October 24, 2003

The heart of things

Posted by Curt at 07:00 PM in Words of Wisdom | TrackBack

By the way, there is a new assessment of Kafka by Zadie Smith in The New Republic this week. By itself this is a pretty unremarkable thing, but it is a lovely little reflection in its own way, and particularly remarkable I think is the perspective from which it operates. Smith has, obviously, a considerable parochial interest in the art of the novel, but, with no little amount of humility, instead of evaluating Kafka's achievements in relation to some pre-conceived ideal of the novel she suggests that Kafka's writing was actually too tremendous for the structure of the novel to support, and hence instead she measures the achievements of the novel in relation to Kafka's ideal of literature. She is clearly pretty indebted to Walter Benjamin, evidenced by frequent citations of him, but on the other hand I think of this rather as a strength, as Benjamin is commonly acknowledged as one of the supreme interpreters of Kafka. Her repeated insistence on the solitude and insularity of Kafka's worldview reminds me of my Kierkegaard professor's remark when we used talk together, which he repeated often enough as to make me think that he was gently and indirectly giving me advice, that "Kierkegaard's problem was that he needed friends," which despite its facile-seemingness is actually, in my view, about the final thing one can say about either Kafka or Kierkegaard.