Monday, January 23, 2006


Kafka's A hunger artist ends with the description of a panther put in a cage in substitute of the hunger artist. The author says that each and every muscle and movement of the beast was proclaiming the freedom it enjoyed. "The food he (the panther) liked was brought to him without hesitation by the attendants; he seemed not even to miss his freedom; his noble body, furnished almost to the bursting point with all that it needed, seemed to carry freedom around with it too; somewhere in his jaws it seemed to lurk; and the joy of life streamed with such ardent passion from his throat that for the onlookers it was not easy to stand the shock of it." A similar description of such an action is seen in Metamorphosis when the Samsas were moving to a new apartment. "And it was something of a confirmation of their (the family members') new dreams and good intentions when at the end of their journey their daughter got up first and stretched her young body."

Observing the freedom enjoyed by stretching muscles I feel the same.

A Hunger Artist


Sunday, January 15, 2006

The Law and the Guilt

I have always failed when I try put in words the meaning of two sentences from 'The Trial.' Perhaps I do not want the world to know what I feel about these sentences, or perhaps I have never met anyone who shares the same feelings with these sentences:

'There is always an attraction between the law and the guilt.'

'An accused person is always attractive such that he can be easily identified even in a crowd.'

I don't know whether the sentences are the same. But these are enough to feel guilty.

What is Language for Marquez?

I haven't read many of Marquez's work. Marquez's talent is better displayed in his works that are closer to 'Magical Realism'. However the objective of this post is to challenge the Magical Aspect of Marquez's writing; but from a different angle. By the end of this post you will see why 'Magical Realism' is a wrongly understood term to denote the insights of Marquez.

It should be a matter of concern for all the literary critics how to classify those phenomena in literary works which are beyond human comprehension. How can one categorise a phenomenon like a sleepless community which has been sketched in the beginning of 'One Hundred Years of Solitude'? Calling it a magical phenomenon or something related to mysticism is only a shallow understanding. Depth of understanding such writings must be initiated from a different point.

I understand many of the magical elements in Marquez’s writings as having close affinity towards sleep (and dream as its essential by product), memory and meaning. The sketching of Macondo’s sleeplessness is a symbolic effort by the author to reveal his audience how he understands language and its function. For Marquez there is always a connection between sleep (dream) and memory. In the novel he says only if human can sleep he can have memory and can recall his past in any way. Sleeplessness of Macondo actually affects its language and memory. The people of Macondo had to write on objects their respective names. With sleeplessness all the relevance and ‘being’ of language was lost. Conversely, this also implies that human language has a function only in dream, or rather language functions as dream.

Blanchot and Writing

What is new with Blanchot’s writings? One of his important writings on which we can initiate this discussion is his short narrative, La folie du jour. I have read it in English, a translation by Lydia Davis. “Can such a story be narrated anywhere else other than in writing?” – this was my immediate response. Before reading it in full I had read a paper by Derrida in Acts of Literatrue. The paper was titled, Law of Genre. Derrida actually does a deconstruction of this story in order to state his point. Nothing but the text speaks in La folie du jour. And hence it was quite possible to find out how literature actually functions in tandem with the rules set by the discourse on literature as well as the rules set by the author. One needs to read this one story alone to understand many of the arguments put forward by Derrida in his texts.

Other blogs and sites of interest on Blanchot:

Long Sunday

Kafka and Imaginary Animals

Imaginary animals are very common in Kafka’s writings. Recall his famous stories Metamorphosis, Cares of a Family Man, Blumfeld: An Elderly Bachelor etc. I used to tell my friends, “Probably Kafka had been experiencing himself as an imaginary animal at times; like a gigantic insect, or like Odradek, an animal which is very insignificant in a familial context." For Kafka, an animal is always mischievous, unmindful of its own good intentions. Kafka’s narration is always from this angle: because animals are mischievous by nature, or rather humans consider them to be mischievous, they are destined to be tortured. Who ever sympathize with the ‘animal’ can join him. That is a minimum requirement and the least thing you can collect from his stories. But when we realize that the mischievous animal symbolizes human, the meaning implied calls forth a different sensibility. Hence animal is not the point of interest of Kafka. Instead his interest is to drive a point home using human’s perception of animal as a medium.

Future projects on Kafka

Nature of Writing

Let me present some of the problems in which I am interested: What was the nature of writing before the emergence of the 'phonetic alphabet' (I've seen McLuhan using this term for the first time)? With the emergence of the 'phonetic alphabet' has language undergone any major change in the mediational role it is supposed to play in communication? If you say that even after the emergence of the 'phonetic alphabet' language continues to play the role that it had played earlier, then it should be inferred that 'writing' is only an activity that supplements speech.

Author and his 'self'

At what point can I begin a discussion on writing? Will it be the same starting point for a discussion on 'author'? Can the term 'author' ascribe the complete 'authorial function' of writing a novel, or any other book to a single self (or to two, three persons in case of co-authored books)? To begin with, let's listen to what Jorge Luis Borges, the famous Argentinian author, has to say about the relationship between the self and the author.

Authors Speak

How can I ever speak without quoting an author? Understand my dilemma...