Saturday, September 6, 2008

Reading Kafka "Brodly"

It is a dank humid Saturday, the air turgid, a feeling of rain to come, but then it doesn't come. Soon Fall will draw in and then the long Montreal winter.

I was reading Zadie Smith on Kafka the other day. She's a trenchant and funny critic, journalist, as well as a wonderful novelist. "On Beauty" is my favorite of her works. I tire of folks dissing Max Brod, though, for without this dear friend, whatever one thinks of him as a writer, we would not have Kafka, an author whose work is bottomless. One can go back and back again and still be moved, disturbed, changed afresh.

I love the stories, of course, and was profoundly affected by "Letter to My Father" when I first discovered and read it in high school.

Did you know that Kafka was over six feet tall? In photos, he looks almost elf-like, with those huge black liquid eyes dominating his face, almost bodiless really.

I learned that despite his genius, he felt competitive with some of his contemporaries in the small, incestuous community that was the literary world of Prague at that time, and though he was an obsessive letter writer, he protected the space around his writing, which seemed to thrive with the constraints and structure imposed by his boring job. Though some may differ on this point.

I am looking forward to the Fall, to the crisp air and emblazoned leaves and then to the boundless white, at least for the first month or so.

Tell me what you are reading that is wonderful. I am looking for a great book.

Bon weekend, Ami

1 comment:

Leo said...

Ah, yes, what to read. It's a question I regularly ponder when wandering the ailes of the bookstore.

But in the end, I tend to gravitate to one consistent theme: the struggle of humans in a violent world.

Cormac McCarthy is the master of this field. The Road is one, long tear at the heart about the state of a world diminished, but it helps to focus the reader on the power of the relationship between father and son, a relationship rarely explored in modern literature.

Jim Crace's The Pesthouse is sold as a post-apocolyptic thriller, but really, it is a deeply personal account of two outcasts trying to make it to a mythical Coast where they hope to escape a ravaged United States. But it is there struggle to survive in that violent world, and their reliance on each other, that is the real story.

Junot Diaz's The Miraculous Life of Oscar Wao presents us with a different violent world, that of the Dominican Republic during the time of the dictator Trujillo. It's dense footnotes make for strange reading in a novel, but Diaz has style and voice all his own, a refreshing brashness that clangs with modern sleepy Canadian sentimentalism, a heady hispanic hipness that grabs the throat and never lets go.

There you go. Enjoy your reading.