31.5.12

FROM "SOME REMARKS ON KAFKA'S FUNNINESS"


The following is the closing paragraph from a speech David Foster Wallace gave about trying to teach Kafka to young American college students.

"And it is this, I think, that makes Kafkas wit inaccessible to children whom our culture has trained to see jokes as entertainment and entertainment as reassurance. It's not that students don't "get" Kafka's humor but that we've taught them to see humor as something you get - the same way we've taught them that a self is something you just have. No wonder they cannot appreciate the really central Kafka joke: that the horrific struggle to establish a human self results in a self whose humanity is inseperable from that horrific struggle. That our endless and impossible journey toward home is in fact our home. It's hard to put into words, up at the blackboard, beleive me. You can tell them that maybe it's good they don't "get" Kafka. You can ask them to imagine his stories as all about a kind of door, increasingly hard, pounding and pounding, not just wanting admission but needing it: we don't know what it is but we can feel it, this total desperation to enter, pounding and ramming and kicking. That, finally, the door opens . . . and it opens outward - we've been inside what we wanted all along. Das ist komisch."

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