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LizzieAnn
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First Time Kafka

This is the first time I've ever read Kafka, and I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around his writing. I've read "The Metamorphosis" and "Before the Law" so far, as well as "A Message from the Emperor," and I just keep shaking my head. I just don't get it. Not to be facetious, but "The Metamorphosis" reminds me of an episode of the The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits. And the Eagles's song "Hotel California" came to mind after reading "Before the Law." The line "...you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave." Actually, that line probable fits the 3 stories I've read.

I'm not giving up, yet. I'm going to read "The Judgment" and see how that compares. Maybe Kafka is a writer I have to read several times to understand - or maybe I'll never get him at all. But I'll try.
Liz ♥ ♥


Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested. ~ Francis Bacon
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IlanaSimons
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Re: First Time Kafka



LizzieAnn wrote:
This is the first time I've ever read Kafka, and I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around his writing. I've read "The Metamorphosis" and "Before the Law" so far, as well as "A Message from the Emperor," and I just keep shaking my head. I just don't get it. Not to be facetious, but "The Metamorphosis" reminds me of an episode of the The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits. And the Eagles's song "Hotel California" came to mind after reading "Before the Law." The line "...you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave." Actually, that line probable fits the 3 stories I've read.

I'm not giving up, yet. I'm going to read "The Judgment" and see how that compares. Maybe Kafka is a writer I have to read several times to understand - or maybe I'll never get him at all. But I'll try.




Nice, honest post.
I think part of Kafka's point is to write puzzles that seems like they can be "solved" but really can't be solved.
In this sense, he's saying that life is like that: We keep itching to fully "solve" something, but the thing doesn't have one answer.
His puzzles are supposed to be slightly annoying in that way!
The "Hunger Artist" is a good example of this, and a lighter read than some of his stuff. Try that story. I'll be posting questions to it in about a week
Ilana



Ilana
Check out my book, here and visit my website, here.


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leakybucket
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Re: First Time Kafka


LizzieAnn wrote:
This is the first time I've ever read Kafka, and I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around his writing. I've read "The Metamorphosis" and "Before the Law" so far, as well as "A Message from the Emperor," and I just keep shaking my head. I just don't get it. Not to be facetious, but "The Metamorphosis" reminds me of an episode of the The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits. And the Eagles's song "Hotel California" came to mind after reading "Before the Law." The line "...you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave." Actually, that line probable fits the 3 stories I've read.

I'm not giving up, yet. I'm going to read "The Judgment" and see how that compares. Maybe Kafka is a writer I have to read several times to understand - or maybe I'll never get him at all. But I'll try.




I am too, Liz, but I figured it will become clearer as we get into the discussion. I suspect there is more here than just the content of the story but a basic attitude or philosophy involved as well. If I have time, I plan to do some background research before the discussions get underway next Monday. I think such information might clarify what Kafka is trying to communicate here. I actually found the little cartoon snippet helpful and ordered that book.
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ELee
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Re: First Time Kafka

"I think part of Kafka's point is to write puzzles that seems like they can be "solved" but really can't be solved.
In this sense, he's saying that life is like that: We keep itching to fully "solve" something, but the thing doesn't have one answer."

I couldn't have said this better...I felt initial frustration reading Kafka, but I'm getting into it now. At first I was rereading passages to try to "make the puzzle fit", but I think a more relaxed approach is in order. One of the things that makes his puzzles so effective is his simple, direct and detailed way of telling the story. He presents it like a fairy tale or a fable; you keep expecting a resolution at the end or to learn a lesson, and it leaves you unsatisfied (itchy).

"His puzzles are supposed to be slightly annoying in that way!
The "Hunger Artist" is a good example of this, and a lighter read than some of his stuff."

You're right! I read this first and almost didn't continue, but now I am enjoying Metamorphosis and plan to read HA again after. Can't wait to discuss it!
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prince_alfie
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Re: First Time Kafka

I would suggest renting Soderbough's movie (flawed) about Kafka directed in 1991.

http://www.moria.co.nz/sf/kafka.htm

That one will explain a lot about his life and work.
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leakybucket
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Re: First Time Kafka _ Some Resources

This is the SparkNotes on Metamorphosis. Not too much here but there may be some helpful comments:

http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/metamorph/index.html

I found this very detailed and interesting essay on Metamorphosis. He gets into the details of the story about a third of the way down and takes it section by section. It might be handy to reread Metamorphosis and considering the comments here. Might add some insight, though I'm sure there are all sorts of different opinions about it. I haven't gone through the essay myself yet.

http://victorian.fortunecity.com/vermeer/287/nabokov_s_metamorphosis.htm
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LizzieAnn
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Re: First Time Kafka _ Some Resources

