Saturday, 8 September 2012

"Never Again Psychology": Kafka


What is essential about the individual is thought to be padlocked inside them, in the mind, the ‘inner’ psychology. The 'inner psychology'  is merely the place where the self image is coined and perfected. But the essentials are in fact readily available in gesture and action.   Older literary forms, like ballads and fables recognise this . Everything is externalised in gesture, in the face, or unfolds in time through story. These things, the body, the face, are not yet the carapace behind which the genie of the self is captive, brooding on its own uniqueness. For all the stress on Kafka’s introspection, his stories are more like the older literary forms. There is no psychology or probing of motive. 

For example, there is a passage in the Diaries where Kafka is talking about his body, and ill health, as obstacles to living normally. But instead of embodying this in a statement about how he feels, there is instead an 'as if', something like (i don't have the book with me) 'it is as if before entering the street and beginning my day, I must instead first sew the clothes I must wear, cobble my shoes etc', so that instead of describing a feeling he narrates a story, without affect, of the events which would produce that affect. And in this device of 'as if' it seems to me we see the origin of so many Kafka tales, where the 'as if' is the invisible entry point (it is as if I awoke to find myself turned into a giant insect..etc). 

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