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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

EXISTENTIALISM   AND   SURREALISM               453

father conflict and the persecution-conflict in the son. This is
reflected throughout Kafka's work and is plainly stated in his
famous letter of 1919 to his father: cMy writings/ he says, 'are all
about you.' Of great importance are the Tagebucher in which he
describes his work as 'Darstellung meines traumhaften inneren Lebens*;
they cover the period 1914-23 (Vols. 7 and 8 of the Gesammelte
Schriften, 1935-7), and provide evidence of Kafka's continuous
isolation and frustration. Wherever he turns, a "black wave' surges
against him. clch kann nicht liebenj he writes, *ich bin ausgewiesen?
And again: 'one becomes aware of how every person is lost in
himself beyond hope of rescue.' As a Jew in a town like Prague,
contact with Christian officialdom made him feel that he was an
outsider.

Kafka shrank from publishing his works. Max Brod persuaded
him to publish a volume of short passages, TSetrachtung (1913). It
was coldly received. Other short stories and fragments published
during his lifetime were: Der Heifer (1913, a fragment which was
later the first chapter of his novel A,merika)\ Die Verwandlung
(1915); Das Urteil'(1916); EmLandar^t(i^i<)\ made up of fourteen
short stories or sketches; In der Strafkolonie (1919); Bin Hunger-
kMnstler (1923). Max Brod, Kafka's executor, ignored testamentary
directions to burn unpublished works; and the three novels Der
Process (1925), Das Schloss (1926), and Amerika (1927), all un-
finished, which he saw through the press, won world-wide fame
and gave the dead author rank as one of the great innovators of
the first half of the century.

The son-father conflict stands out in Das Urteil, in which
a son drowns himself at his father's bidding, and in Die Ver-
wandlung, later rechristened Die Metamorphose. In Die Verwandlung
Gregor Samsa, a commercial traveller, wakes up one morning to
find that in his sleep he has been transformed into a man-sized
slimy insect (em ungeheures Unge^iefer; the genus is not more clearly
specified). He crawls about the room and hangs down, feet up-
wards, from the ceiling. When his father, mother, and sister find
him thus transmogrified he understands what they say to him, but
he cannot speak* To them he is an animal. He eats anything rotten,
but turns away in disgust from anything fresh. At the same time
this species of bug thinks himself entitled to be treated with all
human consideration, and his faculty of thinking is unimpaired;
he turns back in his mind to his old business life and the wretched-