Sunday, November 20, 2022

Franz Kafka, Aphorisms

And you thought the stories were strange:

Leopards break into the temple and drink the sacrificial vessels dry; this is repeated over and over; eventually it can be calculated in advance and becomes part of the ceremony.

The expulsion from Paradise is in its principal aspect eternal: and so, although the expulsion from Paradise is definitive, and life in the world inescapable, the very eternity of the process nevertheless makes it possible not only that we could remain in Paradise forever but that we are indeed there forever, whether we know it here or not.

They were offered the choice between becoming kings or the couriers of kings. In the manner of children, they all wanted to be couriers. And so there are only couriers. They rush through the world and, as there are no kings, they shout their meaningless messages to one another.

Belief in progress doesn’t mean belief that progress has already been made. That would not be belief.

Many shades of the departed are occupied solely with lapping at the waters of the river of death because it comes from us and still bears the salty tang of our seas. Then the river writhes in revulsion, its current flowing backwards, washing the dead back into life. But they are happy, sing hymns of thanksgiving, and caress the indignant river.

You are the assignment. No student to be seen.

‘But then he returned to his work as though nothing had happened.’ We are familiar with this kind of remark from any number of old tales, even though it may not be found in any of them.

You can withdraw from the sufferings of the world — that possibility is open to you and accords with your nature — but perhaps that withdrawal is the only suffering you might be able to avoid.

“Why then do you fear love in particular more than earthly existence in general?” It’s as if you had said: “Why not fear every bush in the same way that you fear the burning bush?”

In a struggle between you and the world, bet on the world.

What is more joyful than belief in a household god?


David said...

Those are absolutely brilliant. What's the source?

John said...

A notebook Kafka wrote in 1918-1919, I think. Unpublished until the 1950s.

Anonymous said...

In a struggle between you and the world, bet on the world.

is this really deep and strange? This sounds like some standard High School Coach stuff. I would not be surprised to read this on a Facebook meme. What am I missing, seriously?

John said...

My high school coaches would have said, "in a struggle between you and the world, bet on you, because otherwise you are a loser and deserve to be."

Yes, that one is indeed pretty simple. I included it to show there is a range of stuff in the notebook. Some of the others are so weird I don't understand them at all. And the German is, as you can imagine, very gnomic, so that the exact meaning is disputed, and the English translations vary a lot.