Zololkis A concise, yet clear, introduction to the life and works of the four existentialist thinkers. Their warnings were based on real observations and contained a strong moral element. Many people like to make dire predictions about how current culture will result in disaster for the following generation. Finally, Kafka is kfka briefly. My library Help Advanced Book Search.

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Struc, The University of Calgary The romance of German literature with the giants of Russian letters is an affair of long standing. Its inception reaches back to the mid-eighteenth century, though the most intensive involvement of German writers has been with Russian authors of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The German reading public is conversant with all the major figures of Russian literature from Pushkin to Leskov, Merezhkovskij, Bunin, Gorkij, Majakovskij, Pasternak, and Bulgakov, as well as contemporary Soviet writers.

This interest has at no time decreased; the romance still goes on. This speculative view is surely not without considerable merit. The broad span of German interests in Russian matters notwithstanding, it can be safely claimed that Dostoevsky has been the focal point of that curiosity and fascination. Franz Kafka has been considered in all respects an exception. He entered the consciousness of both the European and North American reading public as a great loner, a man thoroughly alienated from his environment and tradition, the original inimitable genius.

In those early studies Kafka had been viewed as one of their company. Notwithstanding some virtue of this perception, these studies had been ahistorical and often impressionistic, seeing Kafka primarily if not exclusively as a purveyor of ideas, a prophet of doom rather than a man of letters; their tone was one of homage rather than of historically accurate assessments.

The same has occurred with other figures frequently linked with Kafka. In the last decade some very creditable ground work has been accomplished, and one can now safely speak of more than either very general or incidental connection between those two, at least at first glance, diverse figures. In what follows, an attempt will be made to summarize these foci of affinity or even influence, as the case may be, in a systematic fashion.

Further it will become obvious that, although unmentioned, Kafka was familiar with "The Double". As early as , in a letter to his fiance Kafka wrote: "the four men, Grillparzer, Dostoevsky, Kleist and Flaubert, I consider to be my true blood-relations". As for their illness, both viewed it as release and punishment, both were aware of the complex and secret workings of mind and body, both cursing and blessing it at the same time.

For the sake of this discussion only, I will deal separately with ideas, themes and motifs on the one hand, and on the other, with the more formal aspects of their respective works. To this day, as we know, there is no consensus on this matter. In effect, therefore, Raskolnikov remains in a certain sense a mystery and, in all likelihood, consciously or not, Dostoevsky wanted it this way. The same holds true for Joseph K.

If he has, does he consider it a crime? If not, why does he voluntarily subject himself to the harassment of the authorities and finally accept his execution as if he deserved it? If, for the present purposes, we leave out the contentious "Epilogue" in "Crime and Punishment", we are left in similar perplexity. Does Raskolnikov consider his deed a crime? If not, why does he play into the hands of the police and with relief accept the judgment?

Conventional psychology does not supply unequivocal answers. Yet both writers are acute psychologists - Dostoevsky as a precursor of depth psychology, Kafka well-versed in its Freudian variety; still both recognize its limitations. Dostoevsky ironically calls psychology a stick with two ends - in "The Brothers Karamazov" - and most vociferously denounces it in "Notes from Underground", and Kafka angrily records in his "Meditations" "I am through with psychology!

The curious relationship between Prince Myshkin and Nastasia Filipovna in "The Idiot", for instance, can be seen as a variety of masochistic behaviour but also, as Mochulski ingeniously shows, a re-enactment of the Amor - Psyche myth. Man remains for both authors an irreducable mystery. The problem of human culpability is shared by both authors. The acceptance of responsibility and guilt leads to suffering and potentially to redemption.

In short, the problem of guilt emerges as a kind of felix culpa. Their guilt feelings are the fountainhead of their actions and suffering, of their meekness as well as their aggressiveness and, ultimately, of their failure as functioning human beings.

In Dostoevsky the realization of guilt is a first step toward redemption; in Kafka guilt feelings lead only to despair. Kafka denies his characters even the luxury of such dreams. His own situation as well of that of his protagonists is an unrelieved "sea sickness on firm land".

Dostoevsky studies man by placing him in extreme situations. Goljadkin is studied through his paranoia and schizophrenia. Raskolnikov takes the search for his identity into his own hands, as it were, by committing a capital crime.

In his pursuits "for the man in man" Dostoevsky resorts to the confrontation of the hero with his "double". Thus he proceeds from a relatively simple relationship in "The Double", to infinitely more sophisticated contrastive correspondences: Raskolnikov-Svidrigajlov-Sonja; Myshkin and Rogozhin; Ivan Karamazov and his cheesy understudy, Smerdjakov, as well as the shabby devil.

To put it simply, through the insect Kafka dramatizes the unknown and secret life of his protagonist. Petersburg, plays in the story. The two cases I am quoting are by no means isolated occurrences. It has been shown that the respective openings of both works are quite similar. Even the structure of the story supports this conclusion. These events in both works serve as tragic denouements for the respective protagonists.

What it amounts to is a kind of retranslation of ordinary circumlocutions containing a simile or metaphor into its original components. The reader of Russian literature will be familiar with a similar technique in Gogol, especially in "Dead Souls". Not infrequent are such idioms used as "Am I a man or a louse? It can be said that Kafka draws his radical consequences by translating the metaphorical insect into a real one.

Even though I am not always convinced by Bakhtin, I do see that much of what Dostoevsky does is to let his characters engage in a kind of interior monologue, without making it entirely obvious to the reader that this is the case.

Nor does he correct such impressions, but allows them to stand as they are. This creates, according to Bakhtin, a kind of open-endedness which by and large remains unresolved.

I would like to pursue this speculation a little further. Although the first part of "Notes from Underground" is technically a monologue, Bakhtin claims that its solitary anti-hero is endowed with an ability to enter into dialogue with other consciousnesses. For this reason and purpose he creates such characters as the man of action or the romantic idealist with whom he conducts his polemic.

These self-made characters, or rather mental attitudes, retain their intellectual and psychological independence. The result, as Bakhtin sees it, is not a dialectical resolution but a polyphony of unresolved voices. There, an unidentified animal, who voluntarily banishes himself underground, describes in a monologue of some forty pages his efforts to construct a perfectly secure burrow. It is a cry of fear and total isolation.

He does not enter into an intercourse with even an imaginary world or audience. The end of the story is neither a symphony nor polyphony but monotony. Notwithstanding a substantial affinity and a number of quite specific similarities that show definite influence, such a claim shows a misunderstanding of both authors.

He shows the reader the adventures of a totally unhinged consciousness, thoroughly isolated from the others, a kind of windowless monad.

Even though Dostoevsky has such similar characters in his repertory, they are never as isolated as the characters created by Kafka. Dostoevsky without exception supplies many other dimensions of the human condition. This is not a judgment, this is a statement for which it is easy to adduce historical reasons. Man of the twentieth century is certainly more alienated than his ancestors in the 19th.

Can the affinity between Dostoevsky and Kafka be reduced to a single valid formula? But, if by implication only, I have tried to point to rather essential differences. In conclusion, however, I would like to quote from a letter Kafka wrote in reply to a friend. So that it shall make us happy, as you tell me? My God, we would be happy even if we had no books, and such books that make us happy we could write ourselves if need be. But what we need are books that affect us like ill-fortune causing pain, like the death of someone we loved more that ourselves, like being exiled in a deep forest away from all men, like a suicide; a book must be an axe to break the frozen sea in us.

This I believe. Both possessed the cruel talent and the ruthlessness of vision necessary to write them. See Dmitrij Tschizewskij, "Russische Geistesgeschichte", 2 vols. Peter U. Also very useful, Hartmut Binder, ed. Heller and J. Born Frankfurt, S. Fischer, , p. Fischer, n. See M.





Dostoevsky, Kierkegaard, Nietzche, and Kafka


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