The Castle by Franz Kafka

castleK. is trying to get to the castle. The surrounding town’s streets are always deserted. It’s often snowing, often dark, and time starts to lose reason and constancy. Mystifying supernatural events occur without explanation — divide two youthful twins, and now they are individually old and grizzled, unable to split their combined age between them. The town has its own internal rhythm and customs and idiosyncrasies, or so it would seem. What is devastatingly obvious w/r/t to social etiquette and procedure to the villagers is inexplicable to K., and to the reader. K. is often compared to a child in how little he understands adult affairs. There are lengthy monologues, personal histories, and bureaucratic minutia explained page after page by one character, only to be contradicted in the same fashion by another character.

This is the meaning of Kafkaesque. Nightmarish, bureaucratic monotony.

I remember reading the Phantom Tollbooth as a kid. And all of Roald Dahl’s works, one by one from the school library’s bottom shelf. I was enchanted and found them entirely natural in their grim absurdity, peopled by heroic albeit vindictive heroes. They often lacked a cogent moral lesson and horrible things happened, both to the protagonists and as a result of their actions. All this I loved and felt was proper. This is a child’s version of maturity, but important nonetheless, since its absence in other age-appropriate works is obviously felt by children.

Much later, as an adult I read analyses of why Juster and Dahl are so popular with kids. They spoke to the fear and bedevilment and chaos and cruelty that are all inescapable components of everyday childhood life, rather than endless summer afternoons amidst the dandelion fuzz like adults like to wistfully recall.

This implies one of two things:

1. The bedeviled nonsensical world is merely one of children, and as we become adults, things make more sense even if it is a somber kind of sense.

2. As adults, we gain some sort of pathos or maturity that allows us to handle the bedeviled world in some fashion.

Franz Kafka proves both of these false. The adult world is just as baffling, nonsensical, insoluble, and unfathomable. There is a reason that K. is constantly compared to a child. Except, unlike childhood and its apposite stories, there is no logical end, however fraught. Alienation in perpetuity. There is death, which is the conclusion Kafka apparently had in mind for K. had he lived to finish The Castle. Darkly ironic, but still no conscious end.

(I’m on a bend of great authors posthumously published great works lately. See The Pale King.)

(Also, I did finally find an image of the cover despite earlier troubles, albeit artifacted and grainy.)

2 thoughts on “The Castle by Franz Kafka”

  1. I really loved that book and I’m a huge fan of Kafka!
    I think K’s quest to find Klam is an allegorical representation of man’s struggle to find the meaning of life.Later on,this very book would inspire Camus to write The Myth of Sisyphus!
    People have invented God and religion in a bid to unveil all the mysteries of the world,yet they’ve barely accomplished anything.Likewise,K heard much about Klam and the castle,yet he could not reach any of these two which stand for life’s mysteries and meaning.

    1. I actually read the Myth of Sisyphus a while back, but it was before I had read any Kafka. I should probably reread that essay now — I’d get way more out of it.

      Anyway, thanks for liking the blog!

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