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liebster vater, cher père, dearest father, дорогого отца, 最亲爱的父亲

with 2 comments

I am right now reading Kafka’s letter to his father. A few reactions, right in the middle of things:

  • If one has father issues (as I most certainly do, no did, no do, no did), one reads this perhaps as I do: with a voice inside saying things like No, it’s not like that. That’s close but it’s more like this. Which is a strange effect, when reading a “literary” text. I don’t, you know, do that with novels, or any other text I’ve ever read.
  • Therapy helps. Whatever I said in the previous point, I feel a bit distant from the intensity from this sort of letter, which is a good sign, I am sure. Proper psychotherapy helps, I am a big advocate.
  • This is the first time I am reading some Kafka that I actually feel like the text in question should not have been published. It feels like reading a very great man and writer on his very worst day. Perhaps it should have been published pseudononymously. Perhaps I won’t finish it because perhaps I shouldn’t finish it.
  • Father issues only get stranger and tougher – sorry to be obvious – when you are a son and then you have kids yourself, become a father yourself. As then you read a document like this from both sides of the “dearest,” don’t you.
  • One bit that’s particular poigniant to me is the bit about the verbal abuse of others. I understand just what he’s saying when Kafka writes the following:

    Your extremely effective rhetorical methods in bringing me up, which never failed to work with me, were: abuse, threats, irony, spiteful laughter, and—oddly enough—self-pity. I cannot recall your ever having abused me directly and in downright abusive terms. Nor was that necessary; you had so many other methods, and besides, in talk at home and particularly at the shop the words of abuse went flying around me in such swarms, as they were flung at other people’s heads, that as a little boy I was sometimes almost stunned and had no reason not to apply them to myself too, for the people you were abusing were certainly no worse than I was and you were certainly not more displeased with them than with me. And here again was your enigmatic innocence and inviolability; you cursed and swore without the slightest scruple; yet you condemned cursing and swearing in other people and would not have it.

I suppose that this is just the type of post that would have to go if I put my name on the blog, eh? You’re right, all of you – fuck it. The name stays off.

Written by adswithoutproducts

February 23, 2009 at 12:50 am

Posted in kafka

2 Responses

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  1. I think it’s a remarkable document. It’s the kind of letter we imagine writing–it seems so even-handed, so fair, so aware–because in our imagination, we can’t see that finally it’s unfair. The writer of such a letter is apparently unaware that the only person who could not read the letter as he intended it, is the person for whom he intends it.

    I find the publication of personal letters weird and unjustifiable, and yet I am certainly compelled to read some of them.

    Richard

    February 23, 2009 at 5:43 pm

  2. um, “because” in the second sentence should be “but”

    Richard

    February 23, 2009 at 5:44 pm


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