Cover

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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv

Contents

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pp. v-vi

Translator’s Introduction

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pp. vii-viii

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Introduction: Chains of Official Paper

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pp. 1-8

Can one say anything new about Kafka? This book tries to take up the challenge. The time has come to consider his works from a different vantage point, in order to examine their fascinating power of insubordination.
In his famous essay on Kafka, Walter Benjamin warned (in many cases to no avail) that Kafka “took all conceivable precautions against the interpretation of his writings. One has to find one’s way in them...

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Chapter 1. “Don’t forget Kropotkin!”: Kafka and Antiauthoritarian Socialism

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pp. 9-28

It should be clearly stated that one cannot reduce Kafka’s oeuvre to any particular political doctrine. Kafka doesn’t make speeches; he creates characters and situations, attitudes, an atmosphere. The symbolic world of literature cannot be reduced to the discursive world of ideologies; the literary work is not an abstract conceptual system in the service of philosophical or political doctrines, but the creation of a concrete imaginary universe of people and things.1...

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Chapter 2. Tyrannies, from Patriarchal Autocracy to Impersonal Apparatuses

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pp. 29-56

Kafka was far from being an “anarchist,” but antiauthoritarianism—of a romantic and libertarian socialist quality—runs through his writings, in a growing universalization and increasingly abstract representation of power: from paternal and personal authority toward administrative and anonymous authority. As Elias Canetti observes: “Of all writers, Kafka is the greatest expert on power. He experienced it in all its aspects, and he gave shape to this experience.”1...

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Chapter 3. Kafka’s The Trial: From the Jew as Pariah to Joseph K. as Universal Victim

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pp. 57-70

In her remarkable essay on the “hidden tradition,” published in 1944 in the journal Jewish Social Studies, Hannah Arendt presents Franz Kafka—along with Heine, Chaplin, and Bernard Lazare—as one of the most remarkable examples of the pariah-rebel sensibility in the history of modern Jewish culture. According to Arendt, this sensibility, which is based on the experience of exclusion and oppression, questions the very foundations of existing political society....

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Chapter 4. The Religion of Liberty and the Parable Before the Law (1915)

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pp. 71-88

Was Kafka religious? In a letter to Grete Bloch dated June 11, 1914, he describes himself as an asocial person, excluded from the community because of his “non-Zionist, non-practicing Judaism (I admire Zionism and am nauseated by it).”1 If one examines his notes and aphorisms, it seems that he constantly hesitates between faith and doubt. Sometimes he asserts his confidence in “something indestructible” in mankind, one of whose possibilities for expression is “faith in a...

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Chapter 5. The Castle: Bureaucratic Despotism and Voluntary Servitude

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pp. 89-104

Like all of Kafka’s unfinished novels, Das Schloss is a strange and enigmatic literary document that causes perplexity and inspires different, contradictory, and dissonant interpretations. Like The Trial, it has been the object of a multitude of religious and theological readings; the most influential “positive” reading of the religious dimension of this work has been that of Max Brod....

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Chapter 6. Anecdotal Digression: Was Kafka a Realist?

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pp. 105-112

Neither Adorno, nor Benjamin, nor Karel Kosik—and certainly not André Breton!—addressed the question of Kafka’s realism. It’s a subject that has not attracted the attention of critical Marxists. On the other hand, in the “post-Stalinist” Communist movement, the debate essentially concentrated on this serious inquiry: was the author of The Trial a “realist” writer or not?...

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Chapter 7. The “Kafkaesque” Situation

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pp. 113-116

The extraordinary impact of Kafka’s oeuvre on twentieth- and twenty-first-century culture is no doubt due to its “profane illumination.” Commenting on The Trial with his characteristic sagacity, George Steiner observes, “This short novel has achieved a stature that goes beyond that of a literary classic. All along the [twentieth] century, people have recognized themselves and spontaneously referred to it. Many are those who have never read it, who perhaps...

Notes

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pp. 117-146

Index

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pp. 147-148