December 30th, 2008

Michael Wood on Kafka's Office Writing

Amazingly, Princeton UP has recently published a selection of Franz Kafka's Office writings in translation. You know, insurance claims, legal inquiries, that kind of stuff. I doubt it'd make a good read, but here's a fantastically interesting review essay of this book by Michael Wood for the LRB. It makes so much sense, to ditch the trite but consensual image of Kakfa-the-tormented-victim, in favor of a more complicated image, of a supremely ironic and cool mind. As Wood says:
[Kafka] is bureaucrat and supplicant, perhaps more bureaucrat than supplicant. What saves him from the Devil’s service, redeems him at the last minute, as if he were Goethe’s Faust swept up by the angels, is neither the system nor a fight against the system but his sheer lucidity about the system’s fragile supremacy.
If you're at all interested in Kafka, this essay is well worth your time.