Friday, June 12, 2009

An inscrutable American

[Inscrutable American is an example of this phenomenon where former subjects have turned their inquiring gaze onto their former masters. Though this is not the literal truth about India/American association, each of these countries symbolically represents the two polarities of imperial/colonial enterprise and seem to be engaged in rewriting a new chapter of their frequently prickly but dynamic relationship. Hybrid Hicks
-- Jitender Gill, A Review
The Inscrutable American by Anurag Mathur, 1994]

[It is already known that Kafka is one of the most complicated, inscrutable, and tortured spirits of world literature. In Dearest Father we find the man himself attempting to provide a full account of how he came to be so. In Franz’s view, from his childhood onwards it was his father’s arrogance, abrasiveness, and contempt that stymied his progress at every turn. His long letter might be imagined as a set of concentric circles, evoking the particularities of Kafka’s relationship with his father, then the general nature of childhood and parenthood, and finally human nature itself.
One of the letter’s attractions is the way in which the son’s sufferings are not only described in great detail, but actually become manifest through the very style of Kafka’s prose, through the contortions of his sentences. “Dearest Father,” the letter begins, “You asked me recently why I claim to be afraid of you. I did not know, as usual, how to answer, partly for the very reason that I am afraid of you...” We learn that Kafka always stutters and fumbles when trying to hold his own against his father, which is why he has chosen to express his thoughts in writing.
Moving from one incident to another, one feeling to another, the 36-year-old son – sickly, self-conscious, indecisive, in stark contrast to his vigorous, self-assured, and authoritarian father – explains how the older man’s behaviour “damaged me on the inside.” Although Hermann rarely ever beat his children, his constant threats of corporal punishment reduced the child Franz to a state of submission and abjectness. Kafka vs Kafka from The Middle Stage by Chandrahas]

One wishes Heehs too writes such a missive! [TNM]

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