A few years ago, Judith Butler wrote in the LRB about 'How Kafka turned into ...a commodity'. But no great mystery was involved. There was a demand for his manuscripts and a supply of the same. Depending on who had property rights in those manuscripts, their price and purchaser would be determined. This was purely a legal matter.
Butler thought otherwise-
We are all too familiar with the way in which the value of literary and academic work is currently being established by quantitative means,They are established by monetary means- a price is placed on them- if they enter the market- i.e. are 'commodities'. Capitalism is based on markets. Prices are set by Supply and Demand. Marxists may have believed in a 'labour theory of value'- in which case a writer's work output might be measured and rewarded by a quantitative measure- but that theory was hopelessly wrong. Thus Butler is lying when she says she is familiar with something which has never obtained anywhere- though it is a theoretical possibility for Marxists.
but I am not sure anyone has yet proposed that we simply weigh our work on the scales.Butler is pretending that Kafka's manuscripts were being sold by weight because they were similar to cheese or meat. This was not the case. At most, a bundle was being offered for sale by the party in possession. The buyer could examine it before hand. No assertion of the homogeneity of the product was being made. Butler is getting her knickers in a twist over nothing.
But to begin with, let us consider who the parties are to the trial and the various claims they make. First, there is the National Library of Israel, which claims that Esther Hoffe’s will should be set aside, since Kafka does not belong to these women, but either to the ‘public good’ or else to the Jewish people, where these sometimes seem to be the same.The Israeli Supreme Court upheld this claim on the grounds that the person to whom they belonged, who, they suggest, considered himself a trustee, had instructed his executor to transfer the manuscript to this particular institution or some similar archive. It seems the executor had acted illegally in treating them as personal property, disposable for profit, though she certainly had discretion as to which archive she might give them to. This illegality meant that her own heirs, whose possession was challenged when they took their mother's Will to probate, had no claim to them whatsoever. One could say, the discretionary element in the Trust had been voided by an illegal action of the previous trustee. Since the National Library (as the successor to an institution named in the last legal owner's Will) was a named beneficiary under the Trust, its claim was granted. It is not the case that there was anything 'Kafkaesque' about the trial. This is plain simple Anglo-Saxon law which the Brits gifted to their Palestinian Mandate.
David Blumberg, chairman of the board of directors of the National Library, puts the case this way: ‘The library does not intend to give up on cultural assets belonging to the Jewish people ... Because it is not a commercial institution and the items kept there are accessible to all without cost, the library will continue its efforts to gain transfer of the manuscripts that have been found.’Blumberg is saying 'My Institution is clearly the named beneficiary under the Trust. The intention of the testator is fully accomplished by granting our claim'.
Blumberg won the case because the Court could see this was true.
Butler can't see for shit.
It is interesting to consider how Kafka’s writings can at once constitute an ‘asset’ of the Jewish people and at the same time have nothing to do with commercial activities.Judaism is an asset of the Jewish people. It has nothing to do with commercial activities. They can't sell it to me any more than Butler can sell them her stupidity and ignorance- the two indispensable assets which have permitted to flourish in a worthless branch of Academia.
Oren Weinberg, the CEO of the National Library, made a similar remark more recently: ‘The library regards with concern the new position expressed by the executors, who want to mix financial considerations into the decision as to whom the estate will be given. Revealing the treasures, which have been hidden in vaults for decades, will serve the public interest, but the position of the executors is liable to undermine that measure, for reasons that will benefit neither Israel nor the world.’Weinberg is a smart guy. He is reassuring the Israeli taxpayer that his Institution is serving their interests. Butler finds this very strange. Why does he not say 'The Israeli National Library will dedicate itself to harming the public interest. We want to hurt Israel and the World.'?
So it seems we are to understand Kafka’s work as an ‘asset’ of the Jewish people, though not a restrictively financial one.We are to understand that the owner of the asset stipulated that this particular Institution should be the beneficial owner though his executor had some discretion in the matter. The 'discretionary trust' thus created was extinguished by an illegal act. The beneficial owner sued for title. Since the thing was worth money, it was an 'asset'. However the aim was not to sell it but to preserve it because it had 'cultural' value. Thus it was a 'cultural asset' as stated. Since the National Library itself belongs to Israel which in turn belongs to the Jewish people, it follows that sensible folk will admit, at least now Judgment has been handed down, that those particular manuscripts of Kafka's are indeed a cultural asset of the Jewish people.
If Kafka is claimed as a primarily Jewish writer,nothing happens. Claims have to be upheld in a Court of Law to have any effect. I can claim Kafka is a primarily socioproctological writer. Nobody can stop me from doing so.
he comes to belong primarily to the Jewish people,Writers who primarily belong to a particular people, primarily belong to those people- but this does not have any legal meaning. A person who primarily belongs to the European race may belong to India and vice versa depending on Citizenship.
and his writing to the cultural assets of the Jewish people.This does not follow. An asset is valuable. Some writing may be an asset. Others may be considered a liability. Imagine a Jewish writer who gives a detailed and convincing account of Jews in Germany killing Christian children as part of their Religious Rituals. Surely, such writing would be considered something of a liability rather than an asset by sensible Jews?
This claim, already controversial (since it effaces other modes of belonging or, rather, non-belonging),It is not the case, in the Western Tradition, that 'claims of belonging' or oikeiosis cancel other such claims. Indeed, the Greek word also has the meaning of 'appropriation'. But some 'appropriations' are unnatural or unjust- like a cuckoo in the nest- whereas others are natural and salutary.
If we say, 'Mother Theresa belonged to India- for such was her citizenship' we do not efface the claim that she was Albanian or Catholic or that she belongs to the whole World. On the other hand, if we say 'she was a Nazi', not only would be saying something false, we would be seeking to 'efface' her true oikeiosis or such salutary associations as might be predicated of her. Butler may have a point if the word 'Jew' carried such repugnant associations as the word 'Nazi'. But such is not the case. It is hateful to suggest any such thing. Yet Butler does so. Why? Is she evil or is she stupid?
The fact is saying 'Kafka was Jewish' is just like saying 'Mother Theresa was Indian, while being Albanian, Catholic, and belonging to the World'. The oikeiosis involved allows for widening circles for affection and caritas.
becomes all the more so when we realise that the legal case rests on the presumption that it is the state of Israel that represents the Jewish people.This is not true. The legal case rests on the Last Will and Testament of the owner of the manuscripts. The Learned Judge- clearly a Katju type- mentions the Talmudic Tractate 'Gittin'. The written Will prevails. Depending on jurisdiction, we might say the legal owner created what was essentially a Discretionary Trust in which there was a named beneficiary. That beneficiary won the case because the Trust was extinguished by an illegal act. There are other ratios which arrive at the same conclusion. But that is a purely ideographic matter.
This may seem a merely descriptive claim, but it carries with it extraordinary, and contradictory, consequences.A foolish ratio may have had such consequences. But the Israeli Supreme Court has not given any such thing. It has decided the matter solely on the basis of the Will of the legal owner.
First, the claim overcomes the distinction between Jews who are Zionist and Jews who are not, for example Jews in the diaspora for whom the homeland is not a place of inevitable return or a final destination.But the ratio does no such thing. There is a Will. There is a named beneficiary. Discretion by the trustee was abused. The Trust is extinguished.Title vests in the named beneficiary. Had the named beneficiary been 'the Jewish people', then Butler might have a point. But such was not the case.
I have myself decided to leave the Germanic portion of my sense of humor to the Jewish people. Israel has no right to claim it in any exclusive sense, though it would be funny if it did.
Second, the claim that it is Israel that represents the Jewish people has domestic consequences as well.Israel has made no such claim. What has happened is that Germany chose to settle certain types of compensation claims arising out of the Shoah with Israel as the assigned representative. But this does not extinguish all Jewish claims nor has Israel asserted anything of that sort.
Indeed, Israel’s problem of how best to achieve and maintain a demographic majority over its non-Jewish population, now estimated to constitute more than 20 per cent of the population within its existing borders, is predicated on the fact that Israel is not a restrictively Jewish statethat could change, and in some degree has done so. But this matters very little.
and that, if it is to represent its population fairly or equally, it must represent both Jewish and non-Jewish citizens.Again, this scarcely matters. So what if a couple of Jews are in the Syrian or Iranian parliament? The thing is purely cosmetic.
The assertion that Israel represents the Jewish people thus denieswhat exactly to?
the vast number of Jews outside Israel who are not represented by it, either legally or politically,but such assertions are mere puffery. The US asserts that it leads or otherwise represents the Free World. Yet non citizens don't vote in the US.
but also the Palestinian and other non-Jewish citizens of that state.No. The assertion is not what causes lack of representation. Nor can it be said to be an effect. Our country may take a diplomatic or legal action by asserting a representative or advocacy relationship with a group some of whose members are not citizens. It does not matter that some of its citizens don't fit into that group.
Anyway, there are plenty of Islamic Republics and Monarchies around. Why should we care if Israel is like its neighbors in asserting a confessional identity?
The position of the National Library relies onthe fact that it is specifically named as a beneficiary under what amounts to a Discretionary Trust. This has nothing to do with
a conception of the nation of Israel that casts the Jewish population outside its territory as living in the Galut, in a state of exile and despondency that should be reversed, and can be reversed only through a return to Israel.Butler is making this shit up. No Israeli public body has ever made any such claim. Furthermore, the American-Israeli-Cooperative-Enterprise- a quasi-official body- specifically defines Galut as follows- The Hebrew term galut expresses the Jewish conception of the condition and feelings of a nation uprooted from its homeland and subject to alien rule. The term is essentially applied to the history and the historical consciousness of the Jewish people from the destruction of the Second Temple to the creation of the State of Israel. The residence of a great number of members of a nation, even the majority, outside their homeland is not definable as galut so long as the homeland remains in that nation's possession.
The implicit understanding is that all Jews and Jewish cultural assets – whatever that might mean – outside Israel eventually and properly belong to Israel, since Israel represents not only all Jews but all significant Jewish cultural production.This 'implicit understanding' suggests a mind explicitly full of shit. Why not simply say 'Israel claims to own my asshole coz I once ate a bagel. Netanyahu is forcing the Eiffel Tower up my bum because Shimon Peres said Gustave Eiffel was Jewish so it belongs to Israel and Mossad wants to use my rectum as the cheapest way to smuggle it back to Tel Aviv.'
I will simply note that there exists a great deal of interesting commentary on this problem of the Galut by scholars such as Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin,who ignores the British role in shaping the history of that part of the world. By the end of the Thirties, they had no illusions about bi-nationalism. Germanic pedants, by contrast, wrote stupid, worthless, shite. Nothing can be gained by immersing oneself in that mishegoss. The fact is European 'negation of Galut' by Emancipation was turned on its head by the Nazis. Even in the Anglo-Saxon world there were influential voices who spoke of Jews as unassimilable and undesirable.
who, in his extraordinary work on exile and sovereignty, argues that the exilic is proper to Judaism and even to Jewishness, and that Zionism errs in thinking that exile must be overcome through the invocation of the Law of Return, or indeed, the popular notion of ‘birthright’.All this is irrelevant. The British Empire mattered because it did permanently change how the law was administered. The German Enlightenment didn't matter because it was reversed by Hitler. The French Enlightenment was equally unreliable. Maybe, that's why Jordan, Israel and Egypt are doing okay. Syria is a shithole. Lebanon is going down the tubes despite having an incredibly smart population. The Trucial States are doing great because they were last to become independent from the UK. There's a pattern here is all I'm saying. This Amnon guy has been barking up the wrong tree for twenty years.
Exile may in fact be a point of departure for thinking about cohabitation and for bringing diasporic values back to that region.Or it may be as worthless as Butler's own oeuvre. Strike that. It is as worthless.
This was also no doubt Edward Said’s point when, in Freud and the Non-European, he called for the exilic histories of both Jews and Palestinians to serve as the basis for a new polity in Palestine.For an Israeli academic to be making the same point as a Christian Palestinian PLO fan suggests that both are as stupid, and irrelevant, as shit.
The Galut is thus not a fallen realm in need of redemption, even though it is precisely what state and cultural forms of Zionismlike the AICE? But it says Galut is over for everybody because Israel exists.
seek to overcome through extending rights of return to all those born of Jewish mothers –But all Nations are free to determine their own immigration policies. India could be said to give a 'right to return' to non-Muslims from British India. Germany did give such a right to ethnic Germans from conquered or Communist territory. Portugal has patriality laws based on birth in the Portuguese Empire. The list is endless.
and now through claiming significant works by those who happen to be Jews as Jewish cultural capital that, as such, rightly belongs to the Israeli state.Butler thinks claims matter. But anyone can claim anything. The point about having an Anglo-Saxon judicial system is that you get to understand that only justiciable claims count. You don't have to get your knickers in a twist any time some guy claims to be a cat. It is not the case you stroke him when you stroke your own pussy. There may be more than one cat in the world. Moreover, he may be lying. He may be mad. He may be using an idiomatic expression e.g. 'I'm the cat who got the cream'.
Indeed, if the argument of the National Library were successful, then the representative claim of the state of Israel would be greatly expanded.Has this actually happened? No. Did anybody with an ounce of sense expect anything different? No. Butler got her knickers in a twist because she be kray kray. She should do the intellectual equivalent of her stroking her own pussy rather than start shitting herself coz some guy somewhere claims to be a cat.
As Antony Lermanwho is shunned by most British Jews because he wants a Palestinian majority state in the region.`
put it in the Guardian, if the National Library claims the legacy of Kafka for the Jewish state, it, and institutions like it in Israel, can lay claim to practically any pre-Holocaust synagogue, artwork, manuscript or valuable ritual object extant in Europe.It can also shove the Eiffel tower up his bum and use him to smuggle that monument to Tel Aviv.
But neither Israel as a state, nor any state or public institution, has such a right.False. It may do or it may not. It depends. This is a justiciable matter or can be the subject of an International Treaty.
(And while it’s true that Kafka is a key figure of the Jewish cultural past, as one of the world’s most significant authors whose themes find echoes in many countries and cultures, Israel’s proprietary attitude is surely misplaced.No it isn't. An English or American Court may have decided the case in the same way though with a different ratio.
Although Lerman laments the ‘implied subservience of European Jewish communities to Israel’,There is no such implication in any claim made by an Israeli public body. The thing would be ultra vires.
the problem has broader global implications: ifcats are dogs in which case Donald Trump grabbed my pussy
the diaspora is conceived as a fallen realm, unredeemed,but this view is explicitly rejected by Israel's official and quasi-official channels
then all cultural production by those who are arguably Jewish according to the rabbinic laws governing the Law of Return will be subject to posthumous legal appropriation, provided that the work is regarded as an ‘asset’.Has this happened? No. So, clearly, Butler and Co. were talking bollocks.
And this brings me to my third point, namely, that where there are assets, there are also liabilities. So it is not enough for a person or a work to be Jewish; they have to be Jewish in a way that can be capitalised on by the Israeli state as it currently fights on many fronts against cultural delegitimation.Israel won the war against 'cultural delegitimation'. One reason for this is because Israel is a Knowledge Economy. It exports things that smart people need but can't get anywhere. Butler & Co lost. One reason is that we'd all be better off if they went on strike and refused to talk to us.
An asset, one imagines, is something that enhances Israel’s world reputation, which many would allow is in need of repair: the wager is that the world reputation of Kafka will become the world reputation of Israel.Coz Israel really wants to be seen as a consumptive loser rather than a Knowledge Economy which advances Library Science in a manner that burnishes the reputation of its scholars.
Of course, Israel gains equally by preserving the 'cultural assets' of the Romans or the Crusaders or even the British. An asset is an asset is an asset.
But a liability, and a Jewish one, is someone whose person or work, arguably Jewish, constitutes a deficit of some kind; consider, for instance, the recent efforts to prosecute Israeli human rights organisations, such as B’tselem, for publicly documenting the number of civilian casualties in the war against Gaza.There were no such efforts. An MP is welcome to call for the investigation of anything he likes. But such a call is not a prosecution.
As a matter of fact, B'tselem was helpful to Israel because it showed Israeli Courts help up the principle of complementarity and hence other National or International Courts had no jurisdiction. The situation may have changed because the ICC is in bad odour. Israel needn't bother with it.
Perhaps Kafka might be instrumentalised to overcome the loss of standing that Israel has suffered by virtue of its ongoing illegal occupation of Palestinian land.An absurd suggestion. Butler may care more about Kafka's laundry list than living breathing Palestinians but, if so, she is a fucking sociopath.
It matters that Israel comes to own the work, but also that the work is housed within the established territory of the state, so that anyone who seeks to see and study that work must cross Israel’s border and engage with its cultural institutions.This may matter to one or two scholars. But they could just look up the digitized archive on their laptop while lounging on their sofa.
And this is also problematic, not only because citizens from several countries and non-citizens within the Occupied Territories are not allowed to cross that border,& their major sorrow in life is not being able to gaze at the original of Kafka's laundry list
but also because many artists, performers and intellectuals are currently honouring the cultural and academic boycott, refusing to appear in Israel unless their host institutions voice a strong and sustained opposition to the occupation.But those virtue signalling artists, performers and intellectuals are shit. Who gives a toss about them? What was the outcome of BDS? Foreign Direct Investment boomed. The US recognised Jerusalem as Israel's Capital.
The Kafka trial not only takes place against this political backdrop, but actively intervenes in its reconfiguration: if the National Library in Jerusalem wins its case, to have access to the unpublished and unseen materials of Franz Kafka one will have to defy the boycott and will have implicitly to acknowledge the Israeli state’s right to appropriate cultural goods whose high value is assumed to convert contagiously into the high value of Israel itself.The Library won its case. Butler should now defy the boycott. Come to think of it the Jewish Museum in New York cancelled her lecture on Kafka around the time she wrote this shite. That was wrong. Butler on Kafka is utterly hilarious.
Can poor Kafka shoulder such a burden? Can he really help the Israeli state overcome the bad press of the occupation?Can poor Butler say anything not stupid? Can she really help any cause she gloms onto?
It isfalse not
strange that Israel might be relying on the fragile remains of Franz Kafka to establish its cultural claim to work that is produced by that class of persons we might call ‘arguably Jewish’. And it probably also matters that the adversaries here are the daughters of the one-time mistress of Max Brod, a committed Zionist, whose own political interests seem to be vastly overshadowed by the prospect of financial gain.Is Butler trying to make some sort of Feminist point? Would she view things differently if Brod had made a man his executor?
Their pursuit of a profitable outcome seems to know no national boundaries and to honour no particular claims of national belonging – like capitalism itself.Does Butler believe that Israel would have a claim to everything any 'arguably Jewish' person produced if it were Communist? If not, why mention Capitalism? Is it because she is a prejudiced fool?
In fact, the German Literature Archive would probably be in a better position to pay the sums imagined by these sisters.This is irrelevant, if the thing did not belong to them in the first place.
In a desperate move, the Israeli counsel for the National Library sought to debunk the ownership claims of the sisters by producing a letter by Brod accusing his paramour of disrespecting him, and insisting that he would prefer to leave these materials to someone who regarded him as a person of significance.This was evidence he was making her a Trustee, not a beneficial owner.
Since the letter names no such people, it might be hard to sustain the claim that it overrides the explicit stipulation of the will.But it speaks to the testator's intention to grant trusteeship, not beneficial ownership, to his paramour
We shall see whether this document of a lover’s quarrel holds up in court.It shows that this Will created what amounted to a Discretionary Trust
The National Library’s most powerful adversary is the German Literature Archive in Marbach, which, interestingly, has retained Israeli lawyers for the purposes of the trial.Coz Israeli lawyers have a right of audience in Israeli courts. German lawyers, typically, do not. What else will Butler find interesting?
Presumably, with Israeli counsel, this does not have the appearance of a German-Jewish fight, and so does not recall that other trial – Eichmann’s in 1961 – in which the judge suddenly broke out of Hebrew and into German to address Eichmann directly.Both West and East Germany considered Eichmann a war criminal. There was a Nazi-Jewish fight. Germany was not involved. Judges are permitted to speak to witnesses.
That moment caused a controversy over the question of what language belongs in an Israeli court of law, and of whether Eichmann should have been accorded such a courtesy.So Butler understands that German is not accepted as a language that can be used in Israeli Courts for the purpose of legal argument or judgment.
Several German scholars and newspapers have recently argued that Marbach is the proper home for Kafka’s newly discovered writings. Marbach, they point out, already owns the largest collection of Kafka manuscripts in the world, including the manuscript of The Trial, which it bought for 3.5 million German marks at Sotheby’s in 1988.A thing's proper home is where its legal owner decides to put it.
These scholars argue against further fragmentation of the oeuvre, and point to the superior capacity of the Marbach facility to conserve such materials. There seems to be a sense that Germany might be, all in all, a more secure location.This would be a perfectly sensible argument if Brod had named Marbach as a suitable beneficiary in his Will or in some other document.
But of course another part of the argument is that Kafka belongs to German literature and, specifically, to the German language.This is not a sensible argument. We may all say that the Bible 'belongs' to us. But this type of oikeiosis is non-rival.
And though there is no attempt to say that he belongs to Germany as one of its past or virtual citizens, it seems that Germanness here transcends the history of citizenship and pivots on the question of linguistic competence and accomplishment.Nonsense! The Germans weren't making any such claim. They merely stipulated that a private sale to Marbach should be considered allowable under the terms of Brod's Will. But the named beneficiary had superior title.
The argument of the German Literature Archive effaces the importance of multilingualism for Kafka’s formation and for his writing.They merely said- 'Hey! We are a good Archive. Brod wouldn't have objected to us getting the goodies- for a consideration.' Butler makes it sound as it they were staking a claim to ownership, not the right to buy from the parties in possession.
(Indeed, would we have the Babel parables without the presumption of multilingualism,Yes. Just as we would have the Chinese Wall paired with it for a reason Borges pointed out.
and would communication falter so insistently in his works without that backdrop of Czech, Yiddish and German converging in Kafka’s world?)But then communication would also falter insistently in any other similarly bred writer from that time or place.
In focusing on just how perfectly German his language is, the archive joins in a long and curious tradition of praise for Kafka’s ‘pure’ German. George Steinerwho was not German and did not write in that language
lauded ‘the translucency of Kafka’s German, its stainless quiet’, remarking that his ‘vocabulary and syntax are those of utmost abstention from waste’.But that cretin also thought Durrell was a great writer
John Updike referred to ‘the stirring purity’ of Kafka’s prose.Also not German.
Hannah Arendt, as well, wrote that his work ‘speaks the purest German prose of the century’.Unlike Heidi's addled shite
So although Kafka was certainly Czech,but a German speak Czech citizen like many- too many?- others
it seems that fact is superseded by his written German, which is apparently the most pure – or, shall we say, purified?Superseded for what purpose? Kafka wasn't a regional, or dialect, writer. His characters are not defined by a specific socio-cultural or historical milieu.
Given the history of the valuation of ‘purity’ within German nationalism, including National Socialism, it is curious that Kafka should be made to stand for this rigorous and exclusionary norm.Not if the FRG is the successor state of the Third Reich- which it obviously is. There is nothing curious, though there may be something repugnant, in historical continuity.
In what ways must Kafka’s multilingualism and his Czech origins be ‘purified’ in order to have him stand for a pure German?None at all. Butler herself tells us that Kafka's German, unlike Celan's, was considered pure enough.
Is what is most remarkable or admirable about him that he seems to have purified himself, exemplifying the self-purifying capacities of the Ausländer?Not to Butler's readers who, speaking generally, have read Kafka in translation.
It is interestingthat Butler only finds obvious things interesting
that these arguments about Kafka’s German are recirculating now,because a 'Kafkaesque trial' is in the news and 'recirculation' is easier than thinking
just as Angela Merkel has announced the failure of multiculturalism in Germany and marshalled as evidence the further claim that new immigrants, and indeed their ‘children and grandchildren’, fail to speak German correctly. She has publicly admonished such communities to rid themselves of every accent and to ‘integrate’ into the norms of the German linguistic community (a complaint quickly countered by Jürgen Habermas).What was she supposed to say? Talk Arabic and we'll learn Arabic to understand you?
Surely, Kafka could be a model of the successful immigrant, though he lived only briefly in Berlin, and clearly did not identify even with the German Jews.No. To be a model of the successful immigrant, you have to actually be a successful immigrant.
If Kafka’s new works are recruited to the Marbach archive, then Germany will be fortified in its effort to shift its nationalism to the level of language;No doubt, Butler thinks one reason Hitler failed was coz Germany didn't have Kafka's laundry lists.
the inclusion of Kafka takes place for the very same reason that less well-spoken immigrations are denounced and resisted.Germany actually ramped up efforts to get in highly educated Indians and so forth who don't speak a lick of German. Countries compete to attract wealthy, highly skilled, immigrants, not ones who are well spoken, because they want more tax revenue and less spending on unemployable criminals.
Is it possible that fragile Kafka could become a norm of European integration?No. Don't be silly.
We find in Kafka’s correspondence with his lover Felice Bauer, who was from Berlin, that she is constantly correcting his German, suggesting that he is not fully at home in this second language.Or that their relationship- which for Kafka was like that between Flaubert and Louise Colet- was more unequal in that the Berlin dialect was more prestigious.
And his later lover, Milena Jesenská, who was also the translator of his works into Czech, is constantly teaching him Czech phrases he neither knows how to spell nor to pronounce, suggesting that Czech, too, is also something of a second language.Either German or Czech was his first language. They both can't be second languages because Butler says Yiddish was not part of his everyday life.
In 1911, he is going to the Yiddish theatre and understanding what is said, but Yiddish is not a language he encounters very often in his family or his daily life; it remains an import from the east that is compelling and strange. So is there a first language here? And can it be argued that even the formal German in which Kafka writes – what Arendt called ‘purest’ German – bears the signs of someone entering the language from its outside?This could be argued if it were the case that Kafka had not grown up speaking both languages. It is a different matter that there was an element of 'code switching'. But this is quite usual in young writers.
This was the argument in Deleuze and Guattari’s essay ‘Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature’.Their stupidity was premised on the Gallic notion that 'major' or 'established' Literature first has a content and then an expression- in Formalist terms, 'fabula' precedes 'syuzhet'. But, the grand early Nineteenth German philological tradition, as exemplified by Karl Lachmann, goes in the opposite direction. But so does the romantic or expressionist backlash that prevails at the turn of the century. Perhaps, this was more visible to the English or the Russians, because we knew precisely which wankers had been reading German. The French were late to that party. D&G were engaged in 'minor literature'. But they were not the avant garde of anything. They were the retreat of Freud's shitty bum from its stool in the Academy. It is possible that Kafka's writing of 'The Judgment' was his way of immunizing himself against that 'strong' author whose German prose has been held up as a model of lucidity.
Indeed, this quarrel seems to be an old one, one that Kafka himself invokes in a letter to Felice in October 1916 with reference to Max Brod’s essay on Jewish writers, ‘Our Writers and the Community’, published in Der Jude.There is nothing particularly thought provoking here. Kafka was young. He hadn't made his mark as either a 'strong' Jewish or German or any other sort of writer. Moreover, some Jews in the Austrian Empire were passionate pan-Germanics just as some Iraqi Jews in the UK made a point of being more British than their Mayfair or Country House neighbors. It was often said, in Edwardian England, 'that man's English is too correct. He must be a Levantine.' The joke was- perhaps still is- that the only people whose English is always perfect claim Welsh as their mother tongue. But this perfection involves an incessant search for 'apoorvata'. Thus, thanks to the Welsh, the book of Perfect English is one which never falls open on the same page twice.
And incidentally, won’t you tell me what I really am; in the last Neue Rundschau, ‘Metamorphosis’ is mentioned and rejected on sensible grounds, and then the writer says: ‘There is something fundamentally German about K’s narrative art.’ In Max’s article on the other hand: ‘K’s stories are among the most typically Jewish documents of our time.’
‘A difficult case,’ Kafka writes. ‘Am I a circus rider on two horses? Alas, I am no rider, but lie prostrate on the ground.’
Let us consider some more of Kafka’s writings – his letters, some diary entries, two parables and a story – in order to cast light on the question of his belonging, his views on Zionism and his more general ways of thinking about reaching (and failing to reach) a destination.But before we do this we need to have a sensible theory of belonging or oikeiosis. Butler thinks belonging is rival. It isn't and wasn't in Kafka's time. Political identities were much more fluid. Zionism, in particular, was ideologically very diverse.
