Monday, July 03, 2006

Franz Kafka

Literature's favorite neurotic, Franz Kafka was born today July 3, 1883 in Prague. While at UConn I bought a collection of his short stories at a used book sale at the Homer Babbage Library. The Metamorphosis is kind of weird but has nothing on his In The Penal Colony. I sat there in the comfy chairs that overlooked West Campus and thought this guy is genuinely twisted, not in the funny "haha, man your twisted way", but the I'm glad I'm not him sort of way. For those of you unfamiliar with the story, it's about a penal colony where the condemned have their crimes inscribed into them by a machine, here's a excerpt but please read the whole thing and see what I mean:
“This apparatus,” he said, grasping a connecting rod and leaning against it, “is our previous Commandant’s invention. I also worked with him on the very first tests and took part in all the work right up to its completion. However, the credit for the invention belongs to him alone. Have you heard of our previous Commandant? No? Well, I’m not claiming too much when I say that the organization of the entire penal colony is his work. We, his friends, already knew at the time of his death that the administration of the colony was so self-contained that even if his successor had a thousand new plans in mind, he would not be able to alter anything of the old plan, at least not for several years. And our prediction has held. The New Commandant has had to recognize that. It’s a shame that you didn’t know the previous commandant!”
“However,” the Officer said, interrupting himself, “I’m chattering, and his apparatus stands here in front of us. As you see, it consists of three parts. With the passage of time certain popular names have been developed for each of these parts. The one underneath is called the bed, the upper one is called the inscriber, and here in the middle, this moving part is called the harrow.” “The harrow?” the Traveler asked. He had not been listening with full attention. The sun was excessively strong, trapped in the shadowless valley, and one could hardly collect one’s thoughts. So the Officer appeared to him all the more admirable in his tight tunic weighed down with epaulettes and festooned with braid, ready to go on parade, as he explained the matter so eagerly and, while he was talking, adjusted screws here and there with a screwdriver.

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