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Chapter One - Literature and the Right to Death, 1947
Surely, one can write without questioning why she writes. As a writer watches her
pen forming letters, has she even the right to lift it to yell, "Stop! What do you know of
yourself? Why do you proceed? Why can't you see that your ink isn't leaving marks; that
while you move forth freely, you're slogging through the void; see that the reason you
never encounter any obstacle is that you’ve never left your starting place? Yet you write on,
uninterrupted; unveiling to me what I dictate to you, revealing to me what I know. The
others, while reading, enhance you with what they derive, and give back to you what you
taught them. Now, you achieve what you did not achieve before; and wrote what you did
not write before. You are doomed never to be erased." Let us admit that literature begins at
the moment it becomes a question. This question is not to be confused with the doubts or
scrupules of a writer. If she happens to question himself while writing, that is her concern;
if he is engrossed by what he writes and indifferent to the possibility of writing it, to the
point of not thinking about anything, that is his right and his good fortune. But this truth
remains: as soon as the page is written, the question that perhaps incessantly nagged the
writer while she wrote-- though she may not have been aware of it-- is now seen upon the
page; and now the same question within the work, awaiting the approach of a reader—any
reader, shallow or profound—lies silent, addressed toward language, behind the person
who writes and reads, by language that has become literature.
One may condemn this self-preoccupation that literature has, as obsession. It is
futile for literature to speak of its nothingness, its lack of seriousness, its bad faith; such is
the very abuse which we accuse of it. It claims to be important while viewing itself with
doubt. It confirms its existence as it degrades itself: this is more than it ought to do, because
literature might be one of those things that deserve to be found, but not sought after.
Perhaps literature has not a right to deem itself as illegitimate. Perhaps literature
lacks a claim to self-importance. But the question it regards has nothing to do, so to speak,
with its value or right. If it is quite difficult to grasp the meaning of this question, it is
because the question tends to turn into a lawsuit against art, taken with its abilities and
intentions. Literature is built atop its own debris: this paradox has become clichéd to us.
But we must still ask whether the objection brought forth against art by the most illustrious
works of art in the last thirty years is not based on the redirecting, and displacement of a
force laboring in the secrecy of works and unwilling to emerge into the open air, a force
whose power was originally quite distinct from any degradation of literary activity or
literary Thing.
Let’s point out that literature, as its own negation, has never signified the mere
denunciation of art, or of the artist, as a mystifying or a deception. Without a doubt,
literature is illegitimate; yes, there is a fundamental deception about it. But certain people
have discovered something beyond this fact: that literature is not only illegitimate, but also
invalid, and this invalidity may constitute an extraordinary force, a marvelous force, as long
as it is isolated in a pure state. To turn literature into the disclosure of this void within, so
that fully opens up to its nothingness, and realizes its own non-reality- this task is one of
the undertakings of surrealism. Hence, we are right to recognize surrealism as a powerful


negative movement, but no less correct to attribute to it the grandest creative ambition,
because if literature coincides with nothing for an instant, it is immediately Everything, and
the Everything starts existing: what a miracle!
The matter isn’t of abusing literature, but rather of trying to understand it; of seeing
why we can only understand it by discrediting it. It has been observed with awe that the
question "What is literature?" got only meaningless answers. But what is even odder to us,
is something that appears in the very form of such a question that withdraws all its gravity.
People can and do ask the questions, "What is poetry?", "What is art?", or even: "What is the
novel?" But literature that constitutes both poem and novel seems to be the element of the
void present in all these earnest things, and towards which reflection, with its own gravity,
cannot turn once more without losing its seriousness. If reflection, imposing as it is, is
approached by literature, literature becomes an acidic force, capable of destroying what
could in reflection be imposed upon it. If reflection withdraws, then literature once again
becomes something important and essential; more important than philosophy, religion or
the worldly life that it welcomes. But if reflection, astonished by this vast power, returns to
this power and inquires what it is, it is instantly consumed by an acidic and explosive
element. It can only disparage a Thing so conceited, so vague and so impure, and in this
scorn and this vanity be consumed in turn, as the story of Monsieur Teste has
demonstrated well.
It would be incorrect to say that the powerful negative contemporary movements
responsible for this volatilizing and volatile force seem to have turned into literature.
About a century and a half ago, a man who had the highest idea of art that anyone can
have—because he saw how art can become religion and religion, art—this man (named
Hegel) described all the ways in which someone who has chosen to be a man of literature
condemns himself to belong to the "animal kingdom of the mind." From his very first step,
as Hegel1 basically states, a person who wishes to write is halted by a contradiction: to
write, he must have the talent of writing. But in themselves, gifts are nothing. As long as the
writer has not yet sat down at his table, he has not written a work, and the writer is not yet
a writer and does not know if he has the capacity to become one. He has no talent until he
has written, but he needs talent in order to write.
From the start, this difficulty sheds light on the anomaly that is the essence of
literary activity, and which the writer should and should not overcome. A writer is not an
idealistic dreamer, and he does not contemplate the intimacy of his beautiful soul, nor
immerse himself in the inner certainty of his talents. He puts his talents to work; that is, he
needs the work he produces in order to be conscious of his talents and of himself. The
writer only finds himself, only realizes himself, through his work. Before his work exists,
not only does he not know who he is, but he is nothing. He exists only as a function of the
work; but then how can the work exist? "The individual, says (egel, cannot know what he
is unless he has made himself an effective reality through action. However, this seems to

In this argument, Hegel is discussing human work in general. It should be understood that the remarks that follow are quite distanced from the
text of the Phenomenology and make no attempt to illuminate it. The text can be read in Jean Hippolyte's translation of the Phenomenology,
which is pursued further in his important book, Genèse de la Phénoménologie de l’esprit de HegeI.


imply that he cannot determine the goal of his action until he has carried it out, and in any
case, since he is a conscious individual, he must have had the action in front of him
beforehand as entirely his own, i.e. as an end2." Now, the same is true for each new work,
because everything starts again from nothing. And the same is also true when he creates a
work part by part: if he does not see his work before him as a project that is already
completely formed, how can he dedicate himself toward the conscious goal of his conscious
acts? But if the work is already present in its entirety in his mind and if this presence is the
essence of the work (the words themselves taken to be inessential), why would he realize it
any further? Or it is also as an interior project that it is everything it will ever be, and the
writer, from then on, knows everything about it that he can learn, and so he will leave it
there to lie in its twilight, without translating it into words, without writing it—but then he
will never write it: nor become a writer. Or we can even say that in realizing that the work
cannot be planned, but only carried out, that it has value, truth and reality only through the
words which unravel it in time and inscribe it in space, he will start writing, but begin from
nothing and with nothing in mind—like a nothingness working in nothingness, to borrow
an expression of Hegel's.
In truth, this problem could never be surmounted if the person who is writing has
hoped for its solution to give him the right to start writing. "For this very reason," Hegel
notes, "He is justified to begin immediately, and to proceed in the act, whatever the
circumstances, and without further ado about the beginning, means, or end 3." In this way,
he can break the circle, because in his eyes the circumstances under which he begins to
write become the same thing as his talent. The interest he takes in writing, and the
movement which propels him forward, drive him to acknowledge these as his own, and to
see his own goal in them. Valery has often reminded us that his best works were created
from chance, and not birthed through personal necessity. But what did he find so
remarkable about that? If he had set out to work on Eupalinos of his own accord, what
reasons did he have to do it? Holding a shell fragment in his hand? Or that opening a
dictionary one morning, he had happened to read the name, Eupalinos, in La Grande
Encyclopédie? Or that he wanted to try dialogue as a form and happened to have available a
piece of paper that lent itself to that form? One can take the most trivial circumstance as the
starting point of a great work; nothing is compromised by that frivolity: the act by which
the author makes a crucial circumstance of it is enough to incorporate into his genius and
his work. In this sense, the publication Architectures which prompted Eupalinos by Valery,
was really the form in which he had originally possessed the talent to write it: that
command was the beginning of that talent, was that talent itself, but we must also add that
it only became real, only became a true project through the existence, and talent of Valery,
along with his conversations in the world and the interest he had already shown in this sort
of subject. Any work is a work of circumstance: this simply means that each work has a
beginning; that it starts in time, and this moment in time is part of the work, since without
it the work would only have been an insurmountable problem, and nothing beyond the

Hegel. Phenomenology of Spirit, trans. A.W. Miller, p. 240, Oxford University Press. 1977; Chapter V. Section 1a: “The spiritual animal
kingdom or the deceit of the matter in hand in itself.”

idem, translated

since the person who translates it exists only through it and in it.or again. an unadulterated. a work inclusive of them while excluding him. since for him nothing else exists. all kinds of interpretations come into play. for example. and he is confused with his work. the writer cannot overlook this new stage. This is a particularly crucial moment in the experiment. but the interest they take in it is different from the interest that made the work his pure self-expression: that difference of interest changes the work. He is its author-or rather because of it. beginning with the book. One could say that this certainty is in some sense the writer's inward paradise and that all automatic writing has simply been a way of manifesting this golden age in reality. an uncomfortable process is initiated. it is him and he is completely what it is. but the work exists only when it has become this public. constructed and undone by crashing into other realities.4 impossibility of writing it. When Kafka chances to write this sentence. Before. and why take it to the outside. unfamiliar reality.the writer himself accepts crossing himself out. But at least the sentence exists. the certainty that what breaks forth into the light is none besides what was sleeping in the night. "the sentence is already perfect. "He was looking out the window. But what results from this? The writer who is completely bundled up and enclosed in the sentence: "He was looking out the window" cannot apparently be asked to justify this sentence.a universal sentence. he says. this is because it is not merely his sentence. and flawless joy. Whatever he may write. is neither important nor frivolous. praised. but the work itself disappears. However. where does the work start. there had been no person to write it. but a sentence that belongs to other people who can read it. then. and where does it finish? At what moment does it begin to exist? Why make it public if necessary to preserve the brilliance of the pure ) in the work. and if it really exists to the point of making the person who wrote it a writer. he is an author: it is from it that he draws his existence. or actualize it in words that are everyone’s? Why not withdraw it into an enclosed and secret intimacy without producing anything besides an empty object and dying echo? Another solution. as a translation which is necessarily faithful. and not the book that is purchased. read. transforms it into something else where he does not recognize the original perfection. In surmounting it. in a state of inspiration such that this sentence is already perfect. The writer. From there arises his joy. We have seen that he exists only in his work. and it has become a work pertaining to other people. pulverized. would like to protect the perfection of the written Thing by keeping it as far away as possible from exterior life. So he is really inside the work. The author sees others taking interest in his work." Such is the strange and profound certainty by which art makes itself into a goal. the writer is born. or ruined in the marketplace of the world. the work has vanished. Presently. At this point. a book that takes its value from other books. and is comprehended by being their reflection. What is written is neither well nor badly written. emerges into the monumental reality of the outside as something that is necessarily true." he finds himself. For him.what Hegel calls the pure joy of passing from the night of possibility to the day of presence. an author exists. he has made it and it makes him. The work is what he has created. and is original if it does not resemble them. memorable nor forgettable: it is the perfect act through which what was nothing when it was inside. Assume the work is written: with it. since the only one who .

and the results are never stable or definitive. For the work is also made outside him. We recall that this was Valery's path to salvation. in order to evoke the speech of others and reveal them to themselves: the fact remains that other people do not want to hear their own voices. The reader builds the work. he creates it. In this experiment. and after having written something. the writer can aim to justify himself by undertaking the task of writing—the simple operation of writing. Regardless of having such numerous and varied meanings: it is an art that is above the work. with technique as nothing more than the search for the means by which something that was not yet written becomes written. A writer cannot retreat into himself. a voice that is real and profound. Because the reader has no use for a work written for himself. a different reality. Let us accept this. is soon absorbed into the affairs of a living contingency that he can neither control or watch. Let us accept that a writer may concern himself with art as pure technique. does not really write. The work disappears. what he wants is exactly an extraneous work where he can discover something unknown. has a large task in literature’s project. they want to hear someone else's voice. the essence and the spiritual truth of this work just as the writer's freedom wished . now reveals itself within communal existence. he is its real author. to be made real as it disappears. and become lost in the entirety of history. But his experiment is not lacking value: in writing. and for this reason the public can no longer be a reader. and a separate mind capable of transforming him and which he can transform into himself. above the work constantly being dissolved in things. the values at stake in the effort of creation. This is why it is dangerous to write for other people. But if the experience is to be valid. A writer who pretends to be unconcerned with how the work comes into being sees his interest get bogged down in the world. the consciousness and living substance of the written thing. for he would then have to relinquish writing. A futile aim. but something beyond it: the truth of the work. and if what is most singular and most distanced from existence that is already revealed. and woven into an ungraspable future. which (egel calls the Thing itself. preserves the model. and his careful rhetoric. a deed that allows the work to be actualized as it enters the course of history. the World as it is sketched out of the work. the reading is only a semblance. and all the rigor he had placed within the awareness of his deliberate actions. he has demonstrated himself as nothingness at play. In truth. unsettling like the truth. but infinitely varied. As he writes. works created to be read are insignificant: they are read by no one. and appears as essential. the authenticity of this effort. where the individual who writes—a force of creative negation—seems to join with the moving work through which this force of negation and excess is affirmed. he cannot sacrifice the pure nighttime of his own possibilities. For this reason. This new notion. the ideal that the work seeks to represent. in reading it. it is everything which. the writer's real goal is no longer the ephemeral work. and truly it is nothing. made conscious of itself apart from its results. but the fact of vanishing remains. he proves his work to be something that vanishes. An author who writes precisely for the public. and so the author has a sole goal. it is the public that is writing.5 matters within the work is the one who reads it. because his work is living only if this night—and no other thing—turns into day. that of writing for this reader and being one with him. one cannot detach the operation from its results.

whatever he has not been able to do. since he only wrote it to deny the circumstances. everything they lack appears endlessly as their own truth. This honest conscience is something we should listen to. Others people who directly support the Cause. if he were not concerned with literature as his own action. For this reason. but as soon as they make this claim. It is easy to understand why men who have committed themselves to a party. by its very activity. Then it does not matter whether the work is good or bad. disinterested conscience: the honest man." and the conscience is content with this. distrust writers who share their views. Because of this. what author will not see his own merit in that glory. "Now it has been fully accomplished. literature is the world of values. He says this and he believes it. But if the book does not even arrive to be born. famous or forgotten. he adapts to it. and the greater the pretension of morality and seriousness. since above the mediocrity of created works. for failure is its essence.6 to manifest it and recognize it as his own. he could not even write: he would not be the one who was writing—no one would be writing. without value or significance. If it renounces this in order to bind permanently to . and these novels imply certain political affirmations. But when a book that comes into being by chance. with the working of his mind in providential synchrony with his crime? A writer is his own first deception. "the Thing Itself. But what results from this? A perpetual lure. and become involved in this activity and appropriate it. Certainly. we are familiar with it because it is working in all of us. The goal is not what the writer creates. he congratulates himself. this is still better: silence and nothingness are the essence of literature. and he fools himself the second that he fools others. Here bad faith is truth. This is its law and its truth. and his honest conscience draws knowledge and glory from it. Because if he were not chiefly attentive to what he is doing. because these writers have also dedicated themselves to literature. and that he is only on his own side. When the work has failed. but the truth of what he creates. they realize that the writer is not on their side. produced in a moment of idleness and lassitude. it is useless for him to take the seriousness of an ideal as his guarantee. Listen to him once more: he states that his function is to write for others. does it remains a pure nothing? Well." It is true: the writer is willing to attach the highest value on the meaning his work has for him alone. what author is not going to take credit for the glory himself. are then inclined to recognize him as one of themselves. and his own work in that gift of fortune. literature. an extraordinary game of hide-and-seek where the writer claims as a pretext that what he has in mind is not the ephemeral work but the spirit of that work and of every work. But here we run into trouble: as soon as honesty comes into play in literature. to see his work as proof that the Cause is really his cause. to the depth of his spirit. For example: he writes novels. If circumstances neglect it. that as he writes he bears nothing in mind but the reader's interest. and futile for him to claim stable values: this seriousness is not his own seriousness and can never fixate definitively where he believes himself to be. lack of success relishes it. this conscience is not troubled: it says to itself. and at the end of the account. But it is not true at all. impersonation is already there. its disappearance constitutes its realization. denies the substance of what it represents. Whatever he does. the more surely do mystification and deceit reign. and who have made a decision. that what interests him in the Cause is his own operation—and they are puzzled. is suddenly made into a masterpiece by happenstance. so that he seems to side with a certain Cause. he deserves to be called an honest.

the truth of the work. a writer can always make it his ideal to call a cat a cat. separates these stages. a pure absence of himself. which sees its own triumph in the failure-and likewise. as real as the created thing is real. 4 Blanchot is referring to a remark made by Nicolas Boileau (1637-1711) in his first Satire: "J'appelle un chat un chat et Rolet un fripon" ("I call a cat a cat and Rolet a rascal"). which is analytic because it wants to see clearly. the work. for the cat is not a cat. one is transforming the wall into the world. Must he then refuse to take interest in anything. suspecting them of making words sick so they can speak of it. the writer's other honesty protests in the name of the other stages. On the contrary. pure idleness. facing the wall is also turning towards the world. successively. whatever hope and truth there are in him. etc. Honesty. Rolet was a notorious figure of the time. Doesn’t emptiness penetrate them? This emptiness is their very meaning. who is the action of a creation indifferent to what it is creating. But not at all. but rather he is the action that brings them together and unifies them. The work created by this solitary person and enclosed in solitude contains a point of view that concerns everyone. then it is the writer who is no longer affirmed by this result but denied by it. Doesn’t equivocation wrench them apart? Equivocation is a good thing-without it there would not be dialogue. implicitly passing judgment on other works. We have now been discussing the first: literature is made up of different stages that are distinct from and opposing each other. then the writer who is the result of this work and is worth something because of this result and not because of the work. the written Thing. and the reader pass successively. for instance. he is mystifying things more than ever. nor is he even all of them put together in their unimportant succession. it ceases to be literature and the writer who still claims to be a writer enters another aspect of bad faith. complicit with whatever it neglects. it may seem to other people-other writers and people involved in another activitythat at the least they have been left at peace to themselves in their Thing and their work. its apathy blending hypocritically with everyone's passion. when the honest conscience judges the writer by freezing him in one of these forms. it tries to doom the work because it is a failure. When a writer sinks into the pure intimacy of a work which interests no one but himself. Then the writer who is work. the writer is without a name. and when addressed as the author of a beautiful work. is that this equivocation is no less great. in the name of the purity of art. This impersonation has multiple causes. This could be the case. each time a writer is challenged under one of his aspects he has no choice but to present himself as someone else. and anyone who claims that it is has nothing in mind but this hypocritical violence: Rolet is a rascal4. First of all. Doesn’t misunderstanding falsify them? But this misapprehension is the possibility of our comprehension. Naturally. and we even become irritated with those who speak of it. Consequently. . on the current problems. The writer is not just one of these stages to the exclusion of others. as do the art of writing. But what he cannot attain is then believing that he is on the path to health and sincerity. What strikes us is that literary deceit and mystification are not only unavoidable but that they form the writer's honesty.7 a truth outside itself. and turn to the wall? The problem if he does this. who saves the transient work by saving its ideal. These days people often speak of the disease of words. In honesty do the author. and the foe of whatever it abandons. The trouble is that this sickness is also the words' health. and the truth of that thing or the Thing Itself. and when.

One rule tells him: "You will not write. For example. literature is nothing. and the written word. to the extent that it becomes a tool capable of building other objects. and when admired as an inspiration and a genius." "Write—you who are afraid to act. recognized by others and important to them. but rather." "Write to be true. People who have disdain for literature are mistaken to believe they are condemning it by taking it for nothing. which should be a passive expression upon the world’s surface." This is how one creates a distinction between action. The writer must answer several absolute and completely different commands simultaneously." "A work! A real work. an irresponsible person without a conscience. write in order to act. you will keep silent. and his morality is composed of the encounter and opposition of unyielding. As long as this project is a mere desire. when in fact it is not? In that case. and he is the origin. sees in himself only application and hard work . because to write with truth in mind is to write what is not yet true and perhaps never will be true. says: "Who can read me? I haven't written a thing. But now I build a stove: the stove transforms the empty ideal . demands everything for itself alone. justify existence and allow what does not exist to speak. the experience of yourself. and does not permit any reconciliation or compromise. he must be at the end of all eras in the universal plenitude." "Erase the reader. I can turn it every possible way and it will still not make me warm." "Write for the sake of truth. to find the certain light that cannot end. clarity too. The problem is not that the writer is many people as one." "Let freedom speak in you. But is it really nothing? Literature is not nothingness. which does not act. deny himself even as he affirms himself. people who are in favor of action reject literature. which is a concrete initiative in the world. but this shift also forms the extent of his presence." "Not the work." "Write to say something. it is necessary to recognize a writer's activity as the highest form of work. But isn't this what literature would like to be." The other rule says: "You will know nothing but words. Is it all of this? Literature is all that. but that each stage of himself denies all the others. the birth of what does nothing but come into being." Which law should we obey? What voice should we listen to? But the writer must listen to all of them! Which confusion! )sn’t clarity his law? Yes. the force that transforms man while transforming the world. and you will not know words." "Oh! Do not let freedom become a word in you. you will remain nothing. his knowledge is unknown to you. what does he do? He produces an object. and look for the depth of the night in the aptitude of the day. He must save the world and be the abyss. and those seeking of passion become writers in order not to act. (e must therefore oppose himself." "Then be a lie." This shift on the part of the writer makes him perpetually absent. his risks and his responsibility. That object is the realization of a plan which was not real up to that point: it is the affirmation of a reality different from the elements which constitute it and it is the future of new objects.8 disowns that work. hostile rules." "Erase yourself before the reader. my project might be to make myself warm. But this is condemning and loving it abusively. in him." "Write in order to say nothing. "All that is only literature. looking in the shadows which never begin. If one sees work as the force of history. and when read by everyone." "It doesn't matter. When a man works.

it affirms the presence in the world of something which was not there before. is precisely myself become another. I had in front of me stones and cast iron. his starting point is a certain state of language. but I believe there is the same difference between that idea and the volume in which it is realized. produces something—work in the highest sense of the word. tangible. their denial and destruction—by work. as the difference between desiring heat. and yet it weighs down upon the writer. I set out to write it. by the endeavors it encourages. certain books. too. The idea of heat is nothing. and also certain objective elements. It. which I have produced by changing the state of things. and printing presses. for this reason: in the presence of something else. but instead the product of the transformation of these elements—that is. but actual heat will turn my life into a different kind of life. These objects. will in turn transform me. paper. This is how history is formed. When he writes. overpowering him. In any case. is the future of many other things. the written thing. too. no matter how consciously they were produced. denying books as he forms a book out of what other books are not. and the stove that makes me warm. So is the book nothing at all? Then why should the act of building a stove seem to be the work which forms and produces history. goes into the world and carries out its work of transformation and negation. Due to this object. The book. before. He produces this work by transforming natural and human realities. and can even be read. the world is now different. it is not nothing. and why should the act of writing appear as pure passivity that remains at the borders of history and is nonetheless shaped by it? The question seems unreasonable. selected and published by Raymond Queneau). and thereby denies something which was there before. and not only books: by the projects which it can give rise to. which will in turn deny the former condition of the world and prepare its future. by the world’s totality of which it is a modified reflection. The writer. For me. say Hegel and Marx.9 which was my desire into something real. and at the least. and which I could not possibly have known of beforehand. I had a notion of it. But what is a writer doing by writing? Everything a man does when working. it is an infinite source of new realities. . a certain norm of culture. he must destroy language in its current form and re-create it in another. it will now be something that it previously was not. and by unveiling it at the end of the negation5. unexpected innovation such that it is impossible for me to conceive what it is capable of being without writing what it cannot grasp. and every new thing I am able to do from now on because of this heat will also make me someone different. Prior to writing it. This new book is truly a reality: it is visible. I become another. and because of these new realities’ existence. now I no longer have either stones or cast iron. which I had thought of. the written volume is an extraordinary. but to a maximal degree. But there is an even more decisive reason: this other thing—this work which realizes Being by denying it. To write. and in the face of which I shall be unable to remain the same. At first glance it appears that the malleable capacity of written works is incomparably 5 Alexandre Kojève offers this interpretation of Hegel in his Introduction a la lecture de Hegel (Leçons sur la Phénoménologie de l’Esprit. all the more different because this stove will allow me to create other objects.

by writing. the greatest and most important one. he is also discrediting all action by this action. since he has replaced the world of determined things and defined work. for he grasps just the infinite.10 great. from an absence of everything. and negates the negation of limits. This is why it is not in the world. to him. and without limit: we know (or we like to believe) that a single work can change the world’s fate. But the danger he represents is much graver. thus. enslaved. But let us examine this a little closer. this negation negates no thing. with a world where everything is instantly granted and there is nothing left to do but to read it and to enjoy it. into an ideal above time. His negation. when literary creation retraces over each thing and each being. one cannot be in the infinite. to such an extent that what is real in their actions does not spill over into their influence and that tiny grain of reality does not contain the real substance that the coverage of their influence would require. which is given as illusion. and those who follow him into the imaginary lose sight of the problems of their true lives. the world as total. because now it sees them and names them beginning from everything. in creating them. and one cannot accomplish anything in the unlimited. In this sense. But he is only master of all. and it is why the work in which it is realized is not a truly negative. The influence authors hold is very great. and limit escapes him. for it is the world. but because he makes all of reality available to us. a world in which the slaves become the masters and formulate a new law. is global. one has the impression that the writer is given more power to act than anyone else. But this is exactly what makes us think twice. that is to say. it transforms the freedom that must be incarnate in things in the operation of time. What is an author capable of doing? Everything-first of all. from nothing. and goes infinitely outside their actions. their absence. A writer's influence is bound to this privilege of being master of all. he denies everything he is. but rather the realization of the inability to negate. The imaginary is not a strange region situated beyond the world. the fettered man immediately obtains freedom for himself and for the world. he is negating the actual conditions for his emancipation. with which literary creation begins. the writer appears to be placed in inactivity because he is the master of the imaginary. but also the world as a whole. The truth is that he ruins action. Generally. so that if a writer acts in a very real way as he produces this real thing which is called a book. Now. . everything: he is chained up. the refusal to participate in the world. It not only negates his situation as a shut-in man. Insofar as he is immediately granted the freedom he does not have. grasped and realized in its entirety by the overall negation of all the individual realities which one finds within it. This is why in the end. It is the world itself. it negates the negation of time. by their place outside the rules. Non-reality begins with that whole. he lacks the finite. destructive act of transformation. he is free to create a world without slaves. since his actions are inestimable. his work is a prodigious act. but as long as he can find a few moments of freedom to write. as manifold. empty and out of reach. in order to become everything he is not. and neglecting to do the necessary striving to make real the abstract notion of freedom. but exceeds time that will form gaps in these walls. not because he can access what is unreal. and by the realization of that absence itself.

is never more than "everything remains to be done. and it does not present by making present what it shows. and describes it as distance." this predetermined and concrete goal. or whether to justify itself and prove that it has merit. which is but a constricted perspective. even if he is a revolutionary. is not the language of a demand. Much more mystifying is the literature of action. This "something to do. but by portraying it behind everything.11 Literature that is called "purely imaginative" surely has its dangers. work—which negates the nothingness of genius. since he is a writer only due to his fragmented consciousness split into irreconcilable moments which we call: inspiration which negates all work. a writer's main temptations are called stoicism. The result is either that the call of the author to the reader is only an empty call. and. It calls upon people to do something. but universal freedom. and this separateness then seems to be a source of general understanding. but which literature brings out as reflection in him." into which it disappears. But if it still seeks to be genuine literature. skepticism. a prisoner or a miserable man. and time. First of all. because he does not simply negate this or that by methodical work which slowly transforms each thing: he negates everything at once. appears to the reader precisely as something which cannot be done or which requires neither work nor action in order to be done. But there is yet another temptation. it needs this "everything. as pure unfamiliarity. the ability to grasp everything and attain everything immediately. All of this is the lie of a fiction. Oh." which can only be recovered by beginning with absolute values. having only dealt with everything. What is more is that from this distance it makes an absolute value. and an unhappy consciousness. and he can only negate everything. A stoic: he is the man of the universe. it represents this "something to do." that is to say. which is but limited understanding. this retreat from the everyday which necessarily takes the everyday into account. upon a world where such an action returns to the non-reality of an abstract and absolute value. it is this distance. The language of a writer. but the truth is that it has distanced from them." as it may be expressed in a work of literature. as the meaning and absence of this everything. which itself exists only on paper. It believes itself to stand distanced from everyday realities and actual events. the work as everything-in which he withdraws everything which he seems to give to himself and to other people." whether it presents itself as this "everything. this kind of literature has going for it the fact that it is not trying to deceive us: it presents itself as imaginary and only puts to sleep those who want sleep. As we well know. . sufficient to grant him not his own freedom which he mocks. as an absolute value. These are all ways of thinking that a writer adopts for reasons he believes himself to have reflected upon. the fleeting work—which is created by being negated. A nihilist. for those who submit to its enchantment enough to emerge from both their life. unhappy consciousness! One sees too well that this unhappiness is his most profound talent. and expresses only the effort which a man cut off from the world makes to reenter the world. It does not give orders: it presents. it is not pure imagination. he endures his condition stoically because he can write and because one minute of freedom in which he writes is enough to make him powerful and free. while he stands discreetly at its periphery—or that the "something to do. But ultimately.

faith. the sole acceptable slogan is: freedom or death. so to speak. knows neither of work or a finished work. because it wishes to realize itself and can only do so by negating something real. rather. at that point. the decision to allow freedom to assert itself completely in them and through its universal nature. Revolutionary action also has the same requirement of purity. more real than the remote individual in control: so it keeps pushing him this way toward a worldly life and a public existence in order to drive him to imagine how. to death: death is not his condemnation. They bear its . to negate the particular reality of their lives.and no one who has experienced it can completely recover from it. in them. A fabled moment. This last act is freedom. it is absolute freedom which has become an event. no one. the speech of the narrative becomes action. more real than words. he is not suppressed as a guilty person-he needs death so that he can proclaim himself a citizen and it is in the disappearance of death that freedom causes him to be born. the French Revolution has a clearer meaning than any other revolution. because everything is fulfilled. the affirmation of the absolute as event and of each event as absolute. and universal freedom and knows neither elsewhere nor tomorrow. When the blade falls on Saint-Just and Robespierre. the narrative speaks. since he has experienced history as his own history. that it is not just any action performed to bring about some desirable and reputable goal. the State. to his actually separate and physically distinct existence. The man knows he has not left history. and the guiltiest person is the suspect-the one who has a secret. but history is now the void being made real. Revolutionary action in every aspect correlates to action as incarnate in literature: the passage from nothing to everything.12 We will recognize that in a writer is a movement that goes forth without stopping. into nothingness. At such times there is nothing left for anyone to do. At this moment. and the assurance that everything it does has absolute value. But the Terror they embody does not come from the death they inflict on others. he can become this very existence. who keeps a thought. since it becomes the unavoidable. Robespierre's virtue. And in the end no one has a right to his life any longer. are simply their existences already suppressed. the anticipated presence of their deaths. it appears as the very operation of freedom in free men. the world on high. Death in the Reign of Terror is not the only way to punish seditionaries. it executes. but is the essence of his right. Thus the Reign of Terror comes into being. Saint-Just's rigor. everything can be done. from nothing to everything. when law. without work. Such is the meaning of the Reign of Terror. even as he writes. in a sense. everything is public. Perhaps they caused the Reign of Terror to take place. It is wholly justified that they tempt the writer. the Last Act. This is why. freedom which aspires to be realized in the immediate form of everything is possible. and the only option left is between freedom and nothing. No one has a right to a private life anymore. These moments are in fact wondrous moments: in them. Revolutionary action unleashes itself with the same force and the same facility as the writer who has only to put a few words side by side to change the world. It is then that he encounters those decisive moments in history when everything seems put in question. but that it is itself the final goal. Where this is concerned. Each has a right. the world of yesterday-everything plunges effortlessly. Such periods are called revolutions. in some sense the desired fate of everyone. an intimacy to himself. but from the death they bring on themselves. People stop being individuals working within assigned roles. acting here and only in the present: each person is universal freedom. and almost without passage. and his own freedom as universal freedom. In him let us see this negation that is not satisfied with the non-reality in which it moves.

13 features. who cuts off people's heads the way you slice a head of cabbage. ) am the revolution. It attracts him because it is the time when literature becomes history. while knowing that this constitutes a desire for their own death. In 1793 there is a man who identifies himself completely with revolution and the Reign of Terror. and yet no one has been more acutely aware that death is sovereign. that is. a manifestation of the fact that such a freedom is still abstract. judging and deciding in the name of all of history. He writes a vast body of work. but like beings deprived of Being. a passion that has become cruelty and 6 Hegel. it has the freedom of a decapitated head. and he depicts life raised to the height of passion. )t is the moment when ) die that signifies to me as I die a banality that there is no way to take into consideration: in the liberated world and in these moments when freedom is an absolute apparition. dying is unimportant and death has no depth. rather shy and obsequiously polite: but he writes. unyielding. "Dying. He is an aristocrat clutching onto6 the slots of his medieval castle. Unknown: but what he portrays has for everyone an immediate significance. Any writer who is not driven by the very fact of writing to think. being is revealed as absolute. to say. He is also the man for whom death is the greatest passion and the last platitude. and it signifies naught. and only freedom allows me to write. The writer recognizes himself in the Revolution. The Reign of Terror and revolution. He is nothing more than a writer. and are the law. Alone: of all men he is the most alone. 360 . as they are conscious of their death which they realize. quoted. During the Reign of Terror individuals perish.not war-have taught us this. one that has lost all value as a personal and interior drama. he does nothing but write. and yet at the same time a public figure and an important political personage." on the other hand. an impoverishment and platitude. with no more significance than cutting off a head of cabbage or swallowing a mouthful of water. and that work exists for no one. " )t is thus the coldest and most brutal of all deaths. Why? )sn't death the achievement of freedom. The Terrorists are those who want absolute freedom. a tolerant man. It is his truth. a theoretician and symbol of absolute freedom. they think and decide with death on their shoulders. Death as an event has no further importance. like universal thoughts. and that really also means that everyone is dead. a time when they have a right to be seen. and it doesn't matter that freedom puts him back into the Bastille after having brought him out. the richest moment of meaning? But it is also only the empty point in that freedom. because he understands that it is when the most rogue passions can turn into political reality. and this is why their thinking is cold. Sade is the writer par excellence. But "is dead" is the positive side of freedom which has become the world: here. that freedom is death. is pure insignificance." is not truly writing. an event without concrete reality. with such great difference that nothing is more unreal than the death he causes. Every person dies. he is the one who understands freedom the best. he reunites all the writer's contradictions. pure abstractions beyond history. )n (egel’s famous words. but everyone is alive. op. and consequently they behave during their lifetimes not like people living among other living people. for there is no longer any interior. Forever locked up and yet absolutely free. ideal (literary). they are conscious of the freedom they affirm. p.

here the friend and kindred spirit of Hölderlin. interprets a passage from the Phenomenology and shows. Not until then did they take on 7 From a collection of essays entitled Symptom of 1803 and 1804. denying God. "This woman" I must somehow take her flesh and bones reality away from her. but for him the relationship between words and the world is so close that the manipulation of language is as difficult and dangerous as contact with living things: the name has not left the thing. comprehension was akin to murder. astonishingly. Primitive being knows that the possession of words gives it mastery over things. we don’t know how to do anything. was to give them names. which is spoken rigorously. in his Introduction a la lecture de Hegel. to render her absent. I bring her close. most hidden. With a nameless object. From this point of view. Is it that words have lost all relation to what they designate? But this absence of relation is not a defect. He is finally negation itself: his writing is nothing but the work of negation. The more closely man approaches civilization. A. from it alone will language derive its full value. she is everything I want her to be. the cat ceased to be a uniquely real cat and also became an idea. . the very fact that it does not exist. that is because its ideal is indeed that moment in history. its nothingness. she becomes the sites of the most surprising kinds of formations occur and actions: Speech is life's ease and safety. then." and she is immediately available to me as I push her away. A word may give me what it signifies. and all poets whose theme is the essence of poetry have felt that the act of naming is a disquieting marvel. motivated to blood. as it is inside the thing which has been placed dangerously outside and yet it is still in the hidden intimacy of the thing. that is. and to which no living thing correlates. so the thing has not yet been named. the more he can manipulate words with innocence and calmness. so that of all languages the most perfect is the language of mathematics. it finds its justification in revolution and if it has been called the Reign of Terror. we gain control over things with an ease that satisfies us. but first it suppresses it. Hegel.14 madness. a preliminary flood plunging all of creation into a total sea. that for Hegel. I say. which made him master of the animals. denying nature and. The meaning of speech. the most irrational kind of sentiment he turns into a universal affirmation." Hölderlin. what is left of it when it has lost being-so to speak. Literature views itself in revolution. to annihilate her. within this circle in which it endlessly hurries. I say. he annihilated them in their existence (as existing creatures) 7. and if it is a defect. the "question" that is its essence. writes: "Adam's first act. "This woman. Language is simultaneously reassuring and disturbing. basking in itself as absolute sovereignty. When we speak. his experience the act of raging negation. The most bizarre. The word gives me the being. For me to be able to say. In a text dating from before The Phenomenology. God created living things. but it gives it to me deprived of being. requires that before any word is spoken there must be a kind of immense hecatomb. "This woman." Hegel means that from that instant. but man had to annihilate them. This is the "question that seeks to be accomplished in literature. Mallarme. The word is the absence of this being. Literature is tied to language. the reality of a public speech which is inscribed in history to become a legitimate explanation of the general condition of humankind. denying other people. that moment when "life bears death and is sustained in it" in order to obtain from death the possibility and truth of speech. Kojeve. speaking is an odd right.

to be other than his being. He saw that he was enclosed in daylight. Only death permits me to grasp what I wish to obtain." Language can only begin with the void. it is necessary for the life that will carry this language to have experienced its nothingness. This situation has multiple consequences. nothing finds its being in speech and the being of speech is nothingness. and abruptly thrown into a nothingness in which there is no existence or presence. My language kills no person. to speak so that one says nothing. "This woman. if true language is to begin. the ability to speak is also tied to my absence from being. if she were not at any moment of her life threatened by death and tied and joined to death by an essential relation. I would not be able to carry out this ideal negation." a real death has been announced and is already present within my language. I deny the existence of what I say. in place of beings and. it exists in words as the sole possibility to bear meaning. Negation is tied to language. I call my name. who is there now. But if this woman were not really capable of dying. only. my language essentially signifies the possibility of this destruction. but an objective. and everything in it that was fixed and stable to have been shaken. it has suddenly emerged: it is there between us as the distance that separates us. and it is at any moment an unwavering allusion to such an event. This is why. to attempt negation in itself and build all from . out of his power to remove himself from himself. since it was from the end of beings that their meaning-which is Being-came forth. This formulation explains why literature's ideal has been as follows: to say nothing. It is not the brooding of aristocratic nihilism. nothing speaks. but rather nothingness requests to speak. Language perceives that its meaning derives not from what exists. and he in turn created them out of the death into which they had disappeared. this delayed murder that constitutes my language. and it is tempted to proceed no further than this step backwards. something essential is missing in everyone who expresses himself. as we say. because the end itself was light. everything would drain away to absurdity and the nothing. And yet: when I say. 'When speaking. it also affirms that this revelation is made on the basis of the non-existence of the person making it. existents. Undoubtedly. which exceeds me and whose transfixed immobility performs the exact same function for me as a tombstone pushing against the void. and it is as if I were singing my funeral hymn: I separate myself from myself. erased from her existence and her presence. My speech is a warning that at this very moment death is unleashed in the world. impersonal presence of my name. Without death. there remained only Being. and he knew this day could not end. within me. can be detached from herself. my language means that this person. When I first begin. for it holds within it the condition for any understanding. no plenitude or certitude ever speaks. to have "trembled in the depths. Clearly. So it is precisely correct to say that when I speak: death speaks in me. I do not speak in order to say something.15 meaning for him. who speak. but I also deny the existence to the person who is stating my speech: if my speech reveals Being in its nonexistence. my language kills no one. that between I. and the person I address. but this distance is also what prevents us from being separated. but from its own withdrawal before existence. and man was condemned not to be able to approach anything or experience anything except through the meaning he needed to create. I am no longer my presence or my reality.

laboring away. in that if the word excludes the existence of the thing it designates. it designates what the thing is not. And indeed this certitude is even greater: if they must. a fully determined and objective reality. no longer terms. well. everyday language is momentarily justified. nor believe they are ill. its only concern in a thing is its meaning.16 nothing. There it sees a difficulty and even a lie. invalidating what encloses it. But literary language is made of disquiet. and it would like to obtain this absence absolutely in and for itself: to grasp the infinite movement of understanding as a whole. inaccessible. If we are not to speak of things except to state what makes them nothing. So the image that does not directly designate the thing is born. Of course. On one hand. so that they will designate the void as they sink down into it-this void they can neither fill nor represent. names which are less fixed. Such is the main difference between commonplace and literary language. it still refers to it through the thing’s nonexistence which has become its essence. speaking of a dog instead of a cat. a formless and nameless vigilance. that is. on the plane of Being (idea). more capable of adapting to the savage freedom of the negative essence-they are unstable groups. let us not release our grasp on words. Already the seal which held this nothingness within the limits of the word and a false meaning has been broken. now there is access to other names. tries to latch onto them all again in order to negate all of them simultaneously. Speech is not sufficient for the truth it contains. has ceased to be a living cat. Its position is hardly stable or secure. the cat himself is fully and undoubtedly resuscitated in the form of its idea (its being) and its meaning: the word. a cat that has ceased to exist. nothingness scurries. and what it is not. things can change. in movement. )f you wish. Commonplace language is undoubtedly right that this is the price we pay for peace. it is a problematic hope. but a nonexistence made into a word. doing its utmost to find a way out. still ambiguous. . in its absence. saying naught is really the only hope for speaking everything of them. sometimes they cease to be what they arethey remain hostile. since it has transposed the non-reality of the thing onto the reality of language? How could the infinite absence of comprehension concede to be confused with the limited and constrained presence of a single word? And isn't everyday language deceived itself when trying to persuade us of this? Indeed. The first concedes that once the nonexistence of the cat has passed into the void. Moreover. it observes that the word cat is not just the nonexistence of the cat. is asked to give in to the uneasy demands of one single thing that has been deprived of Being and which after oscillating between each word. relentlessly digging. but the being of these things. it deceives itself and deceives is infinite disquiet. Then we shall be in peace. but their passage. naming the cat is rendering it a non-cat. it is also built of contradictions. as if it were not true that when we name the cat we have left of it nothing but its absence. but this does not mean we are making it a dog. and ending up nowhere. to say. This is the beginning of the pursuit where all of language. still ambiguous. gives back to the cat all the assurance it had on the plane of existence. In any case. That one bears to listen to a single word: in it. or even a non-dog. Let us retain words without reverting to things. their idea. does not change: the idea is definitive it is for certain: one even calls it eternal. unusable. "turns of phrase" endlessly sliding. too. How can it expect to have achieved what it set out to do. Everyday language calls a cat a cat. as if the living cat and its name were one.

