrase, this complete abandonment of his whole position, from the lips of the master whose creed had been the denial of life for the sake of art—this phrase had been Kafka’s favorite quotation.
D’être dans le vrai—to live in the true and the right—meant to Kafka to be near to God, to live in God, to live aright and after God’s will—and he felt very remote from this security in God and the will of God. That “literary work was my one desire, my single calling”—that he knew very soon, and that might pass, as being itself probably the will of God. “But,” he writes in 1914, a man of thirty-one, “the wish to portray my own inner life has shoved everything else into the background; everything else is stunted, and continues to be stunted.” “Often,” he adds at another time, “I am seized by a melancholy though quite tranquil amazement at my own lack of feeling . . . that simply by consequence of my fixation upon letters I am everywhere else uninterested and in consequence heartless.” This calm and melancholy perception is actually, however, a source of much disquiet, and the disquiet is religious in its nature. This being dehumanized, being “stunted” by the passion for art, is certainly remote from God; it is the opposite of “living in the true and the right.” It is possible, of course, to take in a symbolic sense this passion which makes everything else a matter of indifference. It may be thought of as an ethical symbol. Art is not inevitably what it was to Flaubert, the product, the purpose, and the significance of a frantically ascetic denial of life. It may be an ethical expression of life itself; wherein not the work but the life itself is the main thing. Then life is not “heartless,” not a mere means of achieving by struggle a goal of aesthetic perfection; instead the product, the work, is an ethical symbol; and the goal is not some sort of objective perfection, but the subjective consciousness that one has done one’s best to give meaning to life and to fill it with achievement worthy to stand beside any other kind of human accomplishment.
“For a few days,” Kafka says, “I have been writing. May it go on! My life has some justification. Once more I am able to converse with myself, and not gaze into utter vacancy. Only in this way can I hope to find improvement.” He might almost have said “salvation” instead of improvement. It would have made still clearer the religious nature of the tranquillity he felt when he worked. Art as the functioning of faculties bestowed by God, as work faithfully done—that is an interpretation not only in an intellectual but in a moral sense: as it heightens the actual into the true, it lends meaning and justification to life, not only subjectively but also humanly; thus the work becomes humanly conservative, as a means of living “in the right”—or at least of coming closer to it—and art thus becomes adaptable to life. Franz Kafka, late and doubting and almost desperately complicated representative of German letters, certainly felt the purest respect and reverence for Goethe; and from Goethe we have the great saying: “Man can find no better retreat from the world than art, and man can find no stronger link with the world than art.” A wonderful saying. Solitude and companionship—the two are here reconciled in a way that Kafka may well have admired, without being quite willing or able to admit it, because his productivity depended on the strife within him, and on his feeling of being “remote from God,” his insecurity. His joy and gratitude when he was able to write might have taught him that art “links” us not only with the world, but also with the moral sphere, with the right and the divine. And this in a double sense, by the profound symbolism inherent in the idea of the “good.” What the artist calls good, the object of all his playful pains, his life-and-death jesting, is nothing less than a parable of the right and the good, a representation of all human striving after perfection. In this sense Kafka’s work, born of his dreams, is very good indeed. It is composed with a fidelity and patience, a native exactitude, a conscientiousness—ironic, even parodistic in kind, yet charming to laughter—with a painstaking love, all proof that he was no unbeliever, but in some involved fashion of his own had faith in the good and the right. And the discrepancy between God and man, the incapacity of man to recognize the good, to unite himself with it and “live in the right,” Kafka took this for the theme of his works, works that in every sentence bear witness to a humorously, fantastically despairing good will.
They express the solitude, the aloneness, of the artist—and of the Jew, on top of that—among the genuine native-born of life, the villagers who settle at the foot of the “Castle.” They express the inborn, self-distrustful solitariness that fights for order and regularity, civic rights, an established calling, marriage—in short, for all the “blisses of the commonplace.” They express an unbounded will, forever suffering shipwreck, to live aright. The Castle is through and through an autobiographical novel. The hero, who should originally speak in the first person, is called K.; he is the author, who has only too literally suffered all these pains and these grotesque disappointments. In the story of his life there is a betrothal that is simply the essence of all melancholy miscarriages. And in The Castle a prominent part is played by similar spasmodic efforts to found a family and arrive closer to God through leading a normal life.
For it is plain that regular life in a community, the ceaseless struggle to become a “native,” is simply the technique for improving K.’s relations with the “Castle,” or rather to set up relations with it: to attain nearer, in other words, to God and to a state of grace. In the sardonic dream-symbolism of the novel the village represents life, the soil, the community, healthy normal existence, and the blessings of human and bourgeois society. The Castle, on the other hand, represents the divine dispensation, the state of grace—puzzling, remote, incomprehensible. And never has the divine, the superhuman, been observed, experienced, characterized with stranger, more daring, more comic expedients, with more inexhaustible psychological riches, both sacrilegious and devout, than in this story of an incorrigible believer, so needing grace, so wrestling for it, so passionately and recklessly yearning after it that he even tries to encompass it by stratagems and wiles.
The question is really an important one, in its own touching, funny, involved religious way: whether K. has actually been summoned by the estates authorities to act as surveyor, or whether he only imagines or pretends to others that such is the case, in order to get into the community and attain to the state of grace. It remains throughout the narrative an open question. In the first chapter there is a telephone conversation with “up above”; the idea that he has been summoned is summarily denied, so that he is exposed as a vagabond and swindler; then comes a correction, whereby his surveyorship is vaguely recognized up above—though he himself has the feeling that the confirmation is only the result of “lofty superiority” and of the intention of “taking up the challenge with a smile.”
More impressive still is the second telephone conversation in the second chapter; K. himself holds it with the Castle, and with him are his two aides, who possess all the fantastic absurdity of characters in dreams: whom the Castle sent to him, and in whom he sees his “old assistants.” And when you have read this, and listened with K. to “the hum of countless children’s voices” from the receiver, the rebuff given by the official up above, with the “small defect” in his speech, to the suppliant down below at the inn telephone, with his persistent appeals and tergiversations, you will not lay down this long, circumstantial, incredible book until you have run through and lived through the whole of it; until amid laughter and the discomfort of its dream-atmosphere you have got to the bottom of those existences up there, the heavenly authorities, and their overbearing, arbitrary, puzzling, anomalous, and entirely incomprehensible activities.
You get the best objective idea of them in the fifth chapter, from the mouth of the “Mayor”; likewise some explanation of the odd things that happen when one tries to telephone the Castle and finds out that the connection is entirely unreliable and illusory; that there is no central exchange to connect the call; that one can get a branch connection, only to discover either that the receivers have been left off or that such answers as one gets are entirely nonsensical and frivolous. I refer particularly to the amazing conversation between K. and the Mayor; but indeed the book is inexhaustible in its devices to explain and illustrate its central theme: the grotesque unconnection between the human being and the transcendental; the incommensurability of the divine, the strange, uncanny, demonic illogicality, the “ungetatable” remoteness, cruelty, yes, wickedness, by any human standards, of the “Castle”; in other words, of the powers above. In every shade and tone, with employment of every possible device, the theme is played upon. It is the most patient, obstinate, desperate “wrestling with the angel” that ever happened; and the strangest, boldest, most novel thing about it is that it is done with humor, in a spirit of reverent satire which leaves utterly unchallenged the fact of the divine Absolute. This is what makes Kafka a religious humorist: that he does not, as literature is prone to do, treat of the incomprehensible, the incommensurable, the humanly unassessable transcendent world in a style either grandiose, ecstatic, or hyper-emotional. No, he sees and depicts it as an Austrian “department”; as a magnification of a petty, obstinate, inaccessible, unaccountable bureaucracy; a mammoth establishment of documents and procedures, headed by some darkly responsible official hierarchy. Sees it, then, as I have said, with the eye of a satirist; yet at the same time with utter sincerity, faith, and submissiveness, wrestling unintermittedly to win inside the incomprehensible kingdom of grace, while employing satire instead of pathos as his technique.
The biography tells us that Kafka once read aloud to some friends the beginning of his novel The Trial, which deals explicitly with the problem of divine justice. His listeners laughed through their tears, and Kafka too had to laugh so hard that his reading was interrupted. Mirth of that kind is very deep-seated and involved; no doubt the same thing happened when he read The Castle aloud. But when you consider that laughter of such a sort, with such deep and lofty sources, is probably the best thing that remains to us, then you will be inclined, with me, to place Kafka’s warm-hearted fantasies among the best worth reading in the world’s treasury of literature.
The Castle is not quite complete; but probably not more than one chapter is missing. The author gave his friends a version of the ending by word of mouth. K. dies—dies out of sheer exhaustion after his desperate efforts to get in touch with the Castle and be confirmed in his appointment. The villagers stand about the stranger’s deathbed—when, at the very last moment, an order comes down from the Castle: to the effect that while K. has no legal claim to live in the community, yet the permission is nevertheless granted; not in consideration of his honest efforts, but owing to “certain auxiliary circumstances,” it is permitted to him to settle in the village and work there. So, at the last, grace is vouchsafed. Franz Kafka too, certainly, without bitterness, laid it to his heart when he died.
Princeton, June 1940
- from The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka (Translated from the German by Stanley Corngold); p. 3-19 (Chapter 1):
When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin. He was lying on his back as hard as armor plate, and when he lifted his head a little, he saw his vaulted brown belly, sectioned by arch-shaped ribs, to whose dome the cover, about to slide off completely, could barely cling. His many legs, pitifully thin compared with the size of the rest of him, were waving helplessly before his eyes.
“What’s happened to me?” he thought. It was no dream. His room, a regular human room, only a little on the small side, lay quiet between the four familiar walls. Over the table, on which an unpacked line of fabric samples was all spread out—Samsa was a traveling salesman—hung the picture which he had recently cut out of a glossy magazine and lodged in a pretty gilt frame. It showed a lady done up in a fur hat and a fur boa, sitting upright and raising up against the viewer a heavy fur muff in which her whole forearm had disappeared.
Gregor’s eyes then turned to the window, and the overcast weather—he could hear raindrops hitting against the metal window ledge—completely depressed him. “How about going back to sleep for a few minutes and forgetting all this nonsense,” he thought, but that was completely impracticable, since he was used to sleeping on his right side and in his present state could not get into that position. No matter how hard he threw himself onto his right side, he always rocked onto his back again. He must have tried it a hundred times, closing his eyes so as not to have to see his squirming legs, and stopped only when he began to feel a slight, dull pain in his side, which he had never felt before.
“Oh God,” he thought, “what a grueling job I’ve picked! Day in, day out—on the road. The upset of doing business is much worse than the actual business in the home office, and, besides, I’ve got the torture of traveling, worrying about changing trains, eating miserable food at all hours, constantly seeing new faces, no relationships that last or get more intimate. To the devil with it all!" He felt a slight itching up on top of his belly; shoved himself slowly on his back closer to the bedpost, so as to be able to lift his head better; found the itchy spot, studded with small white dots which he had no idea what to make of; and wanted to touch the spot with one of his legs but immediately pulled it back, for the contact sent a cold shiver through him.
He slid back again into his original position. "This getting up so early," he thought, "makes anyone a complete idiot. Human beings have to have their sleep. Other traveling salesmen live like harem women. For instance, when I go back to the hotel before lunch to write up the business I've done, these gentlemen are just having breakfast. That's all I'd have to try with my boss; I'd be fired on the spot. Anyway, who knows if that wouldn't be a very good thing for me. If I didn't hold back for my parents' sake, I would have quit long ago, I would have marched up to the boss and spoken my piece from the bottom of my heart. He would have fallen off the desk! It is funny, too, the way he sits on the desk and talks down from the heights to the employees, especially when they have to come right up close on account of the boss's being hard of hearing. Well, I haven't given up hope completely; once I've gotten the money together to pay off my parents' debt to him--that will probably take another five or six years--I'm going to do it without fail. Then I'm going to make the big break. But for the time being I'd better get up, since my train leaves at five."
And he looked over at the alarm clock, which was ticking on the chest of drawers. "God Almighty!" he thought. It was six-thirty, the hands were quietly moving forward, it was actually past the half-hour, it was already nearly a quarter to. Could it be that the alarm hadn't gone off? You could see from the bed that it was set correctly for four o'clock; it certainly had gone off, too. Yes, but was it possible to sleep quietly through a ringing that made the furniture shake? Well, he certainly hadn't slept quietly, but probably all the more soundly for that. But what should he do now? The next train left at seven o'clock; to make it, he would have to hurry like a madman, and the line of samples wasn't packed yet, and he himself didn't feel especially fresh and ready to march around. And even if he did make the train, he could not avoid getting it from the boss, because the messenger boy had been waiting at the five-o'clock train and would have long ago reported his not showing up. He was a tool of the boss, without brains or backbone. What if he were to say he was sick? But that would be extremely embarrassing and suspicious because during his five years with the firm Gregor had not been sick even once. The boss would be sure to come with the health-insurance doctor, blame his parents for their lazy son, and cut off all excuses by quoting the health-insurance doctor, for whom the world consisted of people who were completely healthy but afraid to work. And, besides, in this case would he be so very wrong? In fact, Gregor felt fine, with the exception of his drowsiness, which was really unnecessary after sleeping so late, and he even had a ravenous appetite.
Just as he was thinking all this over at top speed, without being able to decide to get out of bed--the alarm clock had just struck a quarter to seven--he heard a cautious knocking at the door next to the head of his bed. "Gregor," someone called--it was his mother--"it's a quarter to seven. Didn't you want to catch the train?" What a soft voice! Gregor was shocked to hear his own voice answering, unmistakably his own voice, true, but in which, as if from below, an insistent distressed chirping intruded, which left the clarity of his words intact only for a moment really, before so badly garbling them as they carried that no one could be sure if he had heard right. Gregor had wanted to answer in detail and to explain everything, but, given the circumstances, confined himself to saying, "Yes, yes, thanks, Mother, I'm just getting up." The wooden door must have prevented the change in Gregor's voice from being noticed outside, because his mother was satisfied with this explanation and shuffled off. But their little exchange had made the rest of the family aware that, contrary to expectations, Gregor was still in the house, and already his father was knocking on one of the side doors, feebly but with his fist. "Gregor, Gregor," he called, "what's going on?" And after a little while he called again in a deeper, warning voice, "Gregor! Gregor!" At the other side door, however, his sister moaned gently, "Gregor? Is something the matter with you? Do you want anything?" Toward both sides Gregor answered: "I'm all ready," and made an effort, by meticulous pronunciation and by inserting long pauses between individual words, to eliminate everything from his voice that might betray him. His father went back to his breakfast, but his sister whispered, "Gregor, open up, I'm pleading with you." But Gregor had absolutely no intention of opening the door and complimented himself instead on the precaution he had adopted from his business trips, of locking all the doors during the night even at home.
First of all he wanted to get up quietly, without any excitement; get dressed; and, the main thing, have breakfast, and only then think about what to do next, for he saw clearly that in bed he would never think things through to a rational conclusion. He remembered how even in the past he had often felt some kind of slight pain, possibly caused by lying in an uncomfortable position, which, when he got up, turned out to be purely imaginary, and he was eager to see how today's fantasy would gradually fade away. That the change in his voice was nothing more than the first sign of a bad cold, an occupational ailment of the traveling salesman, he had no doubt in the least.
