Another great one sent my way by Angela Genusa.
And hi Shad. I love your steaming guy avatar lol.
Here's the airport...
Franz Kafka International Airport?
I have to hand it to Bobbie Battista. She delivers it perfectly straight.
Friggin hilarious piece.
I just wouldn't fly to the Penal Colony.
Because they have like the worst mother fucking etch-a-sketch ever.
I have always felt myself one of the Mouse Singers.
I love that one little-known story by him where there are just those energy balls bouncing around an apartment building or something?
I read that so long ago standing in a library somewhere and it blew my mind.
It was like chakras escaped from a human just going about their business.
And I was like, this man is fucking crazy. This is the shit.
I also love The Burrow.
I had read everything by Kafka by my early twenties.
Now I will have the pleasure of going back and rereading it all.
He's one of those authors like Poe or Hawthorne you are never really done with.
Because there's always more.
Those rooms shift constantly.
He really wrote the Holocaust even if he didn't live to see it.
He wrote the rest of the twentieth century out.
But we can have some fun with him.
Even though he had absolutly no sense of humor whatsoever.
I guess some people would call that black humor or call the pathology of meticulousness which characterizes so much of his fiction a type of humor.
But I really don't see it that way and I see no evidence of it in the correspondence discussing the literature, etc.
I think a lot of people find him intensely funny though.
A certain sensibility.
I Googled this just now to find opposing viewpoints. I found this short paper where somebody argues for the humor. But I remember all these incidents in these stories he is discussing and I didn't find them humorous then, nor do I find them funny now even with the slant he tries to put on them. These examples range from merely grotesque and horrific to the banal.
Here's his paper. You can read it in three minutes:
An opposing viewpoint.
I think most people read him the way that Airport skit above reads him. It's so nightmarish that it becomes funny, if you extrapolate and try to experience the universe in his mainframe. I mean in "real life." If you try to "live" in Kafka. It becomes hilarious because it's so insistently impossible, so colored by horror vacui and queasy at the unreliability of the composition of existence itself. The clocks are indeed always spinning as in that airport and every flight is listed as MISSING.
But most people don't live there, and if they did they wouldn't find it a bit funny. They'd probably just commit suicide.
I guess now I find some aspects of some stories somewhat funny that I did not find funny when I was young.
Just thinking back.
But this is mostly when I'm outside the story, done with it. Not when I'm inside it so much.
It's the meticulousness that gets so ridiculous it goes over to humor.
It's the thinking about it after, and thinking about Kafka himself.
Poor guy. He was fucked.
The parables that are about meaninglessness.
His only salvation was the writing of the parable. Like his messenger parable. That's the whole body of work right there and the pointlessness of it, announced by the author even as he delivers that lifetime of work to you.
I suppose that's funny. Or the second half of the twentieth century began to see it as funny.
Sartre and Camus morphed into Monty Python.
Because on the page there's often no difference.
It's all in the tone.
Caligula laughs when he's stabbed to death in Camus's play.
And people laugh as they are blown up in skits later.
But am I remembering incorrectly?
I can't remember a single passage where Kafka "gives away" that he's really laughing at something, or one gets the sense he wants you to laugh.
Absurd, yes. But not funny.
But it's all funny when you try to tell somebody about it.
I mean when you get even to Beckett (postwar) the absurd has already shifted and is often funny.
Godot knows it is funny.
It was all a fine line of tonality in the twentieth-century and I think it took WWII and the Holocaust to make everyone say: Enough. Laugh. You can only. Laugh.
So you cold draw a big line between authors who were absurd but not funny: kafka/gide/camus/sartre etc. and authors who were absurd and funny: beckett(sometimes)/ionesco/joseph heller?/vonnegut.
and the dividing line is often the war...postwar is absurdist funny and pre is absurdist serious.
of course camus and sartre kept publishing but i think because their sensibilities had been shaped by the pre-war tendency towards "serious" absurdity they kept on as the had begun.
beckett would alternate between deadly-serious approaches to the Absurd and more playful, even hilarious models of it. because he straddles the line of the paradigm shift.
I wouldn't say the sensibility of the latter set was "shaped" by the war so much as it was destroyed by the War. and laughter was one possiblity. suicide was probably the other one. i mean if there was to be an engagement with what had been revealed.
Of course there are exceptions...dada was absurdist funny.
But i think that is a paradigm shift...the war/postwar conception of literary Absurdity.
It was hard to go backward after that and do straight-faced absurdity. because who would take you seriously anymore anyway? it had been done. everybody "got it."
So the war started to fade and people started getting theoretical again. enter robbe-grillet and the new novel.
I think Duras is interesting because she stayed herself through her whole life.
Her concerns remained her concerns and she was brilliant and individualistic.
She didn't fall into line with the various schools of writing which were celebrated, which celebrated certain ideas, which changed with the decades.
She kept her focus on the individual and the individual's destruction within the various social units that surrounded it, the family, the culture, the culture in time of war.
She focused on The War everywhere.
She focused on the war between lovers, which always exists.
There is rarely such thing as a permanent detente in any love with an erotic component.
Here work always tried to imagine a possible freedom and a future freedom for the individual. She tried to visualize this freedom, and often the books were about the failure to visualize or achieve this freedom.
Her excesses and her sacrednesses were her pride.
These are some of the reasons the Academie didn't want her for most of her life.
And when they took her in, like a waif, when she was ancient, she laughed and said (in a completely pococurante way): "This is a whim. This is a whim of theirs. They have decided to give me this, and so they do. This has nothing to do with me." LOL. That's why I love Marguerite Duras. And because of her writing of course! And its excesses. Oh yes. There are excesses.
I'm probably paraphrasing as I'm doing that from (bad) memory but that was the gist of it.
This reminds me of my favorite blurb of all time. And who remembers blurbs, right? They all suck. But Thom Gunn wrote on teh back of The Lost Luna Baedeker of Mina Loy, "Mina Loy has finally been admitted into 'the company of poets,' the canon. As if she cared."
Isn't that the best blurb ever?
She was long dead but he was giving her the ultimate respect with that cavalier statement.
It made me love him. Though I don't know his work well at all and have not liked much of what I've seen.