FRANZ KAFKA Ė THE SHORTER STORIES in THE COMPLETE SHORT STORIES. 1999 Vintage Classics.
This is my first of three selections of reviews from the shortest of all short stories by the master of dark, disturbing surrealism as opposed to his novels and novellas. Some of these stories are fragments of longer works while others are complete works in their own right. There is Zen like parable feel to many of them. A Dream features Josef K., central character of Kafkaís The Trial. K. Dreams about seeing his own headstone as he is buried alive. This may be a missing or deleted scene from The Trial, or possibly just another story with the same character name in use. In Advocates, a man wanders round the infinite corridors of a courthouse hoping to find someone who speak for him if he ever finds himself judged and sentenced. He never seems to actually approach a legal advisor. He never opens a door. He just travels round the corridors, hoping for answers. In The Departure, a man makes ready to leave a town. The gate- guard asks him why. The man announces that he must go and fulfil his destiny. The guard asks what the destiny involves. The man tells him that it involves leaving town. This is ambiguous. Is he leaving with no set plans? Is it a metaphor for impending death? Is he telling the guard to mind his own business Rejection is the sad tale of a man trying to chat up a lovely young lady. He rejects him, as he doesnít meet her desire for a wealthy handsome adventurer. The man tells her that as she is pretty but plain, she canít hope to attract such a lover. She agrees, but decides that, as they each now know each otherís disappointed dreams, they must never speak or meet again. Reflections For Gentlemen Jockeys ponders how a winning horse-race rider can ever be happy. He will spend so much time being patronised by well-wishers and resented by those who either lost their bets or didnít gamble that he must be very uncomfortable indeed. The Bridge is a very odd parable in which a man decides that he is a bridge over a short ravine, with hands on one side, and feet on the other. His first user however jumps onto him heavily, causing the human bridge to fall to his death.
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