It was very easy to throw off the cover; all he had to do was puff himself up a little, and it fell off by itself. But after this, things got difficult, especially since he was so unusually broad. He would have needed hands and arms to lift himself up, but instead of that he had only his numerous little legs, which were in every different kind of perpetual motion and which, besides, he could not control. If he wanted to bend one, the first thing that happened was that it stretched itself out; and if he finally succeeded in getting this leg to do what he wanted, all the others in the meantime, as if set free, began to work in the most intensely painful agitation. "Just don't stay in bed being useless," Gregor said to himself.
First he tried to get out of bed with the lower part of his body, but this lower part--which by the way he had not seen yet and which he could not form a clear picture of--proved too difficult to budge; it was taking so long; and when finally, almost out of his mind, he lunged forward with all his force, without caring, he had picked the wrong direction and slammed himself violently against the lower bedpost, and the searing pain he felt taught him that exactly the lower part of his body was, for the moment anyway, the most sensitive.
He therefore tried to get the upper part of his body out of bed first and warily turned his head toward the edge of the bed. This worked easily, and in spite of its width and weight, the mass of his body finally followed, slowly, the movement of his head. But when at last he stuck his head over the edge of the bed into the air, he got too scared to continue any further, since if he finally let himself fall in this position, it would be a miracle if he didn't injure his head. And just now he had better not for the life of him lose consciousness; he would rather stay in bed.
But when, once again, after the same exertion, he lay in his original position, sighing, and again watched his little legs struggling, if possible more fiercely, with each other and saw no way of bringing peace and order into this mindless motion, he again told himself that it was impossible for him to stay in bed and that the most rational thing was to make any sacrifice for even the smallest hope of freeing himself from the bed. But at the same time he did not forget to remind himself occasionally that thinking things over calmly--indeed, as calmly as possible--was much better than jumping to desperate decisions. At such moments he fixed his eyes as sharply as possible on the window, but unfortunately there was little confidence and cheer to be gotten from the view of the morning fog, which shrouded even the other side of the narrow street. "Seven o'clock already," he said to himself as the alarm clock struck again, "seven o'clock already and still such a fog." And for a little while he lay quietly, breathing shallowly, as if expecting, perhaps, from the complete silence the return of things to the way they really and naturally were.
But then he said to himself, "Before it strikes a quarter past seven, I must be completely out of bed without fail. Anyway, by that time someone from the firm will be here to find out where I am, since the office opens before seven." And now he started rocking the complete length of his body out of the bed with a smooth rhythm. If he let himself topple out of bed in this way, his head, which on falling he planned to lift up sharply, would presumably remain unharmed. His back seemed to be hard; nothing was likely to happen to it when it fell onto the carpet. His biggest misgiving came from his concern about the loud crash that was bound to occur and would probably create, if not terror, at least anxiety behind all the doors. But that would have to be risked.
When Gregor's body already projected halfway out of bed--the new method was more of a game than a struggle, he only had to keep on rocking and jerking himself along--he thought how simple everything would be if he could get some help. Two strong persons--he thought of his father and the maid--would have been completely sufficient; they would only have had to shove their arms under his arched back, in this way scoop him off the bed, bend down with their burden, and then just be careful and patient while he managed to swing himself down onto the floor, where his little legs would hopefully acquire some purpose. Well, leaving out the fact that the doors were locked, should he really call for help? In spite of all his miseries, he could not repress a smile at this thought.
He was already so far along that when he rocked more strongly he could hardly keep his balance, and very soon he would have to commit himself, because in five minutes it would be a quarter past seven--when the doorbell rang. "It's someone from the firm," he said to himself and almost froze, while his little legs only danced more quickly. For a moment everything remained quiet. "They're not going to answer," Gregor said to himself, captivated by some senseless hope. But then, of course, the maid went to the door as usual with her firm stride and opened up. Gregor only had to hear the visitor's first word of greeting to know who it was--the office manager himself. Why was only Gregor condemned to work for a firm where at the slightest omission they immediately suspected the worst? Were all employees louts without exception, wasn't there a single loyal, dedicated worker among them who, when he had not fully utilized a few hours of the morning for the firm, was driven half-mad by pangs of conscience and was actually unable to get out of bed? Really, wouldn't it have been enough to send one of the apprentices to find out--if this prying were absolutely necessary--did the manager himself have to come, and did the whole innocent family have to be shown in this way that the investigation of this suspicious affair could be entrusted only to the intellect of the manager? And more as a result of the excitement produced in Gregor by these thoughts than as a result of any real decision, he swung himself out of bed with all his might. There was a loud thump, but it was not a real crash. The fall was broken a little by the carpet, and Gregor's back was more elastic than he had thought, which explained the not very noticeable muffled sound. Only he had not held his head carefully enough and hit it; he turned it and rubbed it on the carpet in anger and pain.
“Something fell in there,” said the manager in the room on the left. Gregor tried to imagine whether something like what had happened to him today could one day happen even to the manager; you really had to grant the possibility. But, as if in rude reply to this question, the manager took a few decisive steps in the next room and made his patent leather boots creak. From the room on the right his sister whispered, to inform Gregor, “Gregor, the manager is here.” “I know,” Gregor said to himself; but he did not dare raise his voice enough for his sister to hear.
“Gregor,” his father now said from the room on the left, “the manager has come and wants to be informed why you didn’t catch the early train. We don’t know what we should say to him. Besides, he wants to speak to you personally. So please open the door. He will certainly be so kind as to excuse the disorder of the room.” “Good morning, Mr. Samsa,” the manager called in a friendly voice. “There’s something the matter with him,” his mother said to the manager while his father was still at the door, talking. “Believe me, sir, there’s something the matter with him. Otherwise how would Gregor have missed a train? That boy has nothing on his mind but the business. It’s almost begun to rile me that he never goes out nights. He’s been back in the city for eight days now, but every night he’s been home. He sits there with us at the table, quietly reading the paper or studying timetables. It’s already a distraction for him when he’s busy working with his fretsaw. For instance, in the span of two or three evenings he carved a little frame. You’ll be amazed how pretty it is; it’s hanging inside his room. You’ll see it right away when Gregor opens the door. You know, I’m glad that you’ve come, sir. We would never have gotten Gregor to open the door by ourselves; he’s so stubborn. And there’s certainly something wrong with him, even though he said this morning there wasn’t.” “I’m coming right away,” said Gregor slowly and deliberately, not moving in order not to miss a word of the conversation. “I haven’t any other explanation myself,” said the manager. “I hope it’s nothing serious. On the other hand, I must say that we businessmen—fortunately or unfortunately, whichever you prefer—very often simply have to overcome a slight indisposition for business reasons.” “So can the manager come in now?” asked his father, impatient, and knocked on the door again. “No,” said Gregor. In the room on the left there was an embarrassing silence; in the room on the right his sister began to sob.
Why didn’t his sister go in to the others? She had probably just got out of bed and not even started to get dressed. Then what was she crying about? Because he didn’t get up and didn’t let the manager in, because he was in danger of losing his job, and because then the boss would start hounding his parents about the old debts? For the time being, certainly, her worries were unnecessary. Gregor was still here and hadn’t the slightest intention of letting the family down. True, at the moment he was lying on the carpet, and no one knowing his condition could seriously have expected him to let the manager in. But just because of this slight discourtesy, for which an appropriate excuse would easily be found later on, Gregor could not simply be dismissed. And to Gregor it seemed much more sensible to leave him alone now than to bother him with crying and persuasion. But it was just the uncertainty that was tormenting the others and excused their behavior.
“Mr. Samsa,” the manager now called, raising his voice, “what’s the matter? You barricade yourself in your room, answer only ‘yes’ and ‘no,’ cause your parents serious, unnecessary worry, and you neglect—I mention this only in passing—your duties to the firm in a really shocking manner. I am speaking here in the name of your parents and of your employer and ask you in all seriousness for an immediate, clear explanation. I’m amazed, amazed. I thought I knew you to be a quiet, reasonable person, and now you suddenly seem to want to start strutting about, flaunting strange whims. The head of the firm did suggest to me this morning a possible explanation for your tardiness—it concerned the cash payments recently entrusted to you—but really, I practically gave my word of honor that this explanation could not be right. But now, seeing your incomprehensible obstinacy, I am about to lose even the slightest desire to stick up for you in any way at all. And your job is not the most secure. Originally I intended to tell you all this in private, but since you make me waste my time here for nothing, I don’t see why your parents shouldn’t hear too. Your performance of late has been very unsatisfactory; I know it is not the best season for doing business, we all recognize that; but a season for not doing any business, there is no such thing, Mr. Samsa, such a thing cannot be tolerated.”
