AS LONELY AS FRANZ KAFKA by Marthe Robert

AS LONELY AS FRANZ KAFKA

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In certain crucial respects, French critic Robert's study of Kafka echoes her books on Freud (From Oedipus to Moses, The Psychoanalytic Revolution). Basic to both geniuses, she finds, was an uneasy relationship to their Jewishness: the formulation and reformulation of laws--and transgressions thereof; the deliberate restructuring of classical myths. With Kafka, though, her arguments hold water only up to a point. Robert sees Kafka's flirtations with Zionism, Hasidism, and vegetarianism as failure-bound attempts at consolation for his ""uprootedness, for being the lost son of this people gifted with indestructible unity."" This hidden Jewishness, she goes on, occasioned Kafka's problems with the German language. German, as other Jewish writers were using it (fraudulently, Kafka's psyche told him), finally expelled him into ""precariousness""--into being a creator of tales written in Kanzleideutsch (chancellery German) that are more bureaucratic-sounding than expressionistic; tales dealing with immutable themes widened by subjectivity yet delivered impersonally. In this linguistic/neurotic approach to Kafka, Robert is convincing. But Kafka the individual son, the sick man, the writer is hard to find behind Kafka the ""social guilty conscience of the Jew of the diaspora."" Robert seems never to have decided whether to enlarge Kafka into the representative of a group or to shrink him into an escapee. An interesting academic book, if frequently belabored and theory-bound.

Pub Date: May 14th, 1982
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich