061. Kafka in Place. William Doreski

Kafka seated at his desk in the insurance company. He’s shuffling important papers, valuable papers, contracts and the dreary reports of actuaries. His salary could support a family, but although he has been engaged to several women, he’s too tubercular to marry. He lives in his fiction, his secret undertone. He writes many letters to family and friends, who feel his sour breath lofting over Prague. The days pass like kidney stones. Kafka’s stories pile up in little heaps of angst and existential dismay, although the word “existential” would puzzle him. He coughs a lot, but so do most people in this damp gray city. Still, that’s good enough reason to call him “Kafka,” rather than the more familiar “Franz.” He doesn’t know that Edmund Wilson will dismiss his work, preferring the graces of Fitzgerald and Hemingway. He doesn’t know that his friend Max Brod will preserve his corpse in amber. Those of us who have been to the penal colony and survived that hideous machine, that cosmic bloodletting, appreciate Kafka’s attempts to clarify.  Those of us who have suffered the knock on the door, the desultory interrogation, who have confessed to whatever doesn’t need confessing, accept his blocky little worldview. In memory of his fragile sincerity, we cough up blood and spit it on the sidewalk. Let the post-ward paradigm and all its casual erasures be thus infected, dying at home in bed.

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