Something has disappeared. I passionately summon the darkness of this flower. and then the paper on which one writes. who is Evil. but a single moment of universal anonymity. this color that is a trace and not a light. a slab of rock. it is my only chance. abandoning sense. who already emits a stench. and gave it in exchange the life of the mind. attempts to be senseless. the book. but the terrible force by which beings arrive in the world and are illuminated: something must be left out. Then what hope do I have of attaining what I push away? My hope lies in the materiality of language. shape. It recalls the first name which would have been the murder Hegel speaks of regarding the "existent" was called out of its existence by the word and became being. language is a thing: it is a written thing." What excellent power. speech is the life of that death. the abyss. Negation cannot be created out of anything but the reality of what it negates. but in the beginning. literature calls it existence. this idea inscribed in the world as if it were the absolute perspective of the world in its totality. How to recover it. Just before. the stupor of a confrontation in the depths of obscurity. and in this pebble what man rejects by speaking. weight. mass. the reality of words was an obstacle. it knows that in order for the day to begin. it is "the life which bears death and is sustained in it. for the day to be the Orient sighted by Hölderlin. Generally. It is not beyond the world. Now. A name stops being the ephemeral transit of nonexistence and becomes a concrete ball. how to turn around and look at what exists before. It is an element. Literature then disperses the writer: it is no longer this inspiration at work. the lines of the ink. the meaning which was all it wanted to be. but nor is it . yes. The word acts not as an ideal force but as an obscure power. Language knows that its kingdom is day and not the intimacy of the unrevealed. it wants the cat as it exists. language. what has been lost? The torment of language is what it lacks because of the necessity for it to lack exactly this. itself surging upwards like an unknown thing. This Lazare. rendering them present truly outside themselves. a piece hardly detached from its subterranean milieu: no longer a name. what is the foundation of speech and what speech excludes in speaking.17 Literature. an incantation that coerces things. negation asserting itself. I say a flower! But in the absence where I note it. language derives its value and its pride out of being the achievement of this negation. and a sort of nature-what is given me. veni foras summoned the obscure cadaverous reality from its murky depths of origin. but the pebble. Lazarus in the tomb and not Lazarus returned to the day. not man. in the depths of this heavy word. a clump of existence. and gives me more than I can understand. would already have had a strange and embarrassing job. But something was there which is there no more. But it does not stop there. this dust that impregnates me even as I do not see it. who formed language. a piece of bark. Everything physical takes priority: rhythm. Fortunately. The person who glimpses God dies. And in this way language insists on playing its own game without man. a fragment of clay in which the reality of the earth survives. Lazarus lost and not Lazarus saved and brought back to life. by the oblivion to which I relegate the image that it gives me. a bald statement. if all my power resides in making it into what exists after? The language of literature is a looking out for this moment that precedes literature. the perfume that passes through me while I still do not breathe it. in the fact that words are also things. the pebble on its side of things.not light that has become the repose of noon. In speech. even if it terminated at that point. what gives life to speech dies. It cannot even name it.

It knows it is the movement through which whatever disappears keeps appearing. by affirming the night. it is not the night. and this dark side is not the undisclosed mystery of its beginning. and the stupor of what appears when nothing exists. the empty power of words that give meaning-an odd. but the side of the day that day has rejected in order become the light. the writing of no writer. the light of a consciousness deprived of self. this refusal to want to mean anything. and does not expose itself. It is not the night. this mad effort to bury itself in itself. then. but the consciousness of the night. it is my consciousness without me. a witness of primordial obscure. under it. but whatever is eliminated is also maintained. The nature. we discover that the day is already present. from the existence of twilight. because it manifests existence without Being. That is its discovery. It is a tragic endeavor. That is why it cannot be confused with consciousness. a refusal immersed in words turned into salt." But this desire to be a thing. whatever it designates is eliminated. it is the constant fear of the night. if we reach a point where we push it away in order to find out what precedes the day. When literature refuses to name anything. to live. But if we take the day into consideration. the very possibility to signify is now affirmed. a radiant passivity of mineral substances. the meaning of lack of meaning encrusted in the word as expression of the obscurity of existence. it sheds light upon what it lets us see: it is the capacity to grasp. literature reconstructs day as fatality. when it turns a name into something obscure and meaningless. I am. Literature says: "I no longer represent. If it were to become as mute as a stone. what has disappeared in this case-the meaning of the name-is wholly destroyed. the stubbornness of what remains when everything is wiped clean. but in its place signification in general has emerged. not the light of freedom. to hide itself behind the fact that it can be seen. and clarity in the depths of torpor. without beginning or end. not the capacity to make something appear: the darkness of necessity. impersonal light. literature aims to be the revelation of what is destroyed by revelation.death as the impossibility of dying. but in the form of an inability to disappear. this destiny that literature ultimately becomes as it becomes the language of no one.all this is now manifested and shown by literature. their perseverance after the world has disappeared. When it names a thing. so that although the precise meaning of the terms has faded. it is the answer "understood" in each question. and the thing has found a refuge (in the being that is the word) rather than a threat. its decision to lose the capacity for speech would still be legible on the stone and be sufficient to wake this fake death. Literature learns that it cannot exceed itself towards its own end: it hides. an inexorable affirmation. By negating the day. which lies awake watching for a chance to surprise itself due to what is constantly being dissipated. When day is the light of the world. as passive as the corpse trapped behind that stone. I present. but its inevitable presence-the statement "There is no . By changing itself to the powerlessness to reveal anything. and that what precedes the day is still the day. which illuminates things and makes decisions.18 the world itself: what exists is the presence of things before the world. is the dark face of the day. I do not signify. And it is not death either. it finds the night as the impossibility of the night. It is not the day. existence which remains under existence. of what precedes the day.

Literature is a concern for the reality of things. all refer back to that unreal whole which they form together. and day in the form of fatality is the being of what lies before the day. then real things.but we cannot escape from the day: within it we are free. and this is the point of view that literature takes up as its own-it looks at things from the point of view of this still imaginary whole which they would really constitute if negation could be achieved. wandering like an empty power. and in doing so. for their unknown. reveals nothing. if it should happen this way. it sympathizes with darkness. In the course of the day. content without form. the being that protests against revelation. which is the transparency of the earth: opacity is their response. free. and communicated. The metamorphosis has taken place. or earth. and to exhaust it. Hence its suspicion of words. But there is a second side of literature. literature does not restrict . Literature has certainly triumphed over the meaning of words. ungraspable existences where nothing appears. and simply announces-through its refusal to say anything—that it comes from night and returns to night. and violence without law. In this effort. literature is their innocence and forbidden presence. with everything in the world that seems to perpetuate the refusal to come into the world. subjugated. a power with which one can do nothing. the shadow's clarity." which merges with "There is already day. it makes language into matter without contour. From a certain point of view. the heart of depth without appearance. it lets us comprehend them. a force that is fickle and impersonal and says nothing. Regarding this act of negation. This metamorphosis is not in itself deficient. In such a manner. successive results: it wants to grasp the movement itself and to attend to their results in their totality. and stupefied the words. the day allows us to escape from things. literature is not content to accept just its fragmentary. From there we have its non-realism. One side of literature faces toward the act of negation by which things are separated from themselves and destroyed in order to be known." its appearance coinciding with the moment when it has not yet appeared. petrified. separate from its instances.19 day. and the meaning the words hold by virtue of their semblance as things or. which illuminates the words. It is an existence we must turn away from in order to speak and comprehend. If negation is assumed to have mastered everything.the shadow it preys upon. but due to which appears the proper determination of an indeterminate existence deprived of meaning. They no longer signify shadow. it makes them transparent and as if null. the flutter of shutting wings is their speech. too. two things reappear in this metamorphosis: the meaning of this metamorphosis. literature lies on two slopes. the actt of negation. But beyond the transformation that has solidified. a power without power. taken one by one. its need to apply to language itself. but what it has found in words considered apart from their meaning is meaning that has become something: a meaning detached from its conditions. by realizing it as that whole on the basis of which each term would be nothing. It is quite true that words are transformed. too. with aimless passion. but it itself. they no longer represent the absence of shadow and earth which is meaning. In this way. as vague. uncertain. the simple inability to cease to be. is fatality. and the defiance of what does not want to be produced outside. physical weight is present in them as the stifling density of an amassing of syllables that has lost any meaning. to the world which is their meaning as a group. it allies itself with the reality of language. and silent existence.

Everyone talks like this. to the impossibility of leaving—and what it finds as the darkness of existence is the being of day which has been changed from explicatory light. which no one knows. and so art embarks on a quest of language where this absence itself is grasped again. it teaches us to discover the world’s total being. But still leaving this side of language. being of il y a. a blind vigilance which in its attempt to escape from itself. Let’s not return to this position. many write the way they speak. a return against which there is no return8. Its goal is to express things in a language that designates things by their meaning. it is only preoccupied with safeguarding the motion by which this meaning becomes truth. But what can we say of such art? That it is a search for a pure form. as if it were the interior. without beginning. To be fair. if this here is the very impossibility of coming from existence. and that art which claims to follow one slope is already on the other. Boston. being as the death of being. a silence that is speech empty of words. instead of the silence it expected to achieve. and the endless movement of comprehension is represented. and which ignorance always discovers behind itself as its own shadow transformed into a gaze. Literature is the experience through which consciousness discovers its being in its lack of ability to lose consciousness. Literature lies on two slopes. only sinks more deeply into its own obsession. then. and creator of meaning. A. trans. This is true. that in the depths of annihilation still returns to being. which only survives on false meaning: it represents to us the world. they do not lead toward distinct works or goals. this continuity of speech through an immense plunder of words. into the aggravation of what one cannot prevent oneself from understanding and the suffocating obsession of a reason without principle. is the only translation of the obsession of existence. Kluwer. it tears itself away from the punctuality of an I and is recreated beyond unconsciousness as an objective spontaneity. being that is already present in the heart of disappearance. See also Dedication. (ow can 8 In his book De L’Existence et l'Existant. it is the labor of the negative in the world and for the world. The first slope is that of meaningful prose. for we have already described it for a while. in the transition where. Or one can complain that it has immersed itself in the conventions of literature when it only wished to be immersed in existence. there comes a moment when art realizes the dishonesty of everyday speech and leaves it. For what it discovers. And in the same way literature. nothingness as existence: when there is nothing. something which in the bottomless depth is already at the bottom of the abyss. 1978] .20 itself to rediscovering within what it tried to leave behind on the entrance. as it disappears. One can. and a vain concern with empty words? Actually the opposite: it only seeks true meaning. is the outside which has changed from the exit it formerly was. is precisely the profound nature of a silence that speaks even when mute. But this endless recycling of words without content. accuse language of having become an endless recycling of words. Why does art reproach everyday speech? It says it lacks meaning: art feels it is mad to think that in each word is something fully present by absence that determines it. [Existence and Existents. the earnest eagerness of a rugged knowledge that knows nothing. it is necessary to consider it more significant than any current prose. Emmanuel Levinas uses the term il y a ("there is"] to shed “light" on this nameless and impersonal flow of being prior to all being. Lingis. if it is being which is always thrown back into being. an echo constantly speaking in silence. which one cannot take into account. The problem is that despite their apparent mismatch.

in whose margins it produces an odd insect-like buzzing. A novelist writes in the most transparent kind of prose. but this scholar shrinks before what he knows. the reality of a human world. he does it for the sake of things. consciousness whose light is no longer the lucidity of the vigil but the stupor of the absence of sleep. But ultimately. Of these descriptions. and when he observes things. in persuading yourself that you are truly where you wanted to be. science is a common ground of understanding: reminiscences arising from deep down in the earth slip inside. describing men we could have met ourselves and actions we could have performed. at least we will know why it should be pulled from history. picks up a stone. and as for making it talk. who is the master of this art. and because they are not interested in the world. these images which for an image. On the other curve of literature. Certain traits make them seem completely human: the fact that the tree knows the weakness of men who only speak about what they know. whatever dies encounters only the impossibility of dying. Well. as did Flaubert. He is a sort of scholar. Such is its treachery. but all these metaphors borrowed from the picturesque human world. we also find Mallarme. this is why other things slip in among these images. and that in choosing your exact place within it. they truly represent the singularity of human speech animated by the cosmic life and the power of seeds. because they dedicate themselves to literature as a personal power that wishes only to be swallowed up and submerged. written in perfectly . lively and lucid art par excellence? Undoubtedly. If poetry is this. what is the single subject of his work? The horror of existence deprived of the world. you make yourself vulnerable to the greatest confusion. Here we have a man who observes more than he writes: he enters a pine forest.21 we not admire it as active. whatever seeks to grasp the beyond is always still here. and we will also know that no work that lets itself slide down this slope towards the gulf can be called a work of prose. Why? Because they are interested in the reality of language. This process is day that has become fatality. because literature has already insidiously made you cross from one slope to the other and changed you into what you were not before. and also its contorted truth. the process by which whatever ceases to exist continues to be. sometimes before what he wants to know. but in what things and beings would exist if there were no world. which reject it. sometimes a pebble. It is existence without Being. what is it? Everyone understands that literature cannot be divided. it is the thing itself that is described. glances at a wasp. Generally. amidst certain objective notions-because the tree know that between the worlds. Well. it is there we find all the people we call poets. really represent the perspective of things regarding man. then. whatever is forgotten is always considered by memory. as poetry tries to recapture it behind the meaning of the words. he is a man who learns for the sake of other men: he has crossed over to the side of the object—sometimes he is water. But then we must appreciate these aspects in Mallarme. expressions that are in the process of metamorphosis in which a thick fluidity of vegetable growth hints at itself in the clear meaning. is there any writer that cannot achieve it? But Francis Ponge's tree is a tree that has observed Francis Ponge and that describes itself as it imagines Ponge would describe it. this is the surprising quality of transformation. and when he describes something. he says his aim is to express. because turning into a tree is in fact possible. These are strange descriptions. sometimes a tree.

And at the end of everything is fame. nature made near-human. Truly. there is a meeting of existence. a corridor that unfolds ahead-a type of reason whose infallibility excludes all reasoners. is really the single thing worth being written. concluding in its place. until the moment it woke up and discovered this other that had taken its place? But if reason now retraces its steps to denounce the intruder." Where is the work. despite his concerns of a literature seeking obscurity? And yet in what other work can we hear such an impersonal. expressing not existence prior to the day. advancing. and is devouring. resembling a walking staircase. Where is the end? Where is this death that is . if not prose? And who writes more clearly than he does? What other person. contrary to the oracular speech of the tree of Dodona-another tree-which were obscure but hid a meaning: they are clear only because they conceal their lack of meaning. Ponge catches this touching moment when at the edge of the world.literature is the first that accuses him of it. what seems unreadable. a "gigantic and haunting whisper" (as Jean Paulhan says)? But this is simply a defect! The weakness of a writer who cannot write briefly! It is certainly a serious defect. even further beyond. and speech which that descends slowly toward the earth. who grew up in the least poetic century-is ignored." that something else was continuing.22 meaningful prose—doesn’t everybody believe he understands them? Who does not place himself on the clear and human side of literature? Yet they do not belong to the world but to the beneath of the world. he hears the effort of language preceding the great flood. swallowed. beyond. But what it condemns on one side becomes a merit on the other. they do not attest to form but to lack of form. so that reason starts off once more and loses its way once again. anonymous survival in dead culture. recognizes the profound work of the element. but existence after the day: the world of the end of the world. Is Lautréamont not a true writer of prose? But what is Sade's style. what it denounces in the name of the work. and they make themselves clear only to someone who does not probe them. Ponge's descriptions begin at that theoretical moment after the world has been achieved. and prose is prose once again. From the depths of muteness. a logic that has become the "logic of things. Where in the work is the start of the moment that words become stronger than their meaning and the meaning more physical than the word? When does Lautréamont's prose lose its name of prose? )sn’t each sentence comprehensible? Every set of sentences logical? And don't the words say what they mean? At what moment. further ahead. something reason believed it recognized as itself. it admires as an experience. and speech which we know murders existence. in this labyrinth of clarity. In this manner he becomes the mediating will between what rises slowly toward speech. when speech comes forth to meet the thing and the thing learns to speak. but the work as a whole has the opaque meaning of a thing that is being eaten and that is also eating. did meaning deviate from the path? At what point did reason perceive that it had ceased "following. and the intrusion dissipates into the air. allowing itself to be replaced by a sickening physical substance. history complete. then? Each moment has the clarity of a beautiful language being spoken. and in the clear speech of the concept. something similar to it in every aspect. perseverance in the eternity of elements. and reason finds just itself there. there is oblivion. in this maze of order. which is still mute. and recreating itself in a futile attempt to change itself into nothing. inhuman sound.

I am a mortal man. and there he is. and it is within every person. we must see it behind us.23 hoped for by language? But language is the life which bears death and is sustained in it. Some religions have called the impossibility of death immortality. Kafka inherited this theme from the Kabbalah and Easter traditions. begins with the end. knowing he is dead. the only thing that allows us to comprehend it. you die and become a blessed man--a man who is truly dead. we leave behind not only the world but also death. because one could account for the latter by means of the former. and life was over there. and he is human only because he is death in the process of becoming. This is why existence is his only real only knows death because he is human. having become completely human. but he is in fact alive. "Isn't dread in the face of being--horror of being--just as primordial as dread in the face of death? Isn't fear of being just as primordial as fear for one's being? Even more primordial. to be man beyond death could only have this strange meaning-to be. As long as I live. his chance. to go on as though nothing had happened. In order to speak. and death which looms ahead brings me horror because I see it as it is: no longer death. A man enters night. death is over there. annihilation of the being." (De L'existence et L'existant) . because there it is beneath death. That is. because we can destroy things and hold existence in limbo. an inexorable day in which all days rise and set. a logical and expressible truth—and there is a world. he is in a strange situation: he has forgotten to die. But why? Because in dying. the loss of what made it death in it and for me. and is condemned to live again. This is why we can say that there is being because there is nothingness: death is man's possibility. but the night ends in his awakening. You live again until. with death as a horizon and the same hope-death which could have had no result but "going on as though nothing had happened. Such is the paradox of the last hour. struggles unsuccessfully to die. still capable of dying. Death works with us in the world. but the impossibility of dying. I also cease to be mortal by ceasing to be a man. the error of ancient death laughing by his bed. I am no longer capable of dying. we are leaning on a tomb. But another man believes he is alive. That is what other religions have called the curse of rebirth: one dies. and yet another. carried along by rivers. There is being—that is to say. helped by no one. a presence in the depth of absence. but because it excludes death. existence frightens him. and lifts existence to being." But only the contrary movement makes death impossible: through death I lose the advantage of being mortal. When we speak. the act is here: literature. like normal speech. it is the loss of the person. but when I die. not because of death which could terminate it. and the void of that tomb is what makes language true. we must see death. as Emmanuel Levinas has demonstrated well 9. despite of death. his only hope of being man. If we wish to restore literature to the act that lets every ambiguity be grasped. they have tried to "humanize" the very event that means: "I cease to be a man. and so it is also the loss of death. it is death only in the world. as our most human quality. the native land one left in answer to a false call. But dying is a shattering of the world. it is a power that humanizes nature. death is man's greatest hope. Or the man dies. it is through death that the future of a fulfilled world remains for us. but at the same time void is reality and death is made being. he has forgotten his death. the great castle no one can attain." etc. but dies badly because he has lived badly. he passes from village to village. And there is no question that we are preoccupied by dying. now there is nothing to 9 He writes. recognized by some. an insect. because I lose the possibility to be human.

taken from that imaginary point where the world can be seen in its entirety. but he did seek to use it to depict the present fact of our condition. Now. and not the immediate pleasure of a fictional transformation which disposes of both time and work. we read the words and we can’t change them.. but does literature deserve it? Indeed. But at the same time. is it pure nothing? But the book is there and we can touch it. the whole does not present itself as real. after having denied things in their existence. is working towards the dawn of the world. In this sense. then. since it is realized and not an abstract formulation. etc. because what is real in it is not the whole but the particular language of a particular work. reality and non-reality. a world where everything that occurs is borrowed from reality. as if at the end of time. literature lets it be mindful of the whole that it is not and to become another moment that will be a moment in another whole. it conserves them in their being. to work to die completely. But it results in an inconvenience: this whole which literature represents is not simply an idea. With this new power. Dismissed by history. indeterminate side of things back into nothingness. First. there is powerful duplicity in literature. working to make the world. of . is a view of the world that is realized as unreal. a mysterious bad faith that in allowing it to play everything two ways gives the most honest people an unreasonable hope of losing and at the same time. which is itself immersed in history: furthermore. literature can be called the greatest ferment in history. because culture is the work of a person transforming himself gradually over a period of time. and this world is inaccessible.24 do but to struggle. then. That is high praise. What we are talking about. By revealing to each moment the whole of which it is a part. because of this. it already unites two contradictory movements. it is foreign to any real culture. in terms of language's peculiar reality. Kafka has not made this theme the expression of a drama about the afterlife. because it pushes the inhuman. What constitutes work? Real words and an imaginary story. it is not the result of any true work. is it the nothingness of an idea. literature seems to have gained a more eminent authority. Additionally. so to say. and everything that has brought the goal closer has also made it inaccessible. literature has a certain privilege: it goes beyond the immediate place and time. it recognizes that this is such. He saw in literature the best way not only to describe this condition. it causes things to have a meaning. what comes out of this? Concerning the task which is the world. and it is in this sense that literature is really the work of death in the world. characters are shown as living-but we know that their life is not really living (but stays a fiction). then. literature is now seen more as a disturbance than as a serious help. exactly whole. and it is from this position that it speaks about things and is preoccupied with humans. and places itself at the border of the world. presence and absence. but struggling is still living. it is because its absence of being (of intelligible reality) causes it to refer to an existence that is still inhuman. it defines them and makes them finite. since it is not reality but the realization of a point of view which remains unreal. but to try to find an exit for this condition. Yes. If it is not really in the world. as well. winning.but it is not realized in an objective way. literature. It is negation. but as fictive. understanding in action. literature plays a different game. as everything: a perspective of the world. that in its nature there is a strange oscillation between being and not being. it is civilization and culture. and the negation which is death at work is also the arrival of meaning.

that the greatest work is not as worthy as the most trivial act. which finishes in evil. but if it is one." Literature is language becoming ambiguity. So literature appears to be tied to the strangeness of the existence which being has rejected and which eludes all categories. it is more real than many real events because it is impregnated with the full reality of language and it is substituted with my life solely by existing. Commonplace language is not necessarily lucid. and the other meaning. It is opened up to the path leading to the obscurity of existence and does not succeed in uttering the "Never more" that would lift its curse. But normal language limits equivocation. and the work. literary immortality is the very movement by which the nausea of a survival that is not survival. a world drained by brute existence. Then where is the strength of literature? It plays at working in the world. which is ideal absence. offering its language to what is murmured in the absence of speech. and to the person who wished to prepare an untold death for himself. does not always say what it says. is insinuated into the world. born out of fidelity to death. the source of the mystery is literature's right to indifferently elicit a negative or positive sign from each of its moments and each of its results. to realize the void. it turns out that the work engages him and recalls him to himself. and that if he writes to reveal himself and live in it. and an ambiguous answer is a question about ambiguity. This is inevitable. and that his work condemns him to an existence that is not his own. and to a life that has nothing to do with life. However. Literature does not act: but it plunges into this depth of existence that is neither being nor nothingness: where the hope of doing anything is radically done away with. "like the struggle with women which ends in bed. Where is its power? Why would a man like Kafka decide that if he failed to reach his destiny. is in the end no longer capable of dying. If he writes it to do away with himself. One of its means of seduction is the way it gives rise to clarity. a struggle that is like the struggle against evil that Kafka speaks of. The writer who writes a work is erased while writing that work. physical presence. it has brought nothing but the sneering of immortality. We only speak to turn a word into a monster with two faces: one being reality. And it expresses without expressing. We can only answer it by rediscovering it in the ambiguity of our response. and it not pure understanding. Or once more he has written because in the depths of language he has heard the work of death as it prepared living beings for the truth of their name: he has worked for this nothing and he himself has been nothingness at work. The writer senses that he is in the prey of an impersonal power that lets him neither live nor die: the irresponsibility he cannot overcome becomes the expression of that death without death that waits for him at the border of nothingness. being a writer was the only way to miss it with truth? This is perhaps an indecipherable destiny. it is experienced through the words from which it is realized. and is also selfaffirmed. one creates a work. It is not explanation. It solidly encloses the absence in a presence. A strange right which is related to the question of ambiguity in general. a death which does not end anything. and for me as I read or write it.25 something that exists only when understood? But fiction is not understood. because the inexplicable emerges in it. Why is there ambiguity in the world? Ambiguity is its own response. he sees that what he has done is nothing. and the world views its work as a worthless or dangerous game. it places . and misunderstanding is another one of its paths.

a force of substantial metamorphoses. Here ambiguity is at odds with itself. and as though spinning invisibly around an invisible axis. it corrupts itself. or opaque because it states nothing. genre. enters the day of affirmations or the counter-day of negations. but misunderstanding limited. understanding is limited. but that the general meaning of language is unclear: where it’s uncertain whether it expresses or represents.26 a term to understanding. it is in this disinterest that ambiguity protects the absolute nature of the values without which action would halt. in the same manner that if it relates itself to morals. in the same manner that it is nothing if it is not its own end. etc. insignificant or important. species and meaning. beyond the visible movements that transform them. as if in the core of literature and language. It ends outside itself. but this disintegration is also construction. literature is trying to keep out of the world’s sight and thought-in a realm where it is accomplished without risking anything. but behind this disinterest lie the forces of the world with which it conspires without knowing them. it passes through opposite moments and can only recognize itself in the affirmation of all these contrary moments. quite different in origin. these divisions and oppositions. there is something in the work that does not depend on its qualities and that deep inside itself is always in the mode of being changed from the bottom upward. Neither the content of the words nor their form are in play. if it abruptly turns . in its disinterest. Everything happens. obscure because it states too much. Ambiguity lies everywhere: in its insignificant facade-but what is most trivial may be the mask for the serious. a point of instability were conserved. in history. or become mortal. as well. In literature. Whether obscure or clear. capable of changing everything while changing nothing. but it cannot have its end in itself. It is not merely that each moment of language can become ambiguous and state something different from what it states. This instability can appear to be the effect of a disintegrating force. poetry or prose. it still perverts itself. for it can make the strongest. and if it avoids morals. whether it speaks of a pebble or of God. All these inversions from pro to contra—and those described here—certainly have very different causes. ambiguity is almost committed to excess by the opportunities it discovers. or subject being responsible for the radical transformation. One has seen that literature devotes itself to irreconcilable tasks. from the labor to the final work. One could almost say there is a hidden trap to make ambiguity reveal its own traps. refer back to a final ambiguity whose strange effect is to draw literature to an unstable point where it can indifferently change both its meaning and sign. and that in submitting without reserve to ambiguity. if it is transparent due to having so little meaning. to the vague movement of comprehension. without its style. its non-reality is therefore both a principle of action and the inability to act: in the same manner that the fiction in se is truth and also indifference to it. This final vicissitude keeps the work at bay in such a manner that it can decide whether to take on a positive or negative value. most forceful work become a work of unhappiness and ruin. or still. for it is endless. these hostile demands. One saw that in moving from the writer to the reader. if it is there to be forgotten or if it only lets itself be forgotten so it can be seen. or clear because of the exactness with which it says it. But all these contradictions. if it is a thing or means that thing. and exhausted by the extent of the abuse it can carry out.

we can only comprehend by depriving ourselves of existence. If we call this power negation or non-reality or death. an alternative whose terms are blanketed by an ambiguity that makes them identical and all the while opposite to one another. It is this life which bears death and is sustained in it. meaning rests upon nothingness. How can such imminence of change. is capable of completely transforming it and changing the material value of the word? Could there. the source of his unhappy fate. by making death possible. be nonetheless present in that meaning and in that reality? In the word. Yet just as quickly. a force that is simultaneously friendly and hostile. nothingness is the creator of the world as mankind labors and understands. we fall outside the possibility of death. then presently death. an intelligible being that is formed. something which. the curse of existence-which reunites in itself both death and being and is neither being nor death.27 distress into hope and destruction into an element of the indestructible. concealed in the intimacy of speech. and a happiness still invisible. and the exit becomes the disappearance of all exits. Simultaneously. will signify the arrival of truth in the world. the creation of meaning. by whose work existence detaches from itself and is made meaningful. and unreality. nothing can stop this power-in the very moment it attempts to understand things and. the tremendous power of the negative. the sign changes: meaning no longer represents the marvel of understanding. so that if we emerge from being. or freedom. but returns us to the nothing of death. which is at the heart of every word like a condemnation that is still unheard of. death that ends up in being represents an absurd madness. Death results in being: this is man's laceration. by infecting what we understand with the nothingness. since by man. which operate in the depths of language. Otherwise. Death results in being: such is the human hope and task. or from perpetuating an irreducible double meaning. In this original double meaning.death. which is the movement of a word towards its truth as much as its return through the reality of language to the obscure depths of existence. Now. of death. literature finds its origin. destroyed in order to become Being and idea. as it specifies words-or this power from being affirmed as a constantly alternate possibility. a weapon intended to build and to destroy. for . which would act behind signification rather than upon signification? Must one suppose a meaning for the meaning of words which while fully determining that meaning. however. could its meaning introduces something else with it. death is portrayed as a civilizing force that results in an understanding of being. for nothingness itself helps to build the world. death comes to being and by man. negation. this absence by which the thing is annihilated. while protecting the precise meaning of the word and not risking that meaning. in language. and intelligible being only means the rejection of existence. and the absolute concern for truth that is expressed by the inability to act in a true manner. present in the depths of language outside the reach of meaning which affects it and the reality of this language. surrounds this determinacy with an ambiguous indeterminacy that switches between yes and no? But we have nothing to suppose: for a long time we have examined this meaning of the words’ meaning.

28 literature is the form this double meaning has chosen to reveal itself behind the meaning and the value of words. and the question it inquires is the question literature asks. .

But several pages along. What must one do about this? Kafka wanted to be nothing besides a writer.29 Chapter Two . as the private Journal show us. This work forms the disheveled remains of an existence it lets us understand. This tendency is inevitable. to start off. yes. When one observes the chaos in which this work arrives to us—what is made known to us. but neither does it merely refer to a particular event in his life. a partial light cast on this piece or that. reduced to dust as if they were relics with indivisible force--and when we see his silent work invaded by the prattle of commentaries. a surveyor. All these commentators beg us to seek stories in these stories: events signify only themselves. the scattering of the texts themselves. and collapse into an equivocal style that does not allow them to be taken either as the expression of a sole event. his commentary rests in fiction and cannot be distinguished from it. His desire. perhaps. perspectives on causality. and which one divides further. like an enigma wishing to evade the gaze. which are incomplete. 10 . and ultimately. The Journals are replete with remarks that seem tied to a theoretical knowledge that is easily recognized. and what is disguised. a holistic view of human destiny. in broad daylight. one can find in Kafka’s work a theory of responsibility. it is he we watch out for in his work.Reading Kafka. The difference is that aside from a few details whose evolution but not meaning are explained to us. Now the mystery reaches everywhere. But these thoughts remain unfamiliar to the generalization from which they take form: they are there as if banished. maybe since to him they seemed doomed to perpetuate universal misunderstanding. rather than someone who has written: henceforth. this atemporal reaction now a footnote to history. and seeking to clarify their meaning. with dialectical constructions. And it is true that these texts have often been translated with a peremptory decisiveness. something with which we should nonetheless not identify it. His thoughts waver between these two Claude-Edmonde Magny. Empedocles’s Sandals. 1943 Kafka wished to destroy his works. an obvious contempt for their artistic nature. Maybe this is what makes books such as The Trial and The Castle bizarre. But it is also true that Kafka himself gave the example by commenting at times upon his narratives. the priceless evidence of an exceptional destiny without which it would have stayed invisible. one begins to wonder if Kafka himself had been aware beforehand of such a disaster in such a triumph. that they let us return without end to a truth outside of literature. All three are sufficiently coherent and independent from their novelistic form to endure being transposed to purely intellectual terms 10. They give us someone who has experienced. Kafka’s thinking does not conform to a uniformly valid rule. Do not replace the unfolding of events that we must consider as a real story. like a public attraction. This contradiction may seem odd. was to disappear discreetly. these unpublishable books made the material of endless publications. but the Journal succeeded only in making us see Kafka as more than a writer. he does not transpose the story onto a plane that may make it more comprehensible to us. or the explanation of a universal truth. and the surveyor is.

Kierkegaard moved toward the heart of this conflict. Of the absurdity by which one attempts to size up this thinking from what he says of the wood louse. when they seem only to express its general meaning. if he exposed his secret in the open air. he hated both himself and his destiny. while Kafka could take neither side. you will at the same time have exterminated the notion of wood lice. and it is not nonsense. which cast it back at him.30 currents. and the meaning that haunts the narrative is the same thought pursuing itself across the incomprehensible like the common sense that reverses it. which never having been brought about. they pass. not because of an extreme refinement of intelligence. but because of a kind of innate indifference to secondhand ideas. The endless meanderings of thought. in quest of the meaning of these events. Madame Magny notes that Kafka never wrote a single platitude. and considered himself evil or condemned. If he concealed what was odd about him. It is beyond the law. described himself as a grouping of particularities. Then the narrative starts to combine with its explanation. The narrative is thought turned into a series of unjustifiable and incomprehensible events. in his attempt at autobiography. and mythic fiction whose wondrous developments are given to us by his works. and not succeeding in being either recognized or made obscure. As soon as thought faces the absurd. and this oscillation is also an attempt to escape oscillation. it was unrecognized by the community. it is not absolute solitude. it rightly pertains to a single person. As for allegory. we could say this: Only try to make yourself understood by the wood louse—if you succeed in asking it the goal of its work. toward the particularity whose closed character it must rupture. Those who remain with the story penetrate something opaque that he does not . and bad. )t sways between two extremes of solitude and the law. constitute a style of thinking that plays at generalization but is conceived only when caught up in the density of a world reduced to a particular moment. and although it complains at times of its insanity and containment. but Kierkegaard had taken the covert side. Kafka. good. because its law is this exile that is simultaneously its reconciliation. His thought cannot find rest in generality. and to no success. and above all. negative. the meaning that it places in motion meanders around the facts. they become essential in Kafka due to his reflection’s character. His style of thinking is actually quite banal. this meeting signifies the end of the absurd. Neither one nor the other can be had. and newly imposed the secret upon him. where an image that cuts the reflection starts again. for it has this nonsense as meaning. does not succeed in rushing past it. they wish to continue pursuing. endlessly throwing himself at the law. because it speaks of this solitude. such as positive. symbol." So all of Kafka’s works are doomed to speak of something particular. It is as if it were drawn by its own heaviness. and it does not arrive at the point of what it should be explaining. that is to say. the exact rigor of reasoning applied to a nonexistent object. undetected. but this is because it is not completely thinking. of silence and everyday speech. As soon as they become the transcription of a series of events that actually happened (as is the case in a journal). at times secretive and sometimes obvious. it is similar to a strictly individual story whose occurrences might be obscure events. will never again take place. It is singular. it uses abstract terms. but it is an explanation only if it is inseparable from them. It is an explanation only if it is freed from them.

Kafka discovered many paths to God. and what matters is the omnipresent awareness of our finitude and the unresolved mystery to which it reduces us. According to Max Brod. For another. an anxiety certainly more profound than the anguish over our fate. For another. and yet we agree to it. stays as much as possible at rest. and this laziness is betrayal. Jean Starobinski says: A man afflicted with a strange sorrow. Still the ambiguity does not satisfy us. candor. True reading remains impossible. and against which we wrestle (by reconciling opposite viewpoints)—and this effort is misleading. perhaps absurd. with themes infinitely laced with nuance. and their clarity. the possibility of reading inside the impossibility of interpreting this reading. But of whom do they speak? Some people have in mind a religious thinker who believes in the absolute and even hopes for it. their exemplary power. of morphing. Others think of a humanist who lives in a world without a cure. although the truth that awaits these writings is probably unique and simple. their capacity to string us along. Magny. let us fall. Their words are almost identical: the absurd. Whoever reads Kafka is thus made a liar. the desire for God. hope but not the hope of hope. the absence of God. And again: Nowhere can he be spoken of as though he had no final vision. and anguish. and others oriented otherwise. and there can never be one. yet struggles without end to attain it. the ambiguity is a subterfuge that grasps the truth in the mode of sliding. and we always understand more or less than is necessary. We pass through the immediate experience of an impersonation we believes we can elude. but not a complete liar.31 understand. which usually seems thematic. the impossibility of keeping oneself there. These two readers can never run into the other. Kafka found his main solace in atheism. How can Kafka depict this world that slips out of our grasp. contingency. in our steadfast trust in their meaning that does not allow us either to depart from or follow it. while those who hold onto the meaning cannot reunite with the darkness of which it is a light that gives it away. We cannot know for certain if we could understand Kafka better if we answered each assertion with an assertion that disrupts it. the misunderstanding and the expression of this misunderstanding. not because it is elusive but perhaps because we have too much to grasp? The commentators are not essential disagreeing. According to Mme. and assurance. interest. shrewdness. we exist in immanence. the will to make a place for oneself in the world. then the other. loyalty. and in order not to increase its chaos. we are one. Subtlety. there is indeed a world beyond. Contradiction does not rule in a world that excludes faith but not the pursuit of faith. there is neither a beyond or movement toward it. This is the anxiety unique to his art. (e wants health… so he believes in health. These texts reflect the discomfort of a reading that seeks to conserve the enigma and its solution. truth there below and beyond but not a call to a fully conclusive truth. It is true that to explain such a work by . negligence are equally the means to an error (deception) that is in the truth of the words. but it is inaccessible. this is how Franz Kafka appears to us… a man watching himself be devoured. Starobinski: There is no final word. and pick us up again. despair. And Pierre Klossowski: Kafka’s Journals are… the journals of a sick man who yearns for a cure. and perhaps evil.

