Monthly Archives: August 2011

Getting to Know Professor Kein

Professor Peter Kien: tall, emaciated and deliciosuly antisocial sinologist, the primary protagonist of Elias Canetti’s Auto-da-Fé is a brilliant achievement. I am only fifty pages into the book but delighted to have met such a unique character. Sometimes Kien would … Continue reading

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Under the Sign of Saturn by Susan Sontag

Rare are those artists whose incandescence stretches to both writing fiction and literary essays: Coetzee, Woolf, Kundera. Though she preferred to be thought a novelist Susan Sontag’s fiction is grandiloquent, best avoided or as she says of Antonin Artaud “rewarding … Continue reading

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The Insufficiency of Literature

Consciousness as given can never wholly constitute itself in art but must strain to transform its own boundaries and to alter the boundaries of art. Thus, any single “work” has a dual status. It is both a unique and specific … Continue reading

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Mercier and Camier by Beckett

Two old drifters, one tall, one short, a highly intrusive narrator and a cameo appearance by Watt. Beside the acerbic narrator the book consists mostly of dialogue and is often very funny. In a meditation of Mercier and Camier Keith Ridgeway … Continue reading

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Inner Workings by J. M. Coetzee

Literary essays by novelists are rarely worth reading. Coetzee, like Woolf and Kundera, is an exception. Inner Workings is compiled from five introductions by Coetzee to contemporary editions of works by Graham Greene, Arthur Miller, Robert Musil, Samuel Beckett and Hugo … Continue reading

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An Infinite Amount of Hope

Odd figures recur in the tales of Kafka and Walser, childlike yet with the potential for duplicity. That the assistants in The Castle have their prototype in Walser’s Jakob Von Gunten did not escape Coetzee’s attention. In Illuminations Walter Benjamin … Continue reading

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Kafka: A Bibliography of Criticism (updated 24 Aug 2011)

Type “Kafka” into Google and you can choose from more than 14,000,000 English language sites-twice as many as for James Joyce. In Kafka: The Decisive Years Reiner Stach writes of ‘ well worn “complete interpretations” from the 1950s and 1960s, … Continue reading

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The Girl, the Lady, and the Woman

Biographers choke in the attempt to breathe life into Felice Bauer. During her five-year relationship with Kafka, the pair wrote to each other often daily. What remains is a one-sided correspondence: 511 letters, postcards and letter fragments from young Franz … Continue reading

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What is Kafkaesque?

Is there any writer whose works and person has generated as much secondary literature as Kafka? For a writer that “left about forty complete prose texts […] nine [of which] can be called stories” the secondary outweighs the primary literature. … Continue reading

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Invoking the Sanity Clause

Fiorello: Hey, wait, wait. What does this say here, this thing here? Driftwood: Oh, that? Oh, that’s the usual clause that’s in every contract. That just says, uh, it says, uh, if any of the parties participating in this contract … Continue reading

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