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Sarah’s Laughter: Kafka’s Abraham

From: Modernism/modernity
Volume 15, Number 2, April 2008
pp. 343-359 | 10.1353/mod.2008.0048


"My laughter is a concrete wall," says Kafka to Gustav Janouch. In this paper, I claim that laughter offers us a way to appeal to our own bodies as a basis of doubt. I try to substantiate this general proposition by examining Kafka's identification with the story of Sarah laughing uncontrollably at God's promise of a child in Genesis 18. I argue that Kafka finds in the figure of Sarah's laughter not only a most poignant precursor to his own skepticism of the body, but also a basis to retell (in the Octavo Notebooks) the story of Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac.