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BOOK REVIEW – FRANZ KAFKA – DESCRIPTION OF STRUGGLE 1933 Vintage Classics

 

One of Kafka’s earliest and most surreal and mysterious surviving novella length short stories, which remains partly incomplete.

 

It begins straightforwardly enough, the narrator is at a party sitting alone, not quite fitting in with other guests.  He notices another man, a guest who is the worst for drink, but who is getting on very well with the ladies, and seems to be very popular.

 

Jealousy and genuine concern lead the narrator to approach the man and warn him that he is danger of making a fool of himself and embarrassing the hosts of the gathering. He talks the charismatic drunk into stepping outside and taking a walk up the mountain road, despite a howling blizzard and it being dark. 

 

As they walk, the narrator becomes convinced for no apparent reason, that the man will attack him, so in sheer paranoia, he runs away, and slips, falling into a partly exposed cellar, where he lies, in danger of freezing to death, but the other man finds him, and rescues him, and they walk on.

 

Separated again, the narrator carries on walking, and becomes convinced that he has omnipotent God-like powers. As it gets warmer, he tells himself that he has made it happen, and gives himself credit for every change in the landscape and each person and tree, etc that he sees.

 

Things get really weird when he comes to a river, and sees a group of four men carrying a fat Buddha figure on a chair on the opposite side of the raging torrent. As the narrator watches, the men walk into the water, and drown, but the chair, and its occupant float downstream over the rapids, and the Buddha figure talks cheerfully to the man, giving strange stories of his own before he plunges to his doom over a waterfall.  The narrator has walked safely along the riverbank taking the information in.

 

Odd, like a bad hallucination induced by drugs, but with unforgettable imagery and strong hints of the later masterpieces Kafka would produce.

 

 

 

© Copyright. Arthur Chappell          

 

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