Moreover, 'thinking' was differently conceived at the time. Idealism and Intuitionism of various sorts were mainstream. Thought wasn't thought of as an algorithmic method of arrival at a predestined justified true belief. On the contrary, Theurgic and mystagogic ideas had wide currency. Butler is imposing post-war topological and epistemological assumptions of an ad captum vulgi type on a writer from a very different era in those two respects. Knowing a bit of actual topology is required to distinguish between what Brian McHale called the 'topological signatures' of different eras. It is important to remember that Butler and Spivak were actually stupider and more ignorant than their male rivals. Thus they prevailed.
So far as we’re concerned with assessing the rights of ownership claimed in the trial, it probably doesn’t matter whether or not Kafka was a Zionist or whether he planned seriously to move to Palestine.On the contrary. It would have mattered greatly. If Brod saw himself as a trustee then that is what he was. Thus Kafka's own intentions and preferences in this respect have salience. In particular, if Kafka was a Zionist, Marburg's claim to be a discretionarily permissible alternative was defeated.
The fact is that Brod was a Zionist and brought Kafka’s work along, even though Kafka himself never went, and never really planned to.But he may have done had he lived.
He understood Palestine as a destination, but referred to the plan to go there as ‘dreams’.But dreams come true, if your health and will are strong enough.
It was not simply that he lacked the will, but that he had a stopping ambivalence about the entire project. What I hope to show is that a poetics of non-arrival pervades this work and affects, if not afflicts, his love letters, his parables about journeys, and his explicit reflections on both Zionism and on the German language.One might, with greater truth, speak of a poetics of never getting off the fucking couch. There is plenty of 'questing' literature- oneiric adventures no one in their right mind would ever want to end. On the other end of the scale are journeys no one would want to begin. These are nightmares.
Both Zionism and German linguistic Nationalism arose out of Faustian frustration, inferiority as entailing yet farther inward an exodus, Pascal's bet as existential threat, adolescent sehnsucht always ending up sucking the limp dick of a febrile feuilletonism. Meanwhile, the English and the Rooskies and even the French were on the march. Failed Nations- or the diasporas of Nations which had failed to grow- were all stuck on the same page. Cavafy's 'the City' is Kafka avant la lettre.
I can understand that one might want to look specifically at what Kafka wrote about trials to see what light might be shed on the contemporary trial by his writings, but there are some differences that need to be remarked. This current trial is about ownership and rests in part on claims of national and linguistic belonging, but most of the trials and procedures that Kafka writes about involve unfounded allegations and nameless guilt.Butler makes up for this by her unfounded allegations about Israeli motives and its Original Sin of wanting to protect Jewish lives even if this meant great initial effort and sacrifice on the part of those able to make Aliyah. Kafka was in poor health. At best he'd have contributed to Jerusalem's Jewish mendicancy of a type opposite to Herzl's vision. What does 'Tel Aviv' mean?- Kafka teases Felice. Aviv means a brooklet, a spring, sweet water gushing forth from an ancient aquifer uncreated by human hands. Tel, a mound veiling over all that was man-made and is dead and moribund. What is Aliyah? An atomistic Brownian motion? Or is it a journey? But how can there be a journey unless two are agreed? The other side of the coin is 'can there be Evil in the City and God has not done it'? This is why such Evils can be remedied without a 'Truth and Justice Commission'. Sin is not a Tarskian primitive for Civics.
Now Kafka has himself become property, if not chattel (literally, an item of tangible movable or immovable property not attached to land), and the debate over his final destination is taking place, ironically, in family court.This stupid bint thinks Kafka resides in his laundry lists.
The very question of where Kafka belongs is already something of a scandal given the fact that the writing charts the vicissitudes of non-belonging, or of belonging too much.There is no scandal, no stumbling block to any type of Faith, to say Kafka's oikeiosis is non-rival.
Remember: he broke every engagement he ever had, he never owned an apartment, and he asked his literary executor to destroy his papers, after which that contractual relation was to have ended. So arrangements outlived their original purposes and their intended timespan.This is arguable. There is enough wriggle room to give the Trustee the benefit of the doubt.
Even though Kafka’s job was to adjudicate administrative insurance claims and binding contracts, his personal life was curiously void of them, except for an occasional contract to publish.Nonsense! He had a contract of employment. Had he been in better health, or if the economy had not been disrupted, he'd have made many more contracts.
Of course, I am prepared to accept that the legal management of his papers requires a decision regarding their stewardship, and that this problem of legal ownership has to be solved so the papers can be inventoried and made accessible. But if we turn to his writing to help us sort through this mess,we are being utterly stupid.
we may well find that his writing is instead most pertinent in helping us to think through the limits of cultural belonging, as well as the traps of certain nationalist trajectories that have specific territorial destinations as their goal.The West has had one simple answer to this stupidity. It is the stoic notion of oikeiosis.
There is no doubt that Kafka’s Jewishness was important, but this in no way implied any sustained view on Zionism.As was common at that time.
He was immersed in Jewishness, but also sought to survive its sometimes pressing social demands.As was common at the time.
In 1911 he went to the Yiddish theatre nearly every week and described in detail what he saw there. In the subsequent years he read – ‘greedily’ as he puts it – L’Histoire de la littérature Judéo-Allemande by Meyer Pines, which was full of Hasidic tales, followed by Fromer’s Organismus des Judentums, which details rabbinic Talmudic traditions.Has Butler read these works herself? If not, why does she mention them? But, if she has, why pretend everything we find in Kafka has an antecedent in such literature? That is what makes Kafka interesting for Jews- and Butler is of Jewish heritage. It also makes Kafka interesting for Hindus because we can see parallels with our own Puranas or the Yoga Vashistha etc. This illumines scripture or Brahma Sutras etc. Indeed, for smart people, like Aumann, mathematical game theory is illumined. Fantasy literature abounds in Noether type symmetries. Thus they can be gedanken of a useful type. What is poetic about them is the manner in which they break symmetries.
He attended musical events at the Bar Kokhba Society, read portions of Kaballah and discussed them in his diaries, studied Moses Mendelssohn and Sholem Aleichem, read several Jewish magazines, attended lectures on Zionism and plays in Yiddish, and listened to Hebrew stories in translation.So, he was a smart but otherwise typical Mitteleuropean Jew.
Apparently, on 25 February 1912, Kafka delivered a lecture on Yiddish, though I have not been able to find a copy. Perhaps it is stuffed in a box in Tel Aviv awaiting legal adjudication.Which Jew did not?
Alongside this impressive immersion in Jewish things – perhaps we could call it a mode of being enveloped – Kafka also voiced scepticism about that mode of social belonging.
Hannah Arendt, whose own sense of belonging was similarly vexed (and became a subject of dispute with Gershom Scholem), made famous one of Kafka’s quips about the Jewish people: ‘My people, provided that I have one.’Because Jewish oikeiosis could pose an existential threat in those troubled times.
As Louis Begley has recently made clear in a quite candid biographical essay, Kafka remained not only in two minds about Jewishness, but sometimes quite clearly torn apart. ‘What have I in common with Jews?’ he wrote in a diary entry in 1914. ‘I have hardly anything in common with myself and should stand very quietly in a corner, content that I can breathe.’ Sometimes his own remarks on Jews were harsh, if not violent, when, for instance, he calls the Jewish people ‘lizards’.But not shape shifting ones a la David Icke
In a letter to Milena, a non-Jew, he crosses over into a genocidal and suicidal fantasy in which no one can finally breathe any more:Kafka probably did have difficulty breathing. Furthermore, his Religion affirms bodily Resurrection. 'Vacillation in size' is a feature in Talmudic and Hassidic literature with which he was familiar as Butler would know if she had actually read the books she mentions.
I could rather reproach you for having much too good an opinion of the Jews whom you know (including myself) – there are others! – sometimes I’d like to cram them all as Jews (including myself) into the drawer of the laundry chest, then wait, then open the drawer a little, to see whether all have already suffocated, if not, to close the drawer again and go on like this to the end.
Jewishness is linked up, time and again, with the possibility of breathing. What have I in common with the Jews? I am lucky that I can breathe at all. So is it the Jews who make it difficult for him to breathe, or is it Kafka who imagines depriving the Jews of breath?
Kafka’s suffocation fantasy reiterates a phantasmatic vacillation of size that we also find, for instance, in The Judgment. In the fantasy, Kafka is impossibly large, larger than all the Jews he imagines putting into the drawer. And yet, he is also in the drawer, which makes him unbearably small.
In context, it defeats the simplistic Freudian Oedipus Complex, invoked explicitly in passages of 'the Judgment', by appealing to the fact that the Unconscious or Liminal can have no metric of its own. Kafka knew the Kuzari. To my mind, the Islamic notion of barzakh had been incorporated into Judaism in Fatimid Egypt though of course, Ibn Arabi was a direct influence at a later date. But this means, as Kafka says, Freud's imaginary cure addressed no actual ailment but rather turned its back on the Reality of Religious Faith.
Kafka had read Synge's Playboy and may have seen inability to get out of the Father's shadow as a mark of National failure at State making. Part of the problem was that the desired State would keep changing shape and size. The territory actually acquired is likely to be much less than was dreamed off. Icht hatte einst ein schones Vaterland- est war ein traum. Heine's poem reminds that Germany too had this oneiric property. Vast and grand, small and suffocating, all in the same anxious or ardent moment.
In The Judgment, the father is by turns huge and tiny:as Dads always are to grown-up sons. But Mums, at least in my experience, have this quality first because boys tend to first over-shoot Mum in height. But this is what makes Mum so endearing. By and by, this quality is transferred to Daddy as well. Then he is happy.
at one moment the son, Georg, remarks that when erect, he is so tall that his hand lightly touches the ceiling, but in a previous moment, the father is reduced to the size of a child and Georg carries him to bed. The son towers over the father only to be sentenced to death by the force of the latter’s words.But this is the nature of all love! Playing with the baby, you get sentenced to death ten times in ten minutes! That's what makes them so endlessly fascinating.
Where is Kafka located in that fantasy of suffocation, and where is Georg?He's the guy getting suffocated. Does Butler really not know this?
They are subject to a perpetual vacillation in which no one finally is sustained in a manageable scale. In the suffocation fantasy, Kafka is both agent and victim.No. He is the victim. He may, by amor fati, 'appropriate' that agency but it isn't the case that his writing is attractive to would-be parricides.
But this persistent duality goes unrecognised by those who have used the letter to call him a self-hating Jew.One may speak of him as self-hating simply. It is a quality valuable to writers of even moderate psychological depth.
Such a conclusion is no more warranted by the vacillations in his text than is the triumphant claim that Kafka’s occasionally admiring remarks about Zionism make him a Zionist. (He is, after all, flirting in some of those instances.)Suppose he had known what would befall European Jewry. Would he have been a Zionist? You bet your boots! So would all but the worst hate-mongers of the period.
The suffocation fantasy, written in 1920, is perhaps most usefully understood in relation to a letter to Felice written four years earlier, after reading Arnold Zweig’s play Ritual Murder in Hungary (1916).Nonsense! This is a guy who had a horrible illness! It may be that he suffered even prior to the breakdown of his health in 1917.
The play enacts a drama from 1897 based on the blood libel against the Jews. Jews in a Hungarian village are accused of using a butcher’s knife to kill Christians and then using their blood to make unleavened bread. In the play, the accused are brought to court, where the charges are dismissed. An anti-Jewish riot breaks out on the streets and violence is directed against Jewish businesses and religious institutions. After reading Zweig’s play, Kafka wrote to Felice: ‘At one point I had to stop reading, sit down on the sofa, and weep. It’s years since I wept.’ The butcher’s knife, or knives like it, then reappear in his diaries and letters, and even several times in the published fiction: in The Trial, for instance, and again, most vividly, in ‘A Country Doctor’. The play gives us some sense of the limits of law, even the strange way that the law gives way to a lawlessness it cannot control.Does Butler understand that knives cause you to bleed, not suffocate?
The fact that Kafka wept at the story of false accusations – indeed, that few accounts made him weep as this one did – may strike us as surprising.He wept at the killing of innocents. He wouldn't have given a flying fart about my own tale of woe concerning false accusations that I had personally slept with all the great actresses of Hollywood. This caused Beyonce to break off her engagement to me.
The tone of the The Trial is, after all, one in which a false or obscure accusation against K. is relayed in the most neutral terms, without resonating affect.But the thing is Doestoevskian. Anyway, by the time the thing was published everybody understood that being a Good Soldier Svejk was the only way to baffle the bureaucrats with bullshit.
It seems that the grief avowed in the letters is precisely what is put out of play in the writing;But 'The Trial' was written before Kafka read Zweig's play!
and yet the writing conveys precisely a set of events that are bound together neither through probable cause nor logical induction.They are nightmarish in a typically Russian manner but adds in a sexual component of a Viennese type albeit with a Strinbergian dose of horror.
So the writing effectively opens up the disjunction between clarity – we might even say a certain lucidity and purity of prose – and the horror that is normalised precisely as a consequence of that lucidity. No one can fault the grammar and syntax of Kafka’s writing, and no one has ever found emotional excess in his tone; but precisely because of this apparently objective and rigorous mode of writing, a certain horror opens up in the midst of the quotidian, perhaps also an unspeakable grief.Or boredom. The thing looks jejune. What makes Kafka immortal is his always living as a Literature which so cavils at its own sickness, God won't grant it death. But Kafka can't be Doestoevsky any more than Tagore can be Tolstoy. The fact is, Russia was a great power.
I think Kafka realized, reading Synge's Playboy, that Oedipal shite was connected to failure to achieve, or sustain, Nationhood. Fathers were important because Fatherlands might be a dream- like in Heine's poem. But Fathers and Fatherlands are puny in comparison with what Death is liminal to. Oedipus is merely a Moses who can't enter the Promised Land. Monotheism is not enough. Oikeiosis too must be taboo.
Syntax and theme are effectively at war, which means that we might think twice about praising Kafka only for his lucidity.Why do so? His work is oneiric.
After all, the lucid works as style only insofar as it betrays its own claim to self-sufficiency.Dreams can be lucid. They are not self-sufficient because they are dreams.
Something obscure, if not unspeakable, opens up within the perfect syntax.But this would still happen if the syntax was fucked up.
Indeed, if we consider that recurrent and libellous accusations lurk in the background of his many trials,The guy had read Freud and Judge Schreber and Doestoevsky. What else would we expect?
we can read the narrative voice as a neutralisation of outrage, a linguistic packing away of sorrow that paradoxically brings it to the fore.Or we could read it as oneiric and neurotic.
So Jews are his family, his small world, and he is already in some sense hemmed in by that small apartment, that relentless community, and in that sense suffocated. And yet, he was mindful of the stories and present dangers of anti-semitism, ones that he experienced directly in a riot that took place in 1918 in which he found himself amid a crowd ‘swimming in Jew-hatred’.By then, a lot of middle-class Europeans were thinking that the Continent wasn't safe. The Bolsheviks were coming.
Did he then look to Zionism as a way out of this profound ambivalence: the need to flee the constraints of family and community coupled with the need to find a place imagined as free of anti-semitism?I think, Kafka- quite sensibly- saw that death is the destination. Judaism hasn't much of a concept of Limbo, though it may be that Ibn Arabi influenced medieval Judaism. But it is sufficient to speak of phantasy and such Religious Faith, or oikieosis, as might render it ecumenical or a heimat for the heart.
Consider the very first letter Kafka wrote to Felice in September 1912. In the opening line, he asks her to picture him together with her in Palestine:Next year in Jerusalem! How this Shulamith must have blushed! She well knew which key that hand had been working on and where it wanted to go.
In the likelihood that you no longer have even the remotest recollection of me, I am introducing myself once more: my name is Franz Kafka, and I am the person who greeted you for the first time that evening at Director Brod’s in Prague, the one who subsequently handed you across the table, one by one, photographs of a Thalia trip, and who finally, with the very hand now striking the keys, held your hand, the one which confirmed a promise to accompany him next year to Palestine.
As the correspondence unfolds over the next few years, Kafka lets her know time and again that he will really not be able to accompany her, not on this trip or on another, and certainly not to Palestine, at least not in this life as the person that he is: the hand that strikes the keys will not be holding her hand. Moreover, he has his doubts about Zionism and about ever arriving at that destination. He subsequently calls it a ‘dream’, and chides her a few years later for entertaining Zionism so seriously: ‘You flirted with it,’ he wrote. But actually, he was the one who introduced Palestine as the structure of flirtation: come with me, take my hand to the beyond. Indeed, as the relationship founders and breaks over the next few years, he makes clear that he has no intention of going, and that he thinks those who do go are pursuing an illusion. Palestine is a figural elsewhere where lovers go, an open future, the name of an unknown destination.She had no dowry. Then his health broke. The thing had been a beautiful dream.
In Kafka Goes to the Movies, Hanns Zischler makes the case that filmic images provided Kafka with a primary means of access to the space of Palestine, and that Palestine was a film image for him, a projected field of fantasy.It may have been a magic lantern image. He would certainly have seen pictures in books and magazines.
Zischler writes that Kafka saw the beloved land in film, as film. Indeed, Palestine was imagined as unpopulated, which has been ably confirmed by Ilan Pappe’s work on early Zionist photography, in which Palestinian dwellings are quickly renamed as part of the natural landscape. Zischler’s is an interesting thesis, but is probably not quite true, since the first of those films were not seen until 1921 according to the records we have, and Kafka was avidly attending meetings and reading journals, gaining a sense of Palestine as much from stories written and told as from public debates. In the course of those debates and reports, Kafka understood that there were conflicts emerging in the region. Indeed, his short story ‘Jackals and Arabs’, published in Der Jude in 1917, registers an impasse at the heart of Zionism.Fuck off! The Arab Revolt had begun. The World would soon hear of Lawrence and his Seven Pillars of Wisdom.
Kafka wrote of the Arabs as insouciant Anglo-Saxons, guys like W.S Blunt, from whose "cool arrogance one cannot strike a spark of common sense. They kill animals to eat them, and they disregard rotting carcasses." Butler is a jackal. Her ilk get by fraudulently cashing the pension checks of Dead White Dudes. But, this is not a Jewish trait. They are forbidden to eat not just carrion but also animals killed by non-Jews (nevelah). Butler's hatred of Israel has grown so insensate that she thinks Kafka, who was smarter than her and who knew the Law, meant 'Jews' when he said Jackals, who perform a hygienic function being the unacknowledged, and thus resentfully loyal, dogs of the true Masters of Kashrut- i.e. oikeiosis as Law's opacity to Reason.
In that story, the narrator, who has wandered unknowingly into the desert, is greeted by the Jackals (die Schakale) a thinly disguised reference to the Jews.Because Jews eat carrion- right? How fucking Anti Semitic is this cunt?
After treating him as a Messianic figureThe notion of a Saoshyant is Iranian. There was no lack of 'Aryanist' nutters around at the time to point this out.
for whom they have been waiting for generations, they explain that his task is to kill the Arabs with a pair of scissors (perhaps a joke about how Jewish tailors from Eastern Europe are ill equipped for conflict).Tailors would be unfit to till the land. Anyone can pull a trigger. The truth is 'rusted scissors' are mentioned because
1) they don't, can't, weren't intended, to cut throats
2) for one whose 'life is literature', they represent a cut and paste method- like the Jefferson Bible or, indeed, Germanic 'scientific' philology and hermeneutics.
They don’t want to do it themselves, since it would not be ‘clean’,Butler is lying. They say nothing of the sort. The fact is their paws can't manipulate scissors. A human must do it for them. But humans are 'uclean'. They live by feeding on what lives. Butler is an obvious counter-example.
but the Messiah is himself apparently unbound by kosher constraints.There is no 'kosher constraint' on killing people. You just must not eat carrion.
The narrator then speaks with the Arab leader, who explains that ‘it’s common knowledge; so long as Arabs exist, that pair of scissors goes wandering through the desert and will wander with us to the end of our days. Every European is offered it for the great work; every European is just the Man that Fate has chosen for them.’The narrator stopped the Arabs whipping the jackals. He let them get on with their 'purificatory' purpose. The jackals are unacknowledged dogs to the Arabs. That useless pair of scissors keeps them in their snarling, but salutary, bondage. Similarly, from Butler, Nussbaum, Spivak &c, we expected a snarling but jackal like service. But only to such inutile Desert creatures as might lack 'useful idiots', lashing which species of carrion-eater, a common oikeiosis is asserted.
The story was written and published in 1917, the year Kafka’s relationship with Felice came to an end.& the year the poor fuck learnt he would die.
But there were other currents worth mentioning. Some Czechs, sympathetic or actually working with the Allies, knew about the Arab Revolt. But, by then, Zionists believed the Hashemites might give them 'mawali' status of a more reliable sort than Abdul the damned could be trusted to do.
That same year, he clarifies to her in a letter: ‘I am not a Zionist.’That was smart. The Germans knew about what would become the Balfour declaration. During a War, who knows if one's mail will be opened?
Slightly earlier he writes of himself to Grete Bloch that by temperament, he is a man ‘excluded from every soul-sustaining community on account of his non-Zionist (I admire Zionism and am nauseated by it), non-practising Judaism’. After attending a meeting of Zionists in March 1915 with Max Brod, at which Jews from Eastern and Western Europe came together to sort out their differences, he describes the various characters, one with his ‘shabby little jacket’, and notes the ‘diabolically unpleasant smile’ of a little fellow described as ‘a walking argument’ with a ‘canary voice’. This visual sequence finally includes himself: ‘I, as if made of wood, a clothes-rack pushed into the middle of the room. And yet hope.’Zionism had different Great Power backers. Turkey was on the Hapsburg side. But Jews were patriots first, Zionists second. Obviously, only Turkey's enemies could deliver the maximal demand.
From where precisely does this hope emerge? Here as elsewhere, the problem of destination touches on the question of emigrating to Palestine, but also on the problem, more generally, of whether messages can arrive and commands be rightly understood.But this problem arises in any juristic field which is not 'buck-stopped' and protocol bound. But, Judaism has always known that either meaning is 'anything goes' or else the 'bat kol'- the voice from Heaven- must be disregarded in making a judgment. Lawyers and Bureaucrats know this very well. That is why scrupulous draughtsmanship is a sine qua non. Indeed, a 'Byzantine General' fault-tolerance problem arises in the type of Actuarial field in which Kafka worked.
Non-arrival describes the linguistic predicament of writing in a multilingual context, exploiting the syntactical rules of formal German to produce an uncanny effect,But the thing had already been done to death! Every school-boy could write like that!
but also writing in a contemporary Babel where the misfires of language come to characterise the everyday situation of speech, whether amorous or political.But this could be said of any place at any time!
The question that re-emerges in parables like ‘An Imperial Message’ is whether a message can be sent from here to there, or whether someone can travel from here to there, or indeed ‘over there’ – whether an expected arrival is really possible.Butler must have heard of Zeno's paradox. Why make heavy weather of it?
I would like to consider briefly two parables that touch on this problem of non-arrival, even the strange form of hope that can emerge from the broken sociality and counter-messianic impasse that characterise the parable form. ‘My Destination’ begins with the problem of a command that is not understood: ‘I gave orders for my horse to be brought round from the stable. The servant did not understand me.’ The command is perhaps given in a language that the servant does not understand,Master and Servant are shown as sharing a common tongue.
or else some presumptive hierarchy is no longer working as it is supposed to.No. The hierarchy is working. In plain terms, the servant shows solicitude for the master- choosing to appear stupid rather than help him do something stupid.
More cognitive confusion ensues as the first-person narrator continues: ‘In the distance I heard a bugle call, I asked him what this meant.’ This time, it appears the servant understands the question, but the narrator is still not living in a common world of sound: ‘He knew nothing and had heard nothing.’This suggests that the Master has gone crazy. He is having auditory hallucinations. Perhaps he think he is being summoned to an imaginary war or must ride like Paul Revere to warn his country-men.
Apparently the servant only gave signs to indicate as much, though in the next line, he establishes his linguistic competence: ‘At the gate he stopped me, asking, “Where are you riding to, master?”,’ which is followed by an immediate reply: ‘“I don’t know.” I said only “away from here [weg-von-hier], away from here.”’ And then a third time: ‘Always away from here, only by doing so can I reach my destination.’ The servant, who apparently did not understand the first command, or did not understand himself as addressed by it,but, more plausibly, choose to appear too stupid to comprehend the command of a lunatic
now seems anxious to verify what the master actually knows about his goal (das Ziel). But the master’s answer is confounding: ‘Yes,’ he replies, ‘didn’t I say so?’ and then offers a place name, the hyphenated place ‘away-from-here’ (which becomes a term by which Deleuze links Kafka with a project of deterritorialisation). And yet, what does it mean to say ‘away-from-here’ is ‘my destination’? Any place that is not here can be away from here, but any place that becomes a ‘here’ will not be away from here, but only another here.In which case, the journey is accomplished just hopping back and forth. But this is not what happens. 'Away-from-here' means 'away from places like here'. This is not Delueze's 'plane of immanence' at all. There is neither relative nor absolute deterritorialisation because there is no reterritorialisation nor any Spinozan plane of immanence. This guy wants out.
Is there really any way away from here, or does ‘here’ follow us wherever we go?No. There may be a place of which we say 'I can't believe I'm really here!' That's when you know you have fulfilled your vow to get the fuck away from here.
What would it mean to be freed of the spatio-temporal conditions of the ‘here’?We would exist in a univocal manner at different times and places like the mystic Sages. The Theosophists and Theurgists of the period claimed that some such adepts actually existed.
We would not only have to be elsewhere, but that very elsewhere would have to transcend the spatio-temporal conditions of any existing place.Not necessarily. If I can simultaneously have consciousness of being in different locations at the same time or different times at the same location, and I can do this at will for any time or location, then I am freed of the spatio-temporal conditions of the here. A higher level of adept may be able to traverse transcendental nothingness.
So wherever he means to go, it will not be a place as we know a place to be.Not necessarily. Kafka's parable has emotional valency precisely because we have all had this feeling. We want to get away from here. We don't know when or where we will know that this has happened. But we'll know it when we get there.
Is this a theological parable, one that figures an ineffable beyond?No. The fucker is going to die.
Is it a parable about Palestine, the place that in the imagination of the European, according to Kafka, is not a populated place, not a place that can be populated by any one?Fuck off! Palestine was known to be populated- but not densely at all. Plenty of tourists went to Jerusalem etc. and sent back postcards.
In fact, he appears to be going somewhere where the sustenance of the human body will prove unnecessary. The servant remarks: ‘You have no provision [Eßvorrat] with you.’ ‘“I need none,” I said. “The Journey is so long that I must die of hunger if I don’t get anything on the way.This is silly. The guy needs provisions till he can resupply. Clearly the fellow is either off his chump or he is saying he will have to live off the land and had better learn how to do it immediately when return to his base was easier.
No provisions can save me [Kein Eßvorrat kann mich retten].’Armies may have to live off the land. So may religious mendicants. But both have made great journeys throughout history.
And then comes the strange concluding sentence: ‘For it is, fortunately, a truly immense journey.’ In the German, it is ‘luckily’ (zum Glück eine wahrhaft ungeheure Reise). That word ungeheure meansenormous, really really big, but it can also mean 'strong' or
‘uncanny’, ‘monstrous’, even ‘unfathomable’.
So we might well ask what is this monstrous and unfathomable journey for which no food will be necessary.It is the journey Prince Siddhartha took on the road to becoming the Buddha. It is still the road the Jain or Hindu ascetic takes after tonsure. Home is where night falls on the path. Food is what people put into your begging bowl.
But warriors too may ride off unprovisioned. They will eat what they kill or be fed for their killing power.
No food can save him from this lucky venture into the uncanny zone.But he says he will either starve or get food by such means as food is got. This is perfectly sensible. Mummy makes you a packed lunch to take to School. She doesn't saddle you with a ton of provisions if you are off to Cambridge.
Luckily, it seems the journey will not only require his starvation but will fail to save him, to keep him in a place that is a place.But that will happen anyway if he stays at home. Corpses can't eat. They soon shrivel up.
He is going to a place that is no place and where no food will be necessary.So do we all.
If that place beyond place is itself a salvation, which is not precisely said, then it will be of a different kind from the one that food supplies to a living creature.Who does not know this?
We might call this a death drive toward Palestine,if he'd said he was going there. He didn't. Anyway plenty of 'Palmers', who were Christians, not Jewish, did indeed have what turned out to be a 'death drive' towards Jerusalem.
but we might also read it as an opening onto an infinite journey, or a journey into the infinite, that will gesture towards another world.Everybody is on such a journey. It is common knowledge that peeps die.
I say ‘gesture’ because it is the term that Benjamin and Adorno use to talk about these stilled moments, these utterances that are not quite actions, that freeze or congeal in their thwarted and incomplete condition.You say 'gesture' because you are as stupid as shit. We are speaking of a guy on a horse who intends to actually gallop away none know whither.
