“After Auschwitz to write even a single poem is barbaric.” The Conflagration of Community challenges Theodor Adorno’s famous statement about aesthetic production after the Holocaust, arguing for the possibility of literature to bear witness to extreme collective and personal experiences. J. Hillis Miller masterfully considers how novels about the Holocaust relate to fictions written before and after it, and uses theories of community from Jean-Luc Nancy and Derrida to explore the dissolution of community bonds in its wake.
Franz Kafka remains one of the most influential writers of the twentieth century. His novels, stories, and letters are still regarded today as the epitome of the dark, fascinating, and uncanny, a model of the modernist aesthetic. Peter-André Alt’s landmark biography, Franz Kafka, the Eternal Son, recounts and explores Kafka’s life and literary work throughout the cultural and political upheavals of central Europe.
Alt’s biography explores Franz Kafka’s own view of life and writing as a unity that shaped his identity. He locates links and echoes among the author’s work, life, and surroundings, situating him within the traditions of Prague's German literature, modernity, psychoanalysis, and philosophy as well as within its Jewish culture, arts, theater, and intellectual tradition.
In this biographical tour de force, Kafka emerges as an observant flaneur and wistful loner, an anxious ascetic, an ecstatic and skeptic, a specialist in terror, and a master of irony. Alt masterfully illuminates Kafka's life not as source material but as a mirror of his literary genius. Readers begin to see Kafka’s unforgettable novels and stories as shards reflecting the life of their creator.
In Kafka's writing, Albert Camus tells us, we travel "to the limits of human thought." And in this book, the world's leading Kafka authority conducts us to the deepest reaches of Kafka's own troubled psyche, to reveal the inner workings of the man who gave his name to a central facet of modern experience, the Kafkaesque. Klaus Wagenbach, who wrote the first major critical biography of Kafka, draws upon a wealth of new and recent information to produce a concise but finely nuanced portrait of the author, an ideal introduction to this quintessential figure of modernity.With extensive reference to Kafka's extraordinary letters and diaries, Wagenbach shows us the author of Metamorphosis and The Trial perpetually caught between the irresistible attractions of the world and his ruthless desire for solitude and isolation. It was this tension, Wagenbach tells us, that gave Kafka's writing its uncanny quality and that haunted his intense, unresolved relationships with women. And it was in this tension that both his misery and mastery inhered, making his one of the most painfully powerful voices of the experience of the twentieth century.
In Kafka and Wittgenstein, Rebecca Schuman undertakes the first ever book-length scholarly examination of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s philosophy of language alongside Franz Kafka’s prose fiction. In groundbreaking readings, she argues that although many readers of Kafka are searching for what his texts mean, in this search we are sorely mistaken. Instead, the problems and illusions we portend to uncover, the im-portant questions we attempt to answer—Is Josef K. guilty? If so, of what? What does Gregor Samsa’s transformed body mean? Is Land-Surveyor K. a real land surveyor?— themselves presuppose a bigger delusion: that such questions can be asked in the first place. Drawing deeply on the entire range of Wittgenstein’s writings, Schuman can-nily sheds new light on the enigmatic Kafka.
Nonhuman figures are ubiquitous in the work of Franz Kafka, from his early stories down to his very last one. Despite their prominence throughout his oeuvre, Kafka’s animal representations have been considered first and foremost as mere allegories of intrahuman matters. In recent years, the allegorization of Kafka’s animals has been poetically dismissed by Kafka’s commentators and politically rejected by posthumanist scholars. Such critique, however, has yet to inspire either an overarching or an interdiscursive account. This book aims to fill this lacuna. Positing animal stories as a distinct and significant corpus within Kafka’s entire poetics, and closely examining them in dialogue with both literary and posthumanist analysis, Kafka’s Zoopoetics critically revisits animality, interspecies relations, and the very human-animal contradistinction in the writings of Franz Kafka.
Kafka’s animals typically stand at the threshold between humanity and animality, fusing together human and nonhuman features. Among his liminal creatures we find a human transformed into vermin (in “The Metamorphosis”), an ape turned into a human being (in “A Report to an Academy”), talking jackals (in “Jackals and Arabs”), a philosophical dog (in “Researches of a Dog”), a contemplative mole-like creature (in “The Burrow”), and indiscernible beings (in “Josefine, the Singer or the Mouse People”). Depicting species boundaries as mutable and obscure, Kafka creates a fluid human-animal space, which can be described as “humanimal.” The constitution of a humanimal space radically undermines the stark barrier between human and other animals, dictated by the anthropocentric paradigm. Through denying animalistic elements in humans, and disavowing the agency of nonhuman animals, excluding them from social life, and neutralizing compassion for them, this barrier has been designed to regularize both humanity and animality. The contextualization of Kafka's animals within posthumanist theory engenders a post-anthropocentric arena, which is simultaneously both imagined and very real.
In four elegant chapters, Robert Alter explains the prismlike radiance created by the association of three modern masters: Franz Kafka, Walter Benjamin, and Gershom Scholem. The volume pinpoints the intersections of these divergent witnesses to the modern condition of doubt, the no-man’s-land between traditional religion and modern secular culture.Scholem, the devoted Zionist and master historian of Jewish mysticism, and Benjamin, the Marxist cultural critic, dedicated much of their thought and correspondence to Kafka, the explorer in fiction of radical alienation. Kafka’s sense of spiritual complexities was an inspiration to both thinkers in their resistance to the murderous simplification of totalitarian ideology. In Necessary Angels, Alter uncovers a moment when the future of modernism is revealed in its preoccupation with the past. The angel of the title is first Kafka’s: on June 25, 1914, the writer recorded in his diary a dream vision of an angel that turned into the painted wooden figurehead of a ship. In 1940, at the end of his life, Walter Benjamin devoted the ninth of his Theses on the Philosophy of History to a meditation on an angel by the artist Paul Klee, first quoting a poem he had written on that painting. In Benjamin’s vision, the figure from Klee becomes an angel of history, sucked into the future by the storm of progress, his face looking back to Eden. Benjamin bequeathed the Klee oil painting to Scholem; it hung in the living room of Scholem’s home on Abarbanel Street in Jerusalem until 1989, when his widow placed it in the Israel Museum.Alter’s focus on the epiphanic force of memory on these three great modernists shows with sometimes startling, sometimes prophetic clarity that a complete break with tradition is not essential to modernism. Necessary Angels itself continues the necessary discovery of the future in the past.
A superb new translation of Kafka’s classic stories, authoritatively annotated and beautifully illustrated.Selected Stories presents new, exquisite renderings of short works by one of the indisputable pillars of twentieth-century literature. Award-winning translator and scholar Mark Harman offers perhaps the most sensitive English rendering yet of Franz Kafka’s unique German prose—terse, witty, laden with ambiguities and double meanings. With an in-depth biographical introduction, as well as notes illuminating the stories and placing them in historical context, this volume pairs representative critical perspectives with masterpieces by a writer whose influence remains inescapable a century after his death.Included are sixteen stories, arranged chronologically to convey a sense of Kafka’s artistic development. Some, like “The Judgment,” “In the Penal Colony,” “A Hunger Artist,” and “The Transformation” (usually, though misleadingly, translated as “The Metamorphosis”), represent the pinnacle of Kafka’s achievement. Accompanying annotations highlight the wordplay and cultural allusions of the original German, pregnant with irony and humor that readers in English have often missed.Although Kafka has frequently been cast as a loner, in part because of his quintessential depictions of modern alienation, he had a number of close companions. Harman draws on Kafka’s diaries, extensive correspondence, and engagement with early twentieth-century debates about Darwinism, psychoanalysis, and Zionism to construct a rich portrait of Kafka in his world. A work of both art and scholarship, Selected Stories transforms our understanding and appreciation of a singular imagination.
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