“But sir,” cried Gregor, beside himself, in his excitement forgetting everything else, “I’m just opening up, in a minute. A slight indisposition, a dizzy spell, prevented me from getting up. I’m still in bed. But I already feel fine again. I’m just getting out of bed. Just be patient for a minute! I’m not as well as I thought yet. But really I’m fine. How something like this could just take a person by surprise! Only last night I was fine, my parents can tell you, or wait, last night I already had a slight premonition. They must have been able to tell by looking at me. Why didn’t I report it to the office! But you always think that you’ll get over a sickness without staying home. Sir! Spare my parents! There’s no basis for any of the accusations that you’re making against me now; no one has ever said a word to me about them. Perhaps you haven’t seen the last orders I sent in. Anyway, I’m still going on the road with the eight o’clock train; these few hours of rest have done me good. Don’t let me keep you, sir. I’ll be at the office myself right away, and be so kind as to tell them this, and give my respects to the head of the firm.”
And while Gregor hastily blurted all this out, hardly knowing what he was saying, he had easily approached the chest of drawers, probably as a result of the practice he had already gotten in bed, and now he tried to raise himself up against it. He actually intended to open the door, actually present himself and speak to the manager; he was so eager to find out what the others, who were now so anxious to see him, would say at the sight of him. If they were shocked, then Gregor had no further responsibility and could be calm. But if they took everything calmly, then he, too, had no reason to get excited and could, if he hurried, actually be at the station by eight o’clock. At first he slid off the polished chest of drawers a few times, but at last, giving himself a final push, he stood upright; he no longer paid any attention to the pains in his abdomen, no matter how much they were burning. Now he let himself fall against the back of a nearby chair, clinging to its slats with his little legs. But by doing this he had gotten control of himself and fell silent, since he could now listen to what the manager was saying.
“Did you understand a word?” the manager was asking his parents. “He isn’t trying to make fools of us, is he?” “My God,” cried his mother, already in tears, “maybe he’s seriously ill, and here we are, torturing him. Grete! Grete!” she then cried. “Mother?” called his sister from the other side. They communicated by way of Gregor’s room. “Go to the doctor’s immediately. Gregor is sick. Hurry, get the doctor. Did you just hear Gregor talking?” “That was the voice of an animal,” said the manager, in a tone conspicuously soft compared with the mother’s yelling. “Anna!” “Anna!” the father called through the foyer into the kitchen, clapping his hands, “get a locksmith right away!” And already the two girls were running with rustling skirts through the foyer — how could his sister have gotten dressed so quickly? — and tearing open the door to the apartment. The door could not be heard slamming; they had probably left it open, as is the custom in homes where a great misfortune has occurred.
But Gregor had become much calmer. It was true that they no longer understood his words, though they had seemed clear enough to him, clearer than before, probably because his ear had grown accustomed to them. But still, the others now believed that there was something the matter with him and were ready to help him. The assurance and confidence with which the first measures had been taken did him good. He felt integrated into human society once again and hoped for marvelous, amazing feats from both the doctor and the locksmith, without really distinguishing sharply between them. In order to make his voice as clear as possible for the crucial discussions that were approaching, he cleared his throat a little—taking pains, of course, to do so in a very muffled manner, since this noise, too, might sound different from human coughing, a thing he no longer trusted himself to decide. In the next room, meanwhile, everything had become completely still. Perhaps his parents were sitting at the table with the manager, whispering; perhaps they were all leaning against the door and listening.
Gregor slowly lugged himself toward the door, pushing the chair in front of him, then let go of it, threw himself against the door, held himself upright against it—the pads on the bottom of his little legs exuded a little sticky substance—and for a moment rested there from the exertion. But then he got started turning the key in the lock with his mouth. Unfortunately it seemed that he had no real teeth—what was he supposed to grip the key with?—but in compensation his jaws, of course, were very strong; with their help he actually got the key moving and paid no attention to the fact that he was undoubtedly hurting himself in some way, for a brown liquid came out of his mouth, flowed over the key, and dripped onto the floor. “Listen,” said the manager in the next room, “he’s turning the key.” This was great encouragement to Gregor; but everyone should have cheered him on, his father and mother too. “Go, Gregor,” they should have called “keep going, at that lock, harder, harder!” And in the delusion that they were all following his efforts with suspense, he clamped his jaws madly on the key with all the strength he could muster. Depending on the progress of the key, he danced around the lock; holding himself upright only by his mouth, he clung to the key, as the situation demanded, or pressed it down again with the whole weight of his body. The clearer click of the lock as it finally snapped back literally woke Gregor up. With a sigh of relief he said to himself, “So I didn’t need the locksmith after all,” and laid his head down on the handle in order to open wide [one wing of the double doors.]
Since he had to use this method of opening the door, it was really opened very wide while he himself was still invisible. He first had to edge slowly around the one wing of the door, and do so very carefully if he was not to fall flat on his back just before entering. He was still busy with this difficult maneuver and had no time to pay attention to anything else when he heard the manager burst out with a loud “Oh!”—it sounded like a rush of wind—and now he could see him, standing closest to the door, his hand pressed over his open mouth, slowly backing away, as if repulsed by an invisible, unrelenting force. His mother—in spite of the manager’s presence she stood with her hair still unbraided from the night, sticking out in all directions—first looked at his father with her hands clasped, then took two steps toward Gregor, and sank down in the midst of her skirts spreading out around her, her face completely hidden on her breast. With a hostile expression his father clenched his fist, as if to drive Gregor back into his room, then looked uncertainly around the living room, shielded his eyes with his hands, and sobbed with heaves of his powerful chest.
Now Gregor did not enter the room after all but leaned against the inside of the firmly bolted wing of the door, so that only half his body was visible and his head above it, cocked to one side and peeping out at the others. In the meantime it had grown much lighter; across the street one could see clearly a section of the endless, grayish-black building opposite—it was a hospital—with its regular windows starkly piercing the façade; the rain was still coming down, but only in large, separately visible drops that were also pelting the ground literally one at a time. The breakfast dishes were laid out lavishly on the table, since for his father breakfast was the most important meal of the day, which he would prolong for hours while reading various newspapers. On the wall directly opposite hung a photograph of Gregor from his army days, in a lieutenant’s uniform, his hand on his sword, a carefree smile on his lips, demanding respect for his bearing and his rank. The door to the foyer was open, and since the front door was open too, it was possible to see out onto the landing and the top of the stairs going down.
“Well,” said Gregor—and he was thoroughly aware of being the only one who had kept calm—“I’ll get dressed right away, pack up my samples, and go. Will you, will you please let me go? Now, sir, you see, I’m not stubborn and I’m willing to work; traveling is a hardship, but without it I couldn’t live. Where are you going, sir? To the office? Yes? Will you give an honest report of everything? A man might find for a moment that he was unable to work, but that’s exactly the right time to remember his past accomplishments and to consider that later on, when the obstacle has been removed, he’s bound to work all the harder and more efficiently. I’m under so many obligations to the head of the firm, as you know very well. Besides, I also have my parents and my sister to worry about. I’m in a tight spot, but I’ll also work my way out again. Don’t make things harder for me than they already are. Stick up for me in the office, please. Traveling salesmen aren’t well liked there, I know. People think they make a fortune leading the gay life. No one has any particular reason to rectify this prejudice. But you, sir, you have a better perspective on things than the rest of the office, an even better perspective, just between the two of us, than the head of the firm himself, who in his capacity as owner easily lets his judgment be swayed against an employee. And you also know very well that the traveling salesman, who is out of the office practically the whole year round, can so easily become the victim of gossip, coincidences, and unfounded accusations, against which he’s completely unable to defend himself, since in most cases he knows nothing at all about them except when he returns exhausted from a trip, and back home gets to suffer on his own person the grim consequences, which can no longer be traced back to their causes. Sir, don’t go away without a word to tell me you think I’m at least partly right!”