Thanks for the links. I plan to check them out and hopefully gain some insight.




leakybucket wrote:
This is the SparkNotes on Metamorphosis. Not too much here but there may be some helpful comments:

http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/metamorph/index.html

I found this very detailed and interesting essay on Metamorphosis. He gets into the details of the story about a third of the way down and takes it section by section. It might be handy to reread Metamorphosis and considering the comments here. Might add some insight, though I'm sure there are all sorts of different opinions about it. I haven't gone through the essay myself yet.

http://victorian.fortunecity.com/vermeer/287/nabokov_s_metamorphosis.htm


Liz ♥ ♥


Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested. ~ Francis Bacon
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LizzieAnn
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Re: First Time Kafka

Ilana, I tried "The Hunger Artist," and found it to be sad actually. Is it representative of man's neglect of his fellow man....or man's quest to be noticed, to not "disappear"? It's a little less crazy to me than the others I've been reading.



IlanaSimons wrote:


LizzieAnn wrote:
This is the first time I've ever read Kafka, and I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around his writing. I've read "The Metamorphosis" and "Before the Law" so far, as well as "A Message from the Emperor," and I just keep shaking my head. I just don't get it. Not to be facetious, but "The Metamorphosis" reminds me of an episode of the The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits. And the Eagles's song "Hotel California" came to mind after reading "Before the Law." The line "...you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave." Actually, that line probable fits the 3 stories I've read.

I'm not giving up, yet. I'm going to read "The Judgment" and see how that compares. Maybe Kafka is a writer I have to read several times to understand - or maybe I'll never get him at all. But I'll try.




Nice, honest post.
I think part of Kafka's point is to write puzzles that seems like they can be "solved" but really can't be solved.
In this sense, he's saying that life is like that: We keep itching to fully "solve" something, but the thing doesn't have one answer.
His puzzles are supposed to be slightly annoying in that way!
The "Hunger Artist" is a good example of this, and a lighter read than some of his stuff. Try that story. I'll be posting questions to it in about a week
Ilana


Liz ♥ ♥


Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested. ~ Francis Bacon
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IlanaSimons
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Re: First Time Kafka



LizzieAnn wrote:
Ilana, I tried "The Hunger Artist," and found it to be sad actually. Is it representative of man's neglect of his fellow man....or man's quest to be noticed, to not "disappear"? It's a little less crazy to me than the others I've been reading.




Once again, I love your honesty about how these works are hitting you.

One thing I like about "The Hunger Artist" is that Kafka seems to have a little more distance from his depressed main character here. While Georg in "The Judgment" and Gregor in "The Metamorphosis" seem almost like martyrs--deeply troubled for no good reason--the hunger artist seem a little more human and flawed, more psychologically realistic. Kafka even seems to critique himself here.

The Hunger Artist does have some admirable artistic intention, but he's also stuck in his self-pity, I think. He thinks his starvation (an art like writing) is oh-so-deserving-of-respect, but he's also just living a vicious cycle, so hungry for attention.

I think in this story Kafka admits that artistic isolation can be (unnecessarily) depressing. The artist makes life hard for himself because he insists he’s totally different from others. “I will not eat what you eat!” He's dying for attention.



Ilana
Check out my book, here and visit my website, here.


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LizzieAnn
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Re: First Time Kafka

[ Edited ]
I can see that. That explanation makes sense to me, particularly "dying for attention" and self-pity. Thanks Ilana. I'm definitely going to give another story a try.

These stories do make me feel, hmmm - I guess I'll say not very bright. It's quite frustrating, especially as I consider myself reasonably intelligent!



IlanaSimons wrote:


One thing I like about "The Hunger Artist" is that Kafka seems to have a little more distance from his depressed main character here. While Georg in "The Judgment" and Gregor in "The Metamorphosis" seem almost like martyrs--deeply troubled for no good reason--the hunger artist seem a little more human and flawed, more psychologically realistic. Kafka even seems to critique himself here.

The Hunger Artist does have some admirable artistic intention, but he's also stuck in his self-pity, I think. He thinks his starvation (an art like writing) is oh-so-deserving-of-respect, but he's also just living a vicious cycle, so hungry for attention.

I think in this story Kafka admits that artistic isolation can be (unnecessarily) depressing. The artist makes life hard for himself because he insists he’s totally different from others. “I will not eat what you eat!” He's dying for attention.


Message Edited by LizzieAnn on 01-04-200705:35 PM

Liz ♥ ♥


Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested. ~ Francis Bacon
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IlanaSimons
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Re: First Time Kafka



LizzieAnn wrote:
I can see that. That explanation makes sense to me, particularly "dying for attention" and self-pity. Thanks Ilana. I'm definitely going to give another story a try.

These stories do make me feel, hmmm - I guess I'll say not very bright. It's quite frustrating, especially as I consider myself reasonably intelligent!




The Moby Dick, North and South, and Cranford discussions make me feel slow. You're not slow. I think after growing up with specific styles/contexts, trying on new ones is frustratingly disorienting. Right now I'm trying to read a history text; it's new to me; I feel like drowning my sorrows.



Ilana
Check out my book, here and visit my website, here.


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LizzieAnn
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Re: First Time Kafka

[ Edited ]
It's comforting to know I'm not the only one who feels like that. I avoided Moby Dick because I thought it would get too analytical or philsophical for me, and I couldn't get into Cranford at all. But I'm reading North & South, and find I'm not only enjoying it, but that it gets better as I read it. It started slowly. Now, I'll see how the discussion goes. Sometimes people infer something different than what you're trying to say, and it can be hard to get a point across the way it was intended....but I persevere! :smileyhappy:

Maybe you're not reading a fun history text!



IlanaSimons wrote:


The Moby Dick, North and South, and Cranford discussions make me feel slow. You're not slow. I think after growing up with specific styles/contexts, trying on new ones is frustratingly disorienting. Right now I'm trying to read a history text; it's new to me; I feel like drowning my sorrows.


Message Edited by LizzieAnn on 01-04-200705:49 PM

Liz ♥ ♥


Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested. ~ Francis Bacon
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ELee
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Re: First Time Kafka

LizzieAnn wrote:
"These stories do make me feel, hmmm - I guess I'll say not very bright. It's quite frustrating, especially as I consider myself reasonably intelligent."

I'm sure you're very intelligent, and you should not allow Kafka to sink you to his depths! I read an article "Laughing with Kafka" by David Foster Wallace. He was talking about wit, but I'm sure his ideas could/would extend to other components of Kafka's writing. He said that even for gifted [U.S.] students, Kafka's wit was too subtle. His point was that we are taught metaphorical truths, while K presents literal ones. We have built-in associations that may have little to do with the literal meaning of a word or grouping of words. Consider in your everyday life what "starved for attention" or "love-starved" means to you. Then read The Hunger Artist and think about what they meant in Kafka-terms (literal starvation). Wallace goes on to say that we've been taught "to see humor as something you get--the same way we've [been taught] that a self is something you just have." We base a lot of our understanding on a foundation of knowledge that someone else built. Kafka ignores that foundation and "starts from scratch". One other thing that I think affects an interpretation of Kafka is the fact that it was written in German and we are reading it in English. Even with the finest of translators, there are still circumstances were a German word may have multiple meanings or implications (possible double entendre?) that comes out as a "flat" word in English. I have been doing some reading of critic's interpretations on Kafka, which is all well and good, but I have decided to try to apply his stories to my own truths and see what they mean to me personally. There is something "raw" in them that strikes a cord - it just takes a little work to find the proper place to put them.
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LizzieAnn
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Re: First Time Kafka

Thanks for the pep talk E - and the explanation of Kafka. It's reassuring to hear that Kafka is difficult for many, although it seems like everyone else in this discussion gets him. It's nice to know he's difficulted for even "gifted" students. :smileyhappy:

Your comment about the translation seems very much to the point as well. I've been doing some research of my own on Kafka and his work, and much is made that translation from German can fall short. I'm not giving up. I'm determined to continue reading him and to try to understand him. Maybe it is as you say, I'm not taking him literally enough. That's an interesting concept. It may be difficult; but, I think it's going to try to do so.

Thanks again!
Liz ♥ ♥


Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested. ~ Francis Bacon
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leakybucket
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Re: First Time Kafka

LizzieAnn Said:
Thanks for the pep talk E - and the explanation of Kafka. It's reassuring to hear that Kafka is difficult for many, although it seems like everyone else in this discussion gets him.
--------------------------------------

Oh no, you are not alone! My most intelligent thought so far is "huh!" I just read The Judgment so I'm off to see if there is anything inspiring in that thread.
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LizzieAnn
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Re: First Time Kafka

Welcome to my little corner of the room! It's nice to have you here with me.



leakybucket wrote:

Oh no, you are not alone! My most intelligent thought so far is "huh!" I just read The Judgment so I'm off to see if there is anything inspiring in that thread.


Liz ♥ ♥


Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested. ~ Francis Bacon
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Laurel
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Re: First Time Kafka

Maybe the three of us are the little boy in the story about the emperor's new underwear.



