we hunger for substance, we feed on garbage

“This perversion of the truth, familiar to the artist though it was, always unnerved him afresh and proved too much for him. What was a consequence of the premature ending of his fast was here presented as the cause of it! To fight against this lack of understanding, against a whole world of nonunderstanding, was impossible.” ~ Franz Kafka, A Hunger Artist

Kafka was a tortured soul. One could question, was this nature or nurture derived? As a boy, taught early to denounce his religious heritage and to be raised by a father who couldn’t be pleased, the latter seems a good answer.

I read a bit of Kafka years ago; I’m not even certain if it was for class or my interest. I read quickly, without absorption, and was happy to be away from his world when there were no more words upon the page. These days, I’ve become intrigued by Kafka, but knew not where to start. Friday night, while picking up books around libraryland, I spied R. Crumb’s Kafka. Two days later,  I’ve added, A Hunger Artist, Amerika, & Letters To My Father, to my GoodReads list.

I shall not expound on theories when I’ve not read the work, but A Hunger Artist is rather intriguing from the POV that Kafka held great disdain for his person. According to David Zane Mairowitz’s commentary in R.Crumb’s Kafka, Kafka felt great inadequacy physically. He had an almost unnatural disdain; an alienation from his own self which he tried to make as small as possible as a part of nature.

Granted, this is conjecture  since I’ve not done my homework beyond reading Mairowitz’s words. It doesn’t seem a farfetched analogy considering Kafka wrote a work in which a man awakes as a giant bug in Metamorphosis.  How a man, who finds himself on display, in a cage, fasting for 40 days, shall be a true testament to the inner psyche of an artist who, too, felt a need to become small. That said, am I being too literal, and the hunger was for something beyond the garbage we often call substance.

Sorry, the witching hour has gonged long ago, and I fear I’m talking in circles. Perhaps the brain just needs to sleep; perhaps I need to disassociate with what I’ve read this weekend between Kafka, McCarthy & a fun bit about Marx via Rius (more about this later).

It is intriguing, though, don’t you think, when you stumble upon what you thought you knew only to trip into a completely different well… ~

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  1. The best discoveries in life, for sure. :)

  2. The best portrait of Kafka I’ve seen is a book by Gustave Janouch called ‘Conversations with Kafka’. As a young man interested in writing Janouch was introduced to the older Kafka by, if memory serves, a coworker of Kafka’s. Janouch and Kafka got into the habit of taking long walks together and the young man took detailed notes on their conversations. It’s a beautiful book and provides a portrait of Kafka you don’t see anywhere else.

    • Many thanks for the recommend, Mark. Any thoughts on the controversy on if the conversations really transpired as written? That said, I conjectured off a book that is a r. Crumb graphic novel! Truth be told…I’ve become quite smitten with these books that breakdown the abstract. It allows the mind to grapple in pleasure whilst gearing for future complicated text. ~

      • As far as I know no one has established or even suggested that Janouch was a liar. The book is a portrait, and since all portraits are subjective, one might argue that all portraits are controversial, but I don’t know if that’s a good use of the word “controversial”. You go into the book understanding that these are Janouch’s recollections. There’s certainly room for error.

      • I’m sorry if it seems I’ve questioned something unfairly. I just googled the book and had a read through various blogs and reviews with such commentary. Actually, I hope to order the New Directions ed tonight for I love the cover art as well! ~

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