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INTERPRETING KAFKA 273 potential use to an editor than general value-judgments; and inevitably I have recorded cavils far more than agreements. There are any number of helpful references and perceptive readings in this edition that I shall have to lump together in making a final statement of admiration. Rudrum has done an excellent piece of work, and one that should be welcomed by readers of whatever kind who are looking for a good edition of Vaughan. Interpreting Kafka MARTIN SWALES Angel Flores, editor. The Problem oi'The Judgment': Elevel'l Approaches to Kafka's Ston) New York: Gordian Press 1977. $12.50 In Kafka's The Trial there is a justly famous scene in which a priest relates a parable to Joseph K. , the main character of the novel. The parable is then followed by a number of attempts at exegesis, all of which serve to prove the incommensurability between the parable-text in all its opaque simplicity and the listener's need to find in it a stable referentiality and import. This present volume in a sense reminds us of that situation. It opens with an English version ofKafka's story Das Urteil (the translation, effective if a shade bland, is by Malcolm Pasley), which occupies twelve pages. And the rest of the book consists of commentaries - part overlapping, part contradictory - on those twelve pages by eleven eminent Kafka scholars. The reader may be forgiven if his head begins to spin slightly: but then, if he remembers The Trial, he discovers that he is in good company (that of the novel's protagonist). The scene from Th e Trial reminds liS that Kafka was anything but innocent of the effect his writing produced. How could it be otherwise in an reuvre where innocence, and its concomitant, guilt, play such a central role? How could it be otherwise in an (Euvre where the need to understand unites reader, narrator, and protagonist in one desperately insidious hermeneutic enterprise? The studies printed here give a fair indication of the kinds of reading which TheJudgment has provoked. Binder and Gray comment on the autobiographical background: Stern too invokes the biography - but in order to define Kafka's artistic enterprise as an attempt both to repudiate and also to enact the 'magnificent congruence' of all Kafka's 'bad experiences.' Ellis and Rolleston provide an attack on the moral and epistemological blinkeredness of Georg, the protagonist of the story. White, more suggestively, observes the 'heads I lose, tails you win' nature of Georg's guilt - one involving both egocentricity and betrayal of the self. Sokel, Bernheimer , and Kate Flores see the father/son conflict as paradigmatic of larger (Le., more generalizable) patterns. And Corngold does some exegetical decoding by viewing Georg as a writer. This, in itself, is probably no more persuasive than the 274 JILL R. WEBSTER other equations which Kafka criticism has produced in answer to the question as to what Kafka's fiction is really about. But the beginning and the end of Corngold's article are fine in that they illumina te precisely that hermeneutic crowding of Kafka's spare prose which threatens to overwhelm both protagonist and reader alike. At one point Corngold comments that The Judgment 'discourages the reader from taking direct access to the life which comes to light w ith ostensible selfevidence in his first reading' (p 43). One knows what he means. This is a fruitful insight - and it is one that is asserting itself increasingly in more recent Kafka criticism. Corngold's suggestion serves as a valid corrective to those critics who seek to evaluate (morally, psychologically, ontoiogically, mythologically, sociologically, philosophically) the characters whom Kafka puts before us. For Corngold suggests that such evaluations are part of the phenomenon that Kafka's fiction explores: they are not, in other words, analytical approaches to the text; rather they are paraphrases of its characteristically knowing narrative modality. Which is not to say that Tile Judgment is about a writer, or writing, or literature. Nor that it is simply about itself (whatever that might mean). And this brings us to the essential point: Corngold is right to direct our attention towards the 'hermeneutic of Tile Judgment' (to...


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pp. 273-274
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