Friday, March 25, 2011

Always Kafka

My high school and college years were repetitive in their reading assignments. It was always Franz Kafka.  To be specific, it was always The Metamorphosis. Which is why today when waiting in a doctor's office, the New York Time's Magazine caught my attention. There on the front was that name. Kafka.

It turns out that the September 22, 2010, cover story is about the legal wranglings over Kafka's materials. Elif Batuman's article, Kafka's Last Trial, is rich with the history of Kafka's friendship with Max Brod; of Brod's disregard for Kafka's instructions to destroy all his writings upon his death; and of the travels those writings have taken since Kafka's death at age 41 in 1924.

While Batuman provides an insightful and interesting retrospective, Max Fisher gives this overview in his article Kafkaesque Court Fight over Kafka's Estate, printed in The AtlanticWire.

"One of the most frequent uses of the word "Kafkaesque," evoking the dark absurdity of Franz Kafka's fiction, is in reference to his 1925 novel The Trial, which describes an illogical and convoluted court case that stretches on forever. Now 85 years later, in exactly the kind of dark irony that Kafka would have appreciated, an international and deeply Kafkaesque court case has raged for 50 years over the ownership of a large piece of Kafka's papers."

I was unaware of this literary intrigue until today. More than reminding me of my school assignments, it has put a human face on a writer I once only thought of as weird.

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