Enjoying the Illusory Emptiness

With the thrill of the new, it is easy to forget the joy of rereading.

Half a dozen pages into Kafka’s The Castle and the bone-chilling narrative unravels. No one writes like Kafka: the eerie peasants, the desolate scenes brought to life by the energy of the protagonist, the overwhelming women and the faceless officials. His stories defy genre, sit in no literary category or convention.

In the first paragraph of The Castle, the protagonist K. approaches the village that will act as irritant and security blanket: “On the wooden bridge leading from the main road to the village K. stood for a long time gazing into the illusory emptiness above him.” Illusory emptiness describes so effectively the feeling of reading Kafka, the stories beg interpretation and the search for meaning. But the stories resist analysis in the same way as dreams. There is more there than you can comprehend but also so much less. Not that it stops near endless interpretations of Kafka’s stories, psychological, religious, sociological and political. Whilst we are intuitive seekers of meaning, it remains possible to just read Kafka to inhabit his ever so serious and desperately funny world.

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