Time, Tense and Aspect in Kafka's "The Burrow" Author(s): J. M. Coetzee Source: MLN, Vol. 96, No.

3, German Issue (Apr., 1981), pp. 556-579 Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2905935 Accessed: 20/09/2010 14:49
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Time,Tense and Aspectin Kafka's "The Burrow"
J. M. Coetzee

Kafka's story"The Burrow" begins: "I have completed the construction myburrowand itseems to be successful."'The position of in time of the speaker, the creaturewhose lifehas been devoted to secure hideaway,seems to be clear: he the buildingof thisperfectly froma momentafterthe completionof the burspeaks (or writes) row but not so long afterit thatfinal judgment on itssuccess can be in Furtherinformation the nextfewpages help to situatethe given. nowof his utteranceas belongingto "the zenithof mylife" fictional on "growingold" (p. 326), "getting (p. 325), when he is nevertheless in years" (p. 327). The timeencompassed byhis act of storytelling, beginningat this is not, however, simplythe time that mightbe taken to moment, or utterthe thirty-five so pages of the text: although there are no breaks to markbreaks in the timeof narration,there typographical
1The ed. Nathan Glatzer (New York: Schocken, 1946), p. 325. Stories, Complete The translationis by Willa and Edwin Muir. Because the Muir translationis the standard one, I use it throughoutin this essay except at points where the Muirs, perhaps baffledby Kafka's unusual tensesequences, attemptto smoothout the time structure by silent emendation. All departures from the Muir translation are marked by footnotes.The German textused is thatedited byJ. M. S. Pasley in Der Der Heizer.In derStrafkolonie. Bau (Cambridge: Cambridge U.P., 1966). Pasley'stext is based on a freshreading of Kafka's manuscriptand improveson the textgivenby V Max Brod in Franz Kafka,Gesammelte Schriften, (New York: Schocken, 1946). For a cautionaryword about Pasley'stext,however,see Heinrich Henel, "Das Ende von KafkasDer Bau", Germanisch-Romanische 22 Monatsschrift, (1972), 22-23.

MLN Vol. 96 Pp. 556-579 Press 0026-7910/81/0963-556 $01.00 ? 1981 by The Johns Hopkins University

. 357). In thisessay I am concerned to explore the relationsbetweenthe of verb-system German (which.in both senses of this ambiguous phrase. to words of the include and pass beyond the momentat whichthe first textare uttered.tense and aspect.the more closelywe read the text.a moment at which the time of narration and the time of the narrativeare identical.g. suggesthow upholding the distinction And in part IV I attemptto explain the time-schemethat "The Burrow" represents. There are numerous passages in Kafka's fictionalworks and notebooks of thatreveal a preoccupationwiththe metaphysics time.M L N 557 is at least one point (p.all I shall say as a firstapproximation is that.and to continue as far as the momentat whichthe last words are uttered. howfeel of ever. in the features I shall be comof is veryclose to the verb-system English).thatare oftenconfused. patternof habitual life in the burrow into and attemptsto refinethe approximationbring us face to face in but the end withnot onlya narrative structure also a representation of time which cannot be compressed into a rational model. such storiesnecessarilybring Kafka into conflict of not only withthe time-conventions fictionalrealism (which rest but also withthe conception embedon a Newtonian metaphysics) ded in (and.thatwe have representationsan idiosyncratic fortime.propagated by) the tense-system of his language.It is above all in the stories"The Country Doctor" and "The Burrow". and the conceptionof timewe can postulateKafka held in 1923. it appears to cover life faroff in the burrow (which it depicts largelyas dominated by habit). in the Whorfianview. part II I discuss the work of and attempted two scholarswho have recognized these difficulties between two to overcome them. 343) where the narrationis interruptedby sleep. But the relationsbetweenthetime narration (the movingnowof of the narrator'sutterance) and the timeof thenarrative (referential time) turn out to be far more complex and indeed baffling. In the first partof the essay I attemptlittlemore than to persuade the reader thatthe taskof layingout the eventsof the narrativein sequential temporal In order is riddled with difficulties. p. . In part III I outline a distinction featuresof the verb.and may aid us in our reading.The first approximationto a reading the I give above glosses over the problemof fitting of time-relations a temporal continuum. As for the time depicted by the narrative.As we mightexpect.the narramentingon. of tive (and narratorial)structure "The Burrow". aside from passing references to a time of apprenticeship(e.

. fense . I can divide up my stores. habitual present. groaning. Each of these new plans involves of course heavywork . or I choose . usually enjoy periods of particulartranquility . to the Castle Keep. I begin once more to haul all my stores back .. . and so .taking into account the season of the year... I can do [it]at myleisure . .558 J. or I ignore certain passages altogether ... and must be set right at once.. But it is not so pleasant when.. Let us take up this paragraph in some detail. (p.. . as a reserve storeroom ... with a cycle of seasons and even years. they have occurred in the past. no matter drag or carry it away.. . stumbling. then I fly. they are expected to recur. you suddenly fancy. then I rush. sighing.. . Then again thereare timeswhen the storingof all myfood in one place seems the best plan of all . There are to timeswhen I am so well provided for thatin my indifference food I never even touch the smaller fry that scuttle about the burrow . Thereupon I mark off every third room . Then I .. Until little by sobers me. thatthe presentdistribution your storesis comhow tired or sleepy you may be. In the Castle Keep I assemble mystores.. until at last I can no mehr and one night (eines restrainmyself(bisich es nicht ertrage) longer . pletely and totally wrong . I can always.. .. That done.. perfectly . 328). It sometimesseems riskyto make the Castle Keep the basis of de- quite at random a veryfew rooms ....then I have no time for calculation. .. I now seize whatevermy teeth hit upon and new... . (p... make mycalculationsand huntingplans for the future.walk about among them. returnto myrestingplace littlefullwakefulness There is no question that this episode too is iterative. The present here is an iterative.. But with the fourth paragraph it begins to become more difficult to situate the now of the act of narration in time.... 329). and that the now out of which the narrative is uttered is situated within these recurrences: episodes of panic are part of the life of the creature.M. The place is so spacious that . True... typical. as sometimeshappens. For some time afterwards I find a certain comfort in having all the passages and rooms free . recurrent. and I can . play withthem ..starting of up fromyour sleep. . . COETZEE I There is nothing in the firstthree long paragraphs of the text to conflict with the time and tense conventions of retrospective firstperson narration. and although I was about to execute a perfectly exact plan.

. .mightily myself Nachts) upon mystores.M L N 559 rushintotheCastleKeep. so to speak. .In other words..) Therefore unless a sequence of verbs quency of the iterative is systematically interspersed with iterative modifiers (sometimes.the unpredictable. The less radical explanation is this: German. 329-331). iterativeaction. marked form. Thus the followingsentence strikesus as bizarre and perhaps ungrammatical: run about the streetsnaked.usedto. The cause of conflictis of course that for a speaker to take up his stance withinan iterativepresent means.).e. (pp. Here we see thatnarrativewithdifficulty sustainsthe illusionof an iterativepresent when the actions that recur are impulsive.and thereforesit uneasily in a narratorialframeworkof iteratedtime. every day. The lacks a specificmorphologicalformto signify non-iterative (punctual) sense of the verb is the semanticallyunsense. (1) Every month I impulsively Contrastit with: (2) Every month I run about the streetsnaked.the uncontrollable. noniterative. unforeseen. unrolls the cycleof the iterativeon to a past-present-future continuum. and glutmyself. fling .thatthe speaker not onlymakes a generalizationabout his past behavior but also predictshis futurebehavior. to the listenerwho. i.Of course.both when the burrowing creature startsout of his sleep and rushes and flies (eile. verbscarryconnotationsof the impulsive.culminatingin the present moment at whichthe sentence is uttered("Every monthfor the past x run about the streetsnaked").in contrastto the marked formof the iterative (This is perhaps no more than a consequence of the relativeinfresense. The only way to domesticate(1) is to read it as a generalization about behavior over past months. and the act of predictionconflicts withthe notion of the impulsive. and when "one night"he rushes (stiirze) the the Castle Keep to gluthimself. it requires a continual pressure of emtime. fliege) to into relocatehis provisions. like English. Nevertheless. the verbs tend to be read as unmarked.when the speaker is at the mercyof forces he cannot control or predict.. Kafka does not unequivocally provoke this contradictionin the passages I have quoted. the more to phasis in the writing maintainiterative .and unforeseeable. There are two alternativeways of explaining what is going on here...) or (in English) is given with an appropriate modal (will. It is most monthsI have impulsively bizarre when it is read as utteredwithinan iterativepresent ("My to habit is impulsively run about the streetsnaked everymonth").

. . this began myburrow Should I reconstruct partof myburrow? will remain the and on postponing decision. The second and more radical explanation is that the timeaberrant. ... For a long time I do not dare to make that movement . tion from the critichimselfto establishany argument that a particular strategyin a text "works". that it is "successful writing"..being essentially observe that.For the momentlet me simply unlike beauty.I quote in leapfrogfashionto highlight verbs. So rather than maintain the emphasis throughout. It is always my ing I . ... of after suchlapsesI makea practice reviewTo regainmycomposure with certain a leave and burrow. (pp... or does not draw the line in the usual place. thelabyrinth probably keep .There is no doubt that this explanation can be "made to work" for the sequences I quote and for others I mentionbelow. However... non-iterative This rhetoricalexplanation thus interprets the problematic verb-sequencesin termsof the pragmaticsof "what works"forthe of reader.. solemnitythat I approach the exit again ..thatitcan conceptionthatreignsin "The Burrow"is truly be domesticated only with a degree of rhetorical violence that amounts to traduction.. when I argue that.M. cometo meare itis impregnable [The] nights which on suchdreams as it is.. So I must thread the tormenting complications beneath the mossycovering [of the entrance] .. as manifestations the writer'sartfulness. myself labyrinth whenever go out . of at indeed that it is a "strategy writing" all.. .. and now the sweetestI know . Butthen(dann)I find .. in the last two passages quoted) dramatizes typical fromthe iterative and so permitsthe reading to slip back fora cycle mode.. I then cautiously raise the trap door and slip outside . 331-333).the problematicsequences embody a conception of time thatis centralto Kafka's enterprise. Kafka sometimes (for a event example. This is the explanation I will be exploring. and now (nun) only a littlepush withmy head is needed and I am in the upper world...ratherthan being an obstacle to understanding. [for] it was there that I I of this .."success" in writing. COETZEE thisemphasis has to be repeated.560 J. . it requires some rhetoricalcoaxing and/orintimidademonstrable. SometimesI dream thatI have reconstructed it..beforedoing thatlet me indicatethe pervasivenessof difficult the tense-sequences. My reservations about explanation along these lines willbecome clearer later in this essay. while into the unmarked. the clumsierit sounds. frequently it..and that it is betterunderstood as the reof whichdoes not draw a line betweeniterative flection a time-sense and non-iterative senses of the verb..

. or rather I could. nochnicht den wirklichen of and hinabgestiegen3). destroyhim . There have been happy periods in which I could almost assure myselfthat the enmityof the world toward me had ceased . And I leave my post of observationand find I have had enough of this outside life. I mightin my blind rage leap on him [and] .. .. while I was inside it. p. .. This becomes particularly clear in the paragraph that follows. am throwninto despair at the necessity doing it freefromall mydoubts and . as I imagined. But I have never (nicht)been able to discover ... The danger is by no means a fanciful one. while the destroyerwatches . ratherit is I who sleep. 23. I have not yetsummoned the resolutionto in Eingang make my actual descent (ichbin ... but very real . ..2. But again. aberkomme zuriick). thatI do not have to hunt here (hier)forever. Henel. If [an enemy] were actually to arrive now .. rush to the door. . when he enters into closer description of his iterative excursions from the burrow.... I tear myself . The burrow has probably protected me habe) or dared think (schiitzt) in more ways than I thought(gedacht the while ... ... I would have it in my 2 The 3 Muir translation reads: ".. . At such timesit is as if I were not so much lookingat my house as at myself sleeping . The Pasley textis in error-cf... but I cannot... but to .. an infallible method of descent.. pass my whichI am lifewatchingthe entrance. so that at last ..I fled from the entrance fast enough... seek out a good hiding place and keep watchon ich I the entrance.. inside it. so I can pass my time here quite withoutcare .... No. but bald bin soon I am back at it again (schnell ichvomEingangfortgelaufen..M L N 561 The time of utterance of the first paragraph here is clearly the same as at the beginning of the story: a present time after the completion of the burrow. I know . .." I followthe Brod texthere. In consequence .My burrowtakesup too much of my thoughts. . soon..... . the now of narration shifts and becomes the moment (though what the status of that moment is we have yet to decide) at which he leaves the burrow. Sometimes I have been seized with (bekam) childishdesire never to returnto the burrow again. I do not watch over my own sleep... if [it] were actuallyto happen.. In all mytime I have never seen anyone the investigating actual door of my house . ... ? looking at here from the outside (die ichhierbeobachte) .. . and yet I ich es cannot (vielmehr.... kinnte undkannes dochnicht)... ..... a point from which the creature looks back to a cycle of habitual past behavior and forward to a future in which the burrow will probably not be rebuilt. [But] whatdoes thisprotection amount to . but above all-that is the main thingwere [sic] at last back in my burrow once more.