But at Gregor’s first words the manager had already turned away and with curled lips looked back at Gregor only over his twitching shoulder. And during Gregor’s speech he did not stand still for a minute but, without letting Gregor out of his sight, backed toward the door, yet very gradually, as if there were some secret prohibition against leaving the room. He was already in the foyer, and from the sudden movement with which he took his last step from the living room, one might have thought he had just burned the sole of his foot. In the foyer, however, he stretched his right hand far out toward the staircase, as if nothing less than an unearthly deliverance were awaiting him there.
Gregor realized that he must on no account let the manager go away in this mood if his position in the firm were not to be jeopardized in the extreme. His parents did not understand this too well; in the course of the years they had formed the conviction that Gregor was set for life in this firm; and furthermore, they were so preoccupied with their immediate troubles that they had lost all consideration for the future. But Gregor had this forethought. The manager must be detained, calmed down, convinced, and finally won over; Gregor’s and the family’s future depended on it! If only his sister had been there! She was perceptive; she had already begun to cry when Gregor was still lying calmly on his back. And certainly the manager, this ladies’ man, would have listened to her; she would have shut the front door and in the foyer talked him out of his scare. But his sister was not there, Gregor had to handle the situation himself. And without stopping to realize that he had no idea what his new faculties of movement were, and without stopping to realize either that his speech had possibly—indeed, probably—not been understood again, he let go of the wing of the door; he shoved himself through the opening, intending to go to the manager, who was already on the landing, ridiculously holding onto the banisters with both hands; but groping for support, Gregor immediately fell down with a little cry onto his numerous little legs. This had hardly happened when for the first time that morning he had a feeling of physical well-being; his little legs were on firm ground; they obeyed him completely, as he noted to his joy; they even strained to carry him away wherever he wanted to go; and he already believed that final recovery from all his sufferings was imminent. But at that very moment, as he lay on the floor rocking with repressed motion, not far from his mother and just opposite her, she, who had seemed so completely self-absorbed, all at once jumped up, her arms stretched wide, her fingers spread, and cried, “Help, for God’s sake, help!” held her head bent as if to see Gregor better, but inconsistently darted madly backward instead; had forgotten that the table laden with the breakfast dishes stood behind her; sat down on it hastily, as if her thoughts were elsewhere, when she reached it; and did not seem to notice at all that near her the big coffeepot had been knocked over and coffee was pouring in a steady stream onto the rug.
“Mother, Mother,” said Gregor softly and looked up at her. For a minute the manager had completely slipped his mind; on the other hand at the sight of the spilling coffee he could not resist snapping his jaws several times in the air. At this his mother screamed once more, fled from the table, and fell into the arms of his father, who came rushing up to her. But Gregor had no time now for his parents; the manager was already on the stairs; with his chin on the banister, he was taking a last look back. Gregor was off to a running start, to be as sure as possible of catching up with him; the manager must have suspected something like this, for he leaped down several steps and disappeared; but still he shouted “Agh,” and the sound carried through the whole staircase. Unfortunately the manager’s flight now seemed to confuse his father completely, who had been relatively calm until now, for instead of running after the manager himself, or at least not hindering Gregor in his pursuit, he seized in his right hand the manager’s cane, which had been left behind on a chair with his hat and overcoat, picked up in his left hand a heavy newspaper from the table, and stamping his feet, started brandishing the cane and the newspaper to drive Gregor back into his room. No plea of Gregor’s helped, no plea was even understood; however humbly he might turn his head, his father merely stamped his feet more forcefully. Across the room his mother had thrown open a window in spite of the cool weather, and leaning out, she buried her face, far outside the window, in her hands. Between the alley and the staircase a strong draft was created, the window curtains blew in, the newspapers on the table rustled, single sheets fluttered across the floor. Pitilessly his father came on, hissing like a wild man. Now Gregor had not had any practice at all walking in reverse, it was really very slow going. If Gregor had only been allowed to turn around, he could have gotten into his room right away, but he was afraid to make his father impatient by this time-consuming gyration, and at any minute the cane in his father’s hand threatened to come down on his back or his head with a deadly blow. Finally, however, Gregor had no choice, for he noticed with horror that in reverse he could not even keep going in one direction; and so, incessantly throwing uneasy side-glances at his father, he began to turn around as quickly as possible, in reality turning only very slowly. Perhaps his father realized his good intentions, for he did not interfere with him; instead, he even now and then directed the maneuver from afar with the tip of his cane. If only his father did not keep making this intolerable hissing sound! It made Gregor lose his head completely. He had almost finished the turn when—his mind continually on this hissing—he made a mistake and even started turning back around to his original position. But when he had at last successfully managed to get his head in front of the opened door, it turned out that his body was too broad to get through as it was. Of course in his father’s present state of mind it did not even remotely occur to him to open the other wing of the door in order to give Gregor enough room to pass through. He had only the fixed idea that Gregor must return to his room as quickly as possible. He would never have allowed the complicated preliminaries Gregor needed to go through in order to stand up on one end and perhaps in this way fit through the door. Instead he drove Gregor on, as if there were no obstacle, with exceptional loudness; the voice behind Gregor did not sound like that of only a single father; now this was really no joke any more, and Gregor forced himself—come what may—into the doorway. One side of his body rose up, he lay lop-sided in the opening, one of his flanks was scraped raw, ugly blotches marred the white door, soon he got stuck and could not have budged any more by himself, his little legs on one side dangled tremblingly in midair, those on the other were painfully crushed against the floor—when from behind, his father gave him a hard shove, which was truly his salvation, and bleeding profusely, he flew far into his room. The door was slammed shut with the cane, then at last everything was quiet.
- p. 44-55:
The family itself ate in the kitchen. Nevertheless, before going into the kitchen, his father came into this room and, bowing once, cap in hand, made a turn around the table. The roomers rose as one man and mumbled something into their beards. When they were alone again, they ate in almost complete silence. It seemed strange to Gregor that among all the different noises of eating he kept picking up the sound of their chewing teeth, as if this were a sign to Gregor that you needed teeth to eat with and that even with the best make of toothless jaws you couldn’t do a thing. “I’m hungry enough,” Gregor said to himself, full of grief, “but not for these things. Look how these roomers are gorging themselves, and I’m dying!”
On this same evening—Gregor could not remember having heard the violin during the whole time—the sound of violin playing came from the kitchen. The roomers had already finished their evening meal, the one in the middle had taken out a newspaper, given each of the two others a page, and now, leaning back, they read and smoked. When the violin began to play, they became attentive, got up, and went on tiptoe to the door leading to the foyer, where they stood in a huddle. They must have been heard in the kitchen, for his father called, “Perhaps the playing bothers you, gentlemen? It can be stopped right away.” “On the contrary,” said the middle roomer. “Wouldn’t the young lady like to come in to us and play in here where it’s much roomier and more comfortable?” “Oh, certainly,” called Gregor’s father, as if he were the violinist. The boarders went back into the room and waited. Soon Gregor’s father came in with the music stand, his mother with the sheet music, and his sister with the violin. Calmly his sister got everything ready for playing; his parents—who had never rented out rooms before and therefore behaved toward the roomers with excessive politeness—did not even dare sit down on their own chairs; his father leaned against the door, his right hand inserted between two buttons of his uniform coat, which he kept closed; but his mother was offered a chair by one of the roomers, and since she left the chair where the roomer just happened to put it, she sat in a corner to one side.