Nothing is missing. and impregnated with the tormented spirit of an unhappy conscience. the radiance of a claim that cannot be realized. It is incorporated into the very meaning that it mutilates. and an infinite universe. a dead emperor the functionary represents in The Great Wall of China. but it is also true that his myths and fictions lack ties to the past. the mysterious possibility of appearing at times to have a negative meaning. by making him into a sort of superior Max Brod. For this reason it seems very strange to say of such a world that is does not know of transcendence. It exists due to being denied. and content of the reading. he is even more terrifying. religious. Transcendence is exactly this affirmation that can assert itself only by negation. not even the absence that is their goal: it is not a lacuna. Kafka’s entire work sets off on a quest of affirmation that it wants to gain by negation. he offers it the opportunity to become positive. a chance whose counter keeps being revealed. He himself speaks of religious knowledge— Knowledge is simultaneously a step leading to eternal life. a universe of injustice and wrongs. the impossibility of solitude. But this lack is not accidental. and an obstacle raised in front of this life —and this must be said of his work: everything there is an obstacle. For his death does not deprive him of his power. and seems to be a life that is in this way excluded from being an affirmation. The dead God has found in this work some kind of impressive revenge.32 referring to the historic and religious situation of the person who has written it. their meaning sends us back to elements that this past clarifies. It coincides with the representation of an absence that is neither tolerated nor rejected. but only a chance. This absence could explain the absence of certainty that makes them unstable. and in The Penal Colony. even those whose end outcome is without hope remain ready to be opposed to express as ultimate possibility. the entire work seems given in these minute developments that are abruptly interrupted. and is present due to its absence. or of his infinite authority and infallibility: dead. Few texts are graver. is an unsatisfying ruse. a universe that is forever closed. moreover. and the entre work is a fragment. an unknown triumph. and the impossibility of living with these impossibilities. they indicate a work from which nothing is missing. It is with a dead transcendence we are fighting. and sometimes a positive one. or true only in their disagreement. it is the inactive former Commander . The pages we read have the greatest fullness. but also a step ahead. but the sign of an impossibility that is present everywhere and never admitted: the impossibility of a communal existence. The world of Kafka is a world of hope and a world that is doomed. What makes our effort to read so anguished is not the coexistence of different interpretations. an affirmation that as soon as it pops forth. making affirmation newly possible. That is why we can be equally restricted by all the interpretations given to us. and is never fulfilled. more unconquerable. form. without changing the direction. is concealed. Kafka’s principal narratives are fragmentary. as if there were nothing more to say. but nonetheless. but we cannot say that they are all equal to each another. equally true or false. but rather. in a fight in which there is no longer any way of being defeated. it is for each theme. to problems that would certainly not be posed in the same manner if they were not already theological. indifferent to their object. In delving into the negative.

struggling with dead great foes. God is dead. its infinite politeness. and also essentially surviving. He has joyfully accepted life and joyfully accepted the end of life—once killed. In the course of a brief narrative entitled The (unter Gracchus. death—not life—in its truth? The ambiguity of this negation is tied to the ambiguity of death. We do not die. he said. so that despair also has a freeing quality that . night. he lay outstretched. this is the truth that the Western man has made a symbol of happiness. this double ambiguity that lends a bizarre quality to even the smallest actions of these characters. has not succeeded in reaching the beyond—and now he is both living and dead. of a survival of death that would compensate for this life. he awaited death in joy. that this nothingness may just be being. In this way death ends life. but it does not end our possibility of dying. This disaster is the impossibility of death: scoffing upon all of humankind’s great subterfuges. It does not arise only from this emptiness from which we are told human reality would emerge only to fall back into it. and that there might not be this nothingness. but our hope is also in living. It follows that we are never saved and also despairing no longer. But this survival is our true life. but also its softness. we are dead while alive. the disaster arrived. this existence is unfinished. not only with the mocking that accompanies it. and has sought to make tolerable by engaging its positive side. the person who can do nothing but condemn us to death because it is death contituting his power. There is no end. we keep on playing the game. a terrestrial fever has had its end.33 whom the torture machine constantly brings to life. From the moment we can depart from existence. with something that is finite and infinite. beings drowning in waters of who knows where. Kafka repeats: Deathbed lamentations are really what they are because one is not truly dead. not in the real sense of the word. which can only signify this more difficult truth: Death is not possible. as we see is true. Kafka tells the adventure of a Black Forest hunter who having succumbed to a fall in a ravine. it stems from fearing that even this refuge might be stripped from us. isn’t the supreme judge in The Trial dead. Then. As Starobinski writes. that of immortality. one no longer sees death being pursued. that they cause to be born again by pushing it away. in the familiar environment of ordinary things? Or are they living people struggling without comprehending the reason. nothingness. it is as real as an end to life and as illusory as an end to death. a particularly refreshing silence intervenes for a bit on earth for the dead. ready. and it cannot be fully experienced—our struggle to live is a blind one that does not know if it is struggling to die and is ensnared in a potential that becomes even less. with hope. And with even more clarity: Our salvation is death. but not this death. that they distance from as they seek it? For this is the origin of our anxiety. Like the hunter Gracchus. and no possibility of being finished with the day. Hence this ambiguity. as even for the living it is an occasion to catch one’s breath and open the window of the death chamber—until this relieving seems illusory and the pain and lamentations start. but due to this. We must thus content ourselves with this mode of dying. kept floating by the mistake of their previous death. a mistake that appears to have distanced. and silence. Our salvation is in death. we do not live either. are they dead people ending their death in vain. After a man’s death. with the meaning of things. Kafka wrote. it is hope that is the sign of our despair. and it is in some way our hope that makes us lost.

nonetheless. because he hopes. it is not true. They are also the ones that torture hope most tragically. . who obeys the unjustifiable and incontestable verdict of his father. and impossible.34 drives us to hope. for him. The theme of Metamorphosis illustrates the torment of literature whose subject is its own Achilles’ heel. the most anchored in absolute disaster. life goes on. He still struggles for his spot under the couch. there is no end. But what does he do? He continues living. and the young sister's gesture. no matter how fulfilled the catastrophe. Death overpowers us. )f night is abruptly questioned. but we must also despair of this frightening hope that he pursues without a goal. but do not really die. he gets closer to the absurdity and impossibility of living. not because hope is doomed. then there is no longer day or night. and we will never stop residing there. but overpowers only through its impossibility. abandoned in solitude—and yet it is almost a happy death. In this manner we must go on hoping along with him. her act of waking to life. but because it does not succeed in being doomed. We find it inadequate that God himself submits to his own verdict and succumbs to the most wretched collapse. He does not even try to escape his discontent. Turned into a pest. for the girl wants to live. an end of the sun and sun of the end. each story is able to signify its opposite—and the contrary of it as well—then we must seek the cause of what attracts us in the transcendence of death. we must still await his resurrection and the new arrival of the unfathomable justice that eternally condemns us to terror and consolation. and sinks into bestial solitude. which is sometimes the memory of day. for his mini-excursions on the coolness of the walls. and is nothing but an indeterminate. It is not enough that the son. ostracizes it forever. each image. Not despairing even of what you do not despair… This is precisely what we call living. and hope. his last hope. there is only the murky gleam of twilight. is the height of horror. in the void. existing is being condemned to falling continuously back into existence. and sometimes a longing for night. due to the feeling of deliverance that it represents. when to live is already the escape of what is inevitable. Gregor’s state characterizes someone who cannot depart from existence. and that not only means we are born My life is the hesitation before birth but also that we are absent from our death You talk on and on of dying. The infinitesimal margin continues. not letting us know if we are excluded from it (and this is why we seek inside in vain for a solid grasp) or whether we are forever shut in it (and hence we desperately turn toward the outside). Soon. for a life amidst filth and dust. Existence is interminable. which carries the reader off in a daze where hope and despair answer each other incessantly. Kafka's narratives are among the darkest of literature. this last hope is also torn away. an inward caving of scrap metal and human organs that is unheard. There is nothing more frightening in the whole story. We don’t know if this maintains hope or oppositely. unreal. by the new hope for an end that is now final. still without departing from its image. we are somewhere else. the calling of the sensual quality with which the story ends. he continued to live at a degenerate level. but into this unhappiness he brings his last resource. And then he dies an unbearable death. which deprives us of the single really absolute ending. If each word. It is the curse and it is revival. This existence is an exile in the strongest sense—we are not there.

in the derelict suburb where two men execute him without a word. "Death is before us. its light cannot be dimmed. It remains for us. "Kafka’s work is this painting that is death. Lastly. in The Trial dies. to reduce the light or even wipe away the painting with our actions. This condemns him to living.35 throws himself into the river in an expression of calm love for him: this death must be associated with the continuation of existence in the last sentence: "At this moment. he must still have his share of survival. That is why we understand it through disloyalty. of effacing it. However. and our reading nervously turns around misunderstanding. what is most tragic of all is that Joseph K. of the shame which the lack of limit assigned to him by a crime he did not commit. on the contrary. it shines superbly from the futile effort it made to be extinguished. following a parody of justice." where Kafka himself has affirmed the symbolic implications and precise physiological meaning of this sentence. . as well as dying. )t is not enough that he dies "like a dog. and it is also the act of obscuring it. the traffic on the bridge was literally mad. hanging on a classroom wall. a bit like the painting Alexander's Battle. exactly like death. from this life onward.

and himself. let’s not forget. mindful of ." At times it appears that Kafka offers us the chance to foresee the essence of literature. but not the possibility to write. only so that he could write a few words in his Journals. In the lengthiest sections of his Journals. for many writers of his time." – My opportunity to utilize my faculties and each possibility in whatever manner is fully in the realm of literature. But it is not necessary to start by judging the indignity of a theory that he did not even denounce. This obsession is impressive. He wanted to commit suicide. but to acquit a message. 1949 ) am nothing but literature. living stopped for him. the only ones worth exploring in themselves. we find the everyday struggle he needed to maintain against business. He does not have to create a work. and he derived his pride in claiming this title which the majority of today’s population despises. it demands an approach that is attentive to the whole of the work and to details. it would be more natural to acknowledge how he chose to attain his spiritual and religious destiny through literature. and. I hate. says Pierre Klossowski. when having become head of his father’s factory. Kafka sought with all his strength to be a writer. writing was not a matter of aesthetics. He questioned only his own ability to write. So be it. A strange activity it is: if it has a mediocre purpose (for example. states Jean Starobinski. --"Everything that is not literature is dull. but rather his salvation. if he could achieve it. The commentators want to keep wholly artistic concerns distinct. This was when in the real sense of the word. How can existence be entirely dedicated to an interest of laying out some number of words in a particular order? This is unclear. It is in the category of sanctity and not of literature.Kafka and Literature. admiring Kafka immediately follows from his condition as a writer. but he lived during the epoch of the expressionist avant-garde movement). It is odd that a man who made presumptions about nothing viewed words with a kind of confidence."Everything that does not concern with literature. does not belong here. Aesthetic meditation. Let us admit that for Kafka. and neither am ) capable or willing to be anything else. others." -. Having committed his entire life to art. he did not bear in mind the creation of a literary work as such. He did not feel threatened by what had become our worst threat (for us. but which he esteemed as the only thing that offered salvation. we are told. or the value of art itself. For many of his commentators. In his Journal and letters. )n Kafka’s situation. that of producing a well-written book). Max Brod notes. "I find my situation unbearable because it contradicts my unique desire and my unique vocation of literature.36 Chapter Three . He was able to ascribe an almost religious meaning to literature. the fulfillment of his life’s message. but we know it is really not so odd. he believed himself unable to write for two weeks. by viewing them as secondary to inward concerns. But then let’s look at what literature becomes. he saw it become vulnerable when his activity gave rise to another path. Kafka selected Goethe and Flaubert as his masters. He was driven to despair each time he thought he was impeded from becoming one. Kafka treated himself as a writer.

My work is a failure. and aware of the power of its words. all that one is able to grasp is that the will to destroy it may be incorporated into the . he thought. so let it be destroyed ? )n one sense. He is compromised. and be one to the end. To be bad. the artist alone has the right to make this decision. He might have wanted to destroy it simply because he considered it literarily imperfect. To master literature with the sole intent to sacrifice it? This assumes that what one sacrifices exists. Even the famous instances of total sacrifice in literature change nothing in this situation. is not a mere theoretical dream—it has the established name of automatic writing. As soon as he begins writing. even if they are bad. understood as an activity capable of being practiced without taking the means into account. and if someone wants to live on the top story. he is within literature and is there completely. is discipline… ) want to work with fervor. for three months on end. or inferior to the silence.37 the technique and composition. The writer cannot simply drop out of the game. and the people he met. and he finds it everywhere? Is it not rather the fact that he is practicing. but also an aesthete. Often he describes objects in detail. he must be a good artisan. But above all else he had the honesty to accept it in all its forms. That is his fate. Kafka asked more from literature. for that might be their very meaning. Pay no attention to my message. In his Journals. or unfaithful to the message he wishes to deliver. Why is this? )t is because. but what if he was not sure if he had a son. but if it aims higher (for example. and can come about by completely neglecting the very substance of which it is composed. Literature is not a multi-story house where each person chooses his place. but I do believe that one can force oneself to educate them. Let us note that this very idea of literature. How does one distinguish between the messenger who says. What ) am lacking. From the moment one begins writing. So he writes stories and novels. he describes the scenes in which he was present. and the artist who declares. and whoever tries to leave art to become a Rimbaud still remains incompetent in the silence. than many others have. We cannot even say that Kafka rejected his work because he deemed it morally bad. a seeker of words. ) don’t believe. the truth is able to be seen everywhere. It would be far too easy for someone who writes out of concern for life or morality. did not seem effective to me. and trying to learn? We know that he had studied Kleist’s icy style at length. of course. One must make it exist—to be a writer of literature. silence is not enough to make a writer more than a writer. he will never need to use the back stairs. one cannot do it without doing it well. So one must first believe in literature. and of images. he wrote to Pollack. with all its restraints. The messenger is not master of his words. to find himself immune to aesthetic considerations. and got more out of it. they are beyond his control. and that Goethe and Flaubert taught him to recognize the worth of a perfectly wrought form. that one can force oneself not to have children. and in one’s literary calling. Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son. and what he took for his son was really just a ram? And then. Today I know this is more than anything: art has more need of artisanship than artisanship has of art. as both artisanship and art. but precisely such a form has stayed unfamiliar to Kafka. as a task and privileged activity. as Max Brod claims. (e passes judgment on his work: The description of R. then its approach is free of all these conditions. in examining the very meaning of life).

Kafka himself said. spoke Zarathustra. but rather to some Phaedra by Nicholas Pradon11. We can imagine Racine writing under the limitation of a truth to seek. far from succumbing to it. but that in this dedication. they will still give birth to works that are masterpieces from only the aesthetic point of view. Hence the alibi for so many bloody words—there is no blood. Write with blood. What is strange is not only that so many writers believe their entire existence to be dedicated to the act of writing. which is exactly the point of view they denounce.38 message itself: the secret desire of speech is to be lost. performed two nights after Racine’s masterpiece on the same subject. the very people who wish to give a fundamental meaning to their activity. degrading) situation comes partly from his success: he claims to undergo great risk in his work. When he notes. to a disgust with the harmonious. But we have never seen anyone give up being a good writer. in short. We have seen others ready to destroy masterpieces because they seemed to betray themselves. or the need to go beyond literature by sacrificing it. a search implying the whole of our condition. the creation of a work well done. The image is undoubtedly dramatic: the writer emerges from his work. A Rimbaud never became a Sully-Prudhomme. to a refusal of perfection. his own way of missing it was to write? Innumerable texts demonstrate that he attributed an immense importance to literature. . This is the problem. There is no Caligula for the writer. continued being a good poet. His overbearing (and for some. all the scoffing words about those with pen in hand. but this desire is vain and speech is never lost. the true form of his command? But how did he come by this half-certainty that while he might not fulfill his fate. he gets out of it with an admirable work that aggrandizes his existence. out of fidelity to his inner existence. and disengage themselves. Moreover. not to the silence of Phaedrus. to separate themselves from existence. The immensity of the world ) have in my head… Better to explode a thousand times than to suppress it. Why did a man like Kafka feel lost if he did not become a writer? Was that his calling. How strange! Even Hölderlin. ) will not give way to weariness. but rather go on writing more and more badly. lose interest in it. but it is merely an image. and ) haven’t the least doubt about this. and this creation forces them. and you will learn that blood is mind. his face slashed with cuts. succeed only in carrying this activity through to the end by reducing it to the superficial meaning they exclude. to death from banality and stupidity (only Flaubert sometimes makes us think of this suicide). but he never condemned himself to the emptiness of mediocre language. ) will dive completely into my story. in his madness. even if ) gash my face. or bury it in me. for that is the reason )’m here. and continue writing because it was necessary. One can also imagine him being led by this search to a sort of asceticism. but the risk he runs is perhaps no risk at all. Hence. in the least momentarily. Camus’s Caligula has the heads cut off of people who do not share his artistic sentiments. But it is the opposite which is true: one writes with the mind and one thinks that one is bleeding. too. And Kafka could condemn his work. We have seen writers relinquish writing out of disliking it. was used against Racine by his enemies. he expresses again in his usual way the urgency of a creation that blindly 11 The interior dramatist’s play.

even in this perspective. or even at a time when he feels locked up and enveloped. but insignificant words The particular kind of inspiration in which ) find myself… is such that ) [can do] everything. One could even dream of seeing it develop into a new form of Kabbalah. )n another passage: brave. That is a work which will likely not be finished. he himself is responding to this other. to write (e looked out the window is already to be more than oneself. goes with another… My doubts surround each word even before ) can make it out. and surprising. powerful. as ) am usually only when ) write. he is dissolved. to the limits of what is human in general. this difficulty surpasses everything which is possible. and my monotonous. and not only what is intended for a definite work. but with the resolve not to get burned by it. Kafka’s trust in literature was still remarkable. All the same. word by word. he feels his creation bound.39 clamors to be released. a hunt that by opposing forces of solitude and language. the most aware. Usually. Not one word. due to the amorphous contents of his mind. turning toward those moments when confusion shuts out all language. and thus necessitates a return to a language that is most precise. Writing causes him to exist I have found meaning. which is what one experiences. In solitude. If he writes. it’s not the quality of the words that matters. he can discover through this method some nearby possibilities that he had previously overlooked. sometimes perceiving inside me something like the mewing of a kitten. (ave listened to myself from time to time. Kafka found it immensely tough to express himself. darker reflection: Our art is to be blinded by truth: the light on the grimacing . and the furthest removed from vagueness and confusion—to literary language. provided language can grasp it. but the possibility of speaking that is at stake. and recreates and regenerates himself. a new secret doctrine from centuries past that could recreate itself today and begin to exist starting from and beyond itself. Kafka lets us understand that he has the capacity to unleash latent forces from himself. when ) write. Kafka was not very good at living. naked. He rarely lingers on the inadequacy of art. why does one write?—And not an important work. the main point remains to be explained. something important can rise from his confusions. to his life. When ) arbitrarily write a sentence like this: (e looked out the window. This text tends to reduce literary activity to a means of compensation. The drama is that at such a moment it is nearly impossible for him to speak. It is most often his own existence that he feels is at stake within literature. In this case. he lived only when he wrote. its skill consists of finding a place in the void where the ray of light focus most powerfully. My powers are not enough for even the most insignificant sentence. It seems that literature means trying to speak at the moment when speaking becomes most difficult. empty and misled. but at the same time. This dissolution makes his solitude very risky. We have said that in the midst of general impossibility. but it is surprising enough that it could be thought possible. without knowing beforehand the location of the light’s source itself. what )’m saying is that )’ve made this word up! At this stage. the writer can believe that he is creating his spiritual possibility for living . leads us to the extreme limit of this world. )f art flies around truth. Literature then becomes an assault on the frontiers. but at present. this sentence is already perfect . bachelor life is justified… )t is the only path that can allow me to progress. for that we want to understand it.

the possibility of everything—harmonious words. and seems ready to recognize in it the evidence of a strange force. it is a form of darkening. and this disgrace is not mitigated. scandalous. Everything happens as if we were in the presence of a truth. it is the necessary path. the more the bad . the more gifted I am in making my unhappiness felt by description. My state of unhappiness signifies an exhaustion of my strength. before being acquired. (This state of dissolution. there is the impossibility of everything—living. I do not transform it. either by causing the magnificence of life to float up from the depths by the magic power of the right word. existing. but it is also is the only thing that prevents us from raising ourselves. silence and the void seem to exist only to be filled. The more luck I possess. great harrowing states in which he believed himself to be exceeding his limits and reaching universal ones. afterward. without knowing if it presupposes or provokes it. At times Kafka is captivated like so many others by the mysterious nature of this transformation. That is its impersonation. The notion of spirits and magic explains nothing by itself. thinking. perhaps lets us understand why art can only succeed where knowledge fails because it is and is not true enough to become the way. but this presence is not one. so be on your toes. From the side of sadness. it is a warning that says: There is something mysterious here. it is the insurmountable obstacle. I assert a negation and yes. that is to say. of which we spoke before. Art is an as if. which does not create. and further. and images. from the side of writing. by expressing my sadness. a possibility of attaining a flash through the dark. This is the mystery: ) am unhappy. but invokes. like a sword in the hands of spirits.40 face as it pulls back. and to a certain point. in which our downfall appears to be our salvation. the extraordinary is assigned to the level of language. art should be a reflection of religious knowledge. Knowledge of oneself (in the religious sense) is one of this means of our condemnation: we raise ourselves up thanks only to it. and vice versa. Furthermore. if our art is not light. ) am unhappy. Art claims knowledge when knowledge is a step leading to eternal life. (ow is this possible? The possibility is strange. whose commentaries strive to bring the friend he lost closer to himself. but also realized each one of them. embellishments. but it is also its greatest dignity.) In any case. Illumination may then be related to this special linguistic activity in practice. that alone is true and nothing else. or by turning against the person who is writing. It changes its meaning and its signs. *According to the pious Max Brod. by asserting it. to see while blind. he relates having experienced (at times) illuminating states. is vague as well: there is dissolving from the impossibility of speaking while still visible to speech. but he adds. )t was not in this state that ) wrote my best works. so ) seat myself at the desk and write. It destroys itself while surviving. the same thing that justifies the saying Writing is a form of prayer. This ancient idea from Kabbalah. And even that definition is not without hope: it is already something to lose sight of. felicitous images. and too unreal to change into an obstacle. and it claims non-knowledge when knowledge is an obstacle drawn up in front of its life. I communicate by the greatest luck the most complete disgrace. art went further than knowledge. Throughout his literary activity. states during which ) lived entirely in each idea. accurate exposition. related to solitude. that is why it does not forbid us to go forward. On sometimes has the completely different impression that for Kafka.

language is real because it can project itself toward non-language. If language and in particular. With no doubt. As long as ) write nothing else. )n the text on which we have just commented. )n order to write a story. it would be impossible. but it is really possible only because of its impossibility. but makes it exist on another level. and in order to live) as soon as he had sensed that literature was the movement from Ich to Er. one makes it authentic only by searching for it in all directions.S. that Kafka had experienced the fecundity of literature (for himself. The ) am unhappy is unhappiness only when it grows more dense in this new world of language. The Judgment. It is as if the possibility that my writing represents essentially exists to express its own impossibility—the impossibility of writing that constitutes his sadness. There must always be inside it. but that of the physical reality of words that represent the mayhem of the world that suffering claims to be. since it is this movement toward its impossibility. it seems that something even more curious is happening. In other words. which it is and does not actualize. this object must exist. Kafka writes: ) could never understand that it was possible. ) am too near to myself. but in order to give birth to a work that is independent and complete. which anticipating its nothingness. that is. too near to my unhappiness. it must be a constantly indeterminate totality of determined relations. particularly to Claude-Edmond Maguy. and survives. where it takes a form. for his life. The word objectify attracts our attention because literature tends specifically to construct an object. did not throw itself eagerly toward its death. not represent it. It does not express it. particularly literary language. Eliot. to objectify pain while in pain. since it is this movement towards its impossibility that is its nature and foundation. that he had succeeded in constructing an objective correlative from his originally incommunicable feelings. So it isn’t enough for me to write I am unhappy. It objectifies pain by forming it into an object. It is. first of all. chased by it but outrunning it. Not only can it not be put in parentheses. granting it a physical reality that is no longer that of the body. Such an object is not necessarily an imitation of the transformations that pain makes us live through: it shapes itself to present pain. it would not be possible. or accommodate it without destroying it or being destroyed by it. That is the great discovery of the first important narrative that he wrote. and she adds that it is a question of a kind of self-annihilation which the artist consents to. says Madame Maguy. ) do not have the time to stretch myself in all directions as ) should. descends. becomes lost. is obscured. from ) to (e.41 luck reported by this misfortune is respected. and we know that he commented on this event in two ways to bear witness to this overwhelming encounter with the possibilities of literature and to elucidate to himself the connections this work allowed him to make clear. This regret by Kafka shows us the character of literary expression: it radiates in all directions and indicates the character of the movement pertaining to any literary creation. And yet. taking up an expression from T. it is this movement. literary language did not constantly hurl itself eagerly at its death. determines its potential to be this nothingness without actualizing it. for almost anyone who wanted to write. not for the sake of inner progress. pushed everyplace by pulling it everyplace. this excess that we cannot take into account. as in everything that exists. If language. It seemed remarkable to several commentators. for this unhappiness to really become .

but this deliverance signifies that there is nothing more to deliver. saying nothing is a manner of expressing oneself. considered loyal to the essence of language. Language is possible because it strives for the impossible. China’s Great Wall was not completed by its builders. and leads them to the temptation of the blank page. All these solutions are illusory. to resist the tendency of everything that was stated to become definitive. This explains. What is most striking is that this struggle (without which there is no language. where it cannot be comforted. and neither was the narrative The Great Wall of China finished by Kafka. Poetry is deliverance. and its illegitimacy throws us back into speech. at every level. He is unhappy. a suicide which haunts them but cannot be achieved. It is not possible that this villain is himself. Neither is there any pause from the struggle which cannot state anything without correcting itself—and neither is there any in that of silence. certain contradictions arise. but writing prevents him from writing. Then. Furthermore. something else must be said. We have noted that language is real only from the vantage point of a state of non-language. There is no rest. I am not yet truly unhappy. it neither remains nor disappears. Language cannot actualize itself by staying mute. or the madness of a world lost in pettiness. or authentic research. so it is himself in his most intimate and irreducible nature. The cruelty of language comes from its endless depiction of its death. why Kafka’s tales are myths. literature. that does not exist before its object as unpredictable in its forms as the act it overturns) is seen in Kafka’s very style. in part. Inherent in language. is a relation of struggle and anxiety from which it cannot be released. or literature. Then. that language begins to form into a language that is unhappy for me.) From the impersonal and mythological narrative. Kafka cannot prevent himself from writing. and he begins once more. where. I will feel involved. But we must recall that it is a reminder to all forms of the expression of their inefficacy. while the impossibility of ever ending is only the impossibility of continuing. without ever being able to die. foreign to itself. The fact that the work is connected with the theme of failure by its own failure. His effort is as endless as his passion lacks hope—merely. extraordinary narratives out of the range of the plausible and realistic: it is because he expresses himself in them by this incalculable distance. It is only from the moment I arrive at this strange substitution. not at the level of the sentence and not at that of the entire work. to slip into the unfathomable world of things. he interrupts himself. . pacified. outlining and gradually depicting the world of sadness as it takes place in him. or pleased. it is within words themselves that the suicide of words must be attempted. something else must be said once again. the impossibility of recognizing himself in them. perhaps.42 my own in the form of language. and that I have become involved in another in whom ) no longer find myself. and this style is often its manifestation which is almost fully revealed. must be seen as a sign of discomfort that is at the heart of all literary designs. but lasts without the possibility of lasting. but which alone is not enough to guarantee research. As soon as something is said. a world in which I and it are both lost. the absence of hope sometimes turns into this tireless hope. which it cannot realize: it is the reaching towards a dangerous horizon where it tries in vain to vanish. or language. and my unhappiness will be felt by the world from which it is absent. What is this non-language? )t isn’t necessary to elucidate it here.

he hoped to capture something. By the fact that Kafka’s words attempt an unquestionable regression into the infinite. not even a presence. It seems confused with its emptiest possibility. the language here appears to exhaust its resources and to have no other aim than being pursued at any price. the one you move to the bone. nothing but a breath. What is this. no prayer. and in an impossibility that may be more than impossibility. and not even a breath. Literature is the site of contradictions and controversy. But when the words stop. Kafka’s language would try to maintain a questioning method. No. it turns toward and away so often. a beyond of failure. nothing but a prayer. around which secondary statements are arranged. constitute a negative structure. so sure of his literary vocation. while partial reservations are suggested. Having reached the end. and each of them. not even a thought. by annulling the very being of the person who questions. He had . we have renounced limits. which are oddly constructed. its only purpose were to reproduce its torsion. and at last we must give up what is unlimited. nothing but the tranquility of sleep. as much as of pressing against the void. bound to one another other. and yet he cannot be content with it or stick to it. so that they support it as a whole. for this possibility is language. parallel to the central one. It is everything to him. which continues on and terminates at the same time. without wanting to enter through the open door. the one whom. we don’t know if we are grasping the outside or the inside. the assertion is simultaneously developed and fully withdrawn. you are calling from the street! )n truth. They desperately continue in the sole hope of an answer. feels guilty due to everything he sacrifices toward it to exercise it. The writer who is most bound to literature is also the one who most driven to detach himself from it. and they can only continue by making any answer impossible—and what’s more. Each reservation leads to another that completes it. as if. Or once more: Nothing but a word. they give the impression of leaping beyond themselves in a dizzying manner. The Messiah will arrive only when he is no longer needed. he will come only a day after his arrival. we have hope neither for an actualized infinity nor for the assurance of something completed.43 We know of these developments. and this is also why it appeared to us to have such tragic fullness. nothing but a proof that you are still alive and waiting. whether we are in the presence of the building or the hole into which the building has disappeared. nothing but a thought. too. One believes in a beyond of words. frustrated by everything and realizing itself only by the movement of a dispute that finds no more to challenge. and not on the last day. Kafka. Generally. the one at whose door you bumble. nothing but a breath of air. It is impossible to know in what direction thinking faces us. but the very last. nothing but a presence. as if under the cover of something that escapes yes or no. like a weight hanging on a string. especially in the Journals. and thus gives us hope again. But the questions repeat themselves in delineating themselves. Driven toward the limitless. then? Who then moves away under the trees on the bank? Who then is completely abandoned? Who can no longer be saved? On the grave upon which the grass grows? Or What troubles you? What moves you to the bone? Who is bumbling at the latch of your door? Who calls you from the street without entering through the door which is open? Ah! It is precisely the one you trouble. they increasingly throw aside what they seek. There is a main statement. damaging their possibility.

and this sacrifice. and our people will soon rise from this loss. God does not want me to write. He will try all the solutions. in vain. more or less deficient. even silence and action. that nothing more was written. and in the identical manner. and his art will suffer for it. and he himself will actually die while correcting the proofs for this one last book. his decadence is nothing but a little episode in the eternal unconsciousness of our people. Kafka has yet to write another piece of literature. art is the site of anxiety . or even. it has been shown us that any writer who feels contempt for literature pays for it by a multiplied return to literary mediums. condemning the good. engaging oneself in the manner of irresponsibility. In this sense. Writing is putting one’s existence into question. and. and it will become more sacred even than the temple itself. the world of values. like the sky. It sacrifices itself. but when it is up to me. writing in the process of preventing oneself from writing. the chief resources of his people in facing the calamities that strike them. literature is in cahoots scheming with its threat. I must. enriches it with new strengths. but builds? This conflict adds on top of all the ones we have seen in these pages.44 the obligation to conform to the law (notably in getting married). this engagement is performed all the same upon the mode of disengagement. and the unhappiness is greater than you can imagine. even—who cares. Literature can only contest itself. when destruction does not destroy. He should have sought God by participating in the religious community. Recently. the person who places himself in the role of writing is already quite lost. he demonstrates how as the artist. What was formerly justification turned into sin and condemnation. so deeply engraved that the sacrilege will last a while. Art resembles the temple from which The Aphorisms speak. This apology signifies clearly that even at its peak. far from making it disappear. will be nothing more than modes. perish. In this manner. this threat is ultimately plotting the same way with literature. to a certain measure. Everything. believed himself to be the soul of his community. of art. (e knows that one cannot write redemption. How can one destroy. And then writing is handling the impossibility of writing. searching for the good. one can only live it. but this challenge re-gives it to itself. and in place of this he wrote. It has no rights. to be silent. art has no rights before action. but rather he made himself content this form of prayer that is writing. but writing is always seeking to write well. But he can no longer interrupt his task without believing from then on that it is by interrupting it that he will become lost. There are perpetually highs and lows. Writing is engaging oneself. like the living magic of which Kafka speaks. but on each stone can one find the engraving of a sacrilegious inscription. he will not be released from his portion of work and communal responsibility. where he will only free himself at the very request of art: the renouncing of tragedy by Racine makes up a part of tragedy—and at the same time. )t is. but writing is naming. but when everything is said and done. One sees for a while already. It is this action that becomes literary. God is strongest. One will soon discover that when literature sees to make itself forget its gratuity by affiliating itself seriously with political or social action. The proof of it is that to announce it to us. From outside and inside. but writing is also disengaging the self. when destruction is the same as what it destroys. Nietzsche’s madness or Kleist’s death. to be an echo only for the mute. Never had construction been edified so easily. )n the story Josephine. but the conscience of this illegitimacy does not resolve the conflict.

. Its other name is happiness and eternity. of dissatisfaction and security. infinite dissolution. It bears a name: self-destruction.45 and complacency.

works he had just begun. as far as it is strong enough to be despairing. But despair cannot determine anything. one must repeat what they have said to every twenty-six-year-old man. which has invited nothing and diverted everything. thanks to his decisive moments. because he "fears these 12 Almost all the quoted texts in the pages that follow are taken from the complete edition of Kafka’s Journals. Zionism." but rather: "You are in despair?" and no one can state: "I write. a scrupulous friend. Kafka’s passion is also purely literary. and even for us. No one can say to oneself: "I am in despair. and immediately withdrawn its pen from the one who writes." but simply: "Do you write? Yes? You wrote something?" Kafka's case is troubled and complex12. The book by G. Such is his essential value. In revenge. Janouch (Conversations with Kafka. along with an evolution that is difficult to clarify. Until 1912. and sometimes his books. at the closest to its beginning. interruptions.46 Chapter Four . in the tendency of serving it. often feared troubling his friends with the expression of a truth that was not disappointing except for him. but it also seems that he can do nothing about it. for we know that the majority judges him very differently because of what they believe of him. but not always so.Kafka and the Exigency of the Work. of a devastating plenitude. he is sure that Kafka. it results in obscure conflicts even for him. This signifies that the two movements have nothing in common but their own indeterminacy. His preoccupation of salvation is quite immense. However. Janouch knew Kafka in 1920 in Prague. Thus it is not merely a "Journal" in the sense that one would understand it today. deprived of time. and as literature never accepts becoming average. He has noted almost immediately the conversations that he relates and Brod has confirmed the fidelity of such an echo. This reproduces thirty notebooks in fourths from 1910 to 1923. Max Brod affirms that he had not done several deletions which were insignificant. meditations on dreams. given that his works do not persuade him of his gifts. the Journal lacks all this. and despairing to the point of being uncompromising. but the same movement of the experience of writing. but they have also without doubt been edited to sugarcoat his thoughts for the end of not rendering them corrupting to the young soul. has not revealed to us almost any of his opinions about grand subjects which might have interested him. where he speaks also of the future of the world as he does of Jews' problems. Kafka. and not all the time. Kafka has written down everything that was important to him—events from his personal life. The Journal (which completes the Will of Voyages). re-beginnings. . Kafka becomes a stranger to us. where the youth. the trusting spontaneity have reached Kafka. he had lacked reason to doubt them. in the essential sense that Kafka has amended to give to this word. writing would not have its source in "true" despair. and thus have nothing in common except the interrogative mode with which one can only grasp them. This does not signify that he does not say what he thinks. But it is no longer lost in literature. the naïveté. translated into French under the title: Kafka m'a dit) permits us on the contrary to understand Kafka in the happenstance of more mundane conversations. Journals. The Young Kafka Kafka has not always been the same. determined by despair. but which is nonetheless clarified for us. which Kafka knows. One must say thus that after 1923. religious forms. has destroyed a great number of his notes. 1958 Someone takes it upon himself to write. in order not to deceive through the medium of the spoken word. 1910). which brings him out of himself by an exigency that carries no other name. The Journal speaks of Kafka in this anterior stage where there are no opinions and Kafka is barely there. where he does almost nothing. and persuade him less of his direct knowledge of wild forces. since it passes once again through. (ölderlin’s passion is pure poetic passion. This preoccupation certainly passes with a surprising constancy through literature and for quite a long time is confused with it. We ignore the destroyed manuscripts at his request by Dora Dymant which may have included the course of his will: it is very probable. And after 1923. At the same time. but rather that he sometimes states thoughts that are not very profound. his desire to write is very great. It is from this viewpoint that the Journal should be read and questioned. for "it has always and immediately exceeded its goal" (Kafka.

and often to his sisters. he reads this novel to his friends. His sleep is troubled. Until 1912. Kafka is similar to every young man in whom a joy in writing is awakened. At the least it is so today" (November 1911). to let himself overcome it. Besides a few exceptions. he did not entirely dedicate himself to literature. A certain part of his solitude shows that Kafka still skips around it. for the strangest ideas. a young writer like the others. had I never been disturbed by the business trip" (January 19. physical forces. solitude. the conflict remains. when illness gives him leisure. perhaps I am definitely lost. aggravated. and lacks the proof that he will also demonstrate himself. He perceives this very quickly.. in allowing it to be deployed in the vocal space that his great gifts from the reader give him the ability to evoke. It would have been much better. a great fire is ready. "(This need to read to his friends. the night he writes The Verdict in one stroke. The Conflict This last line alludes to the conflict where Kafka faces himself and breaks down. as indicated by this note from the Journals: "Max and I function differently. The Journal --at the least until 1915-. and which I feel painfully to the very depths of my being. But even if one gives "all his time" to the demand of work. It is all the more a prelude. a work approaching crossed by hopeless remarks. that for everything. for it never has to do with dedicating time to work. That he was. he never finds proof in his work that he can truly write. This is not literary vanity---as much as he himself denounces it--." Thus in many respects. Outward circumstances are certainly unfavorable for him. in my view. but of spending another kind of . a family. also belongs to the mediocre realm. 1912 brings him. and it would be futile to believe that the remaining conflict could disappear due to a better organization of things. giving himself this excuse: "I cannot risk anything for myself as long as I have not succeeded in a greater work. capable of satisfying me fully. in which they appear and disappear. which the night of September 22." or later: "Great aversion for The Metamorphosis.47 moments of exaltation as much as desiring them. Of The Metamorphosis. even to his father. he says: "I find it bad. of passing one’s time by writing. Almost radically imperfect.. Illegible end. a reading that confirms it: ) have tears in my eyes. to a concession that is repugnant to me. But this knowledge is not one of his ability being his own. As much as I admire his writings when they are before me as if totally inaccessible to my attention and anyone’s attention. changed in form. The world gives him time. but disposes of it. what he has to write. as much as each sentence that he writes for Richard and Samuel seems to me related. He will never completely renounce everything. The undoubtable characteristic of history was confirmed. where he fantasizes about suicide because he lacks time: time. He belongs to the world and should belong to it. He has a profession. and silence. 1914). Kafka knows that he can write. by which he has recognizes his vocation.) Henceforth. "everything" still isn’t so. the inquietude exhausts him. along with certain exigencies. in some sense." This achievement and proof.. draw him out. and he must work evenings or nights. but a need to physically hurry against his work." A bit later. Later. There are no favorable circumstances. is seen most strikingly in the novel that he begins to write in collaboration with Brod. and which relates him decisively to this point where it seems that "everything can be expressed.

One has compared Kafka’s story and engagement to that of Kierkegaard. on the other hand. extended—and nonetheless captured. this. to have a family and children. "Writing is not possible except like this.. Kierkegaard can renounce Regine. but he also needed less of the world. reveals to us impressive fragments. the desire of a "normal" life. It is later his fiancée.B. one lacks more time.. the story is unleashed. A bit later. and not been achieved. and thus another fragment: "How. the engagements were undone.." And later (December 8. nor consent to write "in small doses in the incompleteness of separate moments... At first the world constitutes his family where he bears constraints with difficulty. Here." We have the first explanation of several narratives abandoned where his Journal. Kafka needed more time. when. which the torment of having wounded someone close to him gave a heartbreaking strength. if he also abandons the security of an upright life. Kafka cannot write.. Quite often. "Everything which was for or against my marriage. but at first Kafka does not find them in the time he disposes of the understanding which would permit the story to evolve. can I establish a story capable of taking flight?" It is such that not having been mastered. he can renounce the ethical stage: the access to a religious stage is not a compromise. entering a contradiction that Kafka’s religious situation aggravates. places himself under the law. When one has all the time. and everything would have been forced to be modified. except in all directions. I will never be alone again. it would not have been worse. But this. has less value and I am condemned by my lifestyle to this lesser value. but is rather made possible." During his engagement in Berlin: "I was related to a criminal. When he inevitably analyzed his new engagement with F. and without the ability to ever free himself. a work so complete in body and soul. having written a line.. sometimes it is pursued during several pages. with an always great tension. the conflict takes a new appearance.. but the aspiration remained.48 time where he is no longer working.. This is revealed to him the night of September . and deprives himself of the sun and the path where he needs . anything I have done is nothing but a result of solitude. if one had placed me in a corner with true chains. in its current state. as it wishes. thus. then reunites with the night where it arrives and painfully retains something that has failed to bring it the day. And this would have been my engagement. There are many good reasons. and friendly outward circumstances have become this act— hostile—where there are no longer circumstances. for it rapidly attains coherence and density and is nevertheless captured at the end of page. goes astray. his essential desire to accomplish the law which wants the human to realize his destiny in the world. in parting from fragments. not having been raised in the proper space where the need to write must be simultaneously repressed and expressed. with gendarmes before me. he has re-grasped in its fullness the limitless movement which drives him to write. it is literature. to belong to his community. where one enters the fascination and solitude of the absence of time. "history" doesn't come further than such lines." he always faced this exigency: "My unique aspiration is my unique vocation. history is never but a fragment. Kafka. and is affirmed. broken and renewed. in continuity. But the conflict is different. and unaffiliated with the course of a greater share of the night and all the night. of being approached from this point where time is lost. 1914): "Seen afresh that everything which is written in fragments.

What is asked of Abraham. where he is lost for others and for himself. and this laugh is the form of Kafka's pain). without love or relationships." he writes to G." and Kafka: "My incapacity to think. emerges the profundity which substitutes possibility of a greater creation for destruction. sacrificing his only son. Very similar once again to Hölderlin. if. he never placed himself in the cause of the absolute exigency of poetic speech out of which. he could not devote to something he loves. using the same words. This is the eternal question of Abraham. anxious of making of Kafka a man without anomaly. "alone as Franz Kafka. He could not commit to a determined role. at least by late 1800. the least often and for a while--the sole activity which could justify it." But why could this work save him? It seems Kafka has precisely recognized in this terrible state of dissolving himself. and his people. Or Abraham. but to sacrifice God himself: The son is the future of God on earth.. the center of gravity of the demand of writing. notice. to the point of being alike. and makes his existence a celibate existence.. He loves precisely what he cannot conform to. because he seeks to confuse the exigency of the work with the exigency which could carry the name of his salvation. Where he feels destroyed until in the depths. hope always equal to great despair. a threatening solitude in him and emerging from him. for it is time which is. Even Brod. the Promised Land. I am lost "(July 28. The problem is also such that he steals it and steals from his indecision which seeks to sustain it. recognized that he was sometimes as absent as a dead man. and like the one who understands that from this experience. I become stony.. When he does not write. A marvelous return. 1914). Hölderlin: "I am numb. it is. he neglects the law. However. Kafka is not only alone. a purposeless path perhaps capable of corresponding to this pathless purpose which is the only thing he failed to await. a possibility of plenitude.. is not only to sacrifice his son. For Kafka. In a certain sense. The beyond is Isaac. everything is more troubled. Janouch.49 to be. remember. but rather the dissimulation of the oblivion of the law. If I do not save myself in work. Salvation in Literature "If I do not save myself in a work. he had been asked to sacrifice daughters? One cannot take it seriously. he withdraws a movement of . in truth. The proof for Kafka is heavier and everything which makes it light (what would be the proof for Abraham. I am stony. If writing condemned him to solitude. one can only laugh. to complain of themselves. by all means. and take part in life with others becomes greater each day. a conflict which he resents with all his might. within the distress and the weakness where this movement is inseparable. cold. lacking sons. should sacrifice temporal existence and the sacrificed time will not be certainly made to him in the eternity of the beyond. but of a sterile solitude. and petrifying coldness which he calls habit and which seems to have been the great danger that he dreaded. the true and single sojourn of the chosen people of God. Writing becomes thus. The community is no longer anything but a phantom and the law which speaks once again in it is not even the forgotten law. observe. and in part breaks him. once again. Other writers are known for similar conflicts: Hölderlin fought against its mother who wished to see him as a pastor. he no longer possessed exigency. the future of God in temporal existence. and writing thus seemed to him-.

of even if he would have found it there. but it does not matter. But in 1916." what he expresses in more naive and stronger manner in these terms: "I have today a great desire pulling anxiously in me.. but something simpler and more immediately pressing: "the hope of not sinking or more precisely of sinking more quickly from himself is also of grasping himself at the last second. Solitude does not bring anything but punishments. 1913)." But Kafka is already sick." Change of Perspective It is still the onset of the war. he could have renounced his single vocation for love of a desert where he would find the security of a justified life-." . It is the unfortunate situation in general which. and the dream is nothing but a dream. the movement and deepening of writing. This change is never affirmed. in his Journal." -. he himself remarked they are nothing more than broken attempts. which also comes from profundity. but this doesn’t matter. supreme exigency of writing. subordinating everything to this single. at all costs: it is my struggle for survival. will clarify existence differently for the writer in him. for the vow which is its center shows how much Kafka has progressed from "I will write despite everything" in July 31. finding some moments to write. The work becomes then. or of placing it in writing. the effort of creation "which could be related. A duty more pressing than all others." a project which will not happen immediately. I would write in spite of everything.50 faith that he will not put into question voluntarily. from introducing it to the profundity of my paper. Of all the tentative situations in which he dedicates himself in order to orient his life differently. which leads to the note of July 9 4 with these remarkable words. He says to Janouch: "I dream of departing for Palestine as a laborer or agricultural worker. At this moment writing is not a call. K. but even more so the open crisis of his engagements. despite radii 13 Kafka adds: "This is not an artistic desire. I embraced everything in a single view!" (November 27. this hope will not completely be denied. little by little. during the stroll. to his life. 114.. )t is the general mobilization. and we never know if like another Rimbaud. yesterday. Later. despairingly toward his one goal. and P. he seriously thinks of joining the pioneers of Zionism and leaving for Palestine. he once again tries passionately. If serious that he could change. of such a sort that I could entirely introduce the written thing in me" (December 8. it is to engage himself. like a means of psychological salvation (still spiritual). which it to attracts to him so that he withdraws it from himself. but there are certain indicators in the situation in the meantime: in 1914. above all in his young years. in the notes of this genre: "The firmness which brings me the lesser writing is indubitable and marvelous. Now I receive the salary of solitude. word by word. if he asks once again for a hiatus. the difficulties that he encounters. obtaining fifty days of hiatus which will be used for nothing but writing. for example."Everything. the attention to a grace accompanying an obscure and prophetic accomplishment."You would abandon everything here?" -. to find a full life of meaning in security and beauty. and doesn’t result in a decision. are called. and one always found it in every epoch. "The immediate duty is without condition: becoming a soldier. The glance with which. It is despite its pain a salary. for it is nothing but a slightly distinct perspective. ) am a bit touched by all this misery and more resolute than ever. 1911) 13.

. that is to development being achieved in myself not having any more to sacrifice. In 1922. carpentry. and. everything is directed toward it. One can compare this to two notes. Germanic etudes. as far as I could see it. eating. music. but a lightness. 1922). It was unreasonable to take absolute affirmations from passing notes that contain them. or engagements. literature. It seems to us the same toward the more rigorous and more just end. that one cannot ever forget how he never ceased to write. It suffices to reject the work of the office-. of drinking. an insouciance that is still sensible. It remains that the inward difference is great. the first is from January 1912: "I must recognize within me a quite heavy concentration in literary activity. saving him from insanity. everything was worse than what was represented by my effort to go further" (January 13. before all else. violin. those which are for the object of pleasures of sex. When my body takes note that writing was the most fecund direction of my being. There needed to be something besides a community of intentions which are not possible. languages. The conversation of all this is clear. he listed projects he saw as failures: piano. 1914): "Seen from the point of view of . that one that certainly committed no outside errors in saying that. What is the source of this difference? Speech will make itself master of the inward life of the infinitely reserved man. which becomes for us The Castle. that he can lose without losing everything. attempts at marriage. gardening. where he is already perhaps the citizen of another world where he must fight not only with himself. Kafka senses himself banished from this real world. Writing appeared to him as no more than a means of fighting. ten years later. exercises of right. always from the vantage point of evidence. his trust in his own abilities. but still outwardly the written force remains the same. between the young man who said that which he watches as his future grandson: "I am nothing other than literature and I cannot and do not wish to be anything than it" and the same man who. Anti-Zionism. but saving him from perdition. the clarification above all of what he demanded from art: no longer giving to his person a reality and coherence. clarifies by contrast the tension of this other note. sometimes deceptive and sometimes marvelous. still secretive to his friends and elsewhere a little accessible to himself. and all the other capacities are abandoned.51 which bristle from points in the center of the unfinished circle which is his life.." The lightness of this irony should not indeed deceive us. No one can pretend to reduce to a certain number of precise affirmations what could not await him in the transparency of a graspable speech. At the least... which were also forgotten to him here. because of my gathered strength still being small so that they could not do anything to half await the goal of writing. places literature under the same plan as his short essays in gardening. as much as his trust in the powers of art often were great. where the sense is apparently the same (dated August 6. and he adds: "When the time comes to push the radius a bit further than habit. Hebrew etudes. but with this other world. It would be necessary. to commence my real life in which my face can age to the end in a natural manner from nothing but the progress of my work. philosophical meditation. I am emaciated in all these directions. However. was also clarified by this proof of his exigency. and that he wrote to the end. independent living.

" These texts were previously translated into French while adding in the word God. It is also that I vacillate. in literature. I who am nothing but the interlacing of madness and pain. and it demands solitude. lead him to see something else in this sole exigency: another exigency which tends to subordinate it. Nothing else could satisfy me. It seems that in 1915-1916. It is what he is guilty of in this situation. three movements cross each other. This destiny pursues me" (November 30. Don't reject me among the lost. little by little. the less he is sure of writing. if you refuse now.. 1914). throws him into torments which he cannot overcome. which exceeds the limit. a mind of calculation. and all this is terribly stunted. Kafka has reconciled with his old fiancée. thus later. which walk close to them at the end. indecision. my fate is quite simple.. but which cannot look at anything except the profound void of the indefinite. related to the inexorably uncertain essence in his gifts. and grasping in obsession. immediately after his illness ended. He keeps discovering that he does not know how to live alone and that he cannot live with others. An affirmation: "nothing (besides literature) can satisfy me. the closer he becomes to this extreme point to which the work reaches toward its origin. for this. for it has its part in the impersonation of irresponsibility. for this work is stolen. and continues being stunted. but in these lower regions. and one cannot account. the circumstances of my life are not naturally favorable to him. "the eternal torments of Dying. the proof which exhausts Kafka’s loyalty to "his unique vocation" which. I am the fisherman of every reply of my being. The more Kafka writes. before which I must perhaps remain again over the years. The sense which carries me to represent my dreamy interior life has refused all the rest as an accessory." Here." One can say that these three movements constitute. before being able to begin a new story which will again remain unfinished. welcome me into the abyss. However. At the same time appearing in his Journal in allusions to the Old Testament.52 literature. mortal. "I cannot continue writing any longer. if it is futile that he should wish to date a movement which strikes in time. which "thwart all calculation. the force of representation strikes all calculation. it is the abyss. which "is not unfortunately death" but is death held at distance. It concerns the decision of "Becoming a soldier"." "Take me. In this bureaucracy." The feeling that this uncertainty--it happened that writing is never an ability that one disposes of—belongs to something extreme in the work." A self-doubt. they convey the crisis of a lost man: "Take me in your arms. quite rarely. appearing to sustain them. but is also annihilated by it. perhaps it has never disappeared." A consolation without strength: the more he writes. a central exigency. and accomplishes the change of perspective. It . But now. coinciding with religious preoccupations. with these greater forces. it cannot fail nor sink. perhaps returning again another day. I am at the definitive limit. one must strike. they threaten to fall." "Have pity on me. he attempts to reassure himself in thinking that "if one has once received the knowledge of writing. take me. it is at the top that I vacillate. it is unfortunately not death. by their vicissitudes. but the eternal torments of Dying. Sometimes. and at the least to transform it. stinginess. in his bookish existence in what he calls bureaucratic vices. but also. something surges. These relations which lead in 1917 to new engagements. for myself.

" for why would ) wish to exit the world? Because he did not let me live in the world. he has a new fiancée. again. fatigued from luging. but that one must conserve of them the force of this uncertainty and not deprive Kafka of the spirit of reserve where he has always shown respect for what was most important to him. In 1920. For the years that follow. in their uncertainty. he writes the "Aphorisms. a sensible young Czech woman. I cannot judge clearly either. but the sickness is still modest and does not turn threatening until he leaves in 1922 (according to him). It was at the start very hopeful and happy." to disturb the equilibrium and thus I did not have the right to allow myself to be reborn on one hand as someone that I forced myself to bury on the other. not to me)? It is true. I return there by "fault. I am the most miserable of anyone and Canaan needs to be offered as the sole Promised Land. for there is no third earth for men. the Journal is almost entirely missing. for. in September. he leaves Prague. intelligent and capable of a great liberty of mind and passion. They travel a bit happily. if rarely employed. In 1917. but later doomed to distress. and I hatch a path with much difficulty through them. which does not concern the particular) struck at times by the proof of a negative transcendence. coupled with my exclusion here. it is like the voyage in the desert and the infantile wait (particularly in what concerns girls): "Will I not stay in Canaan?". Naturally. with whom he was in a stormy relationship for two years. It is true. even for the most sick. which erased me from the frontier? And is it not the force of my father that the expulsion has been so strong so that nothing can resist him (to her. he meets Milena Jesenka.53 does not appear there. Despite everything. shouldn’t ) be recognized? Wouldn’t ) have failed to find the path to arrive here? Wouldn't I have arrived if not for the "banishment" down there. there are terrible elevations. I am nothing but the smallest and most anxious (I have carried these traits with me. One year later. in his world. not only "due to my father's fault. but which finally reproached them intimately." the only text or spiritual affirmation (under the general form. These distressed speeches are from July 1916 and correspond to a journey which is made to Marienbad with F. for now I am already citizen of this other word which has with the habitual world the same relation that the desert has with cultivated lands (during forty years I have wandered in Canaan). and never in a significant manner. could not have a religious direction. and between the years I have been in the desert for a long time. while his sickness aggravated. and there is nothing but visions of despair. for I am unfamiliar with the joy of using them. a month later. above all in these times where below. The word God hardly appeared in the Journal.B. naturally also of crushing which lasts millions of years and as under the weight of all the sea. without doubt. It is as a stranger that I look back. I have not learned how to do it. There are once again arms. Some lines in 1919 where he is engaged during six months to a young girl of whom we know almost nothing." . in this other world. The first text is dated January 28. The Journal becomes more significant again in 1921 and above all in 1922 where the crossings of this friendship. and if I am incapable of living down there. he throws up blood. I have not learned. This would not indicate that these invocations. 1922: "A bit unconscious." but also because I wished to destroy "rest. today. it is my paternal heritage). it is none but a reason of proper organization besides which. carrying him to a point of tension where his mind seemed to oscillate between two long quotations. with not a word in 1918. as a child.

for Kafka. that of another world. the mix of representations. the obstinacy of certain beings to want to live "despite everything" in this shadow. One must remark each time how. If everything was as it appeared under the bedcovers it would be frightening. incapable of standing being the object of knowledge. it would not be understood as a danger. This leads me to the mix of representations. but always in a perspective of "Abraham. The force of attraction of the world of men is monstrous: in an instant it can be completely forgotten. that in the happy time. without an earthly aim (it leads to the bridge? why below it? elsewhere I have not even awaited it). from roots that are also lamentable. but as an immediate execution. but where he knows also of lightning elevations. have I there "below" (or on high) my representatives of lamentable and insufficient comedians (it is true. the most safe a bed abandoned where one did not cease to make a misstep in obscurity.--here." for. but I cannot love. since I am nevertheless a human being and roots want food." but effectively my shadow is too great. of my strength by relation to beings. where it is uncertain that the smallest and most anxious. I am excluded indeed. I myself abandoned (I cannot consider medicine as a personal aide. and with a novel resounding. in order not to alter the sense of such images." The Positive Experience Commenting upon these pages seems superfluous. But I am elsewhere. It is this situation which makes his fight pathetic and his 14 Some of his letters to Milena also allude to what is for himself unknown in this terrible movement (see the etudes published in this volume: Kafka and Brod. in the deep depths of an infinite resounding before a society or before parents with their children (at the hotel. but of myself in relation to beings. in all manners. what loves me loves me. but because they feel. Milena's Check. where he disposes of a liberty where the men sense valor and subvert prestige. there is never too much gaiety. my "country of birth. only in Spindlermühle. and glory). but still more capable of living. I am too far. further. somewhat like this: in the world the situation was frightful. as much as I see I could run after them." and not abandoned by men. I have not won it by my merits. Meanwhile. being excluded from the world is akin to being excluded from Canaan. because I am "abandoned" and not perhaps like the vacuum of Weiss. I have the freedom of movement which I am completely missing here. Always. but here another thing is added where it remains to speak). in my quality as a "man in shadows too big. in the snow. this evening. I lead the force of resistance. the deprivation of the word reverses in a positive experience 14. merely in it.54 The second text is dated the next day: "Attacked in bed. but in general. where one is already citizen. not except the Christian communal perspective (except where there is this world. reality. since the world is beyond. I appreciate those who can love. I have not had at the bottom with it anything but relations of fees). in this place. under another plan. marvelously. further abandoned not only here. incapable of being recognized as a person. in this date. But also great is the force of attraction of my world. I will not go except only to say that I am its cause. and wandering in the desert. they suffice me in no manner and this is why I am rather abandoned) that suffice me for the sole reason that my only nourishment comes from other roots in the other air. still in Prague. more of a bed deprived of sense. in the snow. it would not be the worse. the single one which had valor. The Truly Final Word) . I would be lost. it is necessary to read them.

” (January 24. But he is "elsewhere. as if. he was not on point. Kafka profoundly sees." and the force of attraction of the human world remains quite big to carry him back until frontiers and he maintains there as if he were crushed. This reconciliation. save for me." it is what undoubtedly is of other forms. When writing becomes this "form of prayer. naturally. or the revival or very admission into hell… The absolute privation of a home was the sinister symbol of an absolute impiety. Kafka has clearly alluded to "all this literature" (his) like to "a new Kabbalah. and it is because he must be Anti-Zionist for himself under penalty of being condemned to immediate execution and the despair of absolute impiety." However. was to be "rejected" or “exposed. The union with God or absolute exile became the two poles between which a system was elaborated." speaks of it precisely of "all this literature. it is its own loss. my life is hesitation before birth. writing. this is not sweet. If he was not Anti-Zionist for himself (this is not to say. even if it is uncertain that “Samsa” was a play on “samsara” (Kafka and Samsa are the apparent names. that as a figure he was not). not at the least great is the force attracting him from his own world. when I am not once more degraded to the extreme. where what one must conquer. and his migration does not consist of reproaching Canaan. Kafka states at times that he is not born once again: “The hesitation before birth: If there is a transmigration of souls. the Bible. when. when. .” a state of exclusion. The “carapace” of solitude seems also to be an image that would be animated in the impressive theme of The Metamorphosis. the religious minds attempting to surmount the exile in pushing to their end15. "Magnificent. Scholem. 1922). to his eyes. all this. and with reason. Let’s recall that in the Hocheitvorbereitungen auf dem Lande.” And this once again: “There was an ardent desire to surmount Exile in aggravating their torments. And one can understand it most because it is in the Zionist and anti-Zionist time. liberty where he speaks with trembling.55 despairing expectation. but in reproaching the desert. but the Earth is no longer the dispersion in temporal existence. he tries to persuade us that he perhaps still remains in Canaan. Fighting without issue and certitude. that he had nothing but this world. but Kafka refuses this relation). The most dreadful fate that could befall the soul… much more horrible than the torments of 'hell. offering Jews the possibility to live under the domination of a regime that sought to destroy the forces of Exile. thrown in the world. in this truth. 267). an allusion to the tradition of Kabbalistic metempsychosis. the hero of this tale of youth. if he speaks with "new Kabbalah. and yes. is something one can imagine. it is necessary to revisit the book by G. in this perspective. this also lets itself be sensed. the verity of this other world henceforth exceeds. ceases of being 15 On this topic. an air of prophetic authority which contrasts with his habitual modesty." thus he was lost on-field. Fighting that one reproaches it of profound Jewish speculations. Jewish people do not have only a book as their remains. the truth of exile and return to same from dispersion. Zionism is a garrison of exile. That the theme of The Metamorphosis (and also the obsessive fictions of brutality) were a reminiscence. jokingly expresses the health of becoming an insect (Kafer) which could lounge upon the bed and shirk disagreeable duties of the community. following the expulsion to Spain. 1922). G. he does not belong." But that this exigency. in savoring their bitterness to the extreme (until the night of the Shekhinah herself)…” (p. and the proof is in that Kafka. That this other world was something to see with literary activity. of a moral degradation and spiritual extreme. He already belongs to the other shore. he needed to fight continuously to do something out of another world and in their error the principle. thus "the situation was frightening. The Great Currents of the Jewish Mystique: "The horrors of Exile influenced the Kabbalistic doctrine of metempsychosis which henceforth won an immense popularity in insisting on its various steps of the exile of the soul. he sees it even if he is excluded from it. the exigency of the work. where he is free. Raban. should not exceed by it and not be accomplished at all except imperfectly in it." "a new secretive doctrine" which "could have developed" "if Zionism had not been overcome between time" (January 16. the origin of a novel freedom. due to this unhappy world. this is a reference to Milena). above all. also disgraced in this other world and attempts once again by the joys of the real world ("particularly concerning women". the truth of the desert. in the wandering of his infinite migration. for the grandeur of this ethical conscience has always been to hope for the others more than for him and of not doing personal disgrace the extent of common misfortune.

opposing literature and poetry. the world of freedom." and." A significant response. down there.56 the approach of the work to turn the attention of this sole moment of grace where Kafka recognized the watchman and where he no longer found it necessary to write. of the purity and the duration. but what can aid him to confront the decision of saying goodbye: "The consolation of writing. Everything is of autonomous accomplishments. but to prayer. the true and inalterable" (September 25. yes. and more triers]. mysterious. higher. to suppose that I could once again succeed in something similar (quite improbable). it is the less dependent. perhaps dangerous. an observation which is act [Tat-Beobachtung. joyously. However. To Janouch who says to him. the force which departs the oppression of gorge. the poet is constrained in elevating them in the kingdom of the truth. of the cat which rubs itself against the poet.toward his integrity. the observation which has become an act]. a dangerous illusion. constantly"). 1917). striking all calculations" (January 27. not more acute. Meanwhile. "Poetry tended thus to religion?" he responds. writing once again. while the old man who is rubbed becomes impoverished. it remains that in these most difficult moments. However." of the observation of himself which has been the torment of Kafka in a higher observation. or Isn't Justified . Writing. if the trust of his young years was placed in a view that always became more rigorous. when he suddenly the part of the unknown of near-sensible attacks ("Like this spy: for example under the bed to go to the doctor. 1922). the more it follows the proper laws of its movement. 1921). of the sort that it is new as if there were nothing to be written" (December 20. the question is posed: is it therefore possible? Is it quite certain that writing does not pertain to the bad? And the consolation of writing would not be anything more than illusion. the literature is announced as the power which freed. It is true. perhaps a salvation: it is jump out of the line of martyrs." it is the liberating passage of "I" to "He. toward the other world. And the most humble reality of the world-. a shuffle of gaiety prepared for birth": this is the act. it is the pleasantry and despair" (December 6. a cautioning of birth. from which one must retreat? "It is undeniably in a certain contentment of being able to write peacefully: smothering is terrible beyond all thought. but only in the dimension of the law which pertains to chance. remarkable. Only writing is deprived of everything. A grimace: grimace of the face which recoils before the light. Why Art is. There is an observation-act in the extent where a higher sort of observation is created. rather. he adds: "Literature is forced to place its things in a pleasant light. happiness solely in the case where I can elevate the world in the pure. the more it climbs onto its bed. beyond all thought. having their proper law. "I would not say that. and does not remain in itself. The "idealistic" or "spiritual" exigency becomes categorical here. when it seems -. yes. he continues to see in his work. elevating itself around a mortal reality.has it not been a consistence which lacks the strongest work: "Lack of independence of being written: it depends on the servant who makes fire. not in what threatens him. Here. 1921). "a defense of birth." as I state once again to Janouch. for it corresponds to a note in the Journal where Kafka asks himself which joy can once again reserve literature for him: I can once again draw a momentary satisfaction from labor like La Medecine de campagne. but still.

Kafka was not of a "superstitious" mind. since his adolescence. . but already. do not let us understand why." And Martin Buber has perhaps influenced it. those of the alphabet. the word that is not just seduces. the world has been lost for him. it is a gift. in having been forced since I fixed below with chains" (January 24. is the true world of beatitude 17. he by no means concludes that there is a mortal force in the work. has never helped him there. in having—and opened him to another world." he has found himself thrown out of the world. Writing is the conjuror of spirits. who were often ready to place before everything because they placed their art before it all. small child. Kafka states that "the poet's role is a prophetic one: the word "just" drives him. if sensible to bewilderment which constitutes each of his steps. still more gravely when he sees the opposition between his work and marriage. or it has never been given to him. but if the passion of art has been since the start quite strong and has seemed to him salutary for a while. 18 Of also that. In this conception. Still. from us. Kafka has given this to himself with much madness in the essential wandering that constitutes literature. again. Kafka is never undoubtedly separated by all means." his novel dimension.57 What reason do we have for such trust? One can ask oneself this. because. He does not conclude it. One can say that his debate with his father has allowed him to banish the negative aspect of his literary experience to the shadows. it follows that Kafka seems to have become constantly more attentive to this form of devotion. but which. condemned to a solitude where he did not have to make literature responsible. It is not chance if the Bible calls it Writing. Dora Dymant comes from "a reputable. but this danger pertains to the essence of the power which frees18. this concatenation and everything that passes once again in the profundities. has been "the awareness of misfortune. would not be sufficient to repeat that. a silent and mysterious gift. it liberates them. he has been extraordinarily influenced by artists like Goethe and Flaubert. the real existence has been retired from him. it was a bit almost as in an African tribe. in these nights where the anguish torments me at the edge of my sleep. 1922). But his price? In the night. 16 To Janouch. perhaps. when he sees that his work requires what he despairs. One can respond in thinking that Kafka belonged to a tradition where what is highest is expressed in a book which is writing par excellence16. 19 However. it is that. a speech which pronounces the "banishing" and condemns it to the desert. of what does do we know of it? Myself. This. I do not know of this. When he speaks again of his exile. Art has not given him misfortune. with and dazzling clarity: it is the salary received from diabolical powers that one has served it. he says: "I have the impression of not being of all come here. and by "the fault of his father. of greater superstitions19. tradition where the ecstatic experiences have been driven to leave from the combination and manipulation of letters. the ruthless condemnation (to which he attended) that Kafka carries against the Jewish writers who serve the German language. in attending Hassidic celebrations: "In truth. Meanwhile. but on the contrary has clarified it." Thus he did not need to have explanations that were correct. of the impossibility of stealing it. Hassidic Jew family. at the least." there was in him a cold lucidity which was said of him by Brod. but rather to thank it in having clarified this solitude. since the start." 17 But what of it would be done by even him: being a poet? This act of writing. since his debut. This abandon of obscure forces. the striking response always has my eyes. where it is said that the world of letters.

his parents’ marriage which he recalls with disgust21.58 Art is immediately the awareness of misfortune. in this same sense. dangerous in its determination. as if I always came into the world out of this obscure life in this obscure chamber. which are once again stuffed into the formless primordial soup (October 18. still with ourselves. sad and very dominating" (January 30. we no longer have relations of possibility. it is the truth of his father. precisely. as it is Kafka. he exercises manual work. his fidelity to the exigency of unhappiness which was spared this paradise of fictions which includes some weak artists that life has the notes which translate his religious experience rather than in his work-. which attracts him despite his refusal of it so that really ) stand before my family in this circle and without ceasing ) brandish a knife to wound and simultaneously defend them. it has not even recognized itself where earthly salvation asks to be accomplished and not interrogated. indissolubly linked to these repugnant things. as if I had always failed to search there again for the confirmation of myself. the life of failure where he could disengage himself. and not its compensation. once again it holds back my feet which would have run. 1922).that Kafka accomplishes or is ready to accomplish the leap that art does not authorize)20. one sees.and. but at the depth of it. the sharing (of these two worlds). Kafka wavers pathetically." He describes the situation of a lost man. This does not signify that art affirms another world. He expresses the profundity of this beyond without intimacy and repose. -. it also makes all forms of dependence unbearable for him-. as illness naturally helps him see." "This is on one hand. has lost the world. if it is true that it has its origin not in another world. for art is related. which surges when. it is at the least for solely Kafka. of shirts from carefully extended nights that sent me vomiting. as the new notes of the Journal always confirm. but in the Other of the entire world (this is surely on point. still with our death. at the least in some sense. who. he thinks of Palestine. I am related also to them who have my sisters by blood. nor included. where. nor of "constructions. Kafka's rigor. to what is "beyond" the world. I do not sense. but in which he wished also to engage himself." But this does not describe the truth further: the truth has not been known or described. who cannot say "me" any longer. They demonstrate that Kafka does not hide anything that psychoanalyst could uncover in him. to this time of distress. His dependence on the opinion of his family not only rendered him weak. seems very determined to me. the truth of the world. in the same movement. but independence as a mature and living man. taking everything from inside me outwards. 21 One must at least cite the passage of the draft of the letter to his fiancée where he elaborates with the greatest lucidity his relations with his family: "But I come from my parents. it is as if I had not been definitively. Art is the awareness of "misfortune. gods no longer exist. 1916). that 20 Kafka. without denouncing what there is in attempting. he makes a garden. his loyalty to the exigency of the work. as if I had always been. but as this dependence gives him horror. who pertains to exile. he procures himself lodgings in Prague to conquer not only solitude. Under this plan. for it is the accomplishment of the law. it contains more value than I can know. one sees always the more. the debate with his father remains essential. . and never will again. However. if art is not justified in general. there is no place for art: rigorous monism excludes all idols. a stranger in virile roles (something that he affirms). Sometimes I pursue this with my hatred: the view of conjugal relations. Art has not been the object of reveries. He seems to do everything to create a dwelling among men where "the force of attraction is monstrous. as Hölderlin puts it. of drapes of the bed which are used. In this sense. in everyday life and because I vow myself to my proper goal." But on the other. to begin." He seeks to be occupied. of the facility of trying in this very determined distinction of these two worlds: "The ordinary.

of The Trial. he is rejected by it. everything you miss since one supported them. where one must live in an incomprehensible separation. but which again authorize a sort of possibility. One must elaborate that Kafka.59 he pertains to the other shore. but what prevents one from grasping himself in despair. This new perspective can simply be that of absolute despair. Since the beginning. perhaps contradictory and untenable. Since the start. how was it born? It is his journey and his time. the same possibility of wandering. for he has never been born." but always "far from here. is taken. who always had an upright mind and was by no means satisfied by the dilemma of everything or nothing which he conceives with still more intransigence than anyone else. lets it be sensed that in this excess of the truth. could be reversed in being absolutely separated. but outside it. And yet this despair is never without hope. he is therefore emerging from salvation. but while the depth of this absence is always newly given as an indubitable presence. when. what makes him "condemned to finishing it. Joseph's fault. as if separation. One is never "here. The Step Outside the True Surveyor We know that in this stage. there subsists a tension. absolute. and a life where there are women and children. where the beings seem to be absent. of nihilism which one can easily attribute to him. his birth country. since the first sentence. that of distress. in this region where the conditions lack a veritable journey. or separated. the desert is once again the least definite place in the world. of going around one's wandering. the essential is in not turning oneself toward Canaan. But where is it. where everything that one believes in seizing. a region that is absolutely deprived of intimacy." And meanwhile. in coming close to his end. the Lower Regions? It is never in view. this place where he is not only at home. there are certain rules. In this new perspective. nor remain passively turned. toward a reality where he feels excluded and he has not yet traveled. the hero of inflexible stubbornness is described to us as having never renounced his world. in the same beyond. in this region which is that of migration because one does nothing but wander without end. "Is it below. not what gives hope. and in this earth of wandering. who is imagined that the things will always continue and that he is once more in the world. and belongs to exile. and it is the approach of the desert which is now the true Promised Land. One is also condemned to defending himself to the end" and perhaps therefore promised to reverse condemnation into deliverance. this hope is nothing but the torment of distress. which. and the absolute word is here in its place. absolutely absolute. that you lead me?" Yes it is there. banished. the history of the surveyor represents the most impressive image to us. The first is given in the same wandering: one must err and not be negligent as it is with Joseph K. The distress was its element. as if crushed against its frontiers. in an exclusion where one is in some sense excluded as if one is excluded from oneself. The migration has the desert as its destination. of transforming what is a path without purpose into the certitude of the purpose without a path. The tragic difficulty of the radical separation is that everything is fake and inauthentic since they are first seen. is the desire to win . he should not use cunning with this banishment. proven in all its rigor. as Kafka undoubtedly related it to the epoch in which he wrote. and is nothing but the approach of the desert.

It is not a negligent disadvantage. impatience. it is he who advances. without the rule that Kafka has made his own: "One must limit oneself to what possesses.all these traits of character that Kafka recognized in himself-. never captured. Perhaps there would have been nothing but a capital punishment. for the surveyor endlessly falls for the fault that Kafka deems the most grave. detaching from Frieda and having some thoughts to turn toward Olga. his indifference to family-. the rejected. has voluntarily agreed to be it. a trial of error. The Essential Fault The surveyor is almost entirely exceeded by Joseph K’s faults. in dissipating the illusion. In the penalty without understanding anything in this proof of the exclusion where it is K. but in which his is truly only in a certain sense. to which he always believes himself to belong. like all that is related from it.) . Due to impatience they never return there. What is not impatient is negligent. it never needs to finish with the indefinite.60 his trial in the same world. in never believing that the goal is near. But it is none of it. who by a frightening decision. Impatience within the error is the essential fault. it is on the contrary." The Trial has at least its advantage of making known to K. Due to their impatience. and also perhaps an incomprehensible injustice or an inexorable punishment. Due to their negligence. these deceiving consolations which. once again. these "exterior" shakings where one is thrown with the force of banishing. they never return there. allow him to believe in his existence. the excluded doubling. a trial where if hope remains. Everything thus turned toward the best. empty. they have been banished from Paradise. but wants the Castle which has perhaps none. almost never discouraged. like a truer light. because it misunderstands the same truth of the error which imposes. This trial—the banishment—is undoubtedly a great misfortune. but in the same sense of error. Certainly. Amelie's sister. not by the opposing current or a sterile opposition. by a tireless movement which evokes an inflexible obstinacy. (e does not seek to return to his birthplace: he lost his life in Canaan. it is the excuse of the hero. but it is also -. in his existence as a worldly man. of death which advances in him. always in the sense of the extreme wandering. But the Trial is not the current truth. Impatience is negligence. going from breakdown to breakdown. but it is the fruit of the trial. in pain if he remembers its brief. the profundity of the inexhaustible absence. that of impatience22. it is inevitable and it is the desolate character of such a search. effaced the truth of this world. but always in movement. like a law. what is really. Certainly. his insouciance stops little by little. where one must on the contrary attempt to take part.prevent him already from taking foot. immediately who places himself en route to achieving anything to 22 "It is two humane capital punishments where all the others are discharged." (Aphorisms. is the reflection of his own dissolution. it never needs to grasp as the immediate. denigrating the village which has again some reality. due to having a good employment and several indifferent pleasures. as the already present. What is given to inquietude of the error loses the insouciance which exhausted time. once more. heart his celibate and bureaucratic existence.a gift that he does not suffice to refuse in invoking in these hollow discourses a higher justice. moving instants. and at the same time the beauty which illuminates the accused and which makes them agreeable to women. the trap where he lets himself be taken-.

and reconstitutes rather the element of dispersion where he loses himself increasingly. Simultaneously. All this powerful imagery does not include the truth of a superior world. in their ineffable value that cannot be attached to them. in the insignificance of another truth being forgotten. the Surveyor wants sight and has it. It is also the chance of the surveyor. Naturally. One deceives oneself assuredly while the surveyor deceives himself. these figures deceive. but are nothing which justify the fascinated interest that one can convey to it. by the transformation of the end in obstacles. he wishes it in the same separation. even on close examination. this methodical belief of the distance which is never given as infinite but is indefinitely deepened in a necessary manner. that they participate in their radiance. He neglects the intermediaries. This figuration is solely in the extent of impatience. of knowing that they are nevertheless images of this purpose. by an image. it separates from it in making itself and it inaccessible. however. the unity where it is an image. guardians. it is the truth. but also of intermediary obstacles leading to the end. In some scenes. Klamm is by no means invisible. in this representation. but does not resort it to the same his aberration which is of losing for the termination what is nothing but an intermediary. the sensible form and error. who always go by two as if to sufficiently demonstrate that they are nothing but the reflections of another and the reflection of everything invisible. and undoubtedly is a merit. is by no means behind sight. these doubles which are in the process of executing it. the force of tension toward the absolute. Here we must limit ourselves in these indications. The Castle is nothing but a mass of villagers' shacks. It rather includes the fortune and misfortune of the inclusion. Nothing but the ordinary and ugly. it engenders the image where if one sees the idol. The Castle. for the impatient regard. This exigency of a premature denouement is the principle of formation. of this exigency by which the exiled human is obliged to make wandering a means of truth and which indefinitely deceives it from the ultimate possibility of grasping the infinite. when one believes in recognizing in bureaucratic phantasmagoria the upright symbol of a superior world. they also repeated that it is not their true aim. tall man sitting in the front of an office. and can never attend to it. it is already deviating from the essential. Klamm is a heavy. his supreme aim. The bureaucratic phantasmagoria. by which. . he is constantly in his disposition. aides. he represents himself by it.61 its end. and the malediction which is attached to it is what attaches itself to idolatry. it is substituted without end to the absolute of the inexorable force of bad infinity. every chain of metamorphoses. and neither of its transcendence. It is impatience which destroys the approach of the end in preventing recognition of the immediate figure in the intermediate. beside it. K. this idleness of affairs which characterize it. always wishes to attend the purpose before having attended to it. messengers. the image of unity. A situation which one can resume as: the impatience which renders the inaccessible termination in substituting the proximity of an intermediary figure in him. the deceptive honesty of these images that are not seductive in themselves. The human wishes for immediate unity. and he steals it. a representation without "means". in such images.

of leaving any of them to try to appease himself in another. anguish of impatience. that it is in postulating the impossible that the artist procures all that is possible?? At the least. through art. but is uncertain that this worry has been strongest in him. because all denouement carries in him the happiness of a definitive truth that he lacks the right to accept. modest (unaffected by fascination). in the misfortune of his excess. capable of several traits of attending to the essential. the evidence is striking: the fault which he punishes in K. by the work. a role that if accompanied to its end. without lacuna. towards something true? (as he often thought of Goethe’s speech. a sluggishness of approach. without patchwork. it is he who is condemned to the excess of the measure and the seeking of a continuity without failure. we know. exactitude. in the seeking of what is realized and which. this center where only it can be accomplished. makes it impossible? To what extent has it reproached the proof of his hero in the manner where he himself. exiled from reality. and cold mastery which are indispensable qualities to . something to which his existence does not correspond once again. and he says so. The more one is lost outside it. yes. But he is increasingly impeded by minutiae. as the work is lowered if it touches the point which is its origin. of scruples and exactitude. Many reasons prevent Kafka from achieving almost any of his "stories. by his determined appearance. could be transfigured into an unwavering certainty. But he who pertains to the profundity of the unlimited and the remote. and he has no longer refused to make the leap which alone allows incompleteness. that if he did not abandon it. for it is patience. before it was not developed in all directions. this reason seemed also to have played a great role. Someone who pertains to reality does not need so many details which. And condemned is the right word. What one has quite improperly called his realism betrays this same instinctive search that makes him impatient." bringing them the grief of beginning any of them. and be present in the absence by the multiplicity of images. in the strangeness and insecurity of this loss. An impossible role. this insouciant and happy trust by which a termination is (momentarily) made interminable. without which the man. He sometimes abandons the story. awaited. has not elevated the indefinite to a true totality where each inauthentic movement. is rapidly avowed to bewildering confusion and is close to the imaginary realm. worried scrupulously by the exigency of writing. he says it. would destroy this same truth towards which it reaches. and a detailed precision (which are even found in the description of his own dreams). He often knew the torment of the exiled artist of his work at the moment where it was affirmed and reformed. and energetically maintained by his coherence. and did not exhaust the extent of the time which was in it. Impatience is his fault. attempted to open himself to a view toward the work and. has profoundly shown that writing it living incessantly and. perhaps in his blindness. unable to return to the world. a reproached artist. is also something in himself. but all these movements return to him: Kafka. It is what precipitated the story toward its denouement.62 The Space of the Work In a certain sense. has Kafka taken responsibility to be aware of the analogy of this surpassing with the movement by which the work tends toward its origin. each image partially forced. do not in any way correspond to the form of a real vision. by anguish. the more he needs to call forth the mind of rigor. Kafka has often demonstrated that he was a swift genius. He often abandons it. in anguish.

which is the effort manifested to us. Kafka’s friend who has spoken at length of his fight against impatience. while confronting them in a very troubled manner in passing from the desert of madness to the madness in a world which is no longer the desert. constrained from making the sole vow of salvation from his condemnation. at the end of his ideas which should not be welcomed." but. the human which Kafka also wished to be. which in other words. he adds." Felix Weltsch. In the page we have quoted. and subordinated art to its spiritual condition. forgotten. If he has also done this." Certainly. the wandering of the imagination. etc. but another world where he is freed. is discovered exiled in the imagination. but surely delay the deliverance. art is justified. since above all. the distress which characterizes it. in the illegitimate solitude which is his. From it. "for. constantly transforming the infinite into the indefinite. there is no third world for humans. Art and Idolatry "You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. The more Kafka searches to remember (for it is by all means forgotten. One has perhaps the sentiment about this essential forbidding. exactitude. Patience. This equilibrium. who. and cold mastery are also the faults which. which this mistake finally dissimulates. in creating the void. is concerned with his art and seeking after his origin. there is none.). on the side of this other world of the desert. believes that he has seriously abided by the commandment in the Bible. "it does not even drive religion. around it. as it also constitutes the measure which prevents the unlimited from ever being accomplished in the work. more a counterpart which seems ready to forget that this interdiction also turns around to apply to his art. toward the end. but perhaps it would be necessary to add that the artist. perhaps delay the shipwreck. suddenly. repugnance of all publications. must exclude himself from images and which. that one represents a man upon whom this essential forbidding weighs. Kafka had an immediate tendency to relate religious exigency to literary exigency. Art is not religion. in it. upon pain of death. and the limit. the ungraspable truth. allows him to be loyal to a spiritual motion that is always more rigorous. in his despair and to strike this despair—the immediate--. Was Kafka consciously this man? One could not know enough to say it. 1922). This is with an always greater rigor. without other remains or subsistence that the images and space of images. the more he thus searches to remember the religious sense which lives hidden in this forbidding. a refusal to be created into a writer. times of absence and of exile. which is the intimidation of this distress. at times. since the community where it is living is almost destroyed). the times where we lack gods. The presentation thus obliges to live from his death and constraints. he had a tendency to relate his literary experience to religious experience. by the image. but which is abandoned in a certain idolatry of all the rigors of an ascetic who condemns literary realities (uncompleted works.63 avoid losing oneself when nothing more subsists in something that could be retained. is most grave. a very unstable equilibrium results. It is this that the notes in the Journal forebode? "Is speech what I swear to?" (January 30. The "poet" is . Kafka repeats what he says is humans' only option: searching for the Promised Land on the side of Canaan. dividing the difficulties and extending them indefinitely.