And that seems to be what happens here: a gesture opens up a horizon as a goal,No. A guy gets on a horse and gallops off. He may be crazy. He may starve. But this is an action, not a gesture. There is an actual departure.
but there is no actual departure and there is surely no actual arrival.
The reason this parable is not necessarily tiresome was because Kafka might have met Einstein, or heard him lecture, at Berta Fanta's. He may have known that Doestoevsky's 'fourth dimension' might mean the Universe was a closed unbounded sphere. Parables were appealing at that time because Gedanken were all the rage. Perhaps Hilbert's Hotel owes something to Kafka? In any case, that shite was in the 'zeitgeist'.
The poetics of non-arrival can be found againthough Butler has just admitted there was no actual departure in her last paragraph
in Kafka’s parable ‘The Coming of the Messiah’,which is as follows- The Messiah will come as soon as the most unbridled individualism of faith becomes possible--when there is no one to destroy this possibility and no one to suffer its destruction; hence the graves will open themselves. This, perhaps, is Christian doctrine too, applying as much to the actual presentation of the example to be emulated, which is an individualistic example, as to the symbolic presentation of the resurrection of the Mediator in the single individual.
The Messiah will come only when he is no longer necessary; he will come only on the day after his arrival; he will come, not on the last day, but on the very last.
where we learn from an apparently authoritative voice that the Messiah ‘will come ... when there is no one to destroy this possibility and no one to suffer its destruction’. The parable refers to an ‘unbridled individualism of faith’ that must first become possible; the German for ‘unbridled’ (zügellos) is closer to ‘let loose’No. Something disorderly, licentious, ungovernable, or unbridled, has not necessarily been 'let loose'. It may always have been thus.
– an individualism let loose on the world, even out of control.If Faith ceases to be univocal, if its object is incompossible or heteroclite, then it can serve no soteriological or social function. Kafka's Messiah is like the Hindu Kalki. But this is Biblical. There is a day of wrath. It is natural to think that, like Kalki, the Messiah has a special relevance to a conquered or otherwise abject Nation.
However, the possibility that this may happen here and now can never be ruled out. If someone could extinguish that possibility, then who'd need a Kalki or a Messiah? The point of this parable, is that this is already our situation. That is why it is mentioned in uncreated Scripture.
Apparently, no one will make this come about, and it seems as if the Messiah will not take anthropomorphic form: the Messiah will come only when there is ‘no one’ to destroy the possibility or to suffer the destruction, which means that the Messiah will not come when there is one, only when there is no one, and that means as well that the Messiah will not be anyone, will not be an individual.Not necessarily. What is possible changes when there is a supernatural being, like a Messiah or an Avatar. The point of this parable is the same as the point of eschatological Scripture. We are already at the eschaton in the sense that the regret-minimizing course involves backward induction. Butler's ignorance causes her to write nonsense.
This must be the result of a certain individualism that destroys each and every individual.No. There can be no such individualism. Ex falso quodlibet. Butler is talking bollocks because she is stupid.
Following the Book of Matthew,Which follows from Isaiah & Daniel
the parable claims that ‘the graves will open themselves’ and so, again, we are given to understand that they will not be opened by any human agency.D'uh! What is important to remember is that, according to Scripture, the Messiah too must die and be resurrected.
When the narrator then claims that this is ‘Christian doctrine too’, he retroactively marks the opening of the parable as a Jewish one, but in fact there is a Babel of religions already in place:Nonsense! German Jews and German Christians and German Hegelians and so forth spoke the same language. Scholars knew Hebrew and Aramaic and Greek and so forth. There was no 'confusion of tongues'. German philology had done the donkey work.
Judaism, Christianity, individualism, and then, after a garbled explanation, it seems that there are bits of Hegel in the description as well – indeed, the most unreadable bits. In fact, it seems that no coherent description is possible, and we are brought up against the limits of what can be thought.The limits of what Butler can think are narrow indeed!
‘The Messiah will come only when he is no longer necessary. He will come only on the day after his arrival; he will come, not on the last day, but on the very last.’Because he too dies and is resurrected. The Shia's have developed this theme in greatest detail. To me, the meaning is plain, the Messiah too must know barzakh to truly become the Messiah. Others may find other meanings with equal or greater soteriological or social value.
It would seem that the Messiah comes precisely when there is no one there to suffer the destruction of the world as we know it, when there is no one left who can destroy his coming.Butler is ignorant of the notion of two resurrections. In between, the Earth is unpeopled, but it exists. There is a spiritual meaning to this.
That Messiah arrives not as an individual,In which case nothing arrives as an individual- but this is just a manner of speaking
and surely not within any temporal sequence that we take to organise the world of living beings.No. There are two resurrections within the same temporal sequence we are familiar with.
If he comes on the very last day, but not the last,because there are two 'last' days. There are two Resurrections.
he comes on a ‘day’ – now hyperfigurative – that is beyond any calendar of days, and beyond chronology itself.Not necessarily- for the reason I have pointed out.
The parable posits a temporality in which no one will survive.But there are two resurrections and then there is Paradise for nice peeps.
Arrival is a concept that belongs to the calendar of days, but coming (das Kommen) apparently not.This is only apparent to ignorant cretins.
It does not happen at a moment in time, but only after the sequence of all moments is completed.But, by backward induction, the regret-minimizing course is to act as if this has already happened at every moment! This is the notion of the 'jivanmukta' or 'Tzadikim' or 'Abdal' etc, etc. The Theosophists had revived interest in the fourth dimension of Henry More. For a guy who thinks he might die early, pondering paradoxes of this sort might have a theurgic component. In any case, writing in this manner helps you understand that literature better. Or so I have found.
I suppose Butler mentions this parable because she wants to say 'Israel should slit its own throat because...urm... Kafka said so?'
Let us now look at how a Rabbi and scholar- Ismar Schorch- receives Kafka. He quotes a Rabbinic comment on the very first Hebrew verse a Jewish child is taught- "Moses charged us with the Torah as the heritage of the congregation of Jacob"
"we are not to regard the Torah as an old statute to which no one pays attention any more, but rather like a new one that everyone is eager to read (Sifre, p. 59)." Each time we take up the Torah should be like the first, full of novelty and discovery.
And that is indeed the case if we only allow our growth and maturation since the last time to detect what we were incapable of seeing before. The lens through which we look at Torah is always being modified by experience. The great German philosopher Hegel stated this deep truth in a striking way: "The absolute idea may be compared to the old man, who utters the same religious doctrines as the child, but for whom they signify his entire life. The child in contrast may understand the religious content. But all of life and the whole world still exist outside it." Thus the creed with which we began, "Moses charged us with the Torah . . ." contains the same words for toddler and grandparent alike, yet the meaning they carry for each could not be more different.
A poignant episode in the life of Kafka recasts that phenomenon in narrative form. On his last visit to Berlin before his death from tuberculosis, Kafka happened upon a little girl crying inconsolably in the park he frequented. When he asked her why all the tears, she confided that she had lost her favorite doll. Kafka tried to comfort her. The doll was not lost at all. It had merely taken a trip and he had in fact run into it not long before. He was quite sure the doll would soon return. The next day Kafka brought the little girl a letter from her doll full of descriptions and anecdotes. And each day thereafter, he produced another letter for his newfound friend. On his last day in Berlin, Kafka came to the park once again. This time however, he brought a doll with him which he tenderly presented to her. But she was not to be consoled. The doll did not resemble the one she loved so dearly. "Of course, it's your doll," Kafka insisted. "The long journey and many experiences have merely changed the way she looks."
This is humane. This is Judaism. This is what is taught by American Jews to American Jews at both their grandest and most humble institutions. Even if the rich and secure dismiss what Zionism meant to Kafka's cohort as nothing but a lost doll, still, the fact is, that doll had adventures. It came back to bring the same but also a new type of comfort- that of growing up.
Butler's brutal cast of mind rejects any process of maturation. Her scholarship is stagnation. She is incapable of writing a single line which is not trite, yet mischievous-
Departure and arrival were constant issues for European Jewsand non-Jews who could see the place was fucked
who were considering leaving Europe for Palestine, but also for other sites of emigration. In ‘My Destination’, we were left with the question of how can one go away from here without moving from one here to another? Does such a departure and arrival not assume a distinct temporal trajectory across a spatial continuum?Spatial continuums were old hat. Like Kafka's gift of a doll, bi-location was possible because ideas and eidolon are what those they play with want them to be.
The amalgam ‘Weg-von-hier’ appears to be a place name only to confound our very notion of place. Indeed, although ‘Weg-von-Hier’ is a place name – it holds the name of the place within a recognisable grammatical form – it turns out that grammar not only diverges from clear referentiality in this instance, but can, clearly, operate at odds with any intelligible reality.Did Butler really not know this? Has she never heard of Meinongian objects? What happens if some one says to her 'see you- never'. Does she think there is a place or a time where the lady will be anxiously waiting for her? Not to know a grammatical sentence might not refer to anything compossible with our Universe suggests Butler has more serious intellectual handicaps than plain stupidity and vast ignorance.
There seems to be no clear way of moving from point to point within the scheme offered in this parable, and this confounds our ideas of temporal progression and spatial continuity.But various types of Kabbalistic and Theosophical, but also some Mathematical, works were providing that 'clear way' in an increasingly abundant fashion during that period of terrible travail. Obviously, there is a higher dimension in which the impossible knot can be untangled. Hamilton's quaternions had made Maths comfortable with non-commutativity.
It even makes it difficult to follow the lines on the page, to start the parable and end it. If Kafka’s parable in some ways charts the departure from a common notion of place for a notion of perpetual non-arrival,in the same dimension. Add one in and have non-commutative operators and there is no problem.
then it does not lead towards a common goal or the progressive realisation of a social goal within a specific place.In the same way that Hamilton and Hilbert and Einstein haven't helped Humanity to advance at all. Why not simply say the Earth is flat?
