Happy Wednesday! It is time for a weekly reading notes post. Today I finished third book for the 52 books challenge. The book is a collection of Franz Kafka's short stories translated to Finnish. It contains all Kafka's stories in order of appearance. 438 pages of small print that holds humor, anxiety and notions human community.
3/52 Franz Kafka: Kootut kertomukset (1997) Best classics hold time and reading Kafka made me forget that even his latest stories are written almost hundred years ago. His world is modern and main characters are going through situations we can relate in 2018. Artist's work is left without audience and respect, single life is full of complexes, some isolate themselves waiting to be found and work doesn't give satisfaction but feels more like a burden.
I enjoyed the dark humor Kafka has put to his texts. Every now and then he nails the essence of singlehood. In Description of a Struggle (Beschreibung eines Kampfes) a man is sitting alone sipping his drink when his euphoric friend approaches him and begins to tell about his love. He listens to the other man's story involuntarily thinking that if he was on his right senses he would know to leave him alone and not share this subject with someone sitting alone in the corner. When the two walk in the night the main character considers to leave home where warm room, armchair and table lamp is waiting for him and it would be comfortable. But then he comes to think that after sitting to the chair nothing would happen only the lamp would light him in the room. That picture is brilliant and gets to the core. Home is cozy, inviting, familiar but doesn't offer any surprises because nothing will happen but the same old. In Blumfeld, an Elderly Bachelor (Blumfeld, ein älterer Junggeselle) main character thinks about having a dog that would wait him when he comes home and give company. Hands up how many of you have considered that option at least once? But Blumfeld also likes to keep his house tidy. And he is afraid that dog will gain weight, get sick and unable to move. Old dog would also remind about it's owners time passing by. Could it be that the experience of being single has not changed a bit in hundred years? The dilemma of a home, and life, that seems to lack something. Everything is basically all right, electricity brings light to an apartment, sofa invites to lay down and relax but something bothers in the quietness. Something that not even the most adorable and well mannered dog can solve.
In A Hunger Artist (Ein Hungerkünstler) main character is a notable artist that makes fasting performances. After some years of success artist's shows stop to attract people. Hunger artist is true to the art and can't stop making performances. People wonder how the artist can stand against hunger for days. Finally he reveals that fasting is actually very easy because he hasn't found food that would taste good. The story describes the essence of being an artist. For someone who has strong intrinsic motivation to do art and create there are no other possibilities. No other way of living comes to question. People with appetite find it difficult to deny food from themselves. But what is easy to some might not be option for all. Being an artist is not always an easy option but only option when easier ways to live are unavailable. Hunger artist's sacrifice is honored among people who see his perseverance and don't know about artist's inner world. Artist gives up from commodities his audience sees as necessity but his necessities are elsewhere.
The theme of work is also present when main characters battle with motivation issues, low respect and enormous work load. Superiors underestimate their work and question it's necessity. Relationship to the work one is forced to do lacks passion and dedication. Characters are isolated to their offices with their tasks and have to proof their worth. Loneliness and incapability, maybe reluctance in some cases, to adjust to the social life is present in many of Kafka's stories. In The Burrow (Der Bau) the main character is like an animal that has buried itself under the ground where it keeps nest and stores piles of food. At the same time the nest is it's safe place but also a prison. The main character is afraid that it's peace will be broken and someone will invade the tunnels it has created. I was not sure if the fear of being found was actually a wish to be found because there is eagerness to hear someone coming. Character patrols outside it's nest and feels reluctant to leave the home but also to return back. In other stories main characters stay on the background studying how the stream of life passes. Instead of fully participating the social interaction they investigate themselves when trying to follow the given roles that have become burdens, boring routines and expectations impossible to fill.