His sister began to play. Father and mother, from either side, attentively followed the movements of her hands. Attracted by the playing, Gregor had dared to come out a little further and already had his head in the living room. It hardly surprised him that lately he was showing so little consideration for the others; once such consideration had been his greatest pride. And yet he would never have had better reason to keep hidden; for now, because of the dust which lay all over his room and blew around at the slightest movement, he too was completely covered with dust; he dragged around with him on his back and along his sides fluff and hairs and scraps of food; his indifference to everything was much too deep for him to have gotten on his back and scrubbed himself clean against the carpet, as once he had done several times a day. And in spite of his state, he was not ashamed to inch out a little farther on the immaculate living-room floor.
Admittedly no one paid any attention to him. The family was completely absorbed by the violin-playing; the roomers, on the other hand, who at first had stationed themselves, hands in pockets, much too close behind his sister’s music stand, so that they could all have followed the score, which certainly must have upset his sister, soon withdrew to the window, talking to each other in an undertone, their heads lowered, where they remained, anxiously watched by his father. It now seemed only too obvious that they were disappointed in their expectation of hearing beautiful or entertaining violin-playing, had had enough of the whole performance, and continued to let their peace be disturbed only out of politeness. Especially the way they all blew the cigar smoke out of their nose and mouth toward the ceiling suggested great nervousness. And yet his sister was playing so beautifully. Her face was inclined to one side, sadly and probingly her eyes followed the lines of music. Gregor crawled forward a little farther, holding his head close to the floor, so that it might be possible to catch her eye. Was he an animal, that music could move him so? He felt as if the way to the unknown nourishment he longed for were coming to light. He was determined to force himself on until he reached his sister, to pluck at her skirt, and to let her know in this way that she should bring her violin into his room, for no one here appreciated her playing the way he would appreciate it. He would never again let her out of his room—at least not for as long as he lived; for once, his nightmarish looks would be of use to him; he would be at all the doors of his room at the same time and hiss and spit at the aggressors; his sister, however, should not be forced to stay with him, but would do so of her own free will; she should sit next to him on the couch, bending her ear down to him, and then he would confide to her that he had had the firm intention of sending her to the Conservatory, and that, if the catastrophe had not intervened, he would have announced this to everyone last Christmas—certainly Christmas had come and gone?—without taking notice of any objections. After this declaration his sister would burst into tears of emotion, and Gregor would raise himself up to her shoulder and kiss her on the neck which, ever since she started going out to work, she kept bare, without a ribbon or collar.
“Mr. Samsa!” the middle roomer called to Gregor’s father and without wasting another word pointed his index finger at Gregor, who was slowly moving forward. The violin stopped, the middle roomer smiled first at his friends, shaking his head, and then looked at Gregor again. Rather than driving Gregor out, his father seemed to consider it more urgent to start by soothing the roomers although they were not at all upset, and Gregor seemed to be entertaining them more than the violin-playing. He rushed over to them and tried with outstretched arms to drive them into their room and at the same time with his body to block their view of Gregor. Now they actually did get a little angry—it was not clear whether because of his father’s behavior or because of their dawning realization of having had without knowing it such a next-door neighbor as Gregor. They demanded explanations from his father; in their turn they raised their arms, plucked excitedly at their beards, and, dragging their feet, backed off toward their room. In the meantime his sister had overcome the abstracted mood into which she had fallen after her playing had been so suddenly interrupted; and all at once, after holding violin and bow for a while in her slackly hanging hands and continuing to follow the score as if she were still playing, she pulled herself together, laid the instrument on the lap of her mother—who was still sitting in her chair, fighting for breath, her lungs violently heaving—and ran into the next room, which the roomers, under pressure from her father, were nearing more quickly than before. One could see the covers and bolsters on the beds, obeying his sister’s practiced hands, fly up and arrange themselves. Before the boarders had reached the room, she had finished turning down the beds and had slipped out. Her father seemed once again to be gripped by his perverse obstinacy to such a degree that he completely forgot any respect still due his tenants. He drove them on and kept on driving until, already at the bedroom door, the middle boarder stamped his foot thunderingly and thus brought him to a standstill. “I herewith declare,” he said, raising his hand and casting his eyes around for Gregor’s mother and sister too, “that in view of the disgusting conditions prevailing in this apartment and family”—here he spat curtly and decisively on the floor—“I give notice as of now. Of course I won’t pay a cent for the days I have been living here, either; on the contrary, I shall consider taking some sort of action against you with claims that—believe me—will be easy to substantiate.” He stopped and looked straight in front of him, as if he were expecting something. And in fact his two friends at once chimed in with the words, “We too give notice as of now.” Thereupon he grabbed the door knob and slammed the door with a bang.
Gregor’s father, his hands groping, staggered to his armchair and collapsed into it; it looked as if he were stretching himself out for his usual evening nap, but the heavy drooping of his head, as if it had lost all support, showed that he was certainly not asleep. All this time Gregor had lain quietly at the spot where the roomers had surprised him. His disappointment at the failure of his plan—but perhaps also the weakness caused by so much fasting—made it impossible for him to move. He was afraid with some certainty that in the very next moment a general debacle would burst over him, and he waited. He was not even startled by the violin as it slipped from under his mother’s trembling fingers and fell off her lap with a reverberating clang.
“My dear parents,” said his sister and by way of an introduction pounded her hand on the table, “things can’t go on like this. Maybe you don’t realize it, but I do. I won’t pronounce the name of my brother in front of this monster, and so all I say is: we have to try to get rid of it. We’ve done everything humanly possible to take care of it and to put up with it; I don’t think anyone can blame us in the least.”
“She’s absolutely right,” said his father to himself. His mother, who still could not catch her breath, began to cough dully behind her hand, a wild look in her eyes.
His sister rushed over to his mother and held her forehead. His father seemed to have been led by Grete’s words to more definite thoughts, had sat up, was playing with the cap of his uniform among the plates which were still lying on the table from the roomers’ supper, and from time to time looked at Gregor’s motionless form.
“We must try to get rid of it,” his sister now said exclusively to her father, since her mother was coughing too hard to hear anything. “It will be the death of you two, I can see it coming. People who already have to work as hard as we do can’t put up with this constant torture at home, too. I can’t stand it anymore either.” And she broke out crying so bitterly that her tears poured down onto her mother’s face, which she wiped off with mechanical movements of her hand.
“Child,” said her father kindly and with unusual understanding, “but what can we do?”
Gregor’s sister only shrugged her shoulders as a sign of the bewildered mood that had now gripped her as she cried, in contrast with her earlier confidence.
“If he could understand us,” said her father, half questioning; in the midst of her crying Gregor’s sister waved her hand violently as a sign that that was out of the question.
“If he could understand us,” his father repeated and by closing his eyes, absorbed his daughter’s conviction of the impossibility of the idea, “then maybe we could come to an agreement with him. But the way things are—”
“It has to go,” cried his sister. “That’s the only answer, Father. You just have to try to get rid of the idea that it’s Gregor. Believing it for so long, that is our real misfortune. But how can it be Gregor? If it were Gregor, he would have realized long ago that it isn’t possible for human beings to live with such a creature, and he would have gone away of his own free will. Then we wouldn’t have a brother, but we’d be able to go on living and honor his memory. But as things are, this animal persecutes us, drives the roomers away, obviously wants to occupy the whole apartment and for us to sleep in the gutter. Look, Father,” she suddenly shrieked, “he’s starting in again!” And in a fit of terror that was completely incomprehensible to Gregor, his sister abandoned even her mother, literally shoved herself off from her chair, as if she would rather sacrifice her mother than stay near Gregor, and rushed behind her father, who, upset only by her behavior, also stood up and half-lifted his arms in front of her as if to protect her.
