THE TERROR OF ART by Martin Greenberg


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The world of Kafka is a world of failure: as a son (The Judgment and Metamorphosis are classic examples of the communication gap between parent and child), as a family man (the proverbial unhappy bachelor, Kafka both longed for and dreaded marriage), and as a God-seeker (the principal theme of Kafka's work, according to Borges, ""is the insupportable and tragic solitude of the person who lacks a place, even a most humble one, in the order of the universe""). For Martin Greenberg, in his acute and thoroughgoing, if rather monotonously composed, study. ""Kafka's imagination is a 'psychoanalytic' one. Not because he studied Freud but because he grasped intuitively the split in the self and the struggle of the unacknowledged part against the public part."" Fortunately, Greenberg treats Kafka's parabolic and mythic universe primarily in literary terms, thus avoiding the by now passe Oedipal patterns or psychoneurotic conflicts which so many earlier Kafka critics, such as Hoffman and Spilka, used so strenuously and repetitiously. Of course, as Greenberg says, Kafka's art is that of the ""dream-narrative."" the allegorical nightmare where father figures pose as unjust tribunals or vice-versa (Kafka Sr., incidentally, thought his son meshuggah), so personal correlations are inevitable. But, rather like Lionel Trilling, Greenberg accents the cultural and religious configurations surrounding Kafka's struggles, the ""embracing"" of failure, and the consequent ""triumphant"" cabalistic breakthrough of The Castle.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1968
Publisher: Basic Books