Exposé One: Critical Failure
What are you building?-I want to dig a subterranean passage. Some progress must be made. My station up there is much too high.
We are digging the pit of Babel. [link]
If it had been possible to build the Tower of Babel without ascending it, the work would have been permitted. [link]
Franz Kafka's parables have, as it is popular to state, been the subject of a large set of critical works that run from new criticism to extentialism to religious to postmodern. A large portion of this literature has been affected, directly or no, by Walter Benjamin's reading of Kafka. Benjamin's engagement with Kafka comes to us primarily in two forms - an essay he wrote entitled "Franz Kafka: On the Tenth Anniversary of his Death" and a series of fragments including a letter (a book proposal) and some notes regarding Benjamin's conversations with Bertold Brecht, collected together in Benjamin's Reflections.
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Exposé Three: Narrativity @ a Standstill
Kafka could understand things only in the form of a gestus, and this gestus which he did not understand constitutes the cloudy part of the parables. Kafka's writings emanate from it. [link]
The "gestus", or gesture, is a singular event, though it does contain a sort of movement. Or, rather than movement, Benjamin thought of the gestures as performance. What is in tension with a gesture is that it combines the singularity of action with a more fluid space. In the current discussion, we might say this this is roughly analogous to the singularity of Kafka's "word" and the multiplicity of interpretations given it:
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Exposé Two: Failure and Language
Failure, for Benjamin, is precisely what makes Kafka's parables Kafkaesque:
To do justice to the figure of Kafka in its purity and its peculiar beauty one must never lose sight of one thing: it is the purity and beauty of a failure. ... There is nothing more memorable then the fervor with which Kafka emphasized his failure. [link]
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