first would. can I achieve mydescent" (p.of translating passage without of oneself from moment to moment to an interpretation its ting in particularof the situationin timeof the moment time-structure. The creatureis "now" outside his burrow." He sets .. "Only in this state [of exhaustion] .or has for the momentof narrationshifteddecisively.."For the present.let me point to further passages in which the problem is unavoidable. in den wirklichenEingang hinabgestiegen... (pp. . preterite(bin fortgelaufen committhe There is no way. . The nowof narratorial narrated time: timeelapses in both the progress of the textand in the world outside the entranceto the burrow. . The deicticsemphaticallymark the momentof narrationas a momentoutside the I approach the entrance [and] . . seeking some possibility of returning . . timeshifts withthenowof descend" (p... "It is as though at the momentwhen I set foot in the burrow I had (hdtte)wakened from a long . to a time out in the freshair where the burrowingcreaturewaitsindeunable to venturethe descent back into the earth? In fact cisively. I frontedby thatentranceover there (dort)which now (etzt) literally locks and bars itselfagainst me" (pp.But I but the itself rapture.. 340).. noch nicht burrow. slowly am outside it. If the momentof utteranceof this sentence is the moment of utterance of the text. the timebeing. 341).and "now" entrance is achieved. The Muirs tryto follow The tense sequence is itselflabyrinthine.in fact.M..but there are unavoidable moments when theyhave to choose between progressiveand nonprogressive becomes "which I am looking at English forms(dieichhierbeobachte I look at here") and between perfectand here" ratherthan "which becomes "fled" rather than "have fled"). 334-337). The earlier irresolutionand incapacityto descend are overcome by sheer exhaustion.562 J.then the creatureis nowliterally trapped out in the open. Withoutquoting at quite such length. COETZEE to rest . sleep. "Ich bin .."says the creature. at which the narrator speaks: are the events beheld from the perspectiveof the now of the firstsentence of the story-"I have [now] completed the constructionof my burrow"-which would make of the presenttense here a so-called historicalpresent... conthis passage puts the question most starkly. . its twistingsand turnings. want heart greet labyrinth with to nobody comes .. But the returnto the burrow rejuvenateshim. 341).. This lengthyquotation should be enough to show that the detailed progressionof tense-sequencesindeed raises puzzling problems. 339. "And then ..

.." (p.Again the now of the narration seems to be cotemporal withthe now of the action. "often already I have fallen asleep at my work" (p. "It may happen (kann .. When thistask is completed "a feelingof lassitude overcomes me" and he sleeps (pp. . for "I do not believe in it" (p.then the sequence I have quoted becomes part of the iterative present: neither German nor Englishwould appear to have a mechanismat the level of structure the verb phrase forindicatingiterative of cycleswithin cycles. . jump up. In the. on the other hand. but again there are unsettlingpassages in which the now seems to reveal an iterative face..6On the other hand. so to speak.. 7. non-iterative..4 there is a gap in narrated time. 344). p. listen longer.. no If. Though there is no break in Kafka's manuscriptat this point. 347)-an iterativereturnof the noise seems to be ruled out. we read this part as iterative. The reason for thismistrust of "reasonable" futureprojectionswould. 342-3). When the firstresearches into the origin of the noise fail. formin the German. blinkered present of the text the cause of his own hopelessness remains obscure to the narrator. 348). 6 For example: "In such cases as the presentit is usuallythe technicalproblem [of trackingdown the noise] that attractsme" (p.. I sucha "Sometimes fancy thatthe noisehas stopped. sometimes faint one . geschehen) that I (man) make a new 4 See Henel. trench in the directionof the noise" (p. 348). 350). I shall dig a . 349). in an iterative time.M L N 563 about transportingthe spoils of his hunting to his Castle Keep. But thisnew plan bringsno solace.5This second part of the storyconcerns the mysteriouswhistlingnoise that the creaturehears in his burrow. Even if we read the entiresecond part of the storyas linear and there are iterativecycleswithinit. the noise is unambiguouslydescribed as something"that I have never heard before" (was ichnie gehirthabe) (p. (p. (when he begins to shovel soil) "this time everything seems difficult" 350).be that their failure has already been experienced.. the creature revises his plans and speaks of a future of intention:"I intend now to alter my methods.. narrationcontinues. one thinks thewhistling stopped that has whistling escapes I I forever."I musthave slept for a long time" the (Ich habe wohlsehrlangegeschlafen). . 5 theyare presentin Though the Muirs translatethe next fewverbsas preterites.

. to his storeof food. and the creature digresses into a past-tenseaccount of an episode fromhis "apprenticeship". II The extraordinarytime structureof "The Burrow" has been commented on by numerous scholars. The creature retiresto his Castle Keep.why does he entertain them again if they are why does he experience surges of hope and proved ineffective. are not ordered: no iterationencompasses a memoryof an earlier one. "But all remains unchanged" (p.there is nothingelse in the textto support the notion thatthe operations of writing are being so radically unmasked. The temporal perspectivehas reverted unambiguouslyto that of the opening of the story:a nowin the timeof narrationwitha linear past behind it and a linear futurebefore it.564 J. Perhaps it is possible that the beast has never heard him. the As the creature moves about his burrow investigating noise. The answer. in with the new hypotheticalmode of the narrative. The shift ich to man is maintainedfor much of the rest of the paragraph. approaching the present situationhas happened before. new conclusions occur to him. What should interestus particularlyin an part investigationof tense and time. "Nothing . are resigned.afterthisepisode. in which case there is hope. 358). at one level. COETZEE from discovery"(p. It conformity underseems impossible to square this mode with a non-iterative standing of the narrative unless one grants to the narrator the effectiveposition of a fictionalcreator. The last pages of "The Burrow". new ideas. I should like to discuss two of the more perceptiveof these commentaries. 351): thatthe noise is growinglouder. thispossibility cannot be dismissedabsolutely. in valedictory tone. someone toyingwith seWhile quences whichmayor maynot be insertedintothe narrative. neverthelessthere was an incidentnot unlike it when the burrow was only beginning" (p.dreaming of the peace of "the old days" (p.M.. new plans. is that he is in some sense condespair? demned theseiterations. to and thatpartof being condemned (as the of of Sisyphusmightteach) is thatthe torments hope are example of the sentence. On the other hand. Why does he not rememberthem fromprevious iterations. is that the inabilityto of learn frompast failureis a reflection the factthatthe iterations none of them being earlier in time than any other. 355). then the hypothetical sequence fits in as one which may or may not occur in a given iteration. . 359). all in turn abandoned as useless. and awaits"the beast". if one understands the narrativeas iterative. however.

the arrivalof "the decisive moment"and singulativetenses. . .but in a constantly repeated present (pp. Dorrit Cohn discusses peculiarities of timeand tense in Kafka... There is no clear correspondence in tenses and lifebefore between. [After this point] the statictime of the firstpart of the story. Where the amdirection is in identifying Cohn does point in a fruitful of present-tenseverb forms as the formal field whose biguities exploitation makes the higher-levelparadoxes of "The Burrow" 7 "Kafka's Eternal Present: Narrative Tense in 'Ein Landarzt' and Other FirstMinds (Princeton:Princeton Person Stories". . Up to thispoint the animal has described his habitual subterranean existence in durative-iterative present tense..she goes too far when she claims that this distinctionor opposition creates a structure any meaningfulsense. and the destructionit brings lies not in a single future moment.. 144-150. The speaker who surveyedhis sovereignrealm in durative presenttense [is] transformed into a monologistwho simultaneouslyexperiences bewilderingevents and articulatesthem in a punctual present tense. "the decisive moment of human development is "The Burrow". If the crucial eventsof life happen not once. 334-7 of "The Burrow" above should make it clear that Cohn's division of the storyinto a firstpart in which "tense" is durative-iterative a second part in which it is puncand for tual.by exploitingthe ambiguitiesof a discourse everlasting".. durative-iterative "the decisive moment"(the startof the hissing). Transparent U..its durative tense a punctual tense . on the other. This [temporal]structurecorresponds exactlyto Kafka's paradoxical conceptionof human time. . the appearance of the hissingsound..7Since her commentson "The Burrow" in the essay are absorbed into the book. cast in the presenttense. as he once affirmedaphoristically.whichis based on a denial of the distinction between repetitiousand singular events. The discussionof pp. is too neat: shiftsoccur too frequently her generalization to hold. while she is right to characterize Kafka's as time-conception "paradoxical [and] . For him.then the distinctionbetween durative and singulativemodes of discourse is effaced: the durative silence always already contains the hissing sound... I willquote only fromthe latter.and. "Kafka's Eternal Present".. based on a denial of the distinction between repetitiousand singular events".PMLA.and again in her book Transparent Minds (1978).. reflects this paradox in its language as well as its meaning..Cohn writes: . The animal-midway through the story-seems to "forget" the iterative natureof his account and begins to tellof. 83 (1968). becomes an evolvingtime. Consequently.M L N 565 In her 1968 essay. . 195-7). . 1978).P. but everlastingly.on the one hand.

and were indeed effaced.. is and yetthe dominant impression of the iterative . (p.and durativeand vice versa. COETZEE possible.requires not of scrutiny the textbut a principledunderstandingof onlya tighter the use one may make of privilegedinsightssuch as the aphorism of Kafka's that Cohn quotes. the dependon howone understands present 5). . . Heinrich Henel arrivesat a similarcharacterization the temporal situationof Kafka's creaof ture: that it is "an endless condition". and the thoughts activities thebeastproceedin the order. p. the storyfallsinto two main parts witha short linkingmiddle passage. But there is a certain flaccidityin the argument that between repetitiousand singular Kafka's "denial of the distinction events"is simply"reflected"in the language of the story.Pastis clearly distinguished and of frompresent. In the firstpart the use of the present is indeterminate: in it Often soundsas ifa uniquemoment thehereand nowis intended. . Past definite in are events reported thepreterite. In a study based on a more minute examination of tense sequences in "The Burrow" than Cohn's. 5-6). In the second part themeaning thepresent of tensechanges."To reach thatconclusion. resultwould very singulative be nonsense. not easily reduced to other terms. In Henel's reading. and our critical task is one of probing intuitionby analysis.M. The narrator keepsstepwith events now repretemporal 8 Henel. where we would expect the one formwe encounterthe other.8Henel recognizes fromthe startthe particularhermeneuticproblems posed by a textin which so elementarya linguisticcategoryas tense. forthemost but non-recurring part and nowmeltintoan endlessly condition earlier expanding (pp.The conclusion I come to in thisessay happens to be quite close to Cohn's: the storyis indeed dominated by "a constantly repeated present. The problem is precisely that intuition probably (whichmay mislead) suggeststhatthere is systembehind the aberrant usage.however.For "The between "durative and Burrow" does not "efface" the distinction The mostwe can say is thatat certainpointsin the text singulative".566 J..becomes the object of the writer'splay: Whatkindof present is at occurs a givenpoint determined toneand by but whattone is appropriate and whatcontext perceived is context. If the distinction the formswere used interchangeably. 6.

does the mind behind the storyshiftfromone temporal subsystemto another? 9 The cases I cite in footnote6 above are enough to indicate that Henel's conclusions are generalizationsratherthan laws. But.It is the content the phrases of Henel quotes thatleads him to thinkof the resolutionas makinga break in the cycle.. thatin thisstoryeveryirruption but the paradox is precisely intothe cyclesof timeis so ambiguouslypresented in temporalform that it seems at least capable of being absorbed into the cycles.and finally presentcan serveas a formof innermonologue"(p. future. und niemals mehr zuriickzukommen. by and large. generalizations further he writesof a "whollynew. GewiB. statistical generalizations-or laws thatexplain detailed variations. 335-6 in the Muir translation)."namlichvon dem Leben im Freien 'Abschied zu nehmen'. difficulties presentedby the tense sequences. it describes an occurrence achieving itselfin the now. time of the second half is not. The effect is forward merges and intoan indefinite consistently in bothcases thesame: an eternal condition represented 6). . For example.e. 4).ML N 567 and thepresent tensehe employs denotesat each pointof the sented.perhaps endlessfuture. Abschied zu nehmen . as Henel does.in the sense in which I use the terms. 6). that the present tense in "The Burrow" "fillsno less than five distinctfunctions"(p. pp.despite its appearance of aberrance. The paradox Henel does not face here is that even this decisivesounding resolutionis given in a formwhollycompatible withan iterativetime. 4) without carryingthe analysis This classificatory further. I must startby assuming to have some kind of intentionalunity.und der 'sinnlosen Freiheit' auf immer den Riicken zu kehren" (p. part with untranscended thepresent thesecondpartmoves fuses an of past.'niemals mehr zuriickzukommen'. hithertonever before grasped resolution"at which the creaturearrives.His are weakened bya habitof selectivequotation. like Cohn.laws whose models would be rules of grammar?9My aim in this essay is to elucidate the temporal systemof the storyon the basis of usage which. a later Whilethepresent thefirst of narration different. . In his reading the time of the firsthalf of the storyis. we can ask.10 step is only a stage in analysis. as iterativepresent a present occurrence which has happened in the same way or a similarway fairlyoften. the . is (p. the iterative. as progressive present likewise a present occurrence which extends into an indefinite. heit. . . by an act of the generalization. 10"As present proper. is the mode of generalizingfromthe totality data the correctmode of of argument to employ here? Are we concerned to formulatelaws thatcover mostof the data-i.as fullerquotation reveals: "Und ich habe Lust. as historicpresent an earlier occurrence. hervorgerufen 121-2 in Pasley. ein solcher EntschluBware eine vollige Narrnur durch allzu langes Leben in der sinnlosen Freiheit" (pp. Henel is concerned to smooth out. Thus. present.withno in itself.For thisreason I do not find it enough to say. The more importantstage is the one at explanatorypower in whichthe question is answered: Is there a coherenttime-system which these five functionscan be said to participate? In other or words: Is therea temporalcoherence to the story.

