Saturday, October 06, 2007

I wonder ...

... if it captures the humor: On rereading Kafka's The Trial.

I refer, of course, to Mitchell's translation. Kafka can be quite funny, but the humor tends to be missed by those translating him into English.


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  2. Reagan's Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, Paul Craig Roberts, has an interesting short essay, The Future Has Caught Up With Us, where he writes

    In Kafka’s novel, Josef K. is arrested for reasons never given, tried for an unspecified crime, and executed.
    The Trial is the model for the Bush Regime’s Military Tribunals, which permit execution on the basis of hearsay, secret evidence unknown to the defendant, or confession extracted by torture.
    For the past five years, the Bush Regime has held people in secret prisons without warrants, charges, or access to an attorney. Most detainees have been tortured and abused. Bush’s real world victims suffer from more disorientation and hopelessness than Kafka’s character, Josef K.
    ...the Bush Regime drafted and Congress passed the Military Commissions Act, a constitutional monstrosity that denies the protection of law to everyone declared, without evidence, by the executive branch to be a suspected terrorist or enemy combatant.
    The Military Commissions Act became law in "the land of the free" in 2006. The Act strips detainees of protections provided by the Geneva Conventions. The Act declares that no person "subject to trial by military commission under this chapter may invoke the Geneva Conventions as a source of rights."
    The Act also denies detainees the protections of the US Constitution and Bill of Rights: "No court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider an application for a writ of habeas corpus filed by or on behalf of" a detainee. Some language in the Act refers to detainees as "aliens," but, ominously, other language does not limit the Act’s applicability to "aliens."

  3. Andrew4:36 AM

    The full article here. I suppose the authors mentioned in the article, ie Huxley, Orwell & Kafka could be described as prophetc though I presume they would say that they were simply projecting into the future the almost inevitable extensions of the present, including of course their understandings of human psychology; power corrupting & absolute power corrupting absolutely, centralising states, etc.

  4. I gather you missed the humor, too, Andrew.

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  6. I gather you missed the point, Frank. Works such as The Trial are not simply self-enclosed literary pieces to be enjoyed by complacent readers. They are refelections o deeply felt realities of people living within the spiritual existence of life. The idea of reducing works such as The Trial to being primarily humorous seems an emanation of an abdication of human responsilbility in exchange for a wallowing in literary escapism. Which isn't to say that Kafka wasn't humorous, but to focus simply on that as being of the primary concern, as you seem to have done, is bizarre.

  7. Andrew10:27 AM

    You could just as easily mention the undeniable humour of Brave New World as being the main point of that work.

  8. I did not reduce to being humorous - and I don't think one can even speak of something being reduced to the humorous. Deep, genuine humor is more important than that (cf. Rabelais). I would object, though, to reducing it to a parable of contemporary shallow paranoia.