Something else is opened up, the monstrous and infinite distance between departure and arrival and outside the temporal order in which those terms make sense.Does this woman not watch junk TV? Has she not heard of the Multiverse?
In ‘The Coming of the Messiah’, Kafka’s view of non-arrival departs from Jewish sources, starts from there and leaves it there. What becomes clear is that whatever temporality is marked by the Messianic is not realisable within space and time.Or is infinitely realisable within space-time by some mystical insight or theurgic metamorphosis.
It is a counter-Kantian moment,Einstein had literally shat on Kant's head! The Michelson-Morley experiment dates from when Kafka was in kindergarten.
perhaps, or a way of interrogating Judaism at the limits of a Kantian notion of appearanceThe whole point of a Kantian 'notion of appearance' is it can't have 'limits' where anything happens. Otherwise, at the margin, noumenon are phenomenon.
and over and against a progressive notion of history whose aim is to be realised in a populated territory.God alone knows what type of History Butler thinks is realized in unpopulated territory.
Kafka also reflects on forms of non-arrival in a diary entry written in 1922, less than two years before he died of tuberculosis:This is not 'non-arrival'. It is giving up. We try to do lots of things. A lot of the time we give up. On the other hand, we seldom hear successful people say 'I have arrived at my goal'. They speak of having discovered vast new vistas yet unexplored.
I have not shown the faintest firmness of resolve in the conduct of my life. It was as if I, like everyone else, had been given a point from which to prolong the radius of a circle, and had then, like everyone else, to describe my perfect circle round this point. Instead, I was forever starting my radius only constantly to be forced at once to break it off. (Examples: piano, violin, languages, Germanics, anti-Zionism, Zionism, Hebrew, gardening, carpentering, writing, marriage attempts, an apartment of my own.)
It sounds lamentable, but then he adds: ‘If I sometimes prolonged the radius a little further than usual, in the case of my law studies, say, or engagements, everything was made worse rather than better just because of this little extra distance.’ So does this mean that something was made better by breaking off the radius of a circle, resisting that particular closure?No. It means the 'little extra distance' showed 'closure' was not possible. Had Kafka become a great Jurist and a happily married man, he'd have constantly found these new vistas. Sadly, his health was poor. He was doomed to an early grave.
Kafka makes the political implications of his oblique theology clear, or almost clear, when he writes in January 1922 of the ‘wild pursuit’ that is his writing. Perhaps not a pursuit, he conjectures; maybe his writing is an ‘assault on the last earthly frontier’ like ‘all such writing’. He then remarks: ‘If Zionism had not intervened, it might easily have developed into a new secret doctrine, a Kabbalah. There are intimations of this.’This is perfectly intelligible. Kafka could indeed have written much more of value to his people if he had enjoyed good health.
I have tried to suggest that in Kafka’s parables and other writings we find brief meditations on the question of going somewhere, of going over, of the impossibility of arrival and the unrealisability of a goal.This is a superficial view worthy of an 8th grader reluctantly doing a book report when they want to be outside playing baseball.
I want to suggest that many of these parables seem to allegorise a way of checking the desire to emigrate to Palestine,coz a guy in his shape could really do well on a kibbutz!
opening instead an infinite distance between the one place and the other – and so constitute a non-Zionist theological gesture.Butler is saying 'Kafka was a Jew who said don't go to Israel. Go to the bowling alley instead'. Next she will discover Kierkegaard wasn't a Christian. His big idea was that we should make tram journeys more often for the good of our souls.
We might, finally, consider this poetics of non-arrival as it pertains to Kafka’s own final bequest. As should be clear by now, many of Kafka’s works are about messages written and sent where the arrival is uncertain or impossible, about commands given and misunderstood and so obeyed in the breach or not obeyed at all. ‘An Imperial Message’ charts the travels of a messenger through several layers of architecture, as he finds himself caught up in a dense and infinite grid of people: an infinite barrier emerges between the message and its destination. So what do we say about the request that Kafka made of Brod before he died? ‘Dearest Max, My last request: Everything I leave behind me ... to be burned unread.’ Kafka’s will is a message sent, to be sure, but it does not become Brod’s will; indeed Brod’s will, figuratively and literally, obeys and refuses Kafka’s will (some of the work will remain unread, but none of it will be burned, at least not by Brod).We say a lawyer made a request to his executor. This is like a 'letter of wishes' accompanying a Trust Deed. It is not binding because this is a discretionary Trust- or its equivalent depending on jurisdiction.
Interestingly, Kafka does not ask for all the writings back so that he can continue to destroy them himself.Which speaks to the discretionary nature of the Trust created under his Will.
On the contrary, he leaves Brod with the conundrum. His letter to Brod is a way of giving all the work to Brod, and asking Brod to be the one responsible for its destruction. There is an insurmountable paradox here, since the letter becomes part of the writing, and so part of the very corpus or work, like so many of Kafka’s letters that have been meticulously preserved over the years.There is no paradox here at all. The guy was a lawyer. He knew what he was doing. Had this not been the case, the Will would have been null and void. The manuscripts would belong to Kafka's heirs.
And yet the letter makes a demand to destroy the writing, which would logically entail the nullification of the letter itself,No it wouldn't. A military officer who gets a legal order through the proper channels has to obey that order even if it says 'burn after reading'. This woman is a cretin.
and so nullify even the command that it delivers. So is this command a clear directive, or is it a gesture in the sense that Benjamin and Adorno described?Kafka was a lawyer. The Courts have found his Will properly drafted. So, there is a directive but one with a discretionary element.
Does he expect his message to reach its destination, or does he write the request knowing that messages and commands fail to reach those to whom they are addressed, knowing that they will be subject to the same non-arrival about which he wrote?Does he know Brod is human or does he think he may have turned into a giant cockroach? Butler's silliness knows no limits.
Remember it was Kafka who wrote:This is poetic. It is customary in a love letter to complain that the letter has a means to a felicity its author is denied. This conceit is found even in the Rg Veda. Theologically too we may complain that uncreated Scripture can come to us benighted creatures with no possibility of reciprocity save by Divine Grace.
How on earth did anyone get the idea that people can communicate with one another by letter! Of a distant person one can think, and of a person who is near one can catch hold – all else goes beyond human strength. Writing letters, however, means to denude oneself before the ghosts, something for which they greedily wait. Written kisses don’t reach their destination, rather they are drunk on the way by the ghosts. It is on this ample nourishment that they multiply so enormously. Humanity senses this and fights against it and in order to eliminate as far as possible the ghostly element between people and to create a natural communication, the peace of souls, it has invented the railway, the motor car, the aeroplane. But it’s no longer any good, these are evidently inventions being made at the moment of crashing. The opposing side is so much calmer and stronger; after the postal service it has invented the telegraph, the telephone, the radiograph. The ghosts won’t starve, but we will perish.
Had the works been destroyed, perhaps the ghosts would not be fed – though Kafka could not have anticipated how limitlessly parasitic the forces of nationalism and profit would be,Is this stupid woman really comparing the First World War- which led to 40 million deaths- and whatever petty losses Israelis and Palestinians have sustained? Kafka knew more about crazy Kaisers and Tzars and Emperors than we do.
even as he knew those spectral forces were waiting. So in the act of dying, Kafka writes that he wants the work destroyed after his death. Is this to say that the writing is tied to his living, and that with his own demise, so too should come the demise of his work? As I die, so too should my work cease to exist.But some of his work had been published. Butler is being silly.
A fantasy, to be sure, that it will not outlive him, something that he finds too painful. It reminds me of the parable ‘The Cares of a Family Man’, which claimed the attention of Adorno for its ‘salvational’ promise. There is Odradek, some creature, a spool, a star, whose laugh sounds like the rustling of leaves, hovering in or beneath or near the stairwell of a house. Perhaps he is a son, or the remnant of a son; in any case, he is part object and part echo of a human presence. It is only at the end of the parable that it seems the rigorously neutral voice who describes this Odradek has a generational relation to him. This Odradek does not quite live in time, since he is described as falling down the steps perpetually, that is, in perpetuity. Thus the narrator who seems to be in the position of a father remarks: ‘It almost pains me to think that he might outlive me.’ Can we read this as an allegory not just for Kafka in his father’s house, but for Kafka’s writing, the rustling pages, the ways in which Kafka himself became part human and part object, without progeny, or rather with a literary progeny he found nearly too painful to imagine surviving him? The great value of Odradek for Adorno was that he was absolutely useless in a capitalist world that sought to instrumentalise all objects for its gain.But, if so, surely, also useless for a Socialist or Feminist or any other modish type of world. Of course, the truth is- if such a creature existed- he'd make a fortune on You Tube or Tik Tok or whatever.
It was however not just the spectres of technology that would eagerly feed on Kafka’s work, but those forms of profit-making that exploit even the most anti-instrumental forms of art, and those forms of nationalism that seek to appropriate even the modes of writing that most rigorously resist them.Boo to Neo-Liberalism! Boo to Zionism! Boo to Butler seeking an obligatory passage point status for herself in this connection. Cancel her books from Amazon!
An irony then, to be sure, that Kafka’s writings finally became someone else’s stuff, packed into a closet or a vault, transmogrified into exchange value, awaiting their afterlife as an icon of national belonging or, quite simply, as money.Did Butler get paid for writing this shite? Do her books sell on a Globalized market for gobshittery? If so, she has commodified herself in a shameful manner. Kafka didn't do so. His afterlife, like his life, may not be purged of the pain of oiskeiosis. But it will not be vain. It will not be shallow. In a word, it won't be Butler-burlesque.