the primaryaspectual opposition is between (a) intercepting event time at some instant(which may be the final instant)of the coming-to-bephase.568 J. . Hirtle.. eventtimecan be infinitesimal. Though in theory be purely punctual with no intervalbetween beginning and end. ed. pp.followed by a resultphase during which no furtherdevelopment or actualizationof the event can take place. Tempset verbe(Paris: Champion. must between the two now refine the notion of tense by distinguishing withtemporal functions:tense and aselementsof verb inflection pect. A Guillaumean description of the (I English verb systemhas been given by W. Aspect(Cambridge: Cambridge U. Depending upon at whatpointof the temporalcontinuumthe verb interceptsevent time. namely the familiarunidirectional arrowof infinite timeof Newtonianphysics. 1975). and (b) as eventtime. in Guillaume's theory.11 am not aware of any comparable studyfor the German verb. H. this state is rarelyreached in the human world.I. The verb systeminstead rests upon two simultaneous and coma time. and (b) interceptingit during its after1 Gustave Guillaume.the span of time that an event takes to achieve itself.P. Time. 1929). different aspectual resultsare achieved. see Bernard Comrie. COETZEE III HithertoI have used the word "tense"ratherlooselyto designate I the element of verb inflectionthat marks time-relations. is not possible to describe the system it tense and aspect in terms of a single model of time.12 Verbal aspectis a systemof representingevent time. 12 For discussion of this point. Roch Valin (Quebec: Laval.M. limitless plementaryways of conceivingtime: (a) as universe linear time along whose axis any event can be situated.Aspect Verb(Quebec: Laval. of the systemof tenseserves to combine the representations event time and universe time. How does aspect representevent time?It conceives of the event as takingplace in two phases: a coming-to-be phase extendingover successive instants.. Hirtle.) of In Guillaume's theory. the eventcan i. H. W. Once this mental representationhas been achieved. In English. 1975). 42-3. 1976).e. Leconsde linguisand the tique. The theoryof the verb on which I shall be basing my discussion of "The Burrow" is the descriptionfirst outlined by Gustave Guillaume in Tempset verbe(1929) and subsequentlydeveloped in his published lectures of 1948-9.

) How are iterative verb forms-forms whose iterativemeaning is means-represented in such a scheme? signalled by non-syntactic Here the importantthingto recognize is that.1 2 B2 E2 ."he runs".e. "he runs [every day]").-R. 1 B1 E1 past B Figure 2 2. where each Bi and Ei represent the beginningand end of a typicaliteratedevent i.though an iterative form may be thought of as shorthand for a succession of single events each with a beginning and an end (e. . The two aspects which resultare. representan in the coming-to-be interception phase of eventi. it does not interceptthe resultphase of any of these single events.a. Depending on whethereventtimeis interceptedduring the formeror the latterphase. En E non-past . we have verb formsof immanentaspect ("he is running".g.i n B. the forms"he runs/ran [everyday]"./. A diagram (figure 1) may elucidate these concepts.and at most may or may not interceptonly the resultphase of theirtotality. while "he used to run [everyday]" representsan interceptionin the result phase of the totality the iteratedevents. "he ran") or verb formsof transcendent aspect ("he has run").i.1 E . .and the sectionBE representseventtime.. from beginning to end.. (We see fromtheseexamples thataspect is independent of the past-presenttense distinction. immanent (a) and (b) transcendent. of 1. with a coming-to-bephase and a result phase. Thus in figure2.. afterEn."he is/was running[everyday]". Interception: immanent aspect Interception: transcendent aspect past B Coming-to-be phase E Result phase non-past Figure 1 Here the continuum extending infinitely from past to non-past representsuniversetime.M L N 569 math. respectively. B .

. in "The Burrow" it is more oftena sequence of eventsof some length (e.by the se("I quence of the signifiers lose myself. COETZEE Therefore withoutloss of generalitywe can condense figure 2 to figure3. morphologicalmeans of time-specification more impoverished than under normal are This is because what is under normal circumstances.ratherthan morphologically. so that time-relations means.and relations ("I am . some of the complexitiesof the narrative. It is thewhole thissequence of sub-events out.. . in whichthe iteratedeventsare representedwithoutindividual resultphases: B1 B2 B3 m B Figure 3 *. being exasperated and (going .. Now withinthe totaliteratedevent (Bi. 333]).For exemplarycloser analysisI have chosen the sequence half of the storybetweenthe emergence of the of pages in the first .g.. Bi 1E. (b) by the logic of syntactic when . losing myself. unravel. 1E B.. In the passage quoted above.. tormenting and I am both exasperated and touched when. whenever I go out..g.. touched..) which is iteratedand which is represented in figure3 by the event (Bi. is now charged primarily have to be with marking iterativeaspect.Though in the diagrams thus far I have represented the event that is iterated as a single event (e. "I run")..thatstructure realized.. the null morpheme 0 of run. But then I find myselfbeneath the mossy of covering. I lose myself. findingmyself. at least at a formallevel.570 J.which normallymarks the verb as present in tense and only marks iterativeaspect when syntactias callyreinforced.Ei). and thus to is aspect throughwhich. This excursus on iterativity may help us to distinguishbetween of in "The Burrow" and the system tense and the structure time of in part. " [p. threading. the relaspecifiedby syntactic tive order of sub-eventsis represented (a) iconically..g. "I must thread the complicationsof this labyrinth. then I findmyself'). (non-iterated) circumstances tense markerwitha secondary aspectual function a (e.M. .. I lose myself').. as sometimeshappens.Ei).. exasperated .-E En E past non-past There is one further point to recognize about iteration. in "I run everyday").l * B E.