LizzieAnn wrote:
Welcome to my little corner of the room! It's nice to have you here with me.



leakybucket wrote:

Oh no, you are not alone! My most intelligent thought so far is "huh!" I just read The Judgment so I'm off to see if there is anything inspiring in that thread.





"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
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Choisya
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Re: First Time Kafka

I very much admire you for not giving up Lizzie-Ann - many people would if they didn't completely understand the stories at the beginning. I am sure it will improve for you because you are such an intelligent person but you may never 'like' Kafka - many people don't. We can't like all the authors we read.




LizzieAnn wrote:
This is the first time I've ever read Kafka, and I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around his writing. I've read "The Metamorphosis" and "Before the Law" so far, as well as "A Message from the Emperor," and I just keep shaking my head. I just don't get it. Not to be facetious, but "The Metamorphosis" reminds me of an episode of the The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits. And the Eagles's song "Hotel California" came to mind after reading "Before the Law." The line "...you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave." Actually, that line probable fits the 3 stories I've read.

I'm not giving up, yet. I'm going to read "The Judgment" and see how that compares. Maybe Kafka is a writer I have to read several times to understand - or maybe I'll never get him at all. But I'll try.


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Choisya
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Re: First Time Kafka

A very useful post - thanks E Lee. I think I wrote somewhere else that European novels are not often put up by B&N and I think perhaps Americans have more difficulty with them, particularly the humour, than with British novels, which they are more used to. Kafka is hard entree I think and it is a good job that we have Ilana helping us along!




ELee wrote:
LizzieAnn wrote:
"These stories do make me feel, hmmm - I guess I'll say not very bright. It's quite frustrating, especially as I consider myself reasonably intelligent."

I'm sure you're very intelligent, and you should not allow Kafka to sink you to his depths! I read an article "Laughing with Kafka" by David Foster Wallace. He was talking about wit, but I'm sure his ideas could/would extend to other components of Kafka's writing. He said that even for gifted [U.S.] students, Kafka's wit was too subtle. His point was that we are taught metaphorical truths, while K presents literal ones. We have built-in associations that may have little to do with the literal meaning of a word or grouping of words. Consider in your everyday life what "starved for attention" or "love-starved" means to you. Then read The Hunger Artist and think about what they meant in Kafka-terms (literal starvation). Wallace goes on to say that we've been taught "to see humor as something you get--the same way we've [been taught] that a self is something you just have." We base a lot of our understanding on a foundation of knowledge that someone else built. Kafka ignores that foundation and "starts from scratch". One other thing that I think affects an interpretation of Kafka is the fact that it was written in German and we are reading it in English. Even with the finest of translators, there are still circumstances were a German word may have multiple meanings or implications (possible double entendre?) that comes out as a "flat" word in English. I have been doing some reading of critic's interpretations on Kafka, which is all well and good, but I have decided to try to apply his stories to my own truths and see what they mean to me personally. There is something "raw" in them that strikes a cord - it just takes a little work to find the proper place to put them.


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Katelyn
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Re: First Time Kafka

ELee,
An excellent post -- you make a number of really good points. I especially
liked: 'We base a lot of our understanding on a foundation of knowledge that someone else built. Kafka ignores that foundation and "starts from scratch"'.

Kate



ELee wrote:
LizzieAnn wrote:
"These stories do make me feel, hmmm - I guess I'll say not very bright. It's quite frustrating, especially as I consider myself reasonably intelligent."

I'm sure you're very intelligent, and you should not allow Kafka to sink you to his depths! I read an article "Laughing with Kafka" by David Foster Wallace. He was talking about wit, but I'm sure his ideas could/would extend to other components of Kafka's writing. He said that even for gifted [U.S.] students, Kafka's wit was too subtle. His point was that we are taught metaphorical truths, while K presents literal ones. We have built-in associations that may have little to do with the literal meaning of a word or grouping of words. Consider in your everyday life what "starved for attention" or "love-starved" means to you. Then read The Hunger Artist and think about what they meant in Kafka-terms (literal starvation). Wallace goes on to say that we've been taught "to see humor as something you get--the same way we've [been taught] that a self is something you just have." We base a lot of our understanding on a foundation of knowledge that someone else built. Kafka ignores that foundation and "starts from scratch". One other thing that I think affects an interpretation of Kafka is the fact that it was written in German and we are reading it in English. Even with the finest of translators, there are still circumstances were a German word may have multiple meanings or implications (possible double entendre?) that comes out as a "flat" word in English. I have been doing some reading of critic's interpretations on Kafka, which is all well and good, but I have decided to try to apply his stories to my own truths and see what they mean to me personally. There is something "raw" in them that strikes a cord - it just takes a little work to find the proper place to put them.


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