.64 the person for whom there does not exist in even one world. the trickle of the eternal beyond. for there does not exist for him anything but the beyond.

the problem. the writer no longer writes. of finding in the supreme dissatisfaction a supreme satisfaction. a narrator. He who disposes of death. Concerning the phrase: My best writing establishes itself on the aptitude in being able to die content. But the mastery from which Kafka speaks is other and the calculation where he calls for it is more profound. it excludes the cold rapport. in this. and the writer who rejoices in it. However. where I suppose that he will lament his deathbed. at least in my view. it is revealing. ) would be very content. but one must be capable of satisfying oneself in dying. in death that has become possibility.. if he knows the art of emoting. and maintaining. seeing it unjust. a clarity of a perspective that comes from Hegelian wisdom.65 Chapter Five . can tell the story of a moving manner of events which are unfamiliar to him. is fully able to do. and a bit later I had omitted mentioning. is that of rhetoric and the right to resort to it. disposes extremely of himself. I rejoice even in dying in death. and is connected to everything that he can do. "Returning to the house. accomplished through the guise of literature? But the text does not indicate that. one must die in death. it happens to always concern someone who dies and finds it quite difficult." This reflection is dated December 1914. he has placed himself at risk in dying.The Happy Death. is it thus a sort of closeness to death. in the truth which requires it. as if he had presented an impertinent side. that no one understands. supreme master. there still remains something difficult to accept. which permits an objective decision. I thus use a calculated manner of the reader's attention which also resembles death." if it has an attractive aspect that arises from its simplicity. The whole passage can resume thus: one cannot writes unless one remains master of oneself before death. work and time: the extent of the Absolute positive.. ) said to Max that on my deathbed. I believe in the ability to be content on my deathbed. cutting speech. Yes. 1952 In a note in his Journal. I forgot to add. Art is master of the supreme moment. But why death? It is the extreme. As for myself. What gives Kafka this assurance? Is he already sufficiently close to death to know how he will fare in its face? He seems to suggest that in the "good passages" of his writing. by which no one is moved? Here Kafka feels profoundly that art is a relation with death. it is elsewhere. a maladroit cry. Kafka makes a remark we can reflect upon. exactly: it undoubtedly indicates an intimacy between the unhappy death which is produced in the work. distant. if it consists of making satisfaction and self-knowledge coincide. In all these good passages which are strongly convincing. dies an unjust death. provided my suffering wasn’t too great. confused. at the instant of his death. where someone dies. I retain a mind much clearer than his. something one is unable to contain? Then does death withdraw words from beneath the pen. even due to his provoking lightness. . Everything. that what I have best written is founded upon an aptitude in being able to die content. but it follows its beautiful and pure course. My lamentation is thus as perfect as possible: it will not be interrupted abruptly like an actual lamentation. in finding in extreme negativity. is quite moving for the reader. if one has established relations of sovereignty with death. It is not certain that it explains a point of view that Kafka had already admitted later. from such descriptions being secretly a game. he cries. Is death something before which one loses capacity.

" This gap. if we are content in it? It gives the text is a cruel lightness.66 It remains that Kafka does not directly place himself here in a quite ambitious perspective. the exclusion of happiness in living. In all his narratives. it does not burn up. But what does this game signify? "Art flies around the truth. in drawing a narrative and work that in a certain manner. and this gift is related to the person from writing. it flies around death. but it makes the burning sensible and it becomes something that burns. Kafka writes in his Journal: ) don't write of humans in order to live in peace. it is in the indefinite time of "dying" that they belong. But precisely. he thus writes The Trial. mastery of extreme possibilities: the state of being deprived of life does not assure the happy possession of death. is that it would seem to authorize the treachery of art. Perhaps art demands from the text that it plays a game with death. he has made a reading to his friends that has given him courage. one must also understand it differently. then emotes coldly and deceptively. several days previously. is in advance in agreement with the extreme moment of this proof. Do I distinctly know as well. But it seems to him that he might not be able to do it well. by itself. the state of being exiled from normal possibilities does not grant. die in several rapid and soundless words. perhaps introducing to it a game. to be just with Kafka's remark. A perspective that would suffice to condemn art. twice this same year." Here. Naturally. like the exile given to him. that when his capacity to write well is related to his ability to die well. if it is equal to death. Anyhow. he does not allude to a conception which would concern death in general. those who die. Why describe as an unjust event what one feels capable of agreeing with contentedly? Why does it make death frightening to us. where there is no longer recourse or mastery. in his eyes. for what it immediately demands is discontentment with life. In which of his writings does he envision himself? Undoubtedly. something that is given him. does not render death content in a negative manner (one is content in finishing it in discontentment with one’s life). Dying content is not. that it is? I do not shrink before beings because I want to live 23 Most often translated in French as La Colonie Pénitentiaire . with the decisive intention of not burning itself up. he is extended upon his deathbed without trouble as he can direct a perspective to his heroes without trouble: uniting himself to his death with a clairvoyant intimacy. but apparently when they live. Au Bagne23 where. I am lost. Kafka is also proven. What strikes us in this reflection. but to his own experience: it is because for one reason or another. It remains. this happiness that one must desire and love above anything else. "The aptitude in being able to die content" signifies that the relation with the normal world is nonetheless already broken: Kafka is in a certain sense already dead. in the work In Der Strafkolonie. There we have the insufficiency and superficial character of the remark. this exigency of solitude is imposed by his work: "If I do not save myself in writing. a good attitude in itself. This confirms the thought that is not solely when they die. but in order to be able to die in peace. several uncompleted stories where death is not his immediate goal. as well. They are the proof of this strangeness and in them. it is in the space of death that the heroes of Kafka accomplish their advances. a bit of a game.

It is he who considers his power of writing from an anticipated relation with death." and "perhaps least probable. It is this. these relations which depend upon the work of he who is not possible except in the weaving of the work. At the same time that the poet does not exist except in the face of the poem and beyond it." "least inglorious. it seems to me.67 peacefully. the vision and justification of writing. but because I want to perish peacefully. The contradiction restores to us the profundity of the experience. July 27. the space and usage of death. the content death. to achieve death. has repeated for himself: "The reasons that press me to write are many. and to also make of this point something where one is not approached except in distancing from it—yet they authorize this hope: where the interminable is stated: that of seizing." . that oblige us to part from what we wish to find. where. as long as it would be necessary that there would be first of all a poet so that there would be a poem. this signifies that the work itself is an experience of death where it seems that it previously failed to dispose of itself to achieve the work. where Andrew Gide. Now. a certain anomaly arises from this experience that motivates the forms of time. above all: placing something in the shelter of death" (Journal." This work is writing. What one can still suppose is that the quite strange relations of the artist and of the work. is the salary of art. but comes more profoundly from its ambiguity. Writing to perish peacefully—yes. Naturally. and in the work of art. The genius insults death. He retreats from the world to write. Writing so that one does not die. death. and the most important ones. 1922). words which we close in their circular exigency. after some others. rendered "the least loved. at the same time that one can predict that if Kafka approaches the ability to die through the work that he writes. are the most secret. The Circle Each time thought clashes in a circle. except for the evasive words of Proust. from its double aspect that Kafka expresses with too much simplicity in the phrases that we take from him: Writing in order to be able to die -. to search for nothing except the point of departure. Perhaps we would take a step towards this original movement if we modified the clarification of formulas by erasing the words "peacefully" and "contentedly". it touches something original where it takes off and cannot cross it except to return to it. Kafka’s sentences may appear to express a gloomy view that was his own. The contradiction subsists. it is this which binds the artist to his role. The writer is thus the person who writes to be able to die. trusting in the survival of works. They face the ideas which are current in art. but how does one write? What is it that allows writing? The response is familiar to us: that one cannot write unless one is apt in dying content. has not fully been made within the same movement which would drive the writer to the possibility of dying. and he writes to die in peace. and the work is death made futile or transfigured. and bringing forth the term. but is clarified differently.Dying to be able to write. But one can also predict that the approaching movement within the work.

is no longer anything but a memorable manner of unifying oneself to history. That is certainly important and significant. at a certain moment. to maintain distance from it. and in the least. and this relation. the dreams that survive their creators seem not only petty. active presences. . and any true action. These differences are negligible. It is vain to want to remain beyond the provision. is not to remain in the slothful eternity of idols. but where the one who believes himself master of art. are also placed in the shelter of death. to be one who creates. in destruction. the great men of war. and are inscribed in the very horizon of establishing with death. one that is more sure. and moreover. being. What is necessary. Thus. is freed from the miserable regret of not being more of oneself. The great historical characters. we are not opposed to the comment that they are recent. in order to grasp it. a relation of liberty. they are examples. even if a little. no less than artists. having struck it. In these traditional dreams available to creators. contrary to what one wants. the heroes. is also one that Kafka pursues. there. of action in the world. It is vain. despite its appearance. But art.68 It could be so. to disappear in order to cooperate in the universal transformation: to be without name and not to be a pure inactive name. bound to a transformation of art where one is not already present to oneself. They belong to the development of a humanistic art. but pertain to our new West. One perceives that if something matters. to desire to be immobile and stable in a work which would surpass the times. it is first of all the work of history. seems to affirm a more just triumph over death. in creating. they enter the memory of people. the common effort towards truth. but to change. These dreams which are quite strong. that they demonstrate to the world that they are its creators" engaged in a profound relation with death. This form of individualism soon ceases to be satisfying. one who escapes. accomplished anonymously in the world and for the arrival of the world. but rather also offensive. wishes to render himself present. where the human seeks to glorify himself in his works and to concern himself with them in perpetuating himself in this action. One and the other wish for death to be possible: here.

or where we become famous so that at a certain moment. Kafka’s death is intimately responsible for a survival where Brod was the obstinate instigator. why would he make Brod his legatee? Why did he wish to make his work disappear. it was necessary to gather the texts that were not avoided in the least. So he undertakes the publication of a work which is the first. rather than let it be destroyed? Why did he read it to his friends? Why has he sent Felice Bauer and Milena many of his manuscripts. When ) see how humanity rejects the salutary gift contained in the writings of Kafka. to his disappearance. Beyond Tetschenbodebach. had inquired. preceding Kafka’s death. Kafka and Brod. )mmediately haunted by his admirable friend. and to his concessions of which he says that he suffers merely in their profundity. had he not longed for it to be brilliant? Did he not suffer when Werfel. Kafka would not have felt the abuse in which his work could be exposed. He recognized its exceptional value. refusal of publication. wherein he dedicates himself to each phrase. he made his friend the hero of one of his novels-. The injustice would consist of reserving to Kafka all the merit of literary purity--hesitation before writing. deciding to destroy his works--and assigning the powerful and friendly doubling of all the responsibilities related to the worldly management of a work of literature that is too glorious. but not to the obligation of not troubling him. Is this why he did not wish to authorize its publication? )t was probably a tad late for the question.strangely morphed. Brod was no longer holding his breath for the discreet fame he wanted to achieve. Otherwise. and for a long time the only one. It would be unjust—not to mention frivolous—to say that there is. and wasn’t it also to some degree his image that was unrelated to Kafka’s reservation. without him. The collaborative books they wrote are a sign of their collective destiny: a collaboration where Kafka speaks discontentedly. and discover . This collaboration ceases almost immediately.69 Chapter Six. in each writer. will anyone understand Kafka? Would he have been recognized in the glory where he had complained a bit about himself. while reading the first writings of their mutual friend. but rather so that he can prove himself in his dark regions and unlit destiny? Brod’s fate also compels us. since its start. It was necessary for him to find editors: the editors avoiding him. certainly not with a literary vanity. but. a sign that he felt aligned to a man. I sometimes suffer in having torn away this work to the obscurity of destruction where its author wished to see it collapse. a Brod and a Kafka and that we do not write except to the extent where we fulfill the active part of ourselves. also heavier for the living friend who with an extraordinary faith is devoted to his place in the day of a work dedicated. more narrowly than it had ever been. but related to the urgency having to do with Brod. Due to the effect of the posthumous years. something he allowed himself to regret in having aided birthing. --but. related to his forthright optimism and decisive certitude? Perhaps Kafka needed Brod nearby so he could surmount the discomfort that prevented him from writing. to affirm their coherence. 1954 Max Brod recognized that there was something slightly unsettling in Kafka’s glory. it is revived. we deliver ourselves over entirely to the unlimited loyalty of friendship.


in the dispersed manuscripts where nearly nothing is terminated, a hidden fullness. The
publication begins, which is also fragmentary. In large novels, certain chapters are reserved
for an unknown reason. This and that, one does not know how each seized page emerged in
the collection, such a section that escaped from a hearth still unknown, gleaming and then
put out. In the Journal, because one must protect living people, one excludes the most direct
documents or the notes that appear insignificant, one limits oneself to the essential, but
where is it? Meanwhile, the glory of a writer rapidly becomes powerful, soon completely
powerful. The unpublished sections could not rest. It was like an avid force, irresistible,
which goes searching in the most protected depths, and little by little everything that Kafka
say for it—what he liked, what he disliked, is a book, in the greatest disorder, in an
abundance of commentaries, themselves disordered, contradictory, respectable, cheeky,
tireless, and such that the most impudent writer would hesitate to resist such curiosity in
However, there is nothing to approve of in this awful time. It turns out the decision
of publishing is hurried, and it will follow that everything will be published. Everything
must appear; this is the rule. Which piece is submitted under this rule, even if it is
repulsive? Since there was the project of the complete edition of works-- it is close to
finished--, the arbitrary and hazardous parts are diminished as much as possible. We would
be familiar with everything, in the order that it is reasonable-- yet always contestable-- to
know it, with the exception of the letters: for example, in several letters, one has already
rejected the passages which bring up certain living causes, yet these quickly disappear.
Already, the ordeal of the war and persecution to the extent it is not necessary to
remember, has wiped out witnesses and the respects which they are due, and it is true, the
testimonies along with an important part of the work, which was already in part destroyed
by Kafka, during his lifetime, then after his death, according to instructions he had left for
Dora Dymant, particularly for the Journal. (The Journal is missing parts in the last part of
his life, since 1923, when he reportedly found peace and reconciliation. We are told this,
but we do not know for certain, and when, reading his Journal we see how differently he
judged himself from the way he was judged by friends and relatives, we ought to realize
that the sense of events which mark the approach of his end that is unknown for the
But who is Kafka? During the beginning of the public exposure of his friend’s
manuscripts, according to his mediums, and due to his existent fame, which in its
misunderstandings and its falsifications, tried to decipher his enigmatic face; Brod
resolved to write a book for the masses in order to clarify it. A book of biography, but also
of interpretation and commentary where he searched to make amends to the work in a just
light where he desired that it would be seen24. A book of great interest, but concerning the
events of Kafka, necessarily reserved, a bit disorganized and allusive, and the rest quite
incomplete, because its only witness did not know everything. Brod, occupied in
recognizing the grand complexity and central mystery of the genius that resided in his

Diary, note from May 3, 1915


friend, who had always protested with a preference for black against quite somber colors in
those of posterity, was pleased to see this figure and his work.
The other friends of Kafka have otherwise fully recognized, loved, and celebrated in
him a living force, his gaiety, the youth of a spirit that was sensible and marvelously just.
Did Kafka perfectly vanish? wonders Felix Weltsch, and he responds: )t is quite difficult,
and nearly impossible, to see this man who was open to all impressions, whose eyes
emitted a helpless light, as someone in despair. )n a general manner, says Brod, every
person who has formed an impression of Kafka from his writings has before their eyes a
tonality that is essentially darker than those which we personally knew in him." This is why
the biographer recognized having accumulated in his biography all the proper traits to
correct this conventional schema. This is an important testimony that is totally confirmed
elsewhere. But must we forget the other face, "the man in the great shadow;" forget his
profound sadness, his solitude, his remoteness from the world, his moments of indifference
and coldness, his anguish, his obscure torments, his fights that one has carried to the limit
of bewilderment (particularly in 1922 in Spindlermühle)? Who knew Kafka? Why, then,
does he reject in advance his friends’ judgment of him25? Why is it that those whom he has
known, when they pass from the memory of the young man, sensible and gay, to the work-novels and narratives—are astonished to pass to a nocturnal world, of cold torment, a
world not without light, but where light robs at the same time it lightens, giving hope, but
making hope the shadow of anguish and despair? Why does the person who, in the work,
passes from the objectivity of the narratives to the intimacy of the Journal, descend to a
night that is once again darker, which conveys the crisis of a lost man? Why, the more one
approaches his heart, does one seem to approach an inconsolable center from where at
times a piercing flash bursts forth, an excess of pain and joy? Who has the right to speak of
Kafka without making understood this enigma which speaks with complexity, the
simplicity of enigmas?
After having published and commented on Kafka, and made him the hero of one of
his novels, it happens that Brod, in pushing the double life further away, has sought to
introduce himself to the world of Kafka by transforming what is likely the primary work.
The Castle, making what was an unfinished narrative into a complex piece of theater. A
decision that one cannot compare to that of Gide and J-L Barrault achieving some years
previously, the same work for The Trial. Gide and Barrault have done wrong, assuredly,
wishing to make themselves recognized in the space of theater and the space of ambiguous
dimensions, which is at the time completely superficial, without profundity, as if denuded
of perspectives, but deprived of depth, and, due to this, quite profound, in the world of
infinite bewilderment that was represented by The Trial. Brod seems to have ceased his
more intimate attempt, that of living in the life of a central hero, in bringing him closer, in
bringing also ourselves closer; the life of this time—humanizing it, making of it the
existence of a man who fights with an indiscreet despair, to find work, resources, and
existence, where he can be nothing but an unwelcome stranger.

Brod, in absence of a biography, has dedicated to his friend several volumes where he elaborates upon what has happened, except the views,
the “beliefs and education” of Kafka.


So Brod has adapted The Castle to a play. Let us set this decision itself aside, though
this manner of having a work pass from one form to another, of creating a work with the
work, and forcing it to be what it cannot, by imposing another space of growth and
development, is a kind of abduction that prohibits the one engaging with it from being too
severe for the enterprises of modern nihilism. Let us set aside the certainty that any
adaptation of Kafka’s works, even if it is faithful and because it cannot be too faithful only
to certain instances and not to the concealed whole of the work- which escapes all
faithfulness- must not only falsify the work but substitute a trick version for it, from which
will now make it more difficult to return to the offended truth of the original that is treated
as dead. Let’s finally forget the right that any producer has taken upon himself, pursuing
what he believes are dramatic necessities, and adding a conclusion to a narrative that does
not resolve itself; a conclusion that was perhaps in Kafka’s mind at a certain moment; a
conclusion that was undoubtedly spoken about by his friend, but which he had never
resolved to write, and which had never entered into the life and intimacy of the work. It
moreover remains that this scene in which we are present at K.’s burial, a burial that
symbolically corresponds with his reconciliation with the earth upon which he had desired
to dwell, this scene in which each person comes to throw a word, and a handful of dust on a
body that is finally at rest, is one of the best in the play, although it is Brod’s invention
entirely, which goes to show that this play would have much to gain by owing nothing to
Kafka. But why did Brod think it beneficial to introduce himself this way to the secret of a
work which he had contributed, more than any other, in keeping intact? Why did he, who
had so forcefully castigated Gide and Barrault for committing an unprecedented error in
their dramatization, change the center of the work in a way that was no less manifest, and
replaced the central character with a character who no longer has anything in common
with him except a kinship of words—not in order to elucidate the spiritual meaning of his
actions, but to bring him down to a pathetic human level?
It remains an enigma. Assuredly, the producer wished to make the story work on a
level which according to him was now most capable of reaching us; he wanted us to
comprehend that Kafka was not some bizarre author, the demon of the absurd and the
unsettling author of sarcastic dreams, but a profoundly sensitive genius whose works have
immediate human import. A commendable intention, but what resulted from it?
From the perspective of the story, the complex myth of the land surveyor has
become the unhappy face of a mad without employment and influence, a displaced person,
who does not succeed in being accepted into the community to which he would like to
belong. From the standpoint of the demand that the central hero must face, of the obstacles
he encounters which lie outside him only because he is already completely outside and as if
in exile from himself, on this level the transposition is such that it is a true mockery to pas
k. off as the bombastic character who expresses everything he feels with a spasm of
emotion, as he rages, shouts, and collapses.
There is undoubtedly a huge price in trying to create the human at all costs.
Brod has reproached Barrault-Gide for having made a mockery of The Trial by
turning its hero into a persecuted innocent and the novel into a detective story in which

everything which radiates from the force of the level of powerlessness is lost. which in him is extreme.’s fate a flaw he is perhaps doomed to make. at most. and futile complaints.73 the fugitive and detectives pursue each other through the games of a superficial melodrama. Is this what K. he has been stricken. for employment and the good fortune of a stable family. under whose influence and fear the larvae of the village develop their own tyrannical activities— and moreoever. But what criticisms should he not have directed toward himself. a man who. a quintessence of authority and stinginess. indifference. this need to wander.’s fate. against adversaries who symbolized the modern world--a step that is itself mistaken. )n this he is quite different from Joseph K. but the emotion is one that slips away. he pushes it away . and has even lost memory of them? The man of absolute exile. as an arbitrary collection of power. of dispersion and separation? The man who no longer has a world and who. still tries to find the conditions of a genuine home? This is K. For otherwise. who in his negligence. but has reduced K. To misjudge the nature of his will. yet nonetheless in error. and has abandoned his community. a clarity in the empty and vague night in which everything has already disappeared. under the show of pathos and humanity. everything that makes it so poignant and indeed so human has vanished. of which he is very conscious. refusing the cries. has attained a result. What can be done by a man who is entirely convinced of the necessity of wandering. someone who has not only removed from K. This spirit of the work has disappeared from Brod’s play as the result of a spell. does not realize that he has been rejected from existence and whose entire trial is a slow coming to terms with this radical exclusion. a concern for truth in the depths of distraction. marked by the serious flaw of impatience. in absence of a world. )n such a way that everything that could have been positive in the work has disappeared from Brod’s play—not just the background of the Castle. the vehemence. how can we explain that every time K. wants? Without doubt. the initial wound that allows us to understand the search that drives the work. and which passes through a silent refusal and a certain cold indifference related to the loss of all inward life. has emphasized only its trivial and unhappy side? One of his mistakes is having intentionally—out of concern for humanity and reality—reduced the myth of The Castle to the story of a man who searches vainly. because of an obscure impersonal decision has renounced his native land.. this death by which from the start. has left behind his wife and children. who is so convinced of the non-nihilistic meaning of the work. in a foreign land.’s step outside the truth to a coarsely pitiable struggle that is hopeless and weak. and satisfaction of the man provided with a nice situation. constantly reaching toward a great goal. an inflexible determination in the loss of self. which no longer offers even a direction to the efforts of the exhausted vagabond (the Castle appeared. but he wants it with a will that is not content with it. is to place oneself in the position of understanding nothing about even the superficial fascination of the narrative. Why does this happen? Why is it that Brod. an avid and dissatisfied will that always exceeds the goal and reaches beyond it.

when he receives an unexpected interview from the secretary. industrious honorable man. it is because he has been banished from the world. yes. no. and yet K. chooses the impossible. constantly progressing toward error is the only hope left for him. The innkeeper offers him her intervention. a romantic passion for the absolute? In one sense. And finally. and (ans’s mother. he cannot be suspected of this. If K. such an occasion will not be missing. wants from him? A job on the estate? No. This is obvious. If you do not find this mediator. Amalia. Perhaps the usual way seems too cumbersome to him. An intelligent. and this is right. the reflection. and wants to attain it directly. but which obviously refers to the same subject. He has recently gotten the idea to make his way into the family of the master of our estate. but he has refused to utilize the ways of societal life. If the family can get by without you. too. Is it thus his mistake. to which he remains faithful with a perseverance that thus makes him the hero of inflexible obstinacy. but the path he is trying to follow is impossible. and furthermore. does he wish to stay at the Herrenhof. it will be found tomorrow. He has Frieda. )t’s not that ) want to overstate the importance of our master. which he can only sense. but nothing more. he does not want this. secret. and we don’t know. No sooner does he obtain a job at the school that he neglects it and condescends toward his employers. all the more they are advantageous: the innkeeper’s promise is doubtful. Kafka writes: When you want to be introduced to a new family. but in another. Wandering is his law. yet. But he suspects that all the opportunities offered him are temptations from which he must escape. it is because he was excluded from everything possible with an initial decision. you are patient and wait for a favorable occasion. If one is not found today. and if not found at all. as he would like. the only truth he must not betray. which he is the expression. doomed to exile where there is no place to stay. If he cannot make his way in the world. In the small country where we reside. not at all. he himself has property and lives free of such worries Is it then that he loves his daughter? No. Is he right? Wrong? (e cannot know.. to whom he is attached—he wants to reach it without passing through the tedious paths of patience and measured sociability. K. the normal means of life in society. you can do without them as well. nor borrow.74 rather than holding onto it? No sooner that he obtains a room at the village inn. the mayor promises his kind support. never say yes. but also wishes to have Olga. which he does not want. you will not rock the columns of the world for so little. nonetheless. and which leads him to reject all other routes. you seek out a common acquaintance and ask this person to mediate for you. His dissatisfaction is the very movement of this error. In a small fragment that does not belong to the edition of The Castle. the slumber he then slips into. during which the latter gives him the keys to the kingdom. an hour of grace when everything is possible. What is it that K. Bürgel. and insatiable by any visible promise. and itself is essentially false. wishes to reach his aim—which is neither employment (which he nonetheless desires) nor Frieda. but directly. causes him to pass up this offer and is just another form of the dissatisfaction that always presses him to go further. an impossible path with which he is unfamiliar. and to keep a part of himself reserved. does not understand. the mayor’s benevolence is .

which can only interrupt itself . 26 In a later chapter Pepi. who is a secretary of the lowest rank. has had with Bürgel. Would it then suffice to be discreet. to attract suspicion with a scandal and reclaim a bit of the prestige that her weak physical traits and disagreeable character have caused her to lose. far from all conditions of true repose. In this sense. Kafka senses that everything outside himself—as he himself is projected outside—is only an image. succeeds only in having the intermediaries as a goal and in making of them not what leads to the goal. fascinating. for all of this is but an image. and true. K.. loathsome phantasms born from the loss of self and all authentic reality. himself puts no faith in it. Bürgel is the secretary of Frederic. is she Klamm's girlfriend? Everything leads one to think that this is a rumor cleverly concocted by ambitious Frieda. if one attaches oneself to it by this exclusive devotion where the gravest perversions of idolatry are born. the grace which through the interstices of the law that Bürgel. too vigorous for the role. patient. “It is all too comical that it had to be Bürgel. and no longer has any influence. to strike up a new plan with the wife of the innkeeper of the Herrenhof.? It is because these images are nonetheless images of the purpose. an official of the Castle. even the book. He knows that one cannot trust images nor become attached to them. though he is tempted to find refuge in the underground passageways of a sad servant's life. )s Frieda’s affection sincere26? Was it not the mirage of his half-shadow. an observer from the village mocks what he calls "the adventure" that K. if. as negligence is the flaw of Joseph K. where does it come that this impatience is exactly his flaw. In the final pages. The impatience that desires to go straight to the goal. expending himself when he should not. who has fallen into disgrace for some time. the unhappiness of the imaginary. not without success. They participate in its light and misrecognizing them is to already have become blind to what is essential. but true as any image can be. 27 In a fragment. If this is his situation. has tried to represent in the play with a spectacular exhaustion does not. Undoubtedly. K. He is strong with a power of measureless contestation. Furthermore. to remain besides Frieda with a peaceful and friendly heart? No. and having no remaining strength when he needs it to succeed. he is only obeying the rigorous monism that animates him. signify the fatal misstep toward failure. the smiling secretary stands toward him? 27 All that is attractive. in a place where he can only wander. The impatience that escapes the temptation of figures also escapes the truth of what they figure. but what prevents one from reaching it: obstacles that are infinitely reflected and multiplied. he tries. "You are mistaken. explains to him at great length the conspiracy in which Klamm's girlfriend has engaged herself by throwing herself around the neck of a stranger. This fatigue that the actor. Indeed. in acting with this impatience. K tires himself out because he goes back and forth without prudence and patience. Thus everything begins again." he says. indeterminate point. coldness of the soul no less than of the body—is one the forces of the imagination and more specifically one of the dimensions of the space where the hero of The Castle resides. This is all the more good reason for it to be Bürgel. and to follow the advice of the innkeeper. in activities destined not to succeed. the void. in keeping with her own miserable little existence.75 malicious. . and the small job he is offered is a trap designed to capture hm. however. illusory as an image can be. without passing through the intermediaries. the fatigue from which Kafka has intimately suffered—fatigue. He says. It is itself an enigma. whose only equivalent is a measureless passion for a single. but his incessant re-beginning of situations also shows that everything is stuck. Such is Pepi's point of view.’s death seems to be the necessary end of this progression in which impatience pushes him to the point of utter exhaustion. Frieda's replacement who tries to seduce K.

the approach of the profundity of silence. A sterile fatigue. invisible. at the time one must die. the sweet and insensible sloping toward deep sleep. arrives. this lethargy. that refuses everything. at the same time. So what is it. and the man without sleep is the one who is most guilty. unnamed and elsewhere inaccessible. However. . still exhausted. which he does not display. a symbol of unity? It is at the moment he is exhausted that he holds the meeting with the secretary in which it seems to him possible to reach the goal. unknown. not from this unaccomplished and un-actual death where we are contented with our quotidian weariness. but in another death. Night is required. which Brod’s play. the effect of a dissatisfaction that refuses everything. because for the one who. the deceiving night. He lacks this bit of strength that would be necessary to find the end. such that it does not even lead to a rest that is death. and which he conceals on the contrary through the gift of discretion that belongs to him--would it not also be the sign of his condemnation. like K. which is secret. but quite deeply. by a supplementary punishment. has unfortunately come to disturb.76 This fatigue." One must sleep. but not in the limits of the book: he arrives in the silence of the book’s absence. furthermore. He sleeps. is thus another form of the bad infinity to which the wanderer is doomed. and it is not yet pure or real sleep. where it seems in the meantime that K. as do all interviews that come from there. the way of salvation. in this case? Is it in the exhaustion of fatigue that he must miss the marvelous occasion? Or is it in the consolation and grace of sleep that he could approach it? Undoubtedly it is one and the other. continues to act. "Sleep is what is most innocent.. which is such that one cannot rest from it. This occurs at night. the cause of the stupor that accepts everything. the pleading night where the mysterious gifts are swallowed up in oblivion. He must sleep.

Why had he loved. as in Zuckmental or in Riva. He found himself in a friendship with her which soon resulted in a greatly passionate sentiment." and "tu" replaces "vous. beyond letters. "Dear Madame Milena" becomes "Milena. the vehement mastery where she demonstrated following her passions fully. submission. her vibrant force. and with the desire to please him. as far as one can recognize from an incomplete and undated correspondence 29. She was also strongly cultured. because he was so young that he had thus become aware of the intensity of his contradictions. her passionate knowledge-. The engagements which he annulled twice with Felice Bauer. it seems. with her promptitude of decision. he gets engaged a third time with a young girl from Prague to whom he seems a bit attached. compassion. Quickly." and he returned to her with his 28 The note again in July 1916: "I have never once again trusted a woman.he is thirty-eight years old. of his solitary vocation. But he has himself marked the limits of his sentiments." 29 Letters to Milena." but. She belonged to a very old family from Prague. but simply an unlimited admiration. soon exhausted in torment and despair. were perhaps taken up again. published and post-faced by Willy Haas (a friend of Milena).77 Chapter Seven . The first was a woman. it so happens. Since again with the Swish of Riga. or not been able to love Milena? In 1920. editors S. and by this marriage and the duties of community. and leaves quite brusquely to be agreeable to Milena. save in Zuckmantel. and this sentiment.Milena’s Check. 1954 Milena was a sensible and intelligent young lady. when he travels from Merano in order to fight tuberculosis. one knows that he meets Dora Dymant. Later on. along with its storms and force of tempest. whose friends compared to Matilda de la Mole or Sanseverina. Fischer Verlag in Frankfurt and Schocken Books. without dread and scrupules. myself distraught completely. he starts to write in a ceremonious. already. For the first time I have understood a young Christian girl and lived in her circle of action. liberty of her preferences. at the moment they met. . who goes before her. It seems that this episode was unique in his life. it is he. New York. She wrote to him: "You are frightened by what has fallen into your arms. the woman from Berlin. Franz Kafka saw himself delivered to a grandiose sentiment before which he retreats. exerting her generosity without accounting for everything that she had and everything she was—she seemed to leave the impression of one of these chronic Italians from whom Stendhal had borrowed several of his great female characters. under the direction of Max Brod. to also assure his spiritual salvation. immediately happy. she twenty-four. despair and self-contempt" (January 24. They say she wrote with talent and had translated certain Czech works by Kafka which were discovered around 1920. it is the young woman who has taken initiative. but also flattering manner. but of infinitely richer experience--she speeds up events and. in October 1913: "The stay in Riga has held great importance for me.” The young girl of Riga was Christian and he says of her. It was the only relationship in which he found passion in its captivating aspect. although death has already seized it. frightened. and by her love for life. In 1920. noting in his Journal: "The sweetness of relations that one can have with a loved woman. myself not knowing anything. 1915)28. the second a baby. of his desire to strike away solitude with marriage. and. who stays with him to the end: a union that is undoubtedly privileged. while nonetheless a devoted and generous friend. I have not ever had with F.

but which she also directs. and later again. adroitly. her letters becoming outrageous. Kafka must leave Merano to begin his life in Prague once more. division.this did not arrive-. separates them almost irreparably. but on the contrary. They were terrified and did not want it. At the same time Milena was jealous of Kafka's fiancée. or where I exist.. and so I cannot lie. this marriage had been strained due to family..78 delicate sincerity: terrified. from the force of happiness." Thus Milena's passionate force unleashes. but in her letters. she asks him to come to Vienna. but yes. but he cannot." Milena lives in Vienna. spontaneous. while being younger than her he is free of the heavy charge of the times which weighed upon a Jew. Milena gives all privilege to her passions. he wished to. She is married. And if some of our destiny to die. with its innocent eyes. since he decides to come to Vienna. and this encounter is not happy as in Vienna. Kafka was jealous of Milena's friends who tried to turn her 30 Meanwhile. seized Kafka to the end: it immediately prolongs his stay in Merano. It is also more foreign to the point of absurdity. and so that he obtains the brief hiatus he needed. the sickness of the lungs. then? One day. there are obstacles: she is Christian. she suggests to him to address a letter to the office with these words: "Aunt Clara gravely sick.). I nonetheless had to find myself in Vienna-. this spouse seemed to be the obstacle which captures them." An innocent subterfuge. while it should be more unfamiliar than the men who at this moment pass in an automobile on the boulevard. It is only the spiritual malady which has left its shore. yes. already once broken. despite everything. as were the prophets. I believe it sometimes: if one can die of happiness. to my startled surprise. limits. The two last journeys left him in great hope of happiness. it seems. remain in life when I would remain in life. . Later she intervenes in bizarre intrigues. I do not wish to (it is not from stuttering) to go to Vienna. but rather a stretcher on which to lie down for a moment. for she does not bring them together. she does not know what she desires. the office "is a living being which looks at me. but is it an impediment? Not for one who is already married to a Jew30. he refuses with increasing anxiety. "Weak children who understand how the voice called them. a being with which I have not found related to a manner unknown to me." Meanwhile.. but Kafka cannot lie. Back in Prague. she insists.I did not need lunch or dinner. it must happen to me. She asks him to pass Vienna. but her marriage is in part undone. she is married." This incident reveals part of what separated them. "And. They meet once more in Gemünd for several hours.. I am spiritually sick." This vehemence. and what she desires suffers no hesitation. since she was already once separated and since later they will separate definitively in mutual agreement which Milena has not hesitated to make himself free if other difficulties had not been overcome. because spiritually I would not resist the effort. can. What divides them. but precisely this demands attention. "I don't want to (Milena. help me. a proposition from which he recoils in fear. penetrating the room of her correspondent "with a whistle of seduction. where he remains four days.. he writes to himself of letters which illuminate a raving sentiment.. definitively. but only more anxious before Milena's youth. and not for Kafka who does not feel separated from her by this trait." "I would not certainly come.

in the intransigence of despair. and with their friendship left to break. above all. yet more dirty. around 8 o'clock. by signs. in him. contact through letters almost daily: she faces herself. bringing nothing but torment without remedy. several notes in the Journal have confirmed this. Milena. attraction that he submits to by the same reason of the repulsion that he demonstrates. I feared the entire world and this man. his first night. "This didn't change anything great. the radiant magnificence of her sentiments. I was still happy. he sat at an adjacent table and attended. exciting. Kafka's relations with the feminine world have always been rather ambiguous: his stories have given us a sense of them. letting myself be soundless. but the letters to Milena reveal it to us by demonstrating with what attraction he turned toward this world. Kafka has also been diverted by this force. He needed to go search for her that evening. Finally. someone else was there. and." The young girl nonetheless made him a sign to follow them. Milena and Kafka see each other again in Prague. at the least. in the strength of solitude. with anguish. 1944. but this happiness arose. a stranger to worldly life.79 treacherously from him. she seeks to maintain. where it left me with this eternally tormented body. she sees that he hesitates before a night in Gemünd. the outrageous choke. situated across the way. Mme Buber-Neumann has spoken in a poignant manner of his companion during this time. when his relations trouble him more and more. The Journal alludes to it briefly. In vain. was attractive. and when. "All this. There becomes less of it because Kafka takes note of his destiny which makes of him an animal of the forest. Milena is dead in the camp at Ravensbruck." Has Milena thus eschewed. and while she drank beer with her other companion. Being silent is the unique means of living. no longer receiving letters. but when he descended. a young and open woman. she cannot do anything against this force which now protects the silent intimacy of Kafka. on May 11. by appeasing his distress and giving him hope. Meanwhile. These misunderstandings result in misunderstandings. thus. . At the hotel. from what everything had not been yet more abominable. in the ferocious desire of bringing silence and retiring in silence. If the force brought about an impassioned exigency in her. He tells her.. It was summer. he stood at the window. the young girl returned home and Kafka left again in hate to rejoin Kafka. it is with a violence that is uncontained except for the trouble he has the strength to wish: "It is because I call upon you. and he communicated with a young girl employed in a cake shop. without exchanging a word. arising from a torment without remedy. he falls into such a deep torment that he is ready to sacrifice the young woman to strike away these disorderly movements which take away all rest. No longer writing. was not made to desire in vain." "These letters are nothing but torment. even before the hotel. tempted to say that immediately attracted by the force of the gift which was given him. who drove her to a hotel. in the morning—it was always hot and pleasant—we crossed Karlsbrucke again to return to the house. he studied things devoid of sense for his first State exam. here and there31. He has submitted with fear.. it was not otherwise. and to the end. he was quite hot. after having met her once 31 Thus. when after the journey to Vienna where they had only understood one after the other calmly in the forest. and abominable. this happiness was due to rest. He was 20 years old. the young woman tries to make projects of the future. in vain. despite her impetuosity. She asked him if he was not seized by a form of anguish. he sees it. or if it this strength of passion which explains her defeat? One is naturally tempted to believe it.