and thereforeas though the iterativenature of the experience became invisibleor were erased from knowledge. forexample.the creature says: "For the present . I am .. followedby an abrupt and temoccurs returnto the saferoutside view.Ei) and the moment of narration from which it is described is outside any (Bi. he runs is read as a form).). he will run. But thereare regular transitions into: (b) The timeof the iterationexperienced fromthe inside. (ii) the emphatic use of deicticslike now.E) were identicalto that of (B. usually.since theylocate the narrativerelativeto the time and place of itsnarration. enduring the pleasures and terrorsof life above. witha past and an unknown futureof its own. present-tense here. In termsof figure3. in the context he ran .. In figure3 the time-segment thisexperience is (Bi. not being able to re-enter the burrow.this. Unable to summon the resolution to re-enterhis burrow..we find an alternationbetween two varietiesof temporal experience. a passage in which the time-structure perhaps more bewilderingthan anywhereelse in the story. beyond E. The movementof these pages is thus a continual slide from an to outside view of the cycle safety-danger-safety an inside view in which danger is experienced from the inside and from which it seems impossibleto reattainsafety.E.M L N 571 creature into the freshair (p.. then finally re-entering it.serve to introducethenowof narrationinside (Bi.E). going with each a variety. 341).The ground-bassof the is: (a) The iterative passage experience of emergingfromthe burrow. It is possible to minimize thisthematization and read it as simplya privatejoke of Kafka's..etc.Ei). i. particularnarrative pointof view. effect normalizingthe null morpheme 0 of the unmarked form of as a present tense ratherthan an iterative aspectmarker(as. a on reflection the experience of writingoneself into a corner.This back-and-forth porary not onlyat the level of the narrator'sexperience: it is also explicitly thematizedin the passage as a "problem". it is as if the structureof (Bi. If we scrutinizethese pages closely. There are of two formaldevices above all thatachieve transitions thiskind: (i) whichhave the the occurrenceof overtpast and futureverb-forms.which. and. The of iterativity the experience is signalled by so-called present-tense (in fact iterative-aspect)verb forms with associated adverbials of (sometimes. 333) and his descent back into the is burrow (p. wry But it is also possible to read it as a bringingto explicitnessof a fundamentalexperience of time with which the storycontinually wrestles at a formal level.e.).

also the voice of construction[of the in constructs the of burrow. the basis of this fictivetemporal immediacy. 341). 1 on (1977). theyalso constitutethe absurd "technical device" that solves the problem of gettingstuck during the cycle. .The narrative 13"The All-EmbracingMetaphor: Reflections Kafka's 'The Burrow'.. thatthe now. creaturehas been unable to achieve this the fromabove to below and has remained stuckin a conditransition tionthatis not onlyunendurable but logicallyimpossible:the iterative formshave already promised that ascent and descent form a the cycle. 339).. Only in this state . with the in of .What can be read in the mode of realismas a piece of rather can ineptdeusexmachina psychologizing also be read in the mode of of as text-construction a flattening the distance between narrator and narrated.EF) markerwould be such a (the switching power of the 0 tense/aspect device). . I .E) to the safetyof (Bi.and for that the would be very Einrichtungen) necessarytechnicaldevices (technischen desirable" (p. . presumption absurd.. for are no otherreasonthanbecausetheseactions mediated a written by text subject to time in different ways than the unidirectionalthrustof on nevertheless. . Two pages later: "And then. experience. As Henry Sussman writes: The voice of the animal is . The readeris askedtobelieve theconcurrence thetext If at the to actions which animalclaims be performing themoment. As long as conscious- ness has been in control.Exhaustion and incapacityfor thoughtare the sole means that overcome the arguments (or rationalizations)of the conscious mind which keep him from his burrow.is wider-reaching than both the past . 106. can I achieve my descent" (p. 104.... COETZEE of outside it seeking some possibility returning.572 J. .13 confines is this itself.. . slowlydescend . capable of feedingupon itself endlessly.therefore creaturecannot remain stuckhalfway.M.. of course.. a passage fromthe dangers of (B.The animal thus becomes the agent of a temporalparadox. voiceof therhetorical employed thisparticular production.to a now to whichis remarkably resistant revisionsto the past or projectionsinto the future. and the future."Glyph. too exhausted to be any longer capable of thought. thetext]. ... Among the mostdesirable devices would be.tillthe adventuresof the creatureseeking a way into his burrow become identicalwiththe adventuresof the signifying subject seeking to find a way to keep the narrative moving.

p.Ei) followed by reversion. or to create gaps in the text ("chapterNeverthebreaks") to indicate lacunae in the time of narration. 104-5). 1962). pp. But the ability thenow to feed upon itselfendlessly between a now of is not paradoxical at all as long as we distinguish narrativetime (which tracksthe process of feeding) and a now of narratedtime(thatwhichis fed upon).in particularthe "dissolve" from(B. too "exhausted" to play any he longer withthe riddle itself. whose existence.15 that less. It is irrelevant the momentwhetherthe self is "the self of language" (Sussman's for thesis)or the self of narration(as I would prefer): all thatconcerns me here is that Sussman's argumentis not well founded. the absence of any subject.and thatin the pages lostfrom the end the creature met his death in a fightwith his enemy. 1946).M L N 573 Sussman is right to characterize time in "The Burrow" as of paradoxical. Thus the followingargument of Sussman's. Heinz Politzer. in Although the ruminationsof the animal are always in "self"-interest. gives a of characterization narrated time in the storythatignores the complexitiesof time and aspect I have triedto outline. However.E) to (Bi. V "Nachwort". Sussman. 330.the self becomes the self of language.Franz Kafka: Parable and Paradox (Ithaca: Cornell.writesthatKafka completed"The Burrow".We may thereforesuppose thatit lacks a finalrevision. defines the negation of the (human) self (pp. himself destroyed the final pages.is so much the weaker: In having recourse only to the here circumscribedby the constructionand the now in which the work of construction goes on. cuts throughthe knotand puts the creature back in the burrow.It is thisparadox whichKafka brings into prominenceat the momentwhen. or at least is contemplated.14 IV that It would be foolhardyto dismissout of hand the possibility "The Burrow" as we have it is incomplete. Gesammelte Schriften. central to his reading of the story. Henel. Heinz Politzerargues cogentlythat there is no good reason to depend on Dora Dymant's word and that the evidence points more stronglyto the conclusion that Kafka See Max Brod. 15-16. one's procedure as a criticmust be to test the possibility 14 In the same part of his essay from which I quote. finding them unsatisfactory. Kafka did not prepare the manuscriptfor publication.the voice of the textabolishesthe "subject"whichis presumablyitssource and master. and that one of the thingsKafka mighthave done if he had completed it to his own satisfaction mighthave been to regularizeat least some of the more bizarre tense sequences. on the authority Dora to postscript his editionof the story. however. 314. p. .in Kafka. (New York: Schocken.like the concept of the animal. The paradox lies elsewhere: in the apparent identity-if we rely upon the signals given by verb-forms-of the texture of time in the narrated now of (BiE) and the momentof narration. 15 In the of Max Brod. Dymant.

all we know is that the next moment happens. only if no interpretation can be given should one fall back on the explanation that the textis in some sense at fault.574 J. The state in which Kafka's creature lives is one of acute anxiety (one would call it irrationalanxietyif there were any reliable oppositionbetweenrationaland irrationalin his universe). time does not move through transitionphases.is to suggest how the repeatedly broken. There is one momentand then thereis another moment. In "The Next Village" a lifetimemay not be long enough for a journey to the next village. must To reach a quarter of the way.we can never integrateits momentsinto a single flight.between them is simplya break. the art of reading a warningsis purely prospective. yetas belonging to a time which "cannot exist in temporal relation" to human time. "The Burrow".16 16 Cf. In A warningis the sign of a transition. COETZEE the textas itstandsis open to interpretation. interruptediterative presentcan be understood in the contextof the whole of the story.What I shall be doing in thissectionof the essay. . His whole life is organized around the burrow. in which Kafka writesof the momentof expulsion fromParadise as a momenteternallyrepeated.future-directed: sign recognized as retrospectively havingbeen a warningis no longer a warning. 94. it to mustreach half-way itstarget. Zeno mighthave added: conceiving the flightof an arrow in this way as a succession of moments.yet between two human moaeons of which can fitin the interstices ments. In "Advocates" flights stairsexpand beneath the searcher'sfeet. aufdem Hochzeitsvorbereitungen Lande(New York: Fischer/Schocken.p.Gesammelte Werke: 1953).we can never understand how it gets fromone moment to the next. Strictly speaking. the notebook entryfor 11 December 1917. before an arrow reaches its targetit Similarly. In "The Great Wall of China" he describesthe messengerwho takes thousands of yearsand more to bring a message from the Emperor.however.his defense against an attack which may come at any moment and withoutwarning. reach itstargetit must of of pass throughan infinity states.M. warningis the sign of a transition from peace to its opposite.beforeit reaches half-way. The key A notion here is without warning. therefore.for it can no longer warn. arriveat We knowthatthisparadox (whichhe did not necessarily via Zeno) preoccupied Kafka. of The mystical correlate to the paradox is a time incommensurable with human time in which man's life occupies a mere instant. No amount of watchfulnesswill reveal how one moment becomes another. Zeno pointed out.and to pass throughan infinity of statesmust take an infinity time. and so forth.

the more it sinkstowardsa dead past. is suggestthatit would be naive to thinkthatthe whistling a warnand that"the enemy" is some beast whom the reader does not ing get to see. pp. see further Bense. Gregor Samsa finds himinto a giant insect. trans.naturallywithoutsucto for withoutwarning "the enemy" is in the burrow.Das Phdnomen Angst FranzKafka (Berlin: Schmidt. ratheralong the lines thatDora Dymantsuggests. 355].whyand how he self one morningtransformed will never know. This does not of course mean that there will only be a single foe.the clearestsign of thisbeing that the lead-up time that once looked innocentnow looks in retrospect like a timeof warning[p. Jorg der bei Beat Honegger. .Both parts order to retracethe history of Beckett'sMolloy. The experience of a time of crisis is transition. Someone must have been telling lies about JosefK. "to Time is thus at everymomenta timeof crisis(fromGreek krino to divide"). metamorphosis. colored by anxiety. but no backwardexplorationof timewillreveal the cause of the accusation against him. But with Kafka it is preciselythe power of each moment to condition the next thatseems to be in question. 1964).M L N 575 Time in "The Burrow" is discontinuousin a strictly formalizable sense. On the experience of the presentin Kafka. danger which cannot be anticipated because it comes without withoutwarning.for example. take up this stance in an explicit 17I take the descriptionof the derivationalrelationshipof past to present from Roman Ingarden.17 wandlung. the weaker thatpast becomes.The task of building the burrow itselfrepresents a life devoted to trying stillanxiety. Life consists in an attempt to anticipate a separate. 1952). Timeand Modes ofBeing. Any momentmay mark the break betweenbefore and after. 29-31. Between the before and the after there is not Verstage-by-stagedevelopment but a sudden transformation. Helen R. p.) We treat the past as real insofar as present existence has been conditionedor generated by it. 117.. Michejda (Springfield: Max Thomas.forby the end of the storythe architectof the burrow clearlyrecognizes thata break betweenbeforeand afterhas arrived. to A common strategy the first-person of intelligence attempting understand the processesof timeis to takeup itsstancein a present when "I take up my moment (ideally the moment of tranquillity pen to write")whichstands forthe culminationof a certainpast. a extensingle beforeand after:in theory"The Burrow" is infinitely sible. The more indirectthe causal derivation of the present froma particularpast becomes. a single danger. Die Theorie Kafkas (Koln/Berlin:Kiepenheuer & Witsch.1975). 62. p. (Here I cess. in thatled up to thismoment.

above.. and superior to the narrator of "The Burrow".after. There is no way of getting here fromthere.. persist in organizing themselvesinto successivity..E).is a struggle-not we the story.But as we have seen. the ruse continually fails. I can divide up my stores. tense organization toward a away from linear past-present-future of time. That done... of onlythe representation the strugglebut the struggleitself-with timeexperienced as continual crisis. the typicaltimeinto time. Failing to trace the present to roots in the past. COETZEE sentenceof "The Burrow"seems to promisea similar way.There is no smoothcourse of narrativedevelopmentthatwill lead frombeginningsto the presentmomentof narration. gap. By talkingin termsof failed narrativeruses I may give the impression thatKafka is in some sense against.walk about among them. 325). projectsinto the future.. Kafka'snarratorembarkson a seriesof projectsto wrap up the past as a round of habitwhichincludes the presentand.is away fromuniverse time toward event time. that if he does not know what a successful narrativestrategymight be he is at least aware of the This picturewould entirely of falsify futility the narrator'sstrategy. by any putative temporal ordering of events at a detailed level becomes honeycombed with inconsistenciesand internal contradictions. in Guillaume's terms.Between then and now is always a break."I assemble mystores.M.The first "I have completed the constructionof my burrow and it project: seems to be successful"(p. Where are we to locate this privileged momentof success and security: before. insomuchas it is repeated. V That have in "The Burrow". cyclicaspectual organization This move-which I would call a ruse-is intended to capture the relation of past to present to future by trapping them all in an iterative pseudo-present. The pseudo-present of iterative/habitual aspect continually breaks down as the eventssignifiedwithin(Bi.play with them .576 J. 328): thisis typicalof the creature'sdiscourse." (p. I can make mycalculationsand huntingplans . But the project soon turnsout to be riddled with problems. 325-343 and in terminates the state of sleep fromwhich the creature is awoken As the whistling? I have tried to show in section I of thisessay. and then in collapsing in the persistentrupture of the time-orderthat characterizes Kafka.or during the recital of eventsin and around the burrowthatoccupies pp.The crucial move.rather. It is fromthisvantage-pointthat the logic of iterativenarrative becomes clear.and experienced at a pitchof . into tense.

reexploiting If flects paradoxin itslanguageas wellas itsmeaning. exactly Kafka'sparadoxical corresponds and between which based on thedenialof thedistinction is repetitious "the For events. the distinction modes of discourseis effaced:the and singulative betweendurative the contains hissing silence durative sound. him.as he once affirmed aphoristically."The Burrow". she says. thecrucial this then of events lifehappen not once.and thedealready always but future lies it struction brings notin a single moment. should be possible to recognize that the particularformthe story takes rests heavilyon a peculiarityof language. of to conception humantime. but I am not sure that it lends itselfto quite the point Cohn is making here. by castin thepresent of theambiguities a discourse tense. See also VictorErlich.RussianFormalism . The aphorism Cohn quotes is both obscure and pregnant. 328). 78.built by the labors of the forehead (p. But thisparticularburrow. Roman Jakobson: "It is the predominance of metonymy which underlies and actually predeterminesthe so-called 'realistic'trend. p. is of sivemoment humandevelopment everlasting". repeatedpresent 197). 1969). decisingular "The Burrow". it Thus.The entire linguistic the stillingof this anxiety.18 I can spell out my position in a different way by isolating my Minds of disagreementfromDorrit Cohn.but blindlydo not recognize our death and are spat 18 See. withoutdenyingthe totalimplicationof Kafka in the story. whose Transparent point contains the most carefullyworked out observationson the relations of time to narrativepoint of view in the story. It comes from the notebook of October.but thisstructure. p. of (The Hague: Mouton. in a constantly (p.could not have been built in a language that did not provide so easy a means of glidingfromtense to aspect as German (or English) does.the major metaphor for the represents linguisticconstructis the burrow itself.Cohn recognizes the "illogical"nature of its temporalstructure.but everlastingly." Roman Jakobsonand Morris Halle. 1917.M L N 577 anxietythat leads to attemptsto tame it withwhatevermeans lanconstructcalled "The Burrow" guage offers. 1956). 195. Fundamentals Language (The Hague: Mouton. for example. We can steer this of ourselvesto the extremism eitherthe course withoutcommitting determinethoughtor the structures Whorfianthesisthatlinguistic textis thatthe literary of line characteristic some Russian formalists in some sense predeterminedby its devices. and occurs aftera parable whose gist we mightexpress as follows: We die at everymoment.

pp. that is to say.Cohn perhaps places too much reliance on this particular entry in her reading of "The Burrow". 1949). und Welt(Stuttgart: See Weinrich. 94). relapse into an equivocal mode that does not allow them to be understood either as the expression of a unique happening or as the explicationof a universaltruth"(p.sepacontinuity: rated from Ingarden's "dead past" by a moment of rupture. . spiritual everlasting movements that declare everythingbefore themselves null are right. Blanchot writes:"TheJournal is full of remarksthat seem connected to theoreticalknowledge . . 1964). Kafka goes on: "From a certainpoint on.partial insightsdeveloped in greater precision by the fiction. precisely the of metaphoricity the narrativepresentthatKafka is bringingintodoubt in thisstory. COETZEE back into life. Blanchot's essay conKafka's thoughtfrom the particulardensityof stitutesa caveat against abstracting on.on the eternal returnof the expulsion fromParadise (Hochzeitsvorbereitungen. "crucial events" as opposed to other events: there is only what is although the Similarly. 125-9.578 J. On the qualities of the thoughtin Kafka'sjournals. There are no once.whichis alwayspresent. the experience it reflects 20 Cohn's in over Kafka's meditations. It is. component of a "Metaphorik der Tempora".recognizes no such thereis only the present. problem of relating the journal entryto a storywrittensome six years later. that"the crucial eventsof lifehappen not thereforemisses the point. the is Hence the paradox thathistory over in "a entscheidende Augenblick. This is the point to be reached.20 of durative to singulativecannot reallybe efopposition linguistic faced withoutcausing a general collapse of language. and thisis alwayscrucial. 73-4. thereis no more turningback. second" while the present moment is "everlasting". But these thoughts." And then: moment of human development is "The decisive (entscheidende) Therefore those revolutionary (immerwdhrend). but everlastingly". we edificesupon journal entriesthatmay should be waryof erectinglarge interpretive be no more than fleeting.. they describe a mythicpresent. the conceptual opposition between the two-an opposition which belongs to what I have loosely called the historicalsense of time-is brought 19 Hochzeitsvorbereitungen. however. 9-19. which we can call eschatological. as Cohn does. The first. see Maurice Blanchot.p.M." The next aphorism is: "Human history the second between two steps of a traveller. Besprochene erzihlte pp. imness of time. the paraphrase would fitmore comfortably same notebook. Quite aside from the literary-biographical pp."La Lecture de Kafka".Tempus: Kohlhammer. putes reality The second. "Kafka's Eternal Present". I would suggest p. 10). happening now.in that nothing has yet happened. Cohn. 149.inLa Partdufeu (Paris: Gallimard. . To say. thatpart of the reason forCohn's failureto push her conclusionsfar parenthetically of enough maylie in her relianceon the treatment the presentin Harald Weinrich's Weinrichtreatsthe "historicpresent"as an "als ob" fora past timeand as a Tempus. to a past whichit sees as continuous withthe present.."19 is The passage as a whole thereforecontraststwo kinds of awarewhich we can call historicalawareness.

of fantasy. point(s) of University Cape Town. "alwayscontain the hissing sound.that of rupturewhen the past failsto run smoothly now that the constructof narrativetime has collapsed. there is is. But this does not go far enough. For the everlastingpresent is nothingbut the momentof narrationitself.Now thatthe narratorhas failed timeand again to domesticate time using strategies of narrative (i. his structures sequence.and nonsense. now withinwhich his only the time of narrationleft..the shifting narrativetakes place. Thus by the end of the storythe silence does indeed. collapsing intothe present.M L N 579 into doubt by a linguisticpractice that steps perilouslyalong the brinkof contradiction.sterile speculation: the ramifications a burrow whose thatcomes fromits fatalprecariousnessis signalledby the whistling of rupture. of strategies belonging to historicaltime).e. What is missingfrom Cohn's thatKafka gives to account is a recognitionof the radical treatment narrative time. each time at the "decisive moment" of cause and effect. as Cohn says. leaving behind it a wake (a text) of failure.SouthAfrica ." and whateverthe noise signifiesis indeed already here "in a constantlyrepeated present" (which I would rathercall an everlastingpresent). confusion.