But Gregor had absolutely no intention of frightening anyone, let alone his sister. He had only begun to turn around in order to trek back to his room; certainly his movements did look peculiar, since his ailing condition made him help the complicated turning maneuver along with his head, which he lifted up many times and knocked against the floor. He stopped and looked around. His good intention seemed to have been recognized; it had only been a momentary scare. Now they all watched him, silent and sad. His mother lay in her armchair, her legs stretched out and pressed together, her eyes almost closing from exhaustion; his father and his sister sat side by side, his sister had put her arm around her father’s neck.
Now maybe they’ll let me turn around, Gregor thought and began his labors again. He could not repress his panting from the exertion, and from time to time he had to rest. Otherwise no one harassed him, he was left completely on his own. When he had completed the turn, he immediately began to crawl back in a straight line. He was astonished at the great distance separating him from his room and could not understand at all how, given his weakness, he had covered the same distance a little while ago almost without realizing it. Constantly intent only on rapid crawling, he hardly noticed that not a word, not an exclamation from his family interrupted him. Only when he was already in the doorway did he turn his head—not completely, for he felt his neck stiffening; nevertheless he still saw that behind him nothing had changed except that his sister had gotten up. His last glance ranged over his mother, who was now fast asleep.
He was hardly inside his room when the door was hurriedly slammed shut, firmly bolted, and locked. Gregor was so frightened at the sudden noise behind him that his little legs gave way under him. It was his sister who had been in such a hurry. She had been standing up straight, ready and waiting, then she had leaped forward nimbly, Gregor had not even heard her coming, and she cried “Finally!” to her parents as she turned the key in the lock.
“And now?” Gregor asked himself, looking around in the darkness. He soon made the discovery that he could no longer move at all. It did not surprise him; rather, it seemed unnatural that until now he had actually been able to propel himself on these thin little legs. Otherwise he felt relatively comfortable. He had pains, of course, throughout his whole body, but it seemed to him that they were gradually getting fainter and fainter and would finally go away altogether. The rotten apple in his back and the inflamed area around it, which were completely covered with fluffy dust, already hardly bothered him. He thought back on his family with deep emotion and love. His conviction that he would have to disappear was, if possible, even firmer than his sister’s. He remained in this state of empty and peaceful reflection until the tower clock struck three in the morning. He still saw that outside the window everything was beginning to grow light. Then, without his consent, his head sank down to the floor, and from his nostrils streamed his last weak breath.
When early in the morning the cleaning woman came—in sheer energy and impatience she would slam all the doors so hard although she had often been asked not to, that once she had arrived, quiet sleep was no longer possible anywhere in the apartment—she did not at first find anything out of the ordinary on paying Gregor her usual short visit. She thought that he was deliberately lying motionless, pretending that his feelings were hurt; she credited him with unlimited intelligence. Because she happened to be holding the long broom, she tried from the doorway to tickle Gregor with it. When this too produced no results, she became annoyed and jabbed Gregor a little, and only when she had shoved him without any resistance to another spot did she begin to take notice. When she quickly became aware of the true state of things, she opened her eyes wide, whistled softly, but did not dawdle; instead, she tore open the door of the bedroom and shouted at the top of her voice into the darkness: “Come and have a look, it’s croaked; it’s lying there, dead as a doornail!”
The couple Mr. and Mrs. Samsa sat up in their marriage bed and had a struggle overcoming their shock at the cleaning woman before they could finally grasp her message. But then Mr. and Mrs. Samsa hastily scrambled out of bed, each on his side, Mr. Samsa threw the blanket around his shoulders, Mrs. Samsa came out in nothing but her nightgown; dressed this way, they entered Gregor’s room. In the meantime the door of the living room had also opened, where Grete had been sleeping since the roomers had moved in; she was fully dressed, as if she had not been asleep at all; and her pale face seemed to confirm this. “Dead?” said Mrs. Samsa and looking inquiringly at the cleaning woman, although she could scrutinize everything for herself and could recognize the the truth even without scrutiny. “I’ll say,” said the cleaning woman, and to prove it she pushed Gregor’s corpse with her broom a good distance sideways. Mrs. Samsa made a movement as if to hold the broom back but did not do it. “Well,” said Mr. Samsa, “now we can thank God!” He crossed himself, and the three women followed his example. Grete, who never took her eyes off the corpse, said, “Just look how thin he was. Of course he didn’t eat anything for such a long time. The food came out again just the way it went in.” As a matter of fact, Gregor’s body was completely flat and dry; this was obvious now for the first time, really, since the body was no longer raised up by his little legs and nothing else distracted the eye.
“Come in with us for a little while, Grete,” said Mrs. Samsa with a melancholy smile, and Grete, not without looking back at the corpse, followed her parents into their bedroom. The cleaning woman shut the door and opened the window wide. Although it was early in the morning, there was already some mildness mixed in with the fresh air. After all, it was already the end of March.
The three boarders came out of their room and looked around in astonishment for their breakfast; they had been forgotten. “Where’s breakfast?” the middle roomer grumpily asked the cleaning woman. But she put her finger to her lips and then hastily and silently beckoned the boarders to follow her into Gregor’s room. They came willingly and then stood, their hands in the pockets of their somewhat shabby jackets, in the now already very bright room, surrounding Gregor’s corpse.
At that point the bedroom door opened, and Mr. Samsa appeared in his uniform, his wife on one arm, his daughter on the other. They all looked as if they had been crying; from time to time Grete pressed her face against her father’s sleeve.
“Leave my house immediately,” said Mr. Samsa and pointed to the door, without letting go of the women. “What do you mean by that?” said the middle roomer, somewhat nonplussed, and smiled with a sugary smile. The two others held their hands behind their back and incessantly rubbed them together, as if in joyful anticipation of a big argument, which could only turn out in their favor. “I mean just what I say,” answered Mr. Samsa and with his two companions marched in a straight line toward the roomer. At first the roomer stood still and looked at the floor, as if the thoughts inside his head were fitting themselves together in a new order. “So, we’ll go, then,” he said and looked up at Mr. Samsa as if, suddenly overcome by a fit of humility, he were asking for further permission even for this decision. Mr. Samsa merely nodded briefly several times, his eyes wide open. Thereupon the roomer actually went immediately into the foyer, taking long strides; his two friends had already been listening for a while, their hands completely still, and now they went hopping right after him, as if afraid that Mr. Samsa might get into the foyer ahead of them and interrupt the contact with their leader. In the foyer all three took their hats from the coatrack, pulled their canes from the umbrella stand, bowed silently, and left the apartment. In a suspicious mood which proved completely unfounded, Mr. Samsa led the two women out onto the landing; leaning over the banister, they watched the three roomers slowly but steadily going down the long flight of stairs, disappearing on each landing at a particular turn of the stairway and a few moments later emerging again; the farther down they got, the more the Samsa family’s interest in them wore off, and when a butcher’s boy with a carrier on his head came climbing up the stairs with a proud bearing, toward them and then up on past them, Mr. Samsa and the women quickly left the banister and all went back, as if relieved, into their apartment.
They decided to spend this day resting and going for a walk; they not only deserved a break in their work, they absolutely needed one. And so they sat down at the table and wrote three letters of excuse, Mr. Samsa to the management of the bank, Mrs. Samsa to her employer, and Grete to the store owner. While they were writing, the cleaning woman came in to say that she was going, since her morning’s work was done. The three letter writers at first simply nodded without looking up, but as the cleaning woman still kept lingering, they looked up, annoyed. “Well?” asked Mr. Samsa. The cleaning woman stood smiling in the doorway, as if she had some great good news to announce to the family but would do so only if she were thoroughly questioned. The little ostrich feather which stood almost upright on her hat and which had irritated Mr. Samsa the whole time she had been with them swayed lightly in all directions. “What do you want?” asked Mrs. Samsa, who inspired the most respect in the cleaning woman. “Well,” the cleaning woman answered, and for good-natured laughter could not immediately go on, “look, you don’t have to worry about getting rid of the stuff next door. It’s already been taken care of.” Mrs. Samsa and Grete bent down over their letters, as if to continue writing; Mr. Samsa, who noticed that the cleaning woman was now about to start describing everything in detail, stopped her with a firmly outstretched hand. But since she was not going to be permitted to tell her story, she remembered that she was in a great hurry, cried, obviously insulted, “So long, everyone,” whirled around wildly, and left the apartment with a terrible slamming of doors.
“We’ll fire her tonight,” said Mr. Samsa, but did not get an answer from either his wife or his daughter, for the cleaning woman seemed to have ruined their barely regained peace of mind. They got up, went to the window, and stayed there, holding each other tight. Mr. Samsa turned around in his chair toward them and watched them quietly for a while. Then he called, “Come on now, come over here. Stop brooding over the past. And have a little consideration for me, too.” The women obeyed him at once, hurried over to him, fondled him, and quickly finished their letters.
Then all three of them left the apartment together, something they had not done in months, and took the trolley into the open country on the outskirts of the city. The car, in which they were the only passengers, was completely filled with warm sunshine. Leaning back comfortably in their seats, they discussed their prospects for the time to come, and it seemed on closer examination that these weren’t bad at all, for all three positions—about which they had never really asked one another in any detail—were exceedingly advantageous and especially promising for the future. The greatest immediate improvement in their situation would come easily, of course, from a change in apartments; they would now take a smaller and cheaper apartment, but one better situated and in every way simpler to manage than the old one, which Gregor had picked for them. While they were talking in this vein, it occurred almost simultaneously to Mr. and Mrs. Samsa, as they watched their daughter getting livelier and livelier, that lately, in spite of all the troubles which had turned her cheeks pale, she had blossomed into a good-looking, shapely girl. Growing quieter and communicating almost unconsciously through glances, they thought that it would soon be time, too, to find her a good husband. And it was like a confirmation of their new dreams and good intentions when at the end of the ride their daughter got up first and stretched her young body.
Last edited by HERO; 07-03-2015 at 11:53 PM.
introverted, Reinin "farsighted" type: “Kafka: Better to have, and not need, than to need, and not have.”
ILI doesn't seem too wild of a guess.
He strikes me rather as being EII 4w5 Sp/Sx (similar to Edgar Allan Poe).
The stronger 5 wing may make him seem more like a Logical type.
Personally, I find it more reasonable to see him as someone with both 4D Ni and Fi, with a Te-seeking component.
His work was deeply personal, with a heavy emphasis on internal emotions and sensations, which reminds me rather of Fi-Si than Ni-Fi.
459 - The Contemplative
ILI - Ni base at least,
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franz_Kafka made me lean ILI>IEI
I have read "The Metamorphosis" three times all the way through and have read excerpts many times. I always felt thoroughly disgusted each time I read it. I don't know why I kept reading it other than looking for clues that would allow me to see what made an ILI, sp/sx, I knew tick. He had a weird fascination with Kafka. He was the one who insisted I read it. I am starting to think he liked grossing me out like that. He had a very dark sense of humor. It would be kind of funny if that was his only intention since I took it to mean I would connect to some deep, dark, part of his psyche, that he subconsciously wanted me to reveal, by reading it.
I never heard of the concept of an ILI the first couple of times I read it. I was linked to it by a forum member not long after I joined and took it as I sign I should read it one last time, given the timing of losing that ILI. I will never read it again.
"When I ought to be thinking of heaven he will nail me to earth"
It's totally baffling to read descriptions about person's surroundings as some sort of basis for narrative.
Te creative describing actions and movements possibly trying to see personal feelings when it comes to different things.
Makes it very hard to follow as the content can be squished in fraction of it's size.
Last edited by unsuccessfull Alphamale; 06-14-2016 at 03:46 PM.
From me one can not demand and expect:
- practicality of ideas;
- punctuality and diligence;
- consistency and completeness;
- constant order in the home and in the workplace;
- quality of routine work;
- soft skills to adapt to the interlocutor.
Anal Expulsive personality (no hyphens for you)
So called false dual logic that actually reveals some remote potentials:
"sure crocodiles can fly, but very, very close to the ground"
Just think about it.
I just checked my goodreads account. I see I gave it two stars in contrast to Naked Lunch (another buggy book ) which I gave 4 stars. I guess I can handle bugs if presented in certain ways but not in other ways. I am sure some people would find Naked Lunch as disturbing and gross as I found The Metamorphosis.
Last edited by Aylen; 06-14-2016 at 05:15 PM.
"When I ought to be thinking of heaven he will nail me to earth"
I hope this isn't a necro but I found it on Google and wanted to comment on basically how wrong I think absolutely everyone here is
Kafka is an ESFj for sure and you guys are all way wrong. I'm tired now (despite my horrid insomnia) but I used to be obsessed with Kafka and I know this guy went around talking to random people, giving dramatic presentations of his stories for his (many) friends, dressing like a dandy, and romantically fawning on various women. The whole "schizoid, tortured artist" thing was just him trying to fit the image of his society's vision of an artist. Also, did you guys read anything besides the intro? This is the giveaway IMHO:
"Brod compared Kafka to Heinrich von Kleist, noting that both writers had the ability to describe a situation realistically with precise details. Brod thought Kafka was one of the most entertaining people he had met; Kafka enjoyed sharing humour with his friends, but also helped them in difficult situations with good advice. According to Brod, he was a passionate reciter, who was able to phrase his speaking as if it were music. Brod felt that two of Kafka's most distinguishing traits were "absolute truthfulness" (absolute Wahrhaftigkeit) and "precise conscientiousness" (präzise Gewissenhaftigkeit). He explored details, the inconspicuous, in depth and with such love and precision that things surfaced that were unforeseen, seemingly strange, but absolutely true (nichts als wahr)." [sic]
Honesty and conscientiousness I associate with ExFj, not xxTp. Advice (as opposed to hugs and kisses) is also pretty Fe. The last sentence is a very strong emphasis on Si/Fe. Ni/Se prefers conspicuous details and unseemingly (but actually) strange things, and tends to put more emphasis on the things than the details. In fact, details are mentioned over and over. Did Max Brod mention the details?
I think a huge number of writers are various types of extravert with a Creative subtype honestly. A lot are also Si/Ne or Ne/Si, not always the "it's fantastical, therefore Ni/Se" reaction people give. Remember that art thread where I put someone as ISTp? There's a lot of weird surrealism there, but it gets smuggled in with the emphasis on Si because the subject matter is not the focus. Also, most of the biggest Kafka fans I know are Alphas and/or Fe leads. Just because he didn't finish his novels doesn't mean they're xxxp. Look at the structure of the stories he did finish. Don't ExFj tend to find it easier to start than finish things in general? I know people think Exxj are not very creative but I think this is the most likely. I think it's really F and/or S leads that are attracted to the arts, not the whole INxp or IxFp stereotype. I think Si/Ne and Ne/Si stacks tend to be really well represented by H. R. Giger and Max Ernst respectively in the visual arts, and in people trying to draw "eldritch" things.
Also, look at ESE here: http://www.the16types.info/vbulletin...ortraits-Alpha
Also, @HERO, you know he wrote in German, right? A lot of English translations of him are very, very awkward, especially the popular ones. To quote someone else on the Internet, "Kafka in English is hard to follow and obscure. Kafka in German is very concrete." I think the people here who only read him in English are missing the concreteness that everyone characterizes his writing by in German (and is alluded to on Wikipedia and elsewhere).
Last edited by Wyrd; 09-26-2016 at 06:16 AM.
ILI, one of my favorite writers
ILI. Only other type I'd consider is IEI. Pretty obvious Ni in his writing.
Last edited by willowglass; 03-02-2017 at 12:25 PM.
"Inasmuch as it is nothing but pure communicability, every face, even the most noble and beautiful, is always suspended on the edge of an abyss"