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Christian Bank Pedersen

Franz Kafka

Important in Franz Kafka's aesthetic is the author's characteristic unfolding of language in its concrete auditory and graphic materiality, and the possibilities of figurative movement and transformation formed by this unfolding. This inclina-tion in Kafka's work must furthermore be regarded as carried out in particularly close connection with an unusual autobiographical experimentation on the part of the author: Franz Kafka is always his own literal material, and in the end the selfconsuming subject in the work paradoxically stands out as the aesthetic object of a modern hunger-art. Characteristic for this art is partly that it will never be selfidentical, inasmuch as it is precisely an art of self-reduction, and partly that presumably in a certain respect it, of course, becomes both lighter and heavier with each passing day: the art is to reduce the self, and the less is thus also the more. Franz Kafka is in this sense the 'letter' of his own literature in a kind of self-reflection of a literary physiology that the author emphasizes as being both an eternal joke and never-ending despair.

The aim of the project is to trace the possible perspectives in this twofold literalness in Kafka. Not only does this involve reflecting on the so-called literal sense or meaning of words, but also, as implied, viewing what in Kafka is closely linked to this, the word and the letter as primarily tactile manifestations, and daily life- not least the author's own life- as at first glance seemingly prosaic 'literal-ness,' which nevertheless is exceedingly enigmatic precisely in its simple concretion.

Updated 23 November 2000 by csc. Please mail comments to the web editor at Centre for Cultural Research.