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Literary and Historical Precedents to Kafka and Brod - Impressions and Expressions of Ijon
October 20th, 2002
12:12 am


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Literary and Historical Precedents to Kafka and Brod
Reading Don Quixote, I learned of two precedents to the famous will of Franz Kafka, who decreed that almost all his writings be burnt, his letters returned and burnt, and so forth. Max Brod, Kafka's close friend, bravely elected not to comply with Kafka's will, and that choice gave us Der Prozess and the rest of the Kafka oeuvre.

The first, fictional: In Part Two of Don Quixote, Cervantes tells of Grisostomo, an educated man who falls in love with a ravishing shepherd girl, and finally dies with a broken heart. At his funeral, Ambrosio, his educated friend, is about to set fire to Grisostomo's writings (he is said to have been a great poet and dramatist), and bystanders try to dissuade him from doing that, by reminding him of the second precedent: the pseudo-historical story of Virgil having ordered to burn the manuscript for the Aeneid because he did not have time to proof it. The emperor Augustus refused to comply.

And the obvious questions: How likely is it that Kafka was thinking of either story when he made out his will? How likely is it that Brod was? Are there other such precedents, literary or real?

P.S. Grisostomo's works are ultimately burnt, but Cervantes does treat us to a nice Petrarchan poem written by Grisostomo just before he died.

Current Mood: interested
Current Music: Brahms -- Ein Deutsches Requiem -- Karajan and the VPO

(3 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:October 19th, 2002 03:19 pm (UTC)
There're some very wise words written by Kundera in "Testaments Betrayed" on the subjects of Kafka's will and Brod's disobeyance.

And then there's also the very real story of Nikolai Gogol burning the second, recently completed and unpublished, part of "Dead Souls" -- a few days before his death, in a fever. Nobody stopped him and nothing except a few isolated tantalising sketches remained of it.
[User Picture]
Date:October 20th, 2002 12:21 pm (UTC)

about Gogol

נבוקוב כותב די בחדווה על המאורע הזה. כנראה שההמשך ל"נפשות מתות" לא איכותי כמו "נפשות מתות" עצמו. גוגול כתב אותו כהטפה נוצרית דתית עם קומץ מגאלומניה איכותי. ע"פ נאבוקוב, ואיני בטוח בנוגע לאמינותו, גוגול עצמו, כפי הנראה, הבין שהחלק הראשון ראוי להמשך טוב מזה, והחליט לשרוף את הספר. אני לא רוצה להתחיל לנחש איך הוא הרגיש באותו רגע. נטען כי גוגול, למרות שכבר היה במצב מתקדם של היבריס מטופש, הבין שכוחו ככותב כבר לא במותניו, ואולי זו הסיבה לטירופו. הרגשה רעה למדי. כל מי שקרא סיפור גרוע של עצמו וודאי מבין את זה.
[User Picture]
Date:October 19th, 2002 04:18 pm (UTC)
You know, I have some documents I expect to have burned upon my death, though I haven't formally expressed that in a will yet. That story scares me.
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