"perhaps" the children also appear magically.. but the memory of it remains. Below. My body. abandoned. I possess it. there is for me an abyss that I cannot cross. in heavy breathing. alchemy. had precisely attracted me in the hotel in which. but only habitual "anguish"--ah! The habitual suffices. had made a small horror (not the penalty of speaking of it). completely determined abomination. was in profound accord with everything. it is also why. between this world of the day and "this half-hour in the bed" where in a letter you have spoken to me with contempt as from a thing of the man (this contempt was certainly there only to reassure Kafka. with an also insensate violence. punishable and dirty. he adds: "But truly. and he knows well that in belonging almost completely to the night he has bound . Also I had no "anguish" for a night in Gemünd." With Milena. a nocturnal affair. a philosophical stone. it is a thing of the night.. but inwardly quite necessary. in every sense and absolutely. something that was lightly repulsive. a bit of hell. when his head rested in the shoulder of the young girl (it is a marvelous page. Look me in the eyes!" Kafka expresses himself with such simplicity. ) do not want to say that the unique reason of my hostility surely. certainly. possessed. a bag of tricks. I have renounced all other lives. had said something slightly dirty (not the penalty of speaking of it). there was still a small odor. often calm during the years. Let's consider this question for a moment). who exercises upon me such a troubling and soothing effect. and I would need to jump to another side in the night to take possession of it again?. that one risks being fooled to the extent of understanding what has not been gained except for another form of expression. evoking the passing hours in Vienna with Milena in the forest.. I had taken off my clothes with all my strength. even as she pursued him constantly with eyes that understood nothing. here is the world. and it is why it is quite natural that I am on one hand extremely calm and extremely agitated. likely because I do not want to. after this trial.80 again. Wishing to trap that with magic. it wasn’t that was that the young girl at the hotel. At this same instant that I had never forgotten it and at the same time I knew or I believed in knowing that this abominable and dirty thing. where he speaks with a shudder of horror.I needed to go to the other side by a love for occult magic. but yourself. it is the view of the editor of the letters]. outwardly fortuitous. her small word had not been anything but a small sign) which. just now. he has entered another world for the first time: "This is why it is not only the approach of your body. he has affirmed enough that he wants to turn away from it. on another side. and I have feared it terribly. he adds. And it remained like this always. and that it was this abominable and dirty thing (where her small action. great clarity.. he turned around from the girl in the store at the point of being unable to look at her. in the hate of a night. in complete innocence. wishing to magically trap what gives you open eyes each day ("perhaps" one cannot have children otherwise.. and such lucidity." Meanwhile.. This is why I am certainly recognizing you (you and everything). extremely constrained and extremely free. a bit of suffering. in the best which arrived to me on this subject. rarely was Kafka's language more worthy of happiness). sometime previously. was newly shaken until it was unbearable due to this desire of a small. at the least. an enchanted ring? All this is far from me. If the world of desire is this nocturnal thing for Kafka.

" "This thing worthy of love. writing is still a pact established with the danger of the night: "an abandon to obscure forces." it is not only in the poverty of nothingness and the haunting of the fear that he feels unified. a source from which he wishes to eagerly drink. even if I sometimes have the air of extinguishing "my anguish" than by interest. tormenting. The most beautiful of your letters. the liveliest expression of the part of him that anguish has obtained from him. It is also in the letters that he seems sometimes to debase himself. and you are not the only one of us two to pull through our marriage in vain. as he perishes in a feeling of distraction that is almost without limit. in full sun?" "A silent gift. it is the most profound one in me that I probably give reason. out of it. there is a deceiving force. up there." all this is at stake. this is why he cannot stick to the distance.. and the exercise of torture. to his cruelty32. Kafka. when he feels tied to anguish. in advance. granting what she desires and even more to what she doesn’t want." )t is in the letters to Milena. with the greed that forced Joseph K. before the young girl and not only at her face. all the while seeking to explain why ) should not be anguished. especially when the hope takes place in despair. And since it is my best trait. For Kafka. that one finds the word anguish most often repeated. For. I don't occupy myself with anything other than being tortured.. in full daylight. For myself as well. Why do I do it?" . but perhaps healthy. but an essentially impure magic--and also something that is trusted more than Kafka. but in the intimacy of what he has richer and better. he also senses that for the one who like him is by all means engaged in the complexity of the night. to quench his thirst upon the fresh face of Mademoiselle Bürstner. what would there be to find in me which was worthy of love? But this thing is worthy of love. I draw from it my consistency [I am made of it] and it is perhaps what I have the most. it is also perhaps the only thing that you love. But he does not need to deceive himself any longer.81 himself to it with this sinister strangeness. Willy Haas. me in Prague with anguish. as if a privileged means of salvation. which 32 In one of his last letters. in the lower regions which he reproaches himself for having sought to abandon a moment? It is true that there is a somewhat troubled concern in Kafka. illusory. the self of selves he is ready to deny. mysterious gift. it is the anguish that she loves. when one writes." "impure embraces." Kafka designates here. one and the other. in this gift and in this magic? Perhaps it is the same for desire. Kafka writes: "Yes. if he loses himself in penetrating it. where excessive expressions seemed suspect in the editor of the letters. he says. are those where you give reason to my "anguish. "Does one still know something of it. and he says to Milena: "We are married. perhaps an enjoyment of torture that he denounces in himself and which is like a ruse to disarm the sort in exposing itself. but not without fierceness. He must give reason to anguish. when he also precipitates himself. yes. but in everything which revolves around her—can he truly be convinced of the indigence and ooze that he wanted to represent in her eyes? Does he not surpass the limits of sincerity? Which of this is just of him. when one writes stories. this destiny of disquiet and of torment. and this is why. and if Milena loves him. with a certain loving pleasure. it is due to this anguish. torture is extremely important for me. you in Vienna." "an unleashing of forces that were habitually had on edge.

I put my face in your hands. without knowledge (for I have forgotten everything). the animal of the forest. I tremble only in the unleashing. a thing that is thus terrible and makes him tremble. in your eyes I fought the end of the illusion. as I cannot do otherwise. It is an unchaining wishes passes. exile into his new lineage? He spoke of it in a note of the Journal written a bit later33. ich kann nicht anders. and what one wants the distance. truly like a bewildered animal. I don't know. It failed well. make the desert into the promise of another land. so I see you in the liberty that arises from it. obscurity. I forgot myself. Milena. This could not last. I constantly thought. Exiled. I proved this fright of dreams (that of driving oneself. in this new liberty. always anew here: quite at home. which indicated this origin and my true lineage. [I stay here.] . I dressed. thus. I began to run breathlessly. 33 34 January 28 and 29. 1922. This is Luther's speech: Hier stehe ich. I was repelled by what I was. and I could no longer stand the sun. I snuggled close to you. but you in an innocent manner) until my nerves were alive. I forgot all about it. and tormented me (alongside you. I was thus punished in the forest. I was in despair. I never belonged to anything but the forest. shaken by nothingness. but where there is no less of what is worthy of love. you were quite nice. in the usual sense of the word. is he condemned to despair? Condemned to the desert. the most marvelous thing that I have ever seen. it was not by anything other than your grace. but in the depth I was not yet anything but an animal. from the world. the pure intimacy of anguish.. but what it is. but that Kafka truly belonged to the depths of the forest and that his world is the world of obscurity which he does not escape except in momentary grace. in Spindlermühle. powerful. "If I could carry it with me!" and another thought: "Is there an obscurity where it is?" You ask me how I see: it is in this manner!" One must try to read this page as Kafka had written it. to the confusion of the profound void. as if one had been at home. in thinking that he no longer had anything to do with the image. I approached myself once again. he also speaks in mysterious terms which predicted that the animal of the forest sees what was unseen. anxiously. I torment myself until I am mad. where one has no right to be). from the Promised Land. as if I had the right to do it. and if I had lived here freely. I myself cannot understand. knows what was unknown by the happy people of this world: "You can't exactly understand. can he not make of this bewilderment his path. groundedness. In one of his last letters. and to Milena. came up to you. I was reclining somewhat in a muddy pit (muddy only due to my presence. excluded from hope. at home. that obstacle. I was always forced to see more of that improper wound. I cannot act otherwise34. that genesis I had everywhere for you.. I was quite happy. that is my vow. I had to re-enter obscurity. it is true. I only know of what one wants in proximity: silence. as you notice my singularities which the forest had announced. I had this fright in the same reality. what it has to do with or what it has to do with in part. naturally). Here come the inevitable speeches about "anguish" which were inevitably repeated. quite proud. free. he describes to Milena what he is and what she is: "It is something like this: myself. even if you had passed your favorable hand upon me. as if love or desire were the very center.82 undoubtedly obliges him to be aware of himself as one being ruined. albeit familiar. I read my destiny in your eyes.

but is Milena Frieda? Is Klamm her husband? )s Olga Kafka’s fiancée. There is something quite accurate in this intuition. was written before the days of distress. not for it to be translated. an experience that matters less to Kafka’s fate than to the story of his unfortunate passion. without unhappiness. do we find them in the figure of the innkeeper woman where they demonstrated a rather sneaky. irreducible. but does not express less of the same truth: to rejoinder Kafka. If you wished to go toward me. but in elevating you in a superhuman manner quite above. strange"). had it not always been there? This is why. in the depths of obscurity. and would you have thrown me a furtive glance. mastering . the most astonishing point. if good. as did Stendhal. a movement which astonishes and scares it. uniquely because one has disposed me there" (this Letter. certainly with you). which is developed according to her demands and her own goals. And this to arrive to a place which has nothing seductive. until you'd fall apart and disappear (and thus myself. could well. and humiliates his genius. It is my way of participating in life. what he says has not only the acerbity of a denigrating force. but also be elevated. but to form another experience. I abandon life lightly and naturally as closing one's eyes. my life. but shudders as if in reminder. exalted. after. in the work. without great traits and without any merits other than what she takes from her union with Klamm—and even in this passion. Meanwhile. as if in approach from what infinitely surpasses common experience. when one remembers The Castle and if one is carried away in reconciling these two worlds. my being is made of this subterranean threat. but because it also predicts the vertiginous force of exaltation for it: "But this is still not the highest point of astonishment. where I travel without happiness. when one reads the letters. where Kafka seems to express himself in a manner that is out of character. whether in the haste of transposition. one would see nothing more. between a disloyal stranger and unfaithful servant? How could someone who loved Milena with such an impassioned admiration been able to diminish his sentiments. these sad relations. one is astonished and almost frightened in thinking that this Milena. one must lower oneself infinitely. it is true. is she called to become.83 passes partly. a splendid figure who is elevated above everything by Kafka's ecstatic declarations. rather open hostility? One doesn’t know what to say: the real story does not clarify the work. not have been anything more than this almost insignificant Frieda. over you. if it stops. this young simple girl and a bit of defense against with Milena's jealousy is unleashed with an unjust violence? And Milena's friends. since we knew ourselves. without happiness and future. Brod has stated that in The Castle. is that it is prolonged in the work. treacherous friends who speak out against Kafka. and one would need to attend to this purpose—very strange—not only in humbling you. in the experience of the work. so strongly that you would be perhaps torn from it. Everything one can predict. these pitiable embraces. Kafka had conveyed his relationship with Milena. I also stop. where he is. does not bring it closer to us. in such a depth where you would be. where the letters speak to us in such a way that we are ready to speak the sublime. yes. without merit and without fault. if it stops. in the truth of the work. Was it not always there. but the forces which make it emerge trembling in me. before. if you wish it then—in judging it in musical terms—abandoning the entire world to descend toward me. to the point of disappearing-"strange.

" Such is then the passion of Kafka. one must push the reading further and not limit oneself to an analysis of relations of such and such a character. and. and it is not only the sorrow of miserable relations that one must note in Kafka's relationship. but. which through its passion (which is lacking in The Trial). perhaps as well. One can also say that The Castle is truly the book of an extraordinary passion. due to this same will that is exceeded. if he truly wanted. which should speak to us of a tormenting force. obscure. and such is also the cold passion of K. Kafka. now. which has traversed the real story. who is outside the game and still wishes to play and. I would also like to occupy the place of the reign-.. never extinct. and impatience. is forced again. infinite ignorance. for the young man of Merano to the young woman of Vienna. more inhumane means. It is the entire work. never satisfied. Thus.I. everything changes perhaps. . in its compact reality. to occupy the place of the king and even checking altogether. even there where all the forces lack something. himself pawn by pawn.84 them. which. has also become aware of this terrible force. A great passion. this prodigious force that animates him. but also the radiant mystery of the Castle. He can do nothing. piercing them in the day to the point where he found the movement which ought to have driven K to unite himself with Frieda in a very empty and cold intimacy? Is this then the truth that one must read beneath these beautiful passionate sentences of the letters? And this truth does not speak in manner still more cruel than what we would believe of Milena's check? It is indeed also this. who disturbs all the rules. because it does not reach its goal except to surpass it. who always speaks of his weakness. against all the rules and left to mix up the game. he cannot reach anything. omnipotent. explains the force which a new day brings nonetheless. grasping. to the point that if I really wanted to. it would need to arrive by other. once again. the excessive passion of a search. and never renounces. an eschewed passion. But in admitting that one is right to want to recapture a reflection of Kafka’s true sentiments in the book. when he longs for Milena (but more strongly so that he does not pine for the infinite beyond). a figure that no longer exists. could pass all the goals in a manner that is inhumane. consequently a piece which no longer exists and thus cannot participate in the game—and since at the same time I would like. pawn by pawn. which could seize him (I have moved far away).

Very often. it is indiscreet-and the circle is erased in this fashion. It is like speech that does not clarify or obscure.85 Chapter Eight: The Narrative Voice (the "he. which isn’t to say there is no relation with life. this outside. Language transforms the situation. a tyrannical and smug "I" still rooted in life and intruding without selfrestraint. The limit placed by fatigue limits life. then you fall. without being taken as a richness or a pure and simple deprivation." In uttering it. could be asserted in its truth. but it receives from language the perhaps not unlimited meaning that it claims to limit: the meaning of the limit. The meaning of life is in turn limited by this limit: a limited meaning from a limited life. But it is also true that the impression that someone speaks "in the background" truly belongs to narrative singularity and the truth of the circle: as if the circle’s center were outside the circle.. I can depict it more or less like this: the narrative is like a circle that neutralizes life. eight or nine. then. and that if it were possible to accept this distance. and in the meantime realize that the sentence "The powers of life. and what is said. even the most innocent ones. in turn. bring to the point of speech an experience of limits and then limit-experience? Seen from this point of view. But then there is a reversal one can discover in different ways. Let us write a narrative in which it has a place as an achievement of the narrative itself. this "far back"-which in no way is a space of domination or height from which one could perceive everything in a single view and rule the events (of the circle )-we could say it is the very distance that language receives as its limit. risk taking on the same ambiguous status that language takes up at its limit. is the hazardous space where the sentence "The powers of life. you take a few steps down the street. one could then speak of limit. but from a position of retreat. Well. the author speaks. from its own lack. all sentences. The limit does not vanish. 1964 I write (I pronounce) this sentence: "The powers of life are sufficient only to a certain point. In these two identical sentences. but has the impression that someone speaks in the background and cues the characters or even the events to talk: an indiscreet and clumsy intrusion. but inhabits language and in some sense shapes it. what is the difference? Certainly it is quite big. which could only be the absence of any center. in affirming it. infinite distance. which is not always certain. A limit that is perhaps the neuter. that is. so that to stay within language is to be always already outside it. Then how are we to talk of this limit (speak of meaning). A reserve that goes beyond every meaning that is already signified. the meaning of what is. The sentence I utter tends to draw into the very inside of life the limit that was only supposed to mark it on the outside. without allowing the meaning to de-limit it? (ere.. we could say. as if the outside were precisely this center. a distance that is no doubt fully outside. True. a distance where all meaning and all absence of meaning is neutralized in advance. in a bad narrative-given that there are bad ones. however. " relate" it in the sense appropriate to it. Within this circle.. is certainly still given. Let’s stick to it. it’s necessary to enter another kind of language. but by it we risk losing the knowledge of the limit understood as limitation of meaning. . Life is deemed limited. but a neutral relation." is not as such fully possible." the neuter). contradicts the limitation of meaning or at least displaces it. backward and infinitely far back.. I think of something quite simple: the experience of fatigue that at any moment makes us feel that life is limited.

which happens when nothing happens. though deceptively. that is. At the same time—and in a more visible way—the "he" marks the intrusion of a character: the novelist is a person who refuses to say "I. sometimes without a mask. In the narrative form. the novelistic narration. But the narrator is not a historian. 35 I am referring to Michel Butor's Repertoire II (Editions De Minuit). given that the fate of the world remains that of individual particularity. a multiple and personalized "he. The experience of the disenchanted world introduced into literature by Don Quixote is the experience that dissolves the story by contrasting it to the banality of the real—by which realism is grasped for a while by the form of the novel. there is nothing we can do but tell it. the passing of time. this reality is reduced to a constellation of individual lives. where in the presence of a reminder. that is to say. sometimes fictive. The distant counter-epic narrator tells of exploits which are produced. -contains within it the truth. The "he" is then an uneventful everyday life. which becomes the most effective genre of the developing bourgeoisie. comes the speech of an event which is accomplished: memory. His song is heard." an "ego" manifested under the veil of a seeming "he. already instrumental. yet always satisfied in their unhappiness. and on the other." In the interval of the narrative. The mysterious "he" of the epic account divides very quickly: the "he" becomes the impersonal coherence of a story (in the full and almost magical sense of this word). . that of individuality—let alone the content itself—is already marked by an ideology to the extent that it assumes that the individual. If. the course of the world such that it is unnoticed. the novel is filled with little torments. is sufficient to express the world. routine and monotonous life. But the story soon gets disenchanted. ambitious. and that he seems to be reproducing. and mother of muses. but this song. regardless of whether he saw them. so that it shows little by little." that has brought about so many noteworthy studies35. nor an aesthetic disinterest-an impure contemplative jouissance that allows the reader and the spectator to participate in tragedy as a distraction-it remains to find out what is at stake when writing responds to the demand of this "he" which cannot be characterized. unhappy. to write is to go from " I" to " he. and as it exists independently. there is something to tell. The "he" is the unlit occurrence of what takes place when one tells a story. I think I should go further back.86 ) will not return to the subject of the use of personal pronoun in the novel. his psychology. which in the evolution of this form outlines and isolates. as has been demonstrated (in The Space of Literature). with all his particular characteristics and his limits. So we see that the "he" has split in two: on one hand. the story stands alone. we hear-and always as if in supplement to other things-the speech of something indeterminate. performed in the thought of a demiurge." but confers this power to others. the individual is affirmed in his subjective richness—his inner liberty." but "he" when substituted for "I" does not simply designate another me. the voice of the narrator is heard with more or less justification. and that is the objective reality as it is immediately given to the interested gaze. Recounting a story is quite mysterious. the reality of what takes place. it is in the song that Orpheus truly descends to the underworld—something we communicate by adding that he descends there through the power of his singing. signifies a change in the narrative account. muse. of subjectivities.

the play is really performed since the beginning of time. for it simplifies to exaggeration. still affirmed the validity of the narrative mode: telling stories was showing. just as he plays with the reader and by doing so pulls him into the game. removing the accessories. The author--even if Madame Bovary. if it wishes to create legitimate interest. letting it become visible so that he plays with it. There is another remark that we should make. allowing something to be or making it exist. because he does not respect the rule of nonintervention: he constantly involves himself with what he is telling. so it can have its status preserved as an imaginary object (but here Mallarme. of a malicious irony. The ideal stays the representation of classical theater: the narrator is there only to raise the curtain. The first: what is told has aesthetic value to the extent that the interest one takes in it is distanced interest. and the reader does not read—he looks. reflection. Flaubert's form of impersonality. but on the contrary. but in the manner of a game. that of the absence of deceit. albeit fully different: the author must not intervene. One could thus say that if aesthetic distance is denounced in Mann. What about this erratic intrusion? It is not moralizing—a stance taken against some character—it does not consist of illuminating things from outside the swooping thumb of the creator as he fashions his figures to his judgment. The other reason is almost the same. taking part without participating. (is is an interesting case. Thomas Mann. disinterest—an essential category in the judgment of taste since Kant and even Aristotle— means that an aesthetic act should not be based on any real interest. The word of order is imperious: the novel must not intervene. The impersonality of the novel is that of aesthetic distance. For a moment let’s consider Thomas Mann. in the world outside the world. Why? For two very different reasons that nearly combine. is already ahead). but also in the most direct manner. and it must be left free. capital sins. edgy and difficult. it is also affirmed by a narrative awareness that is incorporated as a . in Stendhal or Balzac. Disinterested interest. Thomas Mann knows well that our naiveté has been lost. an unreal thing. the impersonal nature of a novel such as it is rightly or wrongly attributed in Flaubert. succeeds this way in restoring it as a feast of the narrative illusion. is myself—does away with all direct relations between himself and the novel. commentary. to become. without there being validity-despite the great doubts one could already entertain-to interrogate oneself about the limits and the shapes of the narrative form. because the novel is a work of art that exists all by itself. attending. It represents the intervention of the narrator challenging the very possibility of narration—intervention that is thus essentially critical.87 What did the surrendering in this remarkable construction? Almost everything. I will not dwell on it any longer. sometimes through intermediary people. Let us compare—all the while remaining aware of the clumsy character of such a process. cutting the moorings. with applause. who possesses a keen sense of the narrative feast. So he tries to restore it. not by ignoring illusion. and as though without him. and the impersonality of a novel by Kafka. who we can say is an entirely different requirement. In this way the author must heroically move away and keep his distance so that the reader or the spectator can also remain at distance. and moralizing intrusion such that it is still authorized. transforming it for us into a second-degree deceit. producing it. he does not tell—he shows.

but because he constitutes the center around which the perspective of the narrative is organized. introduced as something denounced. in which the narrative’s authenticity depends upon the existence of a free subject—formulas that are correct insofar as they represent the decision to stick to a given bias (obstinacy and even obsession form one of the rules that seem to be imposed when there is writing involved— form is obstinate. in telling the story directly. For the reader who up to that moment identified himself. with history in the making (living it by his account in the mode of contemplative irresponsibility). at the same time it introduces in the most rigorous narration. A distance which is not only lived as such by the central character. placing itself between parentheses. into the very sphere of the work. One of these differences is essential to the subject we are discussing. but from afar. who takes great pains not to exceed the possibilities of knowledge and the limits of his position: such is the domain of James's ambassadors. even if it is merely a character depicted in third person. everything is seen from this point of view. to project. Storytelling was self-evident. which is immediately visible. he can no longer be disinterested. it is in some way the nonconcerning. removing him from the center. What has happened to him? What new demand has befallen him? It is not that it concerns him: on the contrary. enjoy it with disinterest). the space in which the narrative experience unfolds in unique simplicity. because on one side they wrongly assert there might be some kind of equivalency between the narrative and the transparency of a consciousness (as though to tell stories were solely to be conscious. as we know. There is thus a privileged ). that is to say. and perhaps it does not concern anyone. lets himself become the narrator of a story that has already been lived or is in the process of being lived. the alteration of another form of speech. whereas in the more traditional impersonalized novel it vanished. by a method that is not measurable and not discernible. just as he is at a distance from the events he lives or the beings he encounters (this would still only be the manifestation of a singular I). and it is also the reign of subjectivist formulas. but which is at stake when one recounts. correct but in no way definitive. is generally directed by a certain character. The consequences of such a change will often be misinterpreted. For now. No longer put into question. it does not concern him at all. But storytelling was not self-evident. and to veil by revealing). not that this character. Nonetheless. it is no longer possible for the reader to take a comfortable distance from it.the experience one does not recount. since it constantly decenters the work. which would be only secondly and even secondarily an eloquent consciousness. Kafka admires Flaubert. from the moment that the distant stranger is put at stake and seems to be the substance of history.88 theme. to unveil. a distance that distances even himself. under the semblance of an irreducible strangeness. One result. always at a distance from himself. since there is no way that he . Kafka has written. Distance-creative disinterest (apparent in Flaubert to extent that he has to fight to maintain it)-the distance which was the writer's and reader's distance from the work and permitted the jouissance of contemplation. as in Thomas Mann (or Gide). catches our attention. now enters. but in turn. or the other as speech (as writing). The narrative act. that is its danger). it forms the surroundings of the novelistic world. and the other hand they maintain the priority of individual consciousness. everything is different. The novels he writes are marked by a rigor that would allow a distracted reader to sort them into Flaubert’s line.

Narration ceases to be what is presented to sight. Even if it cannot be directly attributed to him. deprived of the interest of reading. to keep between himself and them this distance of the gaze. which carries writing away and that encourages us.” . in its non-present presence. and destroys all memory. It does so in two ways: 1) the speech of the narrative lets us constantly feel that what is being told is not being told by anyone: it speaks in the neuter. The narrative "he dismisses subjects. a deviating relation by which what does not concern us is affirmed. this forgetfulness that introduces them into the present without memory which is that of narrating speech. The "he" of narration in which the neuter speaks is not content to take the place that is generally occupied by the subject. opens. as a moving fragmentation. so that to tell a story is to put oneself to the test of this forgetfulness that precedes. storytelling is the torment of language. Narration ruled by the neuter remains in the watch of the "he. obviously without coming to an end. It is the tale—independent from its content—which is forgetfulness. to submit to a kind of perpetual detour. 36 The “he” does not simply take the subject’s traditional place." the third person that is neither a third person. for what is far away. something they cannot hold again except by giving up their power to say "I" and what happens to them has always already happened: they can only account for it indirectly. the bearers of speech. nor the simple cloak of impersonality.89 can situate himself in a justified manner in relation to what does not even present itself as impossible to be situated. this does not mean that the narrative necessarily tells of a forgotten event or the happening of the forgetfulness under whose dependence. the subjects of the action-who used to take the place of characters-fall into a relation of non-identification with themselves: something happens to them. alienated—move as though in their sleep to try to catch up with themselves. And the narrative is nothing but an allusion to the initial detour brought by writing. Henceforth. it changes what we mean by “space. The realm of the circumspect consciousness—of narrative circumspection (of the "I" that gazes at all around it and stands firm under its gaze)—has been subtly rattled. or far away. just as it takes away every transitive action or every objective possibility. through an intermediary and from the point of view of a chosen actor-spectator as intermediary. as though in forgetting themselves. vision is no longer what we are dealing with. In this sense. and cannot be the object of a gaze. is not at-hand either close. he is no longer permitted to look at things from afar. 2) in the neuter space of the tale. separated from what they are—we could even say. Kafka teaches us that storytelling brings the neuter into play. Writing. this relation to life. the incessant search for infinity. Then how is he to distance himself from the absolute distance that has in some sense taken up all removal again? Without any support. whether the latter is a stated or implied "I" or the event as it takes place in its impersonal signification36. Rest assured. as we write.

. Not that it comes from beyond the tomb or even because it may once and for all represent some essential absence. as from the unity. it says nothing. Then again. endless. whether affirmed or hidden. suspended in the whole of the narrative. a neuter voice that speaks the work from this place without place—where the work holds its tongue. The Ravishing of Lol V. makes things visible. But when the other speaks.. at a distance without any distance. The narrative voice which is inside only to the extent that it is outside. What does that tell us? The narrative voice bears 37 La Ravissement de Lol V. this gap in which all the other words ought to have been buried. readability— indicate in such a manner the intrusion of the other—understood as neuter—in its irreducible strangeness. firstly. It is a voice that has no place in the work but does not hover over it either. indirectly and under this attraction—that of oblique speech—lets the neuter speak. always establishing it outside the term. speaking from nowhere. Stein. On one hand. and whether or not it alters the conventions of writing—linearity. or even a unique one. cannot be embodied: even though it can borrow the voice of a sensibly picked character or even create the hybrid function of a mediator (a voice that undoes all mediation). withdrawing from it all privileged focus of interest. But let us also consider other traits. the outside that is the singular enigma of language in writing. continuity." whether absent or present. ghost-like. and no longer allowing it to exist as a fulfilled whole. which are the same as the others. and also to erase itself as a center. an empty gong. but oppositely. without its own existence. and it is the indifferentdifference which alters the personal voice. and everything that gives it a distinct reality starts to sell it out. it is not dissipated there either. hollowed out in its center by a gap. Let us quickly examine what traits characterize it at first glance. Richard Seaver. as though it had some substantial presence. because the other—whom we must refrain from addressing with a capital letter that would establish it in a majestic substantive. Grove Press. does not create a center. is never just simply the other. trans. the work would be prevented from having a center. does not speak from a center. Implicit. Let us (whimsically) call it spectral. 1966. no one is speaking. accomplished once and forever.37 This is the narrative voice. as in the form of light which though invisible. thus it is not heard." and the text goes on: "One could not have spoken it. but one could have made it resound--immense. from the act. but because it always tends to make itself absent in what carries it. it is always different from what utters it. far from falling out of some sky under the assurance of a superior Transcendence: the "he" is not the "encircling" of Jaspers. in its twisted perversity. and the neuter that marks it withdraws it from both. but rather a kind of void in the work—this absence-word that Marguerite Duras describes in one of her tales: "a gap-word. or the subject where it claims to be. it attracts language diagonally. The narrative voice (I do not say narrating) draws its lack of sound from here. not only because it adds nothing to what there is to say (it knows nothing). The other speaks. 38 . Stein [Gallimard]. therefore being neutral in the decisive sense that it cannot be central. it is radically outside and comes from exteriority itself. but because it lies beneath this nothing—the "silencing" and the "being silent"—where speech is here and now already engaged.90 The narrative "he. rather it is neither one thing nor the other. pg. even that of a lack of focus. The narrative voice is neuter. at the limit.

that it is establishing the center of gravity of speech elsewhere. linguists. to live again in another person. affirms. as we listen to it. concealing-oneself has lost its driving force. That is why. one that is unfamiliar to the power of illumination (or of darkening). to the extent that he seems to us an intruder. who here is really telling the story? Not the reporter. It has often been remarked—by philosophers. where the rhythm of revealing oneself. that is to say. that is. as close as one can to strangeness. of understanding (or misunderstanding). where speaking is not a matter of affirming being nor of requiring negation in order to suspend the work of being. The night forever without a dawn-that ballroom in which the indescribable event happened. which cannot be recollected and cannot be forgotten. but actually he is something that cannot tell a story because as its wisdom and madness. the dual relationship. implicit or explicit. without mediation or community. 2) Neuter speech neither reveals nor conceals. and actually assumes authority. intrigued. that is immediately suggested in our languages the moment such a thing is spoken. it remains outside the light-shadow reference that seems to be the final reference of all knowledge and communication to the point of making us forget that it has only the value of a venerable. the circle which. In this respect. and will always betray itself and reject itself: these really are. it carries the anguish of impossible narration and knowledge that precedes the reason-unreason schism) under the extent of this outside. 3) The demand of the neuter tends to suspend the attributive structure of language. the need (eternal human desire) to create acceptance in another person. to momentarily remain. and political commentators—that nothing can be denied that has not already been brought up before. we tend to confuse it with the skewed voice of unhappiness or the skewed voice of madness38. it means that it does not signify in the same manner that the visible-invisible signifies. even if it implies the infinite void of desire-finally the imminent certainty that what has happened once will always start up again. we risk falling under the seduction of a completely exterior speech: sheer extravagance. and even while testing the infinite distancing of distance. is precisely the neuter (one cannot neutralize the neuter). and in enunciating. a third person. the one who formally and also sheepishly does the speaking. it seems to me. disinterested. all language enunciates. 38 This voice-the narrative voice-is the one I hear. It is not to say that signifies nothing (by claiming to forgo meaning in the form of a non-meaning). But it could be that the (writing) is drawing language into a possibility of saying that would say without saying being and still without denying it either—or. but one's forgetting holds—the nocturnal desire to turn around in order to see what belongs neither to the visible nor to the invisible.91 the neuter. but that it opens up another power in the language. its lack of reciprocity. the "coordinates" of narrative space. preserving this distance. the narrative voice is the most critical one that can lend itself to our ears without being heard. . and lack of symmetry—for the biggest distance governed by lack of symmetry. through one's gaze. its relationship to being. It bears the neuter in that: 1) Speech in the neuter is speech at a distance. irreducible to any mediation: a neuter relationship. without one or another of its edges being privileged. in other words. inverted metaphor. in entering. we constantly enter from the outside. lack of rectitude. perhaps hastily and perhaps justifiably in the narrative by Marguerite Duras which I brought up shortly. more clearly—too clearly. In other words. the work that normally takes place in every form of expression. However. where in attaining it. It does not signify in the optical mode.

we understand why Don Quixote. we perceive that this book is none other than a commentary. although he is logical. then a second part of The Castle by Kafka. because for him. there is even greater madness in Cervantes. a work of creation which is deliberately passed off as imitation. to which it returns. perhaps momentarily. on one hand. the devastating undertaking of Cervantes by something that the Age of Gold of Beautiful Letters has its end. in the same move. injuriously. and elevate it to the level of a work. we will then. I re-invoke this rich work. things become otherwise.. ushers in the tormented era that will be ours. a laughable and perverse derision that conceals all culture. in pursuing a reflection on literature through the means of two books. without which it would not be raised. For Cervantes. . are already the site of extravagance. The Ancient and the New. it is not in the street that Don Quixote is forced to descend after placing into practice a life of books. 1964 If all narratives. Let's approach things more simply from another perspective. and. which. views himself not as a man. since literary truth is deceptive. in a quite visible manner. It is as if we would divulge. In commenting. can we do it. in turn. has uncovered. puts to the test (denounces) something which.. as 39 In a very visible manner. it is once again in a book that he has striven to do this. What does he hope to prove and to prove of himself? Does he takes himself as his hero. and in turn it will attract commentary. in the work that is dedicated to Quixote. but a reference to other books. (e has read much and he believes what he reads. it is Martha Robert who. who like his peers is capable of prowess in accomplishment. the setting in the book from other books. It becomes a published and public thing. a frightening or double interrogation that is twice-formulated: how much of it is a word of commentary? Why can we talk of such a speech. but to be lived? A surprising madness. save to have it here. it is a marvelous and deceiving adventure. and if he thinks that the truth in books is also good for life and sets out to live as in a book. we see that if there is madness in Don Quixote. What he does is always already a reflection. From Don Quixote to Franz Kafka (Garcett). call literature39. and we comment on it. After reflecting upon this. but at the same time he himself can be nothing but a double. But I take as one of the great merits of a work by Marthe Robert. (so on and so forth). Don Quixote is not reasonable. We ought to avow indelicacy. and that it seems to have had a lack of tact in formulating it in its own terms. He decides. who. but a book. We recognize that this situation pertains to us quite naturally.92 Chapter Nine: The Wooden Bridge (The Repetition and Neuter). but which is also its hidden truth. with a mind of exact coherence. The hero who is the center of it all to present himself well as a character of action. this interrogation to which it drives us. and everyone's. to abandon his library and live rigorously by his books. but because it relies ingeniously upon a single act of telling stories. Thus we undoubtedly have for the first time. a family secret. not because it unleashes a new sort of freakishness. in order to learn if the world corresponds to literary fantasy. What is Chevalier’s madness? )t is ours. where I "redouble" the movement here. “However. We have read a book. what’s more. We write our commentary. in a kind of ill pleasure. and pretends for the meantime not to be read. loyal to his convictions (he is by all means a dedicated man). or begins ending. it engages in "extravagance" and. mostly as a totally other commentator. and upon which it is majestically and futilely edified. by the mention of the neuter. while the text where he speaks of his exploits is not a book.

and one will know that what lies beneath the Castle and the phantoms of Tour of Ecrou are nothing but phantoms born in the feverish head of a young woman. where. in repeating it from this distance which is its reserve. said once.93 silence. the good master of the work that we revere for being incapable of speaking for himself? Consequently. speaks by keeping something silent (but not by a secretive affectation: the work and the author should always say everything that they know. it is content in repeating the work. what would happen to these works of creation which would be their own exegesis to themselves? Do they reveal a poverty of literature. delayed and exhausted. but in theory reduced. but renders it mute. introduced in the lack which makes the work speak. This lack. There is in it an emptiness of the person who constitutes it. which although confused. to have the work. is literature). Furthermore. a new speech and meanwhile the same speech. or even. with this omni-speaking speech. the only secret doctrine of literature. no longer reflected.understanding—in it the repetition which founds its uniqueness as a work. not in obstructing it. Yet this repetition—this original possibility of existing as a double part—does not reduce itself to imitation of an interior or exterior model: this model is the book of another writer or even worldly life of the author. this is why literature cannot stand any esotericism which would be outside it. the event of a civilization of decadence. but are accomplished in virtue of a more original redoubling that precedes it. and in this manner. pretends to fill and to satisfy it. it awaits for an end to the silence it deserves. it completes the work. separated from itself by the beautiful cruelty of analysis (which. that is to say. since it carries an ambiguity that is in turn carried upon it and ends by being dissipated in it. and he would be content in transposing it beyond. is sustained by this word. or. in this quite varied sense. do not redouble literature. again. but in virtue of this separation which already works within it. An important speech: one goes to the end knowing what one approaches. it is grasping-. having erased its space of resonance and. this distance. but on the contrary in leaving it empty. but placed closer to the literary enigma. the "sentimental" fastidiously repeating the "naive. But in repeating it. denigrating this infinite speech of commentary. Repetition of the book through this commentary is this graceful movement by which a new speech." or should they not be further distanced. is itself struck mute. consequently. and involves the presumed unity of "literature" and "life"? A word of commentary: it doesn't have to do with any critique. or. It has to do with a pretension which perhaps in effect surrounds all critiques. perfectly spoken and incapable of being restated. but further inside the movement of thought. is something from which the work. in turn. in repeating the work. in reproducing it under the command of a homunculus inside him who is God. in enlarging it. that it translates it in its ambiguity by an interrogation that is all the more ambiguous. in truth. A wait that is naturally disappointed. A revelatory and usurping speech. For—it shows too well—if the commentary mentions all the interstices. something that a work speaks. would be a non-coincidence that would be its very light heartbeat). does not separate it arbitrarily. Then to what good do we comment? . unexpressed due to being recovered by expression. strives irresistibly towards being restated. it says this in silencing itself. that it is designated in circumscribing it most distantly. or perhaps the sort of project which in his mind would be a work already completed. The redoubling supposes a deceit of another kind.

still its own repetition-. not risking (if it is a risk: a chance. once again with more evidence. From where does this delirium come? Why has the reading never satisfied the one who reads. sociological. by it. an emissary that one sends to the confines of the literary space. but by the confrontation of this narrative with those of the same type. finally. the more it converses with its center of relations of "reflection" (of redoubling). and the more it is made enigmatic due to this duality. significant. stretches it toward volatilization. won’t the proliferation of such works not entail such an end of critique? The response is reassuring: it is actually the contrary. so that while remaining intact and innocent. some of them old. which in telling of them. a development of place. structural. for The Castle. and it happens in Franz Kafka's book as in that of Miguel de Cervantes. some original. philosophical. for example in the times of the epic. whether we deem it unsuccessful or dangerous. and consequently. and obsessive movement. what part of it comes from these modern works which would be their own commentary and do not simply return to what they are. and autobiographical. from the strength of satisfying the well as derision). and. it is affirmed in the single example taken to be authentic—which is elsewhere unknown and perhaps nonexistent—the unique work conserved in its archives of culture. Who does not remember this. the source of all his books Do his works. the necessity of repetition can by no means be eluded. which fury of exegesis. by the act. work. fills the voids or widens them by the means of new events. to the anonymous. which is not only an epic poem. at best. When the commentaries have not again imposed their reign. an abundance of its default mode. The more a work is commented upon. an interminable amplification of itself-which forms not a loyal reproducer from each rhapsody. or. once again. which is not complete. rather) making difficult or impossible the exercise of every other commentary? Yes. as though it lacks something. or dissimilar in style. The critique is a sort of rhapsody. and.94 Yes. that it takes from its origins. allowing it to do so. an absence which is its infinite relation with itself. a cavern of fissures. and which. and even—literal? Which is essential: each one not being usable except for the person who has forged it and not opened a door except to close the others. This is the case. and never stopped replacing it with another text which in turn provokes another? This is what Marthe Robert states. speaks of them in the second degree. but something which carries repetition beforehand. which occupy in advance the literary area which he also wished to take . Such is the case with Don Quixote. which are theological. and we have the mode of rhapsodic composition—this perpetual repetition from episode to episode. It isn't formed by an immediate tale. since it would not superimpose the work and is not imposed by the sole habits of social communication. the phrase "to what good" is superfluous as well. forms of analysis—allegorical. symbolic. to distract it from this power of being repeated. or feel guilty of having added to it? Which abundance of explications. risked undoing it indefinitely. but to other books or. A mode of repetition that is no less compromising than the other. incessant. and this is what it must see. loaded by all the offensive versions of the work. also commented upon from within (as with Don Quixote. the more it calls upon commentaries. an immobile thing that repeats. it is in the interior of the work that the redoubling is accomplished. political. to what good? Always. but the repetition of every epic. which madness of interpretations. But then.

A purpose which Marthe Robert boldly attributes. the Surveyor does not survey imaginary or still virgin encounters. where one is affirmed.’s hero rather than a novel of mores (a misfired one which seeks to fulfill it with women). by the least donquixote-esque model and the one most appropriate to once again provide.all the heroes who have preceded in this space—so that The Castle is no longer solely the unique work of a solitary writer. and. the force of Speech and of Exegesis. since it is the same weft of Jewish existence since the millenaries. a still 40 Marthe Robert states precisely that "tempted towards being late. wholly original thesis (in this manner. a critique of Olympian bureaucracy40. we know quite well is for Kafka. cannot avoid this question: how can a writer without a command enter the shut world . etudes. a space that is at the same time sacred. that is to say. a writer. and Judaism. as was Don Quixote. Whether stolen or exposed. perhaps.sacred . would it be this. as an author without authority. but. during which. forgotten. proving the epic of epics and with it the good Homeric order. . Said otherwise. not only a universal Library. where. succeeding Ulysses. his last secret? An imitation of The Odyssey. a task to which he dedicates his last novel". converted to Zionism and ready to depart for Palestine. but a book. and encircles all things. but rather the immense space of literature such that one cannot prevent oneself in imitating-. in an indirect and invisible manner. rather than a novelette (the hero of a great heart who defends the weak in the face of tyranny from a privileged caste). this space of the Book. Kafka thus tends to be closely related to the Homeric thought. and more enigmatic than it. not to the fatality of the lecture which condemns all cultivated men in seeing nothing but the crossing of the decomposing prism of culture. more precisely. one finds not the world. and has interrogations. in seeking the truth and rules of life. which covers. on this remarkable. and I think.95 place. thus. Let's reflect for an instant. with the supreme instance that is the book and with the infinite modalities which constitute their approach through oral and written exegesis. in the beginning of everything. juxtaposed. at least to welcome or refuse it except to take up the standard again and ask ourselves if it would not be possible to apply it differently. rather than a fairy tale. doubtful.of the written. this sounds immediately unfamiliar). the Olympian truth. in Kafka's situation and with Kafka’s concerns. but like a parchment where all the versions of a millenary adventure. of a new cycle of the act of King Arthur. more profound. to the Other Speech. the frighteningly ancient. all the while remaining stolen in the depths of the tabernacle where it may have disappeared. through and behind them. where it says that he was attracted to the Greek success in the critical moment of his life. unlimited research. the ancient. but something which takes place in the universe and is more vast. understands.and reflecting-. We admit that the Surveyor is in a hurry. at times distinct. and how. where everything departs from a text and everything returns there. he was given the role of understanding and classifying the monstrous archives of Western culture from which he could not exclude his own works. If there is a world. a unique book in which a prodigious suite of works is exercised. not only with the forces that represent the Castle and Village. can be read. in waiting to find his true role which is that of repeating The Odyssey. the meaning of The Castle. the mystery and commandment of a book. but to Kafka himself. which is strictly individual. an immediately utile norm. by the tradition to which he belongs and the tormented epoch where he writes his tale. an also strongly cultivated man. summoned and resumed from the Universal Library where one sees K. and entangled. did he pretend to add a speech.


infinite speech, which has always said everything in advance and upon which, since it has
been pronounced, it does not remain for Masters of speech, mute depositors, who have
guarded it in repeating it and to others to listen to it while interpreting it? The writer
needed to move—such is the irreducible exigency—toward the source of the written, for he
did not begin to write until he succeeded in engaging in a direct relation with the original
speech, but, to approach from this high place, he has had had no other means except to
already speak, that is to say, to write, riskily, by this premature speech, without tradition,
without justification, in once again further obscuring the relations from Speech and Sense,
which were impenetrable for him.
However, I would also add that in bringing up these remarks, I can by no means
propose a new interpretation of The Castle, nor suggest that K. is purely and simply the
writer Franz Kafka, the Castle is the biblical speech, the Offices are Talmudic
commentators, the Village the place for the faithful, where the repeated speech would be at
once living and dead, just like a commandment, authentic if one approaches it from the
inside, but on the contrary deceiving, seen as absurd, if one approaches it from the outside
in pretending to judge it further and speaking without having received prior teachings (as
it necessarily happens to the writer today, who has no legitimacy besides the exigency of
writing, to which he allows neither reference nor caution, all the while he is not at all
content with any relative satisfaction). What is appropriate only to note, is this: First of all,
in writing and posing the question of writing-- one knows with what magnitude and what
seriousness—,it is not immediately with the academic space of (omer’s epic that Kafka has
to be compared, but with three thousand years of Jewish writing; second, that if The Castle,
contrary to Quixote, does not have the previous world of books as its explicit subject (K. is a
Surveyor, this is neither a reader or writer), if he thus does not directly pose the question of
Writing, he meanwhile detains this question in its very structure, since the essence of the
narrative, the essence of K.'s peregrination, does not consist of going line to line, but in an
exegesis of exegesis, from a commentator to commentator, in listening to each of them with
passionate attention, since in intervening and discussing with everything according to a
method of exhaustive examination which it would be easy to reproach with certain turns of
the Talmudic dialectic (lets call it this to simplify and to elaborate that for competent men,
it would be more demanding than where K. is obliged to satisfy himself).
So all of this seems to me what one has the right to put forward. The Castle is not
formed by a series of events where the events are more or less aligned, but by an always
more stretched out course of exegetic exertions, on which they do not carry anything but
the very possibility of exegesis—the possibility of writing (and of interpreting) The Castle.
And if the book halts, incomplete, unable to be completed, it is enlisted in the
commentaries, each demanding moment an endless gloss, each interpretation giving place
not only to a reflection (midrash halachah), but to a narration (midrash haggadah), which
one must understand in his turn, that is so to speak, interpret in different levels, each
character representing a certain elevation of speech and each speech, in its level, speaking
figuratively but not literally. We can affirm that K. was able to end his narrative with his
half-justified death, but in which death was he able to die well? Not in his beautiful death,
but rather in an exegetic death, of the commentary of his death and in the condition of


having been able, in advance, to discuss and refute all the possible interpretations of this
end, not personal (deprived), but only general (official), recorded in an external text and
eternally forgotten (his march toward death and his march toward speech are on the same
path: march to death by speech and march to speech toward death, each one anticipating
and annihilating the other). One night, the final night of the narrative, when he found
himself completely faced by the possibility of salvation, was he truly before his salvation?
By no means, but he was in the presence of an exegesis of salvation, to which he could not
answer except through his weariness, an infinite weariness to the extent of an endless
speech. And there is nothing derisive here: the "salvation" cannot arrive, and if it does, it
only does so by decision rather than speech, but the speech of salvation assured nothing
but the salvation of speech, valuable only in general (was it as an exception), and thus
incapable of being applied to the singularity of exigency, reduced to muteness by life itself
and weariness of life.
As understood, I would insist once more that The Castle is only this, and it is also the
force of images, the fascination of figures, the decisive trait of the narrative which
constitutes a unique truth such that it seems to always say more than everything one can
say of it, and, by this, it engages the reader, but immediately the narrator, in the anguish of
a commentary without end41. This is where we return to our point of departure which is in
questioning this necessity of recalling what the work contains in it, in its precisely silent
part, in its unknown crossing that sustains this word of commentary, a word of speech, a
vertiginous pyramid constructed above a void--a fall—that is recovered for a while and
perhaps forgotten. Certainly, between the internal and external commentaries, there is an
evident difference: the first utilizes the same logic as the second—through literary

I stay reserved in newly entering the glosses in which The Castle takes place. One must nonetheless observe that if all the interpretations are
justified (more or less), they cannot be as if maintained on the level where the method in which they are reclaimed have established them and
remains coherent, that is, in showing that they cannot remain this way. At the same time, one can research all the predecessors of the work, all the
myths they repeat, all the books to which they return. But this repetition, true in itself, and for those of us who read it, would not know how to be
the of the same manner, if one decides to make of it the truth of the book as well, such that it was able to be proposed to Kafka himself and like
his future. In reality, we know quite well how the story of the Castle has been borrowed by Kafka from a novel that captivated his adolescence.
This novel, entitled The Grandmother, written by a Czech writer Bozena Nemcova, tells of difficult relations between the Castle and the village
that is dependent upon it. In this village, one speaks Czech; in the Castle, one speaks German, the first trait that distances them. The Castle is
governed by a Princess who is a very lovable person, but is unapproachable: between her and the peasants are a somber horde of villainous
knaves, bounded officials, and hypocritical bureaucrats. And here is the remarkable episode: a young Italian courtier pursues Christel with
diligence, the pretty girl of the innkeepers, and makes indecent propositions toward her. Christel feels lost: her father is a brave man, but timid,
and what can he do against the men of the Castle? The Princess is just, but one cannot reach her or inform her; and furthermore, she is the most
absentee; one never knows where she resides; if the young girl ends by feeling guilty, already touched by this fault that seeks and covets her. The
single hope is in the other functionaries, given that one can succeed in interesting them. "It is, she says, our only hope, since they have questioned
him, they will perhaps help us. But often it happens that one examines an affair, without really arriving to its aid. One simply notes that it isn't
possible and one can never be satisfied." Well, what is the name of this immoral courtier in Nemcova’s novel? This is our surprise. He bears the
name Sortini. It is thus evident that we have there, at once, the first input of the Castle and the first sketch of the strange episode of Amalia, and it
is also evident that Kafka, in keeping the name Sortini, wanted to recall the memory of his novel. Naturally, between the two works, the
difference is immense. The Czech narrative is an idyllic one: the grandmother, the central character of the book, breaks the charm, triumphs
obstacles, and gets through to the Princess where she attains justice and reparation for the persecuted. In sum, she succeeds where Kafka fails,
playing the role (as in Max Brod's remark which offers us this information) of one who redresses wrongs that K. refuses, being for the remainder
incapable of assuming it. The comparison of two works helps, I believe, in understanding it: in the work of Kafka, the decisive invention, and the
most enigmatic one, perhaps does not bear upon the Castle, but upon the village. If K., like the grandmother, belongs to the village, his role would
be clear, his character transparent, would be disgusted, and resolved to place an end to the injustices by the high class. He would be the man of
salvation, who vows to symbolically demonstrate the infinite distance between here-below and there-on-high. But K. comes from a third world.
He is doubly and triply a stranger, a stranger of the strangeness of the Castle, a stranger of the village, and stranger of himself, since, in an
incomprehensible manner, he decides to break from his own familiarity, as if in advance drawn toward these relations nonetheless without traits,
by an exigency where he cannot justify himself. From this perspective, one would be almost tempted to say that the entire meaning of the book is
already borne by the first paragraph, borne by the wooden bridge which leads from the great road to the village and upon which "K remained for
a while, lifting glances toward the empty likeness".


enchantment, it reasons and speaks under a charm; the second speaks and reasons about
this charm and this logic, haunted by and grafted on a charm. However—and this is what
forms the strength of a work like The Castle—it seems that it stops, as its center, the
relevant, unclear relation from which there is more of the "interior" and "exterior" of the
art which puts at stake a dialectic, and of the dialectic that pretends to encompass art
which, in other words, stops the principle of all ambiguity and ambiguity as a principle
(ambiguity: the difference of identity, the non-identity of the same); principle of all
languages and the infinite passage of one language to another, like art to reason and reason
to art. The outcome is that all the hypotheses that one can develop about this book seem to
be also as exact and impotent as those which develop inside, as long as they are preserved
and sustain infinite character. This is what returns to say that in a certain fashion, all the
books will pass by this book from now on.
Let’s try nonetheless to better understand what this means. In general, in reading
this narrative, one lets himself be carried away by the most visible mystery, the mystery
which descends from an inaccessible site which would be the hill of the count, as if the
whole secret—the void from which the commentary is elaborated—were situated there.
But soon, if one reads more attentively, one perceives that the void is in no way situated
and that it is equally shared by each point of the narrative upon which the interrogation is
directed. Why do all the answers about the relation between K. and the Castle always seem
insufficient, so that they seem to infinitely exaggerate and infinitely devalue the meaning of
this site in which the most reverential and denigrating judgments convene and do not
convene? It is strange: it is beautiful to go pick the supreme designations, those which since
the millenaries, humanity has refined to characterize the Unique, one has often said: "But
the Castle, it is the Grace; the Graf (the account) is Gott, like the identity of capital letters
show; or it is also the Transcendence of Being or the Transcendence of Birth, or it is
Olympus, the bureaucratic birth of the universe42." Yes, one has said everything there and it
can be said, speech in an endless deepening does not remain anything less than the most
profound identifications, the richest and most sublime we could dispose of, while not
refraining from deceiving ourselves again: as if the Castle were always infinitely more than
that, infinitely more, that is to say, also infinitely less. Then what is there above
Transcendence, and what is where below the Transcendence? Yes let’s respond hastily,
since only hate authorizes the response), this is in the regard of what all evaluations
denigrate, that it should be the highest or the lowest, and indifferently strikes all possibility
of evaluating and, with it, challenges all the guardians of values, that they should be
celestial, worldly, and demonic and take their authority from the rational, irrational, or
surreal. Is it very mysterious? Certainly, but at the same time, I believe, without mystery,
since each time that we speak, we put it at stake, abandoning it when we force ourselves to
speak, to retreat, to recover by our very expression. We momentarily choose to give it the
most modest, most effaced, most neutral name, in choosing precisely to call it neuter—

I would incidentally say that for Kafka, the bureaucracy is not solely a late event (as if the gods, the first powers, pitifully achieved their reign
in becoming functionaries), and as neither is it a solely negative phenomenon, no longer that it is the demand of the relation to the spoken world.
To his friend Oskar Baum, he writes something that asks for reflection: "The bureaucracy, quite a judge before me, is the closest to the originally
human nature of the totally other social institution (June 1922, the epoch of The Castle.)

says Olga. it is perhaps. or surely dissipating it. belongs to the Castle. but necessarily still to the benefit of the neuter. In these conditions. Marthe Robert states that The Castle has nothing transcendent and that it constitutes an immanent power. Why this name? Why this name? Is it really a name? -Is it a figure? -Thus it is a figure which does not appear to be a figure. either in terms of immanence or in terms of transcendence.99 because in naming the neuter. where it would be necessary to conclude that there is no Castle). let’s stop there out of fear of committing ourselves in our turn to the infinite movement. -And why a single speaker. as if it were the point of infinite escape to share some of the spoken word of the narrative and. We cannot only stick to it. It remains that if The Castle detains in it as its center (in the absence of all centers) what we call the neuter. maybe a decisive one. but neuter. One of the essential traits of the neuter is that it does not let itself grasp things. it is carried by the infinite indifference of all the works. But there cannot be an approximate manner of speaking. the infinite distance of relations. the dreams. --I know. the action of naming it cannot totally be without consequences. 43 Truly. because the neuter would not be represented or symbolized nor even signified and in addition. a single spoken word that we cannot succeed despite its appearance. and the judgments which precede and follow them. --But why two? Why two speeches to say the same thing? --It is always the other who speaks. its perpetual reversal. Thereby it attracts us to a totally other sort of relation. would be nothing more than the sovereignty of the neuter and the site of this strange sovereignty? Unfortunately. that in the least I correspond to the most. in it. the thoughts. restricting itself "by recording actions." An important remark. There must be two of us. and its abolition. yet the most profound part of the book. within it (at the time that the whole world. . the residence of the count. (owever. all this with a neutrality and a passivity that the individual bizarrely resents like a weight and an injustice. all the narratives and all the speech about every narrative receiving and losing its perspective. should be where Marthe Roberts demonstrates that sovereign power here is neither transcendent nor immanent43. have we the right to suggest that the Castle. in naming it? There must be at least two people to speak. one cannot say this simply. and is above all.

they were already partially known. and the changes of regimes having formed a void around it. the young student in medicine who. From his adolescence has been saved a bit by the passionate correspondence with his classmate. Brod had utilized them in his biography and his other books. The strange character of posthumous publications is their inexhaustibility. But precisely it has been otherwise with the others. Until the present. letters excluded from this first volume of his correspondence following arrangements with editors. So. would give a form to the enigma. dedicated to the letters written by Kafka to his first fiancée. It does not have the last Judgment. whom he met in the course of a journey to Moravia in 1907. due to the war. . from clarified allusions. since abandoning The Castle." But it is this difference which create a strong and virile understanding from their friendship. helped him to the end. Later. to Plana. infantilely crestfallen. his lifelong friends (from letters to Werfel. Hence our naively anxious lecture. and O. the "Letters. destroying accounts and testimonies. and results were gathered. and insignificant documents. almost nothing). 1959 Since they formed the last volume of Complete Works. from deepening obscurities. Oskar Pollack. We would be ready to expect final revelations in the ultimate writings which. appeared to be the final word of Kafka. his strength as a writer. there are certain themes we can trace. he is never humiliated in his face and by their relations. Immediately. Cf. The letters span twenty years of his life.100 Chapter Ten: The Final Word. Klopstock. of such publications being always painfully and haphazardly submitted which conserve and destroy without reason. no more than it has an end. beside Dora Dymant. which he places well above him. Weltsch. when the tuberculosis was declared. Interviews were conducted concerning his infancy and adolescence. Felice Bauer. In a certain manner. and this knowing is irreplaceable. his capacity for action. 1958). we now have the most precise relation. we feel we are confirmed about the mysterious 44 It is this biography that Klaus Wagenbach undertakes to write. the biography remains to be written44. Also we have almost nothing from letters exchanged with his family. A Biography of his Youth. they remain quite fragmentary. related by a firm trust. "Max and I are radically different. Further. and with himself. The letters have once again confirmed it: and to no other person was he so close. the first draft of his tormented relations with the feminine world. the persecutions. with R. Baum. The chance is that the poorest years of the Journal are the richest in important letters: on a journey to Zurau. who was he? It is this invisible self that remains hidden to us. Hedwig W. a very instructive work (Franz Kafka. and remains the object of our naive curiosity and our necessarily disappointed searching. with his passion for self-deprecation that was known to others. 1922. and the years 1921. even if Kafka admires Brod for his life force. when he wrote. the following text. Surely. since a bit later with a young girl. and I would not say it is such due to the tendency of his nature.. upon the journeys to Matliary." when published in the German edition (in 1958). later once again. If they reveal to us less than we expect. there would have been—and there will hardly cease being—many perhaps important. what we know is the face and the life such that they were known by Max Brod. F. like the day of last Judgment. the essential is constituted by his letters with Brod.

but an infinity. during the years dominated by his father. if near to what should happen to his correspondents. persuades them of an opening of the expectation that he soon refuses.. and perhaps never will. convinced of his admirable personality. out of it." This reflection is from 1912: the bad opinion is again nothing but methodical. speaking of himself with inexorable frankness. This obscurity that I am only to see in myself is always. and I no longer see t.. You should not say that you understand me. remains the always unattended miracle. but also to an inconceivably good diversity. and also immediately. and we have something that is infinitely varied. In a late letter to Klopstock (July 1922). as in the shining of light gaiety. But it is precisely this that leads him to despair: not that he was happy except for a perfect misfortune. rarely described by Kafka. I know it is there that it awaits me. Nothing more which gives us the sentiment of being close to crossing the threshold. since thus we are delivered completely to uncertainty. he meets his fiancée. since the true way doesn't surge for a while. and in the advice he gives them. it makes me peaceably peaceful. already the outcome of the day." We have here. However. and also shows the profundity of this ill. but more circumscribed and measured. it is certainly scintillating and almost light. but because all too favorable interpretation of what they recognized the best. I doubt that it was accepted that one applied it to himself46. I find the lines "If we were on a right path. but in always possible compensation. also a despair. and has been written in a tepid bath. 46 He writes to Brod: "The bad opinion that I have of myself isn't an ordinary bad opinion. in his delivery of what was more secret. at the moment where from one part writing becomes the absolute exigency and where. This opinion constitutes rather well my sole virtue. isn't given to us. Brod has always placed in 45 I recall that Letters to Milena were published in a separate volume in 1952. but of this consolation where it takes part in his discouraged friend. to bring up all the reasons he has not to despair." he repeats to Brod. His friends are always ready. and the bad courage of solutions where one rocks them. "What you say for my case is just. the accomplishment of expectations. It is such that. and myself who in face of what I cannot embrace soon collapses. Until this point. Still this is nothing which by the force of the unexpected. the positive aspect of search that is apparently entirely negative (since the true way which is unique. it is a consolation. and the negative of the revelation is most sensible to us. shows the inaccessible character of his bad traits (misfortune and pain). he keeps them as far as possible from the hole of the dismal experience where he stands. on the other hand. "What I have written." It is necessary to add that Kafka has always had an extreme respect for the truth of others. watched by . and this one to the third..101 character of certain moments. and there is no path. for this shows that nothing pierces from these frightening things and that everything remains reserved in me. The curve of this rare existence lets itself best be predicted. never doubt. is said in the same letter. but since we are on a path that does nothing but drive us to the second.. I have not lived the eternal hell of true writers. the incomparably good scintillation of reflections which procure aesthetic joy for us). after having traced it to the reasonable limits in the course of my life: it places in order in me. since one wants to make them participate. as it happens in the Journal. is where I never become. and scintillating. renouncing would be the despair without limits. in the judgments that he carries of them. it is presented well also. 1912 marks precisely the rupture. but the moment it arrives. Another example. he maintains an insensible distance destined to spare both their truth and his own." The letters confirm what we present: that the dramatic relations with life start toward the thirtieth year. can be regarded on the same level as letters to Milena45.

Judaism): "Perhaps one would be related the most to your conception. this aphorism. disappointed for ten years. Here I am at the cafe. those of the age can seem to be superimposed they are the selves. As he cannot speak. and only the limit more or less aligned of this determined despair my humor of the moment. if not clarification. It is in common with this cry? In the fields.. I torment it. with the feminine world. necessarily hidden. that this thought was related by one of Max Brod's essays (Paganism. "Would this then be the truth of 'blasphemy'?" This commentary sufficed to remind us of a prudence that Brod's generous optimism has made him sometimes forget." But we see. he once again corrects the proofs of one of his books (An artist of hunger). as the center of Kafka's madness. where for example: "For I am. it is. and the three forms of struggle that were re-translated most profoundly to give form to his spiritual struggle. Christianity. What being I am. We would find by example that the problem of his father where he is occupy by a quite visible manner and well that developed with the three others (we perceive immediately how it complicates the problem of his marriage extremely. Naturally. The worry of his body is the worry of his entire being. Each episode says everything and retains everything. expresses all his difficulties. but we see it clearly in the four aspects represented by the relations with his father.102 value. It is this movement in the immobile which makes him rich and enigmatic. addressing his companion: "Now. even for me. it is still necessary that I live this one more aesthetic pleasure. that of the spiritual world.'" This possibility of happiness is also impious that inaccessible. whatever since the rooted youth in the extreme statements where he seems to no longer depart and did not cease to be transformed. I will read them. at least the possibility of a more prudent and more nuanced comprehension. which are of a very different quality. at my house. "Theoretically. The most obscure. The crisis is always complete. how finally he finds himself implicated in all the questions of Judaism). To the end." (1908). there is a perfect possibility of earthly happiness: belief in what is indestructible in oneself and not being forced to await it. each dramatic difficulty of each of his nights. ho it forms one of the obsessive themes of his writings.. unto death" (1916). they are quite different. if one said: 'There is theoretically a perfect possibility of earthly happiness: believing in what is decidedly divine and not forced to be waited upon. as I have seen this morning before getting dressed. Constructing his biography around his four most hidden centers has not then been the interest of us to make momentarily perceived except his lights more or less great that we have of each of his enigmas. I am well." Regarding each of these forms of himself. by a letter. on the same common tie. I have read some pretty things. The speeches of adolescence. of voice. all the others are placed in cause. Insomnia. deprived of force. but the Greeks are perhaps the most related to it than all others. The most extended is the problem of the writer. The life of Kafka has been an obscure struggle. we feel most the movement of all this life which. and myself. what being I am. the letters carry to us. he remained a writer. On his relation to death. since subtracted in all direct grasping: "I cannot speak of the essential. This will perhaps agitate me greatly. one that is protected by obscurity. and It can well be understood that this history and this movement are raised in the movement in the literary creation which always remains the truth in which it tends. is probably the least charged of secrets and what he accompanies the least far. . with each of these relations. of breath. closed up in obscurity of my bosom it is there that it stands by my illness. he notes on his paper. Above all. and I don't speak of my despair with enough conviction that I have wished. out of the insanity of my head and my nights.

. I resume in part and cite in part these texts which are quite long. this valor. the first time in Military where several days in Spindlermühle. her pregnancy. but one must think in what there is more extreme in your experience. this young student in medicine where he had made acquaintance in Matliary and what he still likes. in pain I was at the heights of the staircase leading to my room that was produced" the collapse" .." And Klopstock reports that. but only Monday and what has two breaks you have asked: "So. for I have abandoned. And when I have said to you yesterday that you should not come Sunday night. the story of the Castle. If I remained alone here.. If I could speak with men. he has written it to defend his solitude as a writer.. but I can also prove myself in my hole of worries. at the least of a related manner. always if master of himself. I already anticipate insomnia. Klopstock. He accepts. in a trembling of anguish..." On the central problem of the necessity of writing which is also a fatality and threat. I should not describe the exterior side of such a state. solitude would not have been but augmented.. you also know it. What is it then? As I can penetrate it with thought. but the solitude pertaining to it. the fears of solitude--not enough of solitary solitude that solitude among men. and not only writing. I am once again grateful. the anguish of this anguish. manifestly for always. The Castle was abandoned. for he wished for nothing but to be alone. letting himself into a moment of emotion.. not this evening?" and that it failed to respond to me at the least the second time: "Rest then. everything was decided. I would be fully solitary.. They are also important in themselves because they reveal in some circumstances.103 time." it was a perfect lie. I suffer as if the last night had already been without sleep.. there is a limit that he cannot let pass. Between times. his finite lectures. wanted to see it further. And it is why." "Once again. Before everything. this one could not be more… returned since the "collapse" which has started this week before the voyage to Prague.. and I would do it." It was the first time that I saw Kafka. And this single thing is the fear of complete solitude. I know that I cannot sleep. but the valor that it has for me. "I remain here for the winter. I sleep. we find two of the most important texts in the Letters. nothing but a monstrous anguish occupies me." Kafka tells how his sister Ottla (who lived with him) being obliged to re-enter Prague soon and definitively.. I know it all too well. You say that I must search to prove myself in these great subjects. but I wish not to speak at all about it. before having this torment by the periods of madness. This is correct. This has nothing to do with the valor of the written. almost with tenderness. I cannot think of anything else. I cannot speak of it). How is it . seemed to desire a closer friendship. And I know." The sole and almost hard letter that had taken place in the collection. he becomes "mad") or for a woman. it is nothing but one thing. is for me and that there is more important on the earth. ) start with the most recent: ) am here in Plana since a week ago: ) have not passed quite gaily. and in the clearest moments. and this activity. in a manner which makes it quite cruel for all people of my entourage (unspeakably cruel.. I began writing. found that he had changed since the first days of meeting them: "I concede that between Matliary and Prague there is a difference. as I have written to Plana was not also bad that what I knew. They are dated July and September 1922. I quote it to show that despite his marvelous attention to the other. The force of sleep is gnawed until its center. his tears cover his face for a while. the domestic he has offered to his sojourn and this place he loves. I preserve writing of everything that could trouble it. as can "being his delirium for him which is mad (if he loses.

not even as a writer. these doubtful embraces and all which could pass below. It has to do. even if. Kafka clarifies. I knew nothing more than these ones in the night. almost peaceful times: of what weak sun. for a sojourn near his friend Baum. children. Writing maintains me. in which without regard for my trembling destroys my life.." the infinite anguish. which he accepted.. such a writer constantly realizes it. And what is diabolical seems to me quite clear. they seem to be recalled in this thought: the writer has a fear of dying because he has not yet lived. when it has been organized for solitude. above the darkness of a sort where in will the dark force." But why this fear of dying? Kafka distinguishes two series of reasons. fear of going to Georgental... with a grave crisis. From here comes his terrible anguish of death. and I actually died further from it. the anguish before hat I life as much. And yet the "collapse. but wouldn't it be more just to say that writing maintains this sort of life? Naturally. and a writer who does not write is completely a monstrosity who courts insanity. anguish before the solitude where it is present.of infantile lessons. But this. But what of it is this. This descent toward obscure forces. my possibility. to charge for me.. he dies (or he does not live any longer) and cries constantly. anguish once again before all solutions of compromise. one sees that it seems that we understand ell. or at the least he saw no reasonable objection. but for us paid with what? The night. and my . veritably solar system of vanity. which is not expressed necessarily by the fear of dying. it is true. anguish where it is absent. I see. but because in lieu of entering the house. Everything pleased him on this voyage. I am not redeemed by writing. where one no longer knew anything when one writes stories in broad daylight. but is manifested also in the fear of changing. but we do not hate understanding. or even inexistent. It is the vanity and the concupiscence that does not cease to turn around my person and around which an unfamiliar person and in enjoying it. the night without sleep.. this writer? Writing is a delicious and marvelous recompense. this unleashing of normally mastered minds. completely unbearable and leads to nothing but madness.. my death will not be anything but more terrible. "While during this night without sleep these thoughts come and go between my painful times. when the anguish didn't let me sleep. I do not write." This desire which is anguish. goal. then. One sees the kind of interior monologue of this writer:" What I have played will actually arrived. the entanglement of all these relations. I have seen clearly that it was the salary for service of the demon. it is the case in this moment. well. I don't wish to pretend that my life is better when I don't write. Naturally the writer who . indeed. that one could say I have "organized" my life.104 with solitude? The solitude is my . In a letter a little previously. by a movement which does not make itself multiply.. but in a more enigmatic manner. I knew nothing besides this. he makes himself content in admiring from outside. excluded from the jouissance of things by contemplation which is not possession. and crowning action. The health of a naive man: "I wanted to die and see how I would be mourned". It came to him to write. And despite this. and not only because he lacks the happiness to live with a woman. my greatest temptation. And. It is even worse. My life was sweeter than that of others. Perhaps there was another manner of writing. I have passed my life in dying. which he says are perhaps confusing. with the --. a fortune. He needed to go to Georgental. I was newly conscious of what had almost forgotten in these last. one again.

Before everything. who permits men to enjoy a sin innocently." The conclusion should therefore flatly be this: no longer writing. ". and then to nothing.where. Henceforth. it is the same thing. I lack trust in my words neither in the letters. it is decided that I have no longer the right to attend the Boheme. to play a role. and any reality. but not only for these reasons: for other that are more obscure. as I am not a law out of these last years for strategic reasons." Without pretending to comment on these lines. Thus it is always otherwise (and during twenty years. All these expressions have immediate truth for Kafka. to wish to tell a story of it. descending in the regions below. see what is important. real self to whom one offers the possibility of a small voyage is literally beaten. and the spark that I did not know how to transform into fire. rather I should limit myself to Prague.. something who no longer exists. I cannot continue living. The definition of a writer. but not with the specters which play with the words and read the letters. to the pit. the cadaver of always. of making known to us . self-forgetting is the first condition of the writer-. the world is forbidden. one can remark that the affirmations which follow here are by no means on the same plane. of such a writer. in my words neither in my letters." And this necessity. and solitude inevitable.yes. but not because I have something to hide (for as soon as it is not the vocation of my life). it is not missed. He is not even made of dust. freely and in the happiness. living in impure embraces.." Kafka. it is to be abandoned to somber forces. the pending language. It is why. and the passion of what is unleashed in the night where everything finishes with a radical death. Perhaps I could thus freely renounce his happiness in writing-. tormented and whipped by the devil. the somber explosion of desire. the life is impossible. for the existence of a writer really depends on his table. but this would no longer arrive. it is not possible. then to my chamber. and the explication of an action that he exerts (if there is such a one): he is an emissary goat [scapegoat] of humanity." The anguish of being alone is here almost described. it is enjoying oneself in death by an imitation which becomes frightening reality.. I want to share much of my heart with other humans. With this. he associated words and the usage of words with the approach of a spectral reality. This ridiculous thought is in reality the sole legitimacy. he who returns to himself. There are some clear affirmations: writing is placed outside life. We don't know it.. it ceased the last year close to writing and above all n speaking from it: "It is true." "This would be a bizarre burial. a bit before. almost innocently. and he must cling to it with his teeth. a bit possible that in the earthly life in which it is more insensate. there is no right to distance himself if he wishes to strike madness. I have not made to serve except to illuminate my cadaver. for such a figure lacks sun. and my bed. I write nothing. avid of living things and capable of extenuating all truth. Such is a writer. They evoke the tenebrous fascination. transmits the old cadaver. Writing is thus a bad activity. since I have not lived. I am not ---. But myself. it never varied): "Writing is for me what is more necessary and more important. little by little. makes two remarks: "I must add that in my fear of leaving the thought that during several days would be discarded from my table to write. and then a certain position of the body. same as my friends. the poor.. I am quite a writer to want to fully enjoy this in my full oblivion-." adds Kafka: "the writer. and not that a construction of greed. For writing is a nocturnal thing..105 is in me died rather. And why not speak of the true death? In life... However.and not with lucidity.

A silence that is tense. I will not venture to say more. despite the entreaties of his friends. I can swallow again. made the decision to live in Berlin. however a writing which invokes the specters in the hope of conjuring them.lost in writing. In the letter to Brod where he speaks in a quiet disquieting manner of his words books to phantoms47 he incidentally adds this. whom the least move disrupted. for the time being. bur slowly. lost in no longer writing--. It is this stay in Berlin that proved fatal. Between two certainties of losing oneself-. he tries to create a passage." "In reality it is very calm around me. the scarcity of this big city starved and agitated by civil war represented a threat that he could only be very conscious of. a life somewhat in the shadows." And to Milena: "My state of health is nor essentially different from what it was in Prague. never too calm. he refused to remove himself. . is its madness. after the latter had come from Prague to see him one last time. It is also marked by this feature: until 1923 his least discomforts occupy him greatly. This is all. he who does not see it directly will notice nothing about it. it took the intervention of his uncle "the Country doctor. in their reticence." 47 Equally true in these last letters to Milena. it became insane. but damnation which is its sole vow of salute (if it remained in it). but this madness is its reason." This refusal to complain. The illness was worsening. with Dora Dymant." And in the last sentences of his last letter to Brod. Kafka. Goodbye. Writing is madness. the precarious conditions of existence. and still of repeating to us in these different letters: it is really that it was never written.106 reasons. which clarifies to us perhaps many of his hopes as a writer: "Sometimes it seems to me that the essence and the existence of art is not explicated except by such "strategic considerations": to make possible a true speech from human to human. what is said is already too much. he was not yet dangerously ill. My condition is tolerable. he is anxious to point out that {here are still joyful moments: "Aside from all these subjects of complaint. he almost refrains from speaking about them as soon as the situation becomes more serious. almost all the Berlin letters make sensible. voluntary. The harsh winter. Thank you for everything. there are also naturally several minuscule gaieties. the unfavorable climate." I would like to translate the impression left by the letters written during the last year. but from which. watched over. is the only sign of the change that has occurred in his life. This indifference to his health is a new phenomenon. it indeed seemed that although ill. whose acquaintance he had made in Munich in July 1923 (he died in June 1924. the silence about himself that. Until then." make him decide to change residences several weeks before the tubercular laryngitis declares itself. It is its damnation. thus he lived with her for only a few months). and by this writing once again. far from his family and friends. but nonetheless with more humor. but it is impossible to describe them or they have to be saved for a visit like the one that was so miserably spoiled by me. and it is with a remarkable sobriety and discretion that he makes his condition known. henceforth disastrous: "If one comes to terms with the tubercular laryngitis. moreover. "There is little to tell about me.

he came to finish his narrative Josephine where it is spoken of these singing mice who believed doubted from an exceptional gift to peep and whistle. he sees the anticipation of his hemoptysis. placed to cry. imprisoned within himself by foreign locks" of whom he speaks to Klopstock in 1922? Does he truly distrust written words and the ghostly way of communicating that wears away truth by entrusting it to deceitful and unfaithful messengers? This last point. forced out of the frontiers. though it does not explain everything. on the contrary. henceforth applying all his attention to welcome in the silence of silent approach of the event? While this distrust of words did not prevent him in pursuing his role of writing to the end. Once again more impressive. To the end. He thus says to Klopstock: "I believe that I have the enterprise in the good moment my research of an animal peeping. We can interpret this Does he refuse to speak of himself because his destiny is too close to that of another being of whom he does not consent to speak? Does he want henceforth to keep his secret for this being? Or else. is certain. has he closed himself in on his solitude. obstinately seeks. but when. was seen hurried to the word by the reality? "What I played at will really come to happen. The most trivial thing was enough to put me in this state. there is no reason to complain. not even in whispers. . and was refused by him to speak once again below it. In June 1921. which occur shortly later. This life outside-the-world that I take is not in itself worse than the other. Even on the subject of his literary writings. the world. the terminal phase of the illness was announced by an extinction of voice. to Brod: "The first day a bit passable after fifty days as a martyr. As if death. and rarely has such agony been written except his." What was it also for him? The game of speech takes a visible and painful end. in The Country Doctor. Kafka from the rest is far from speaking always unfavorably of this life out of the world that he. and deepen this anterior fatality. Completely on the contrary."something that does not exist 49. become even for himself the "man buried in himself. when in March 1924. Thus.107 silence48. exploit. he communicated with his friends by writing short sentences in which the sensibility and originality of his forever living language was expressed. which is never anything but ajar." How to not evoke here his remark about the anguish discovered in the writer. Art has done nothing but translate. until in this life outside-the-world. he remarked that fiction shows reality the way. with greater force and coherence than ever before. had had also in order to announce that it prepared to change a writer entirely-. it is by him that he was exiled from life. it was no longer permitted of him to do anything but write. Kafka stood strictly by his mandate not to speak. in which he describes a strange bloody wound." 49 In his last days. when this. violence of the grave. condemned to wander in exile. at the last moment. because it is no longer capable of means of expression in usage in his people. with its humor. unable to further speak. 48 We know as well in many other texts of his that he does not blame his art for his life outside the world to which he is condemned: it has been imposed upon him immediately by his relations with his father. I leave my hinges and I strike myself really in the head against the door of madness.

the enigmatic friend of the two fiancés (in other words. Immediately. a seductive and seducing temptation. translates since the Mercury editions in France.108 Chapter Eleven . since later in inventing perhaps a strange episode. it is a sort of grace. still quite young. involuntarily. in contributing to the breach of first engagements. but Kafka's judgment. an imaginary child that she attributes to Kafka. but also more diverted in posing true questions. a sort of Kafka by Kafka himself (and Wagenbach). 1968 Commenting one day upon Kafka's letters which had recently emerged in their original form. what is confirmed is that each time that Kafka enters in relation to the feminine world. there would always be a missing final volume from the Complete Works: why is this? Firstly. in protecting them from the biographical rumors which attract and consume them when the flames are fed. is information that is able to further clarify the encounter with Dora Dymant with which his life came to an end. in addition to a long and imposing letter addressed to Julie Wohryzeck's sister. what one does not know. with several other authors and reuniting documents about diverse unclear points. 1. Today (since October 1967). where the constrained form permits us in seeing best what one knows. His first letters are carried by a desire for charm which charms.) 50 Cf the preceding text . as we possess all the letters to Felice B. since the KafkaSymposium. voluntarily. at the last at the start. Also missing. Let's attempt to gather several traits in order to liberate ourselves from them. and the notes from his Journal). not to say forever. for factual reasons. We had then been missing the letters to his fiancée. it has to do with a hypothetical episode that K. of lightness. speech. with a few exceptions. I noted that since the character of posthumous publications destined them to be inexhaustible. in being visibly troubled at one point. no longer completely having the force of letting them come to us in their innocence. which include those to Grete Bloch. This commentary dates approximately ten years50. save for always being hidden from what is said with such an intention of evidence. now that we have in hand the documents that were gathered slowly and painstakingly by Klaus Wagenbach (the first volume of the biography that he seems to elaborate in 1958. he asks for nothing but amicable sympathy or a contact of confidence. (I mean not that the external testimonies that one can still collect. and what one does not yet know about a life that is too greatly manifested). and no doubt missing for a long time. we are closer. notably a chronology of texts. a volume of over seventyfive pages). After having read as a single movement of letters. and finally the small book of the Rowohit edition. Wagenbach has been mistaken in transforming in certitude when he remains in the limit of the improbable probable*. edited by him. Let's say that at the least. it was perhaps necessary to ask ourselves if they teach us anything new. Even when he writes to Mademoiselle Bloch in which. the second fiancée. letters that a difficult negotiation had momentarily left out from the edition.The Truly Final Word. Felice Bauer.. he does not lack in writing in such a manner that this young woman.

there is no direct connection. she is far from attractive at first glance. distraught. Should we add that she represents life for Kafka. and certainly deceptive. It is during this relatively happy time (of this narrative he says to F. he writes to her a few weeks later (at the end of September) and does so almost once every day or several times a day. At the same time. except that it is not a human development that has led me from here to there. It is at the start of 1913 that relations suddenly get dismal. and on the whole." the word empty. not only repeated here but . and her bony skeleton).. On several occasions. but a sad path through the air. it is nothing that could not be repaired. withdrawn and strangely absentee). but a relapse that threatens to last. as well as the unknown woman from Zuckmantel and the adolescent girl from Riva--that she bears. He met the woman who will twice become his fiancée. Almost all the encounters will be disappointing. he always said that he recognized in her the qualities he thinks he lacks: she is an assertive. the trace of the absence of a trace. On the first day of the first encounter. in the manner of a memory. the change to live? The possibility of reconciliation with the world? This is true. this is not a new transformation. )t’s around this time that Kafka. Kafka confirms this change: "I am different from the way was in the first months of our correspondence. I was different in the beginning. but. "It is such an exceptionally repulsive story that I am laying it aside to rest and think of you. and often warm.B. as he formulates it to her (but it should not be accepted too readily. knowledgeable in business.. and courageous young woman. when he notes in his Diary. at east." Why? To this question we can only offer inconclusive answers. active. rough skin. in the same time. not even a zigzagging one. followed by ghosts. to conclude that she attracts him through his shortcomings: physically.. but according to which truth? I would say instead--and this is the feature she shares with Milena and perhaps with Julie Wohryzeck. he describes her in almost cruelly objective terms. just as when he declares himself incapable of social relations. this is everything that can be said about it without falling into psychological futility. in his Journals. in August 1912 (in Prague. This is in the least Kafka's impression. I have been entirely transported back to my old path and between roads. and you see. you will concede. at the house of his friend. he contradicts the accounts of his friends who saw him as an amiable figure. and which does not exactly signify innocence. Max Brod's parents). and that as socially lively as she appears to be hen she is with others. on the contrary. such things come from the same heart in which you reside and which you tolerate as your residence"). from which it would be too easy. and tired on the rare occasion that she is alone. that is of a non-culpability. soon after that. And at the same time he loves her with a passionate desperation.—they were initially part of an act of young passion which does not lack a certain happiness. Reading the letters (we don't know about the ones from the young lady.109 Even if the difficulties arrive quickly—and in some sense... I am not displeased with it. though sometimes. will speak of her to Mademoiselle Bloch with a certain repulsion (her spoiled teeth.. prompted by his feelings and undoubtedly solicited by his friend. About Felice. considers traveling to Berlin. we have the feeling that Felice appears more reserved than affectionate. her mottled. it is more than halffinished. "Mademoiselle F.. after escaping an encounter at Christmas: a trip that strikes him both as appealing and repulsive. it is true. except from secondhand sources). and even worse. but it is infinitely repulsive. she seems lifeless. almost instantly. but takes place on March 23. bony and empty face openly bearing its void.

