I found a copy of Kafka’s “Penal Colony” online yesterday, in German, and printed it out, intending to read it before going to bed. I left it laying around the foyer and Beta apparently read it while I was at my cello lesson because when I got back she was curled up in a little ball in the far corner of the living room, behind the curtains down next to the radiator where it’s warm.
Live and learn. Never leave Kafka strewn about where kids can find him! Or they’ll be all like “Dad! What’s this skinny dead guy doing in the library!” and you’ll have to explain.
Except, Beta wasn’t curled up, she was in my face as I tried to get some of Alpha’s good pumpkin soup in the kitchen. “What was that story?” “Oh, you read it? That was classic literature, pal.” “That poor soldier!” “That poor soldier was all of us, in Kafka’s opinion. Our verdict is never revealed to us, just written into our flesh. What a view of life, huh?” “What a downer. I thought he was going to strap the traveler onto the bed at the end. But…” “He got in himself. Yeah. I haven’t read that story in like over twenty years.”
I didn’t finish it last night, either. In that article I link down below, Kafka is said to have written most of his stuff in bursts, believing that was the way literature should be written. He would have loved the metamorphosism challenge.
- “My name is Franz and I will be writing a story about a man who jumps off a bridge and another about a man on trial only he doesn’t know what for. My special hardship will be I’m dying of tuberculosis and have woman trouble and live with my parents and trying to write while my dad insists I get some fresh air and why don’t you eat some meat finally and Max is always nagging at me to put these short stories together into a novel finally, ‘Franz,’ Max is like, ‘Franz who’s gonna pay good money for parables? And are you gonna date Milena or not cause if you’re not, give me her number cause she’s hot.'”
I first heard of (and consequently read some) Kafka through reading the liner notes on Frank Zappa’s composition “The Chrome Plated Megaphone of Destiny” on the album “We’re Only In It For The Money” ~ It specifically referred to “The Penal Colony” and advised that this story be read whilst listening to the piece, which I dutifully did (I had to replay the piece a couple of times)
I was 13 years old at the time, and found the whole experience very surrealistic. Perhaps I shall try this again soon. Thank you for reminding me.
From what I understand, I think that several women had Franz trouble. I don’t think he really had much woman trouble, not by my standards or the standards of the people I know.
Maybe by your standards though, since your life is perfect. (In case Alpha Beta or Gamma happen to be eavesdropping).
More on that here: