Saturday: my only day off from work. I am sitting in my mother’s garden, drinking Arabic coffee, and reading Kafka.
Some months ago, as I was casually browsing through books in a bookshop I regularly visit during lunch breaks, I came across an inexpensive Wordsworth edition of a compilation of Kafka’s works called The Essential Kafka. I picked it up and opened its table of contents to check what it contained. Included was The Trial, which I had already read a couple of times; The Castle, which had been on my reading list for years; “Metamorphosis,” which I had read a long time ago; and other short stories, which I had either read or never heard of. ‘It is truly The Essential Kafka,’ I thought and decided to buy it.
So, here I am reading it now, and this makes it the third time I am perusing The Trial. I am lost in it as I was lost in it the first time. Reading Kafka is like dissecting the cold body of an eldritch monster whose insides are uncannily recognizable and human. But it is pleasurable and addictive.
Many of the authors that I admire, like Albert Camus and Milan Kundera, have commented on Kafka’s works, too. (Maybe that is why I admire them.) In The Myth of Sisyphus, for instance, Albert Camus writes, “The whole art of Kafka consists in forcing the reader to re-read.” He then adds, “Nothing is harder to understand than a symbolic work.” (And this maybe explains why I constantly come back to read them.)
In short, Kafka is something else, or, as Maurice Blanchot puts it in The Space of Literature, “Kafka’s case is cloudy and complex.” But isn’t that what I like about him?
I am glad I picked up this book.
I am planning to read The Castle next.