. it is the most beautiful form of remorse. which passes by way of the necessary relations of men. however. although Kafka has here. He has already begun writing to the person with whom he is not yet on familiar terms. after the first months of an alliance passionately in search of itself. at a particularly unhappy moment. because it is to devote oneself to the idleness of the absence of time. Numerous passages of the correspondence--numerous.B. The Metamorphosis). both of which were written under the provocation of the strangeness of the feminine world. "all the rest was written only in memory of a great but radically absent feeling and must be scrapped. but in rereading the "notebooks of the novel." he is convinced that with the exception of the first chapter. as Kafka himself says in this letter. where nothing more happens. almost innumerable--would confirm it. or let us say. this "outside error" whose obviousness the feminine world incarnates. his difficulties)51. in which he describes his “first night” with his merciless candor (“Milena’s Check”) *See end of text . suddenly the writing comes to an end. and also partly of The Castle. What does he himself say about it (for our task is only to repeat him)? During the same period. but also already incarnates.. and an almost timeless regularity (every night in the infinity of the night: The Verdict. but one does not need to look at it very closely to see that the feeling of guilt is nothing but the exigency to go backward. a solution." It is commonplace to show Kafka struggling for the solitude of writing and Kafka struggling for the exigency of life. only 56 have the right to remain. just one month after having met F. but to thereby make oneself twice guilty. Kafka explains himself with unfailing lucidity concerning what his also very lucid friend calls Kafka's happy feeling of guilt: "You think that my feeling of guilt is an aid. doomed henceforth to the deception of the turning away and fated to the enchantment of oblivion this will be one of the meanings of The Trial. for my being. and is thus hell or. of deliverance. much more formidable than remorse and far above any remorse. the feeling of freedom. I have a feeling of guilt only because. which does not depart from an inward truth. that he 51 I refer here to the letter that Kafka wrote Milena. be understood in a naively Christian sense as seduction of the flesh. makes him feel the attraction of a flaw that is like the absence of error. Not only this. but it is such that the attraction immediately makes the one subject to it forever guilty by turning him away from himself. From this world. This is to say that of over 400 pages. which thus pass by way of marriage or worldly salvation. as we know. and simultaneously. no.110 bared. not as a feature of insignificance but that as the discovery of an enigmatic possibility. in its presence. the inner courtyard of hell. the equivocal distance. and two days after sending her the first letter.) 2. (In a letter to Weltsch. as he wrote in tormented but impetuous bursts. and nothing can be explained by this. in effect. But immediately. through remorse. Amerika. all temptations arrive (which should not. "To feel guilty is to be innocent because it is to strive. does everything become unhappier? I spoke of the trip to Berlin. It is rather this seduction of life that attracts him because it seems so strange in its remoteness from guilt. Yet why. of measured contentment already rises. then the continuation of his novel.

stricken--for every person wants to live for as long as he is alive--this openness and this gift of heart are not enough for writing. happy with the cellar. I would never have had the courage to turn to you. Then I would return to the table. in the innermost room of a spacious locked cellar. This is why one can never be sufficiently alone when one write.. as a reasonable person.' moderation and limitation. still enlivened by the illusions of youth. she will be happy with it. then I would no longer be able to write (as it is. "a sad possession for you. But were I not to write. I have often thought that the best way for me to live would be to set myself up. 1913. night is never night enough. but it is not easy for any human heart to hold out against the melancholia of bad writing or against the happiness of good writing. during a barren period. but then and certainly I am truly nothing." This narrative (for it is one) is impressive. you would cease advising me" 'Mass und Ziel.." he will say a little bit later. is not already excessive in the good sense. in my bathrobe. the extreme openness in which a person already feels he is losing himself in human relations and from which. Even the thought of you is related to writing. in which. when Felice evokes his penchant for writing: “Not a penchant. Certainly. if he is a being of reason. my dearest? I hope you won't shrink from your cellar dweller. but at this date. I would be brought food. behind the cellar’s outermost door. . and at the first failure I would fall into a grandiose fit of madness. My only reservation would be that I would not be able to keep it up for long. but always far away from the place in which I would be sitting. Should I not engage everything I have in the one thing I am able to do? . which. human weakness is but too drawn to setting limits to everything. not by far--unless it goes otherwise and the sources of the depths are silent--is nothing and collapses the moment a true feeling comes to shatter this ground situated above. for writing is my whole self. because the cellar will also belong to her ("a cellar.. but what would be left for you?” . and immediately after this. all the same"). I barely can). perhaps impossible to avoid even in these conditions. one could do away with me. only the ups and downs of writing determine me. with my writing material and a lamp. I have no penchant.It may be that writing is nothing. Kafka initially seems to believe (does he believe it?) that when Felice understands the necessity of the underground life. I would resume writing. but think of it. this is why there is never enough silence around oneself... through the many vaults of the cellar. one could wipe out or reduce it. Writing means opening oneself up to limitlessness. What do you think. more moderation: "My heart [he responds] is more or less in perfect health. he describes the ideal existence: "One day you wrote that you would like to sit beside me as I wrote. and most often failing. A penchant. My only walk would be to fetch this food. deserving nothing more than to be thrown away.111 confides in her unreservedly. I would eat slowly and solemnly.. "My life consists and has in fact always consisted in trying to write... then he seems to believe (but does he really believe it?) 52 One day. I would remain stretched out on the ground..As thin as I am.. to the person he already considers his life companion. The things I would write! The depth from which I would tear it up! Without effort! For extreme concentration knows no effort.." Felice soon takes fright at such outbursts and advises him. he will always try to withdraw. If you considered my tie to writing. but in that case I could no longer write at all. when one writes." 52 Then comes the surprising letter of January 15.. and surely. there is nothing in me. with regard to writing.

. you saw it.. madness itself. and by the wish not to deceive his fiancée about the conditions of their future together. and no longer in its musing). never refers to itself in this absence. You were threatened.. protects life. In the end. can offer no sure principle of explanation. in November.. Bloch in which. and as the latter loved you at its center beyond all limits. at least from the perspective of work. it is in this truth that he will propose to her with new authority and austerity: "You were unable to see the power that the work has over me. I don't believe this was the case. and of the writer in him. It was my duty to watch over my work. unbroken.... demands life. he speaks of his horror of marriage. livable and comfortable. he cannot even tolerate that it is deprived of a horizon. interrupted. he says. disrupts it. will they see each other for an hour a day. he again takes up his explanation with the young lady. if there ever is a future. to rejoin her (rejoin the disjunction). it had to defend itself against you with all its might in order to protect itself. unquestioned attempt to be united to Felice. Later. when he looks for a room in the city in which to work. your disgust were constantly before my eyes. to live: how could one hold oneself to this confrontation of terms that are precisely so poorly determined? Writing destroys life. for the truth. But did you not wish to be? Ever? In no way?" (A questioning traversed by the movement of sovereignty that was also the least visible. such that Felice is struck by the feeling of painful duplicity. 1914 (when he is brought to trial). which ruins it. cannot designate a belonging. His relations with the young woman are first and foremost established on the level of written words. It is indeed true that almost all of his behavior with Felice seems capable of being explained by his sole desire to protect his work. and that you fear was no less justified than mine. and vice versa. you were at the same time the greatest enemy of my work. The conflict of writing and life. Kafka is made aware of this "other than"--the other in the neuter--that belongs to writing insofar as writing cannot belong to itself. but this is because he is then in the truth of solitude. although recently engaged. To write. reduced to such simplicity. the least contestable part of Kafka. just as life receives this necessary insecurity from writing an absence of relation by dispersing itself in it. writing has no relation to life. or worse still. even if to explain here is only deploying affirmations that call each other forth in order to put themselves to the test without limiting themselves. the emptiness of a presence full in its retreat.. but well converted and as if protected (in the years 1915-1916. is ignorant of life. but to what is other than it. which alone gives me the right to live. and your fear showed me and made me fear (with a much more unbearable fear) that here was the greatest danger for my work. and this explanation consists in this: your fear. of which she had been warned so many times by Kafka directly. very incompletely. barely. if it is not through the necessary insecurity that writing receives from life. Even if this is not completely true. consequently in the place that words control and under the truth of the illusion that 53 In particular on the day of the trial when he gives up justifying himself and also when he 'writes a letter to Mlle.112 that the cellar might suffice for his isolation and bring him help: the cellar. You were not only the greatest friend. in other words. when.. had become a power of fatal objectivity (as it always happens) as soon as it had been communicated to her by someone else. you can turn the whole thing around and say that you were no less threatened in your essence than I. This is when I wrote the letter to Mademoiselle Bloch. and it is only when it touched my work with hostility that I feared it. but only incompletely. after the break of July 12. . a letter that his correspondent mistakenly shows Felice. Now.) 3. You want me to explain why I behaved like this 53. through the stubborn. I loved you in your real being.


they necessarily provoke. When he tells her (before they meet in Berlin for the first time),
"It sometimes seems to me that this exchange of letters, which I almost incessantly long to
get beyond in order to arrive at realty, is the only exchange that corresponds to my misery
(my misery, which naturally I do not always experience as misery) and that were we to
ross this limit that is imposed upon me, we would be led to a common unhappiness," he is
still only expressing the apprehension of an encounter that is frightening in all regards, but
he also senses the contradiction to which he is exposing himself. Through letters--this
mixed communication, which is neither direct nor indirect, neither of presence nor of
absence (he designates it as a hybrid or bastard, Zwitter)--he shows himself, but to
someone who does not see him (one night, he dreams that Felice is blind), and if he thus
wins the young woman's heart, it is in the mode of non-possession and also of nonmanifestation, that is, of non-truth ("I am going to Berlin for no reason other than to tell
and show you, who has been misled by my letters, who I really am").
In a certain sense, at least in the dramatic development of the year 1913, which will
lead, even before the official engagement, to a first break-up, the only thing at stake for him
is the truth: the truth about himself, or more precisely, the possibility of being true. How is
one to avoid deceiving the young woman? How is one to convince her of what it is, as he is
in the depths of solitude that he reaches only in the nights of writing? How is he to unveil
himself in such a way as to be seen as he searches for himself through invisibility which is
outside all veiling and unveiling? "My letter today will arrive torn; tore it on my way to the
station, in a movement of impotent rage at not being able to be true and precise when I
write to you, such that even when I write, I am never able to hold you firmly or to
communicate to you the beating of my heart, there being nothing from this moment on to
expect from writing." And a little earlier, in a manner that is even more striking, he says:
"Naturally, I cannot forget you when I write to you, because I can never forget you at all, but
I would like in some way not to rouse myself from the dizziness of the reverie without
which I cannot write to you, by calling your name." Practically speaking, this movement can
be translated as this: to say everything (and not only to her, but to the young woman's
father, to the highest authority) which means to tell how he will make her unhappy, or
more precisely, the impossibility of conjugal life to which he is condemning her, and this is
with nothing to compensate for it, so that she may accept it and see it precisely as
impossible, from which it will follow that none of the answers she gives him can satisfy
him. For if she says to him, perhaps out of levity, or out of affection, or perhaps also out of a
proper concern for nuances: "you speak too abruptly about yourself," or "things are
perhaps as you say, but you cannot know that they will not change when we are together,"
this hope that she maintains despairs him: "What must I do? How can I make you believe
the unbelievable?..." There exist hindrances that you know to a certain extent, but you do
not take them seriously enough and you would still not take them seriously enough, if you
were fully aware of them. No one around me takes them seriously enough, or one will
neglect them out of friendship for me... When I see how much you change when you are
with me, and the indifferent fatigue that takes ahold of you then, to the young woman who
is normally so self-assured, whose thinking is quick and proud... the result of this is: I
cannot assume the responsibility, for I see that it is too great. You cannot assume it, for you
can hardly see it."


On the one hand, this happens. But on the other, if she takes her distance, convinced
or eventually hurt, and becomes reticent, formulating doubts and writing less, then the
greater is his despair, for he has the feeling that she misjudges him precisely because she
knows him, therefore deciding according to the knowledge he gives her of himself, instead
of deciding, not blindly, not by weighing reasons, but in all clarity under the attraction of
the impossible. There are, he says, three answers, and there are no others that she can
make. "It is impossible, and therefore I do not want it." "It is impossible, and for the time
being, I don't want it." "It is impossible, and thus I want it." The third answer, the single
correct one (which might take this form from Luther: "I cannot do otherwise, in spite of
everything."), Kafka will one day claim to have received it--he, too, out of languor, from the
one he then calls his "dear fiancée," and not without adding: "I will say for the last time that
I am insanely afraid of our future and of the unhappiness that may arise as a result of my
nature and my faults, in our life together and that must first affect you, for I am, at my core,
a cold, egoistic, and insensible being, in spite of my weakness that dissimulates but does
not mitigate it." Where the impossible speaks, a relation of strangeness (of transcendence?)
is introduced, which cannot be designated as such: a relation in which it would be
deceptive to see any trait of the sublime (in the romantic manner), but which Kafka
nonetheless refuses to perceive with practical reason. When Felice, overwhelmed and
perhaps rightly so, writes to him: "Marriage would lead us both to give up many things; we
do not want to weigh the side on which the greatest weight would reside; for both of us, it
would be great," he is deeply hurt, specifically because she reduces the impossible to a sum
of possibles, here, therefore producing a sort of bargaining of accounts. "You are right, we
must keep accounts; unless this is not unjust, but deprived of meaning... This is my opinion
in the end." And finally, the exigency of truth always returns: "A lasting life together is
impossible for me without deception, just as it would be impossible without truth. The first
glance I would cast upon your parents would be deceptive54.
4. Before going on, I would like to quote two or three of the most serious texts. I
quote them as if in parentheses, not because they are of secondary importance but because
of their seriousness. They explain why (this is not the only reason; it is even a reason that
Kafka expressed himself, to himself, only at every critical moments), when he believes he is
losing the young woman who seems to have distanced from him, he is immediately certain
of losing himself. "In my letters, my perpetual concern is to free you of me, and as soon as I
have the appearance of success, I go mad." It is not the madness of a lover split between
movements of contradictory passions, it is madness itself from which she, Felice--and she
alone, because she forms his only and essential human bond--can still protect him, for she
is still capable, when he is not writing and at the times he is, of keeping him away from the
monstrous world he carries inside his head, a world that he does not dare confront except
in the nights of writing. "Traversing the nights in a fury of writing, this is what I want. And

On the relation to “truth," one would have to quote the letter of Sept. 10, 1917—the penultimate letter, I believe-- already partially published
in the Diary: "For five years you have been kept informed as to the progress of the struggle, by word and by silence and by a combination of both;
and most of the time, it has tormented you… If you ask whether it has always been in keeping with the truth, I can only say that with no one else
but you, have I kept myself so strenuously from conscious lies. There have been certain attenuations [Verschleierungen] but very few lies,
assuming that regarding lies, it is possible for there to be 'very few.''' The continuation can be read in the Journal with the following, at the end
and in the form of a verdict: "In sum, it is only the tribunal of men that is important to me, and it is this tribunal that I wish to deceive, though;
without deception.


to perish like this or go insane, this is also what I want, because it is the long-anticipated
consequence." But soon after, the other affirmation, the desire to find in her, against this
threat, a return, a protection, a future. "It is justifiable anguish that prevents me from
wishing you were coming to Prague, but more justified still, and it exceeds it much, this
monstrous anguish that I will perish if we are not together soon. For if we are not together
soon, my love for you, which does not tolerate any other thoughts in me, will direct itself to
an idea, a specter; something unattainable, all in all and forever necessary, that would
really be capable of tearing me from the world. I tremble as I write this." I'll permit myself
to translate in this way; I tremble with writing. But what writing? "You don't know, Felice,
what a certain literature can be in certain heads. It creates constant chaos, like monkeys
lost and unable to be otherwise. What should one do?" Once again, there is no longer the
desire of the hope of being protected by Felice, but the fear of being exposed to a more
serious threat while under her protection, and the worse fear of also exposing her to a
danger he cannot name: "At present, I only torment you in my letters, but as soon as we
lived together, I would become a dangerous madman fit for burning... What holds me back
is in some sense a command from heaven, an anguish that cannot be appeased; everything
that seemed of greatest importance to me, my health, and my small resources precisely
with her... I have the certain feeling that I'll be exposed to doom, through marriage, through
this union, through the dissolution of this nothingness that I am, and I will not be exposed
alone, but with my wife, and the more I love her, the swifter and more terrible it will be"55.
5. When in Berlin for the first time, he sees the person he had approached only by
the detour of his letters, he will be as if repelled from all living relations. And upon his
return, he writes to her: "My true fear--certainly nothing more awful could be said or
heard: never will I be able to possess you. In the most favorable case, I would be limited to
kissing your casually abandoned hand in the manner of a crazy rabid dog, which would not
be a sign of love, but the despair that you would feel for an animal condemned to muteness
and eternal separation... In short, I would remain forever excluded from you, if you were to
lean toward me so far as to be in danger." To Brod, he will confide the next day: "Yesterday,
I sent the big confession." Thus it is a confession. We must not give it too simple a meaning,
however, one that would contradict what we know of his various brief affairs which his
friends speak about. In 1916 in Marienbad, when he sees in Felice a person he could love,
more than from at a distance, he writes again to Brod, I will recall three features of these
very controlled reflections that he then composes for the benefit of his friend. "I did not
know her at all" (until the final days in which he established intimate relations with her)"56,
what bothered me (prevented me), other scruples notwithstanding, was essentially the fear

On "literature" and the danger it represents, responding to Felice, who judged herself, in everything, to be less than him: "I would be 'more
advanced than you in everything'? A small capacity for judging men and for putting myself in their place out of pity… this I have… I have no
memory, not for things learned, read, experienced, or heard; it is as if I had no experience of anything; I know less about most things than does
the smallest schoolboy. I cannot think: in my thinking. I constantly come up against limits; certainly, I am still able to grasp this or that isolated
point, but a coherent thought, capable of elaboration, is impossible for me. I cannot even tell a story, or even speak . . . . All I have are certain
powers that focus themselves in view of literature at a depth that cannot be recognized under normal conditions; powers to which I do not dare
give myself over in my present professional and physical state, because in face of the inner demand of these powers there arc as many inner
warnings. If I were able to hand myself over to these powers, they would straightaway carry me out of all of this inner desolation, and of this I am
certain" [must one specify? out of life].

On these very new relations, there is a brief note in the Journals that Max Brod himself did not authorize for publication, but that Wagenbach
nonetheless read in the manuscript.

Second indication: "What (at the moment of the official engagement ceremony) she crossed the great hall and came to my encounter to receive her engagement kiss. outside falsehood. and first of all. in other words--both solemn. this I also know. as the third feature. But it would probably be much more difficult than in Marienbad. a story the decisive nature of which Kafka never misrecognized.116 of having to regard as real the one who writes letters to me. and still had to be born all the time in connection to those "distasteful things" 57.” . that is the refusal to pass from one to the other. A laceration as a result of which many things that I had always wanted to keep protected (it is nothing in particular. in the sense that it unveiled him before his own eyes and constituted a warning that it was his duty never to forget. through it. and also. the strongest. this was put to the test of "the wound". 57 I recall the letter on his relations with family. Kafka writes again in his Journal. conjugal intimacy. the impossibility of this crossing. because it reminded him that he was born out of it. are torn from me]. 18. that what is disagreeable to him to the point of horror is not contact with a feminine face but rather. but also sovereignly impure (and sovereign because it is impure) that as Felice crosses the great space of the hall to make her way toward him. but a whole) are brought to light [aufgerissen.It is the very idea of marriage--the law. evoking his new familiarity with Felice. the circle in which he had thought he could keep himself pure. just as outside truth)--was broken. it was imposed on me. my experiences more vast. who ought have crossed the great space and met again with his fiancée." From which one must recall." I think this passage is important. on January 29. with true chains. but does not mean true this he never intended. which confirms that this difficulty had yet another origin). June 1914). however. and through this laceration [Riss] so much unhappiness will emerge. or better yet: a grave..but perhaps the meaning of the entire story of the young woman. 1916) 58 Except the conventions-. if one has placed me in a corner. perhaps. "I have now seen the confident intimacy in the gaze of a woman and could not remain closed to it. but Kafka "is bound like a criminal. the matter of the engagement. Here. It gives not only the meaning of what has happened in Marienbad in 191659 (this finally changes nothing regarding the difficulty of their relations. after the most painful breaking up and forcing of barriers. the retreat before the reality of presence is expressed. which in his parents always filled him with disgust. as much by the constraints of isolation as by the pressure to write— pure means without falsehood. even apart from his own feelings. of course. I might also perhaps be happy here with Milena. consequently. my ideology is more solid. of which an important excerpt is published in the Journals (Oct. an infinite insurmountable space. therefore. as if previously. before any place and before any event.the conventions! it is evidently Kafka. but I did not call forth this unhappiness. of everything that the word marriage evokes for him. and with a break that did not take place at any moment or because of particular events. sovereign. rises up and imposes its sanction on him. Indeed. What was then a thread of separation is now a wall or a mountain. was for me and at every step a constant torture. a terrible shudder passed through me. and very distinctly. a sanction that is like a punishment in advance58. 1922. certainly. Finally. for he knew that it helped change him almost radically. 59 On the sojourn to Marienbad. it would not have been worse" (Journal. but rather. that a man's entire life cannot suffice. the approach of conjugality. A revelation.. the falsehood of his institutional obligations. accompanied by my parents. not as such but through the relation of writing (the non-presence of writing).. he will say to Brod. but revealed itself as always having taken place. when he is frightened by the thought that Milena could come: "It remains to resolve this sole enigma: why I was happy for fifteen days in Marienbad and why.

for within each sentence. but in the outside is yet an interior. and supports any possibility of a relation. but writing is no longer keeping oneself intact in the purity of the closed circle. in my opinion. but was rather implied. removed from any affirmation of presence. and who knows? Provide a way out: who knows? Who knows? Living in the cellar. there are transitions that must remain suspended before the actual writing. not because they are directly related. whether or not it is the very relation engaged in the movement. he will have to renounce the hope that this exigency seemed to carry: not only is writing essentially uncertain. if only I could write. and they accomplish it in two ways." In truth. having completed The Verdict in an eight-hour stretch. and much less. if he thus confides himself to the person he still does not call Felice. it would defer or delay the sentence. indecisive and however deceptive they may be) with the "failure" of his youthful novel (Amerika)--he had confidence in writing. that is the movement of writing. that is. and put into practice in his work. but always once again intact. I am not saying that he needed the interminable failure of his story with Felice (he certainly needed much more. but these two movements pot to one another by way of each other. that he confides this essential sentiment to her: "It is one of my failings that I cannot write down in the flux of a single continuous movement what has gathered itself in me according to a pre-set order. I express myself so badly. Thus the great "warning.117 which in turn. I only begin awakening in the space of my inner figures. B) Barely had he begun corresponding with Felice. and would give him the possibility.") "Ah. however. he had been victorious in his attempt at an uninterrupted writing. a tormented confidence. My memory is definitely bad. for have sometimes thought that I am already settled at its enter. dying) nowhere. too) to arrive at this insight--hidden. no more than it was empirically or internally experienced. A) During his entire youth as a writer--a youth that ended (markers are still needed. it is because six days earlier. which gave him the certainty of a possible contact with the unapproachable space. most often unhappy. rather. This desire consumes me. ) don’t think you’d have understood that writing is the single thing that enables my existence. but in this break. but a negative one. writing it endlessly and thus dwelling (living." as he writes in this quite revealing sentence: " cannot be thrown out of writing. and perhaps bind oneself to what destroys. 6. dad not occur at a specific moment or progressively. ruins. a "warmth. little by little and always suddenly. It is no wonder. it is attracting the dark powers toward the upper reaches. the impossibility of breaking it off) that precedes." The letters to Felice only confirm it. and giving oneself to their perverse strangeness. However. His thought was that writing--if he could ever writewould save him. a decisive experience for him. If above all else I had enough freedom and health for this. but even the best memory could not help me to write down even a short part of what had been deliberate and simply marked." One must conclude from this that in this space. in a single nocturnal stroke. in its greatest warmth. and he . moreover--about his future as a writer. but because they repeat at different levels the conditions of absence--of alterity--(the break. he maintains the hope of reaching a certain awakening. and in his relation to his work. this word understood not in a positive sense.

by a deliberated initiative: contrary to some biographical affirmations.118 immediately noted in his Journal: "My certitude is confirmed. otherwise than by a perpetuity without dissidence. and therefore also his condemnation as a living man. but it is only in this rigorous manner. This was his eternal struggle. given in a single time as infinite repetition? "I need to write in isolation. but with which it failed to recognize that this gap was a relation with "essence. he has. each time. This has nothing immediate to do with my relations with men. 7. unable to wait for it except by an exigency in which he faced himself being destroyed and not confirmed. and thus a death. Kafka was only slowly persuaded and always needed to persuade himself that he did not need stop it except as a lack (break or absence) and that this is to part from this movement as a lack that he could also achieve— perhaps –writing being his gift: no longer thus the uninterrupted without his becoming. of such a sort. and his single ally and friend Ernst Weiss (but hostile to Felice and to this marriage). Writing in this sense is a more profound sleep. to see himself retired of the power to read himself. the intention of 60 I recall that he abandoned Amerika one evening without the intention of starting again (save for writing the last chapter in October 1914 and perhaps also Brunelda’s episode on the same date). united to difference. given in time as something outside time. which he had destined for a definitive destruction. the friend of his fiancée (Grete Bloch). transparent. with such a stream of coherence. for the writer without privilege). had received this gift from being almost liberated from themselves. this lack where nothing lacks anything but its absence. and immediately the first novel where the incompleteness was his condemnation as a writer. and at the same time that one cannot take a dead man from his grave. when he is placed under trial in Berlin in the Askanischer Hof. unable to be anything but blind to what could be read there). one could not tear me from my table at night. the sister of his fiancée (Erna). and by this continuity. an absence of book soon deprived of itself. also completely offered to our proper impotency of reading. the trait of such a movement—interminable except for all dimensions—where it immediately seems to him that only his manner of living (office work) took him to the gap. incapable of living with Felice60. with also a perfect opening of the body and the to maintain what is outside the writing. effacing all ideas of masterpiece and all ideas of work. but. this new manner of being accomplished in and by interruption (under the spell of the fragmentary). **See the end of this essay . he could not re-grasp the truth of the whole. not as a "hermit. ignorant that the books that he believed not to have constituted writing. reversed and finally –returned to work—established once more in the shaking assurance of our admiration and our judgments of culture. in the face of a tribunal constituted by his fiancée. which. he needed (and it is like this. in some sense placed under his own eyes their proper completion. continued and systematic that I can write and thus also live. Kafka—as the correspondence confirms—reads nothing (save for certain moments when he lacked strength) to break up with Felice." Thus. having reread 400 pages that were already written. but coming into being from interruption." always differed because it was continual. All his uncompleted works. transparence of a compact sort or a compactness." The search for an absolute continuity—uninterrupted in every sense-. and." but as a dead man. not unjustifiably. it is only thus that one can write. in being identified with the absence of the book.

always and forever. Precisely because this is no longer tuberculosis that one reaches for a lounge chair and stretched out upon it. I tell you a secret in which I momentarily do not believe (despite how I may be convinced by the obscurity that falls around me as I try to work and think). like the exigency of exclusion.119 finishing it with a story by which he sees himself condemned. which." "work. of such a sort that he is driven to predict why writing-. whom he befriends in conditions of extreme physical and moral destitution. inexorable—waits for it to be pronounced. Before leaving for Berlin.if. repeated. it is always the same division that is exposed. it indicates the limit or is itself indicated in . in the subject of which he cannot know—a leap in writing. was it negatively. a silent refusal. he abandoned himself to the passion of Milena and his passion for her. when at last with Dora Dymant he begged heaven itself. mentioning "physical incapacity. as the impossibility of breaking where. the law where his stubbornness –gentle. and wished to bring the young girl to undo his marriage in the perspective of a quite uncertain union. at the end of its perpetuation. not without a certain irony. I speak. by repetition. but which must be true: never again will I be in good health. a sort of recognition from above). under the form of a refusal. being reproduced in the infinite impotency. effaced. almost on the same date. or the impossibility of finishing it. And the two cannot remain alive together. nothing can be broken**. for an instant that one cannot speak anything certain about the matter nor about himself. I write not as I speak. from its lack." "greed. a radical exteriority (aorgic). Is it thus the world or life with which he wishes to be reconciled by these attempts at marriage where he does everything to exhaust its real character in advance? It is rather with the law that he pursues the tragic game (provocation and interrogation). and. with a head shake of absolute negation. and I am newly at your feet"). a last response of consecration (yet nonetheless all the same a response which indicated. a new engagement is also broken. and I think other than how I should not think. and could not decide anything: it all depended once again on the young girl ("Don't ask me why I pull a line. in Schelesen. but in being designated as unassignable. not authorizing or even in striking him. always needs to be solicited anew. he writes to his sister Ottla: ) would naturally write from Berlin." He also says that the most probable would be the eternal fight. to the limit. but a weapon where the exterior necessity subsisted for as long as I would remain alive. having always already been pronounced. where." Nothing can be interrupted. Give me the word. whatever the consequence. and the official engagements never lasted more than several weeks). Don't humiliate me like this either. to which he gave the clearest sense of a spiritual symptom. more justly. The tuberculosis is nothing but a weapon in this combat. when he recounts all the events from the last fifty years: the names by which he designated them. so that it all runs forth into the greatest depths of obscurity. even when he adds: "In what remains." designations that always tend towards what cannot be designated. The same illness (which intervened scarcely a month following the second engagement. friend of the young girl's father). not as I think. it has driven him to occupy this space from beneath. the proof each time. for the authorization of a marriage by which he receives. that is to say. by the intervention of a highly revered rabbi (Gerer Rebbe. and always novel. placed him outside the law. When he meets Julie Wohryzeck in Stüdl pension a year later. a weapon no more or less efficacious than all these "innumerable" that he has used until this and that he enumerates in the penultimate letter of correspondence. and writing until non-writing occurs-. more profoundly. exterior to the law.this movement where he has expected a sort of salvation—has.

or even advice. the engagement is broken off. Kafka answers on October 1914. obviously nothing. the exegesis of admiration and pretension. traveled to Prague on Felice's behalf and met Kafka in October 1913. and Kafka vacationed together in Bohemia on May 23 and 24. 1940.120 this limit where once again. almost seductive words. It remains striking. he must retract his "word" from his fiancée: "accusatory letters from F. This is what we know of it. What else do we know? This Max Brod published parts of a letter that Grete Bloch. sent from Florence to a friend in Israel. at the least what I know of it. Let us indicate the reasons for doubt. either to ask for news or to send his regards. Wagenbach asserts that in the beginning of Fall 1914. when he was seven years old: an "illegitimate" child whose father was unnamed. almost a daughter or his very young sister (precisely. when having taken ill. in the Journal dated October 8. even before the marriage with Dora Dymant is rejected by the highest court. it is denounced as a disturbance or preceding all laws. 1915. *An obscure and unfortunate tale. Kafka begins to write to her and it results in a correspondence comprising about seventy published letters. reasons that are themselves dubious. and was never such that it would allow one to conclude that there was a relationship between the correspondents. albeit marked by the desire to please. Kafka continues nonetheless.B. relations she had contributed to ruining. the grand containment of culture. mother. Grete Bloch. to express deep sympathy. but the addressee of the letter (Brod's only source in this story) maintained that Grete Bloch regarded Kafka as the child's father. going from October 29. Was Kafka finally permitted to break it? Finally freed. the young woman writes to Kafka attempting to restore connections between the former fiancées. thus making it possible. but no doubt he has made a mistake: the only known correspondence between them lasted the fall of 1913 to the summer of 1914. But eternity had already begun: the posthumous hell. that is to say. a regular and intimate correspondence is established between Grete B. 1913 to July 3. the transgression . As always. there is no proof that Kafka kept writing to her. In the month of October 1914. and reveals itself to be uncrossable only by the crossing itself. once more the last word that could not be proposed except to simulate and dissimulate the awaiting of the very last. he has never hidden his preference for the young Ottla whom he would say. On July 12. published today. 1917. at the same time. "Dear Miss Grete" is the tenderest address. and. twenty-two at the time and a recent friend of Felice. die? At last.. could he write. and often very affectionate. that. What is there to say? In a certain manner. We know that Felice. Let's add that the letters. and Kafka. as if the limit were not crossed except insofar as it is impossible to jump over. he does not fail. Grete Bloch. provocation from provocations. According to the editors. in completely innocent language. If one recalls the rule of absolute candor for Kafka (when he had broken with Felice for the first time and spent intimate days with the young Swiss woman in Riga.the decision to fail in what could not yet exist-. Dora is 19 years old and he is 40. and arranges a sort of conjugal life with the adolescent. precisely here. threatens to write me. and spouse). She reveals to him that she had a son who died suddenly in Munich in 1921.") He speaks at times of her to Felice. on April 21. the sarcastic glory. and it is the last letter to G. that she was his sister. She lived and worked in Vienna. opposing social conventions. at a painful moment.preceded the promulgation of the prohibition. The "No" of the rabbi precedes shortly precedes his death. 1914.B that we possess. as . remain rather ceremonious. and also. Erich Heller and Jürgen Born. (I find. G.

had the misfortune to return to Italy. he obeys his mood (Stimmung) of the moment. The remainder she deposited in Florence with a notary who later placed photocopies of them in Max Brod's possession. at night. for now. Twelve of these letters had been torn in half in a "rather bizarre manner. she was taken away with many other Jews and died during the deportation to a camp." I give this indication. on March 24: "How I am spied upon: for example. real and unreal." "I got away from them.. thus on January 18: "A little peace. without knowing more. I will also add that in Kafka's Journals. and the other in the notary at Florence." but with the exception of one. Kafka rites (the young lady had remarked without malice that she did not always understand him or that some of his traits made him seem strange to her): "Let us be done with it." On February 10: "New attack from G. to read these passages in the light of an almost "mystical" obscurity: "Attack on the way. What a strangely muddled situation it was. They occur almost simultaneously with the correspondence. The following testimony must have also been mentioned: friends of Grete Bloch said that the young woman. Imaginary or not." Tears of an oppressive strangeness. Grete confided to her friend one part (approximately half) of the letters she had received from Kafka. the child of which Kafka was unaware had this spectral existence.certain notations can be read in which the initial G. on the path constantly.. is arriving. Kafka writes again: "But I have no news from you. seems to have read: "New attack by Grete. on the path on the way to the doctor. appears. on the other hand. one or the other. Wagenbach. an inquiry by the Red Cross has not allowed it to be known with certainty. given his pathological sensitivity. if our life is dear to us." and later." And on January 19." On November 20. they were able to be put back together because one of the halves was in Felice's hands. Already in mid-November. He is someone who wants the absolute in everything. the unfortunate Felice then appeals to Brod. 1912.121 soon as relations have been established. I must therefore openly repeat the adieu that you silently gave me." Distraught. He never accepts compromise. Nevertheless. who knew the manuscripts of the Journals. in January and February 1922. although no name intervenes and in an enigmatic manner. expressed profound melancholia or delirious distress.B. during his solitary and quite tragic stay in Spindlermühle--he is still friends with Milena. G. Felice escaped from such a fate: married. Grete Bloch. Attacked from the right and left by extremely powerful enemies. it seems quite unlikely that he could have kept silent about such a relationship. does not allow us. who answers her: "I beg you to let many things pass with Franz." Their written relations take up their passionate force once again. When she had to leave Germany. one can imagine that he kept silent in order not to compromise G. When the country fell under Nazi occupation. but without hope-. I cannot escape. I would like to establish a short chronology of the breaks. Deliverance or aggravation. to tell everything to the woman who is no longer his fiancée). who lived in Israel since she left Germany. in the snow. **To offer better proof of this for myself. which begins September 20. at least during the course of the first two years. perhaps hastily. one that would also have been a double betrayal. lived first in Switzerland and then in the United States. during her stay in Florence (thus at the moment when she revealed the story of the child). which led me some time ago. But what is the worth of such an assertion? It is as vague as it is intolerable. Grete Bloch and Felice remain friends until the end. we should remember. to give it life outside of dreams. where she died in 1960. .

(The ceremony. where he writes that he will stop writing to her: "I can no longer go forward. which is no longer one of circumstance or mood. the hope that one day. silent.W. Meanwhile. "Berlin was neither good nor bad. This meeting gives him a little hope.122 At the start of January 1913.I really don't know how I can assume such a responsibility.. can want to touch your head without caressing it? And when Felice says to him. and we don't know if F is eluding him out of intention or negligence. an explanation leaves him quite discouraged." he does not deny it. Kafka goes off to Vienna under the pretext of a congress. or how my getting married came to be. Dear Miss Grete. engaged out of intimate feelings and not officially. but in any case as was necessary for my undeniable sentiment.. 1913). and bound to literature by invisible chains"). it strengthens it." But Kafka keeps writing to Grete. befriending young G. On November 8.) Kafka comments on the event for Grete. never will I be able to possess you." This . 1913 with these words: "So you want. I had a completely different text in my head "Without her.. it is as if I were ensnared. but that she seems to take it otherwise: she spaces out her letters. attenuating the relationship--on the contrary. he will be visited by Grete Bloch. On May 11. not a joyful chatter with arms linked. and at the same time. The correspondence is far from resuming with the same momentum. with invitation. at least. reaching fresh air. the change. on the twelfth and thirteenth of May." which for him does not at all signify that he is distancing from her. in spite of everything. "the Swiss woman. either. and takes advantage of a trip to Frankfurt to interrupt them. and manages to catch only a glimpse of her in effect." Back in Prague. a kiss. he travels to Berlin for an interview. "You seem to be attached to Grete. I have an ardent desire to see you. he "will be able to seriously discuss [their future] with her. a certain number of awful things and thus little by little. We should separate" (September 16. discontent. the correspondence with Mademoiselle Bloch seems to turn increasingly warmer: "You are too important to me. will take place June 1. in a letter begun on June 10. communicating his disillusionment. to take the cross upon yourself.. she is sent by Felice to attempt to resolve their misunderstandings.. however." The torment of the truth arrives. and congratulations. with a candidness that nearly drives Kafka insane. I am united to you in a manner so indissoluble that no blessing of any rabbi could ever touch it. What person in Berlin. fail to meet up to spend their vacation together.. the encounter occurs. which is interrupted. then to Italy. for the love of God. I cannot live. On March 23. as if it were a manifest nostalgia. begins to take place in Kafka. However. He remains for some time in Riva. At the start of March 1914. sickly. and courageously finished on the 16th: "Would you like to think it over and consider whether you want to be my life? Do you want this?" Following this is a debate that will soon come to a close on July 1. is another meeting in Berlin during Pentecost vacation. after which is the letter of confession: "My true fear. one that will not ease to aggravate itself without." And for Felice: "In spirit. but a cloistered life at the side of someone who is morose. Your little card made me happier than anything else I received in Berlin. Felice? To attempt the impossible?" It is after this that the first serious breakup happens. during which the official engagement is decided. is a meeting in Berlin. sad. and he notices that Felice tolerates him with difficulty.. nor with her. and even his repulsion: "Sometimes--you are the only one to know it for now-. still in Berlin. Felice has a quite cheerful stay in Westerland ("What awaits you is not the life of happy people in Westerland. The couple." Yet he adds: "When I was packing my bags in Berlin.

. or shortly thereafter. and thereby.123 is one of the letters that Grete (with what intention?) will share with Felice. 1914. letter from Mademoiselle Bloch. I have now convinced you. Kafka has changed and is changed. much to the horror and shock of both their families... newly by Grete Bloch's intervention (in the Journal."). Well. writing each evening and each night over the course of five months. I don't know if I love F. as we learn on July 3. for it to bring up the question of another engagement. the unceasing temptation comes back. any longer (I'm reminded of the disgust I felt when I saw her dancing. The correspondence picks up again in November 1914.. Finally. . In January 1915. but despite everything.. breaking ties with her: "You should not have quoted letters. another question of a new split. will be rented). since July 29 (five days after his condemnation) he has commenced with The Trial. without any genuine feelings of fondness. and I know that it is quite sure that I will remain alone.. but never again will the exchange of letters have the same pace as in the beginning. July 1916. when he writes to Miss Bloch. then. but Felice's threat. Felice wants an apartment that is comfortably furnished and to her taste (the apartment. on Thursday. 1914.. he will see Felice once more in Bodenbach. furthermore.). It will require the happy reunion in Marienbad. October 15: "Today. I don't know what I must do... and the engagement is officially undone. Kafka is brought to court at the Askanischer Hof on July 12. and with it." There is also painful arguing on the material conditions of their future. and you begin to see in me not Felice's fiancé. I end here with this short history of the break-ups.. just as she doesn't want to give up an ordinary social life.