Parable

Adorno and repudiation

Theodor Adorno, for instance, argues that Kafka's parables signify not "through expression but its repudiation";

[Ziarek 177]



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Alexander the Great

It is conceivable that Alexander the Great, in spite of the martial success of his early days, in spite of the excellent army that he had trained, in spite of the power he felt within him to change the world, might have remained standing on the bank of the Hellespont and never crossed it, and not out of fear, not out of indecision, not out of infirmity of will, but because of the mere weight of his own body.

[Kafka 472]



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Brecht kills Lao-Tse

Yet Another Parable on Parables. But this one is cut short by Brecht (or closer: by Brecht's influence on Benjamin, since Benjamin could have just as easily finished the parable then discussed how and where it was interrupted...).

At least Brecht is consistent: if there's nothing there, then it's worth nothing. There is no "more than parable" for Brecht.

Brecht would find this website "despicable"

[a conversation between Lao-Tse and his disciple Kafka]



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Completeness

Aphorism is whole-r (hole-r?) than word. It is more complete-in-itself. A word is like a tool -- taken out of context there is no expectation for meaning. Aphorism has no context, it is always already taken out of context, yet there is the expectation of meaning. But there is not supposed to be any meaning.

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Couriers

They were offered the choice between becoming kings or the couriers of kings. The way children would, they all wanted to be couriers. Therefore there are only couriers who hurry about the world, shouting to each other--since there are no kings--messages that have become meaningless. They would like to put an end to this miserable life of theirs but they dare not because of their oaths of service.

[Kafka 486]



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Function of the Parable

A issue to grapple with: "Aphorism" vs. "Parable." This may relate to "Collector" vs. "Allegorist"? It's too easy to simply lay similar structures on top of each other and say they work the same (the main weakness of "Narrativity/Dialectics").

To call them "parables" is to already set them up as lacking, since they're parables without "tradition" -- as Benjamin says. 'Parables' already have "something more." If they are called Parables, then perhaps their content doesn't even matter? Does the modifier "Kafka's" on "Parables" just mean "Devoid of theological or absolute reference?"

[The exemplary function of the traditional parable]



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Give it up!

It was very early in the morning, the streets clean and deserted, I was on my way to the station. As I compared the tower clock with my watch I realized it was much later than I had thought and that I had to hurry; the shock of this discovery made me feel uncertain of the way, I wasn't very well acquainted with the town as yet; fortunately, there was a policeman at hand, I ran to him and breathlessly asked him the way. He smiled and said: "You asking me the way?" "Yes," I said, "since I can't find it myself." "Give it up! Give it up!" said he, and turned with a sudden jerk, like someone who wants to be alone with his laughter.

[Kafka 456]



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In the forest

In the forest there are various kinds of tree trunks. From the thickest, beams for ships are cut; from less thick buyt still respectable trunks, box lids and coffin sides are made; the very thin ones are used for rods; but nothing comes of the stunted ones--they escape the pains of usefulness. "In what Kafka wrote you have to look around as in such a forest. You will then find a number of very useful things. The images are good. But the rest is obscurantism. It is sheer mischief. You have to ignore it. Depth takes you no further. Depth is a dimension of its own, just depth--which is why nothing comes to light in it."

[Benjamin on Brecht, Reflections 207-208]



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Leopards in the Temple

Leopards break into the temple and drink to the dregs what is in the sacrificial pitchers; this is repeated over and over again; finally it can be calculated in advance, and it becomes a part of the ceremony.

[Kafka 472]



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My Destination

I gave orders for my horse to be brought round from the stable. The servant did not understand me. I myself went to the stable, saddled my horse and mounted. In the distance I heard a bugle call, I asked him what this meant. He knew nothing and had heard nothing. At the gate he stopped me, asking: "Where are you riding to, master?" "I don't know," I said, "only away from here, away from here. Always away from here., only doing so can I reach my destination." "And so you know your destination?" he asked. "Yes," I answered, "didn't I say so? Away-From-Here, that is my destination." "You have no provision with you," he said. "I need none," I said, "the journey is so long that I must die of hunger if I don't get anything on the way. No provision can save me. For it is, fortunately, a truly immense journey."

[Kafka 489]



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Naming the Parable

The aphorism, the parable, the fragment, the ruin: the naming of these pieces is important insofar as it "defines" what they are... and that is the issue at hand, can they be essentialized or defined?

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On "The Pit of Babel"

This parable seems to be the most potent for my purposes - but it seems as though it is because it is the most meaningless. The meanings of it are difficult to figure out. Any reading I make of it - such as the "postmodern" one of pursuing multiple meanings that seems to be the most obvious to me - seems to reduce it to less than it should be.

[The Pit of Babel]



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On Parables

Many complain that the words of the wise are always merely parables and of no use in daily life, which is the only life we have. When the sage says "Go over," he does not mean that we should cross to some actual place; he means some fabulous yonder, something unknown to us, something too that he cannot designate more precisely, and therefore cannot help us here in the very least. All these parables really set out to say merely there the incomprehensible is incomprehensible, and we know that already. But the cares we have to struggle with every day: that is a different matter.
Concerning this a man once said: Why such reluctance? If you only followed the parables you yourselves would become parables and with that rid all of your daily cares.
Another said: I bet that is also a parable.
The first said: You have won.
The second said: But unfortunately only in parable.
The first said: No, in reality: in parable you have lost.

[Kafka 459]



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Parable and Context

Can anything be always already taken out of context? Taken out of context at all? The answer should be no. But that is apparently the claim of the parable - that is can be taken out of context. Or is that just a left-over new critical stance? Kafka's parables should be a new critic's wet dream. They are. But they also reference an absent context - a reference that makes a straight "just the text" reading insufficient - an absence that makes it the only criticism that gives Kafka his due as trying to write something metaphysically important. Kafka's parable is a litmus test for the critic - are you a modernist or a postmodernist?

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Parable as Language

What is problematic is that I see them as stand-ins for language, for the problem of language. The Piece serves as substitute for the whole - the Parable is a Metonym.

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Sancho Panza

Benjamin and I are in accord as regards this Parable, it is Kafka's most perfect.

(See the Full Fragment for more)



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Sickness?

Kafka's word presents a sickness of tradition.

An emptiness of tradition. Also, the "word" here is singular - like the biblical Word (LOGOS), or like a signifier.

[a sickness of tradition]



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The Forest

Another parable - but this one from Brecht!

"Depth is a dimension of its own, just depth" - the perfect explanation, the depth of the Pit of Babel! You build the tower up to a single meaning, you dig the pit down and down and down and you never stop digging and you never find the bottom. Just Depth.

See "The Burrow"

[In the forest]



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The Green Dragon

The door opened and what entered the room, fat and succulent, its sides voluptuously swelling, footless, pushing itself along on its entire underside, was the green dragon. Formal salutation. I asked him to come right in. He regretted that he would not do that, as he was too long. This meant that the door had to remain open, which was rather awkward. He smiled, half in embarrassment, half cunningly, and began:

"Drawn hither by your longing, I come pushing myself along from afar off, and underneath am now scraped quite sore. But I am glad to do it. Gladly do I come, gladly do I offer myself to you."

[Kafka 480]



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The Pit of Babel

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.

[Kafka 464]



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The Tiger

Once a tiger was bought to the celebrated animal tamer Burson, for him to give his opinion as to the possibility of taming the animal. The small cage with the tiger in it was pushed into the training cage, which had the dimensions of a public hall' it was in a large hut-camp a long way outside the town. The attendants withdrew: Burson always wanted to be completely alone with an animal at his first encounter with it. The tiger lay quiet, having just been plentifully fed. It yawned a little, gazed wearily at its new surroundings, and immediately fell asleep.

[Kafka 481]



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The Tower of Babel

If it had been possible to build the Tower of Babel without ascending it, the work would have been permitted.

[Kafka 464]



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The Truth About Sancho Panza

Without ever boasting of it, Sancho Panza succeeded in the course of years, by supplying a lot of romances of chivalry and adventure for the evening and night hours, in so diverting from him his demon, whom he later called Don Quixote, that his demon thereupon freely performed the maddest exploits, which, however, lacking a preordained object, which Sancho Panza himself was supposed to have been, did no one any harm. A free man, Sancho Panza philosophically followed Don Quixote on his crusades, perhaps out of a sense of responsibility, and thus enjoyed a great and profitable entertainment to the end of his days.


[Kafka 430]



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The exemplary function of the traditional parable

What is at stake in this terminological discussion is the exemplary function of the traditional parable and its transcendental-theological weight.

[Ziarek 175]



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The law of his journey

Kafka, however, has found in the law of his journey--at least on one occasion he succeeded in bringing its breath-taking speed in line with the slow narrative pace that he presumably sought all his life. He expressed this in a little prose piece which is his most perfect creation not only because it is an interpretation.
The Truth About Sancho Panza

[Illuminations 139]



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The most insatiable people

The most insatiable people are certain ascetics, who go on hunger-strike in all spheres of life, think that in this way they will simultaneously achieve the following:

1) a voice will say: Enough, you have fasted enough, now you may eat like the others and it will not be accounted unto you as eating.

2) the same voice will at the same time say: You have fasted for so oong under compulsion, from now on you will fast with joy, it will be sweeter than food (at the same time, however, you will also really eat).


3) the same voice will at the same time say: You have conquered the world, I release you from it, as from eating and from fasting (at the sametime, however, you will both fast and eat).

In addition to this there also comes a voice that has been speaking to them ceaselessly all the time: though you do not fast completely, you have the good will, and that suffices.

[Kafka 489]



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Unfolding

First Observation: Benjamin uses parable to explicate interpretation of parable

The "unfolding" certainly does support the early thesis of the presentation that postmodern interpretative play is justified in reading Kafka's parables. Perhaps this actually is Benjamin's position?

Second Observation: Relics and Doctrine. Ruins and Empire? Tricky.

[The word "unfolding" has a double meaning]



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a conversation between Lao-Tse and his disciple Kafka

...one would have to imagine a conversation between Lao-Tse and his disciple Kafka. Lao-tse says: "Well now, disciple Kafka, the organizations, the leaseholds and other economic forms in which you live make you uneasy?" "Yes." "You can't cope with them any more?" "No." "A stock certificate worries you?" "Yes." "And now you are looking for a leader to hold on to, disciple Kafka." That is of course despicable, says Brecht. I reject Kafka.

[Reflections 207]



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he did not found a religion

Kafka was a writer of parables, but he did not found a religion

[Illuminations 126]



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the binary structures in which the particular discloses or illustrates the truth.

Parables, like other exemplary forms of literature, are not intended to speak of and for themselves but are implicitly or explicitly organized around the binary structures in which the particular discloses or illustrates the truth.

[Ziarek 176]



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