Kafka’s Metamorphosis

Kafka’s Metamorphosis

Franz Kafka, cerca 1906

Kafka’s not just one of my favorite writers. He’s my friend. As in, on many a dicey occasion, the thought of his work, his life, his struggles, the obstacles he overcame, kept me trudging through the mud. Interior castles, trials beyond judgment, my own hunger artist period, my own sense of the hollow . . . . It was as if he walked with me in my shoes, the shoes I borrowed from him. The shoes I then took off as I waited before the law, waited for the doorkeeper to let me in to see for myself.

See what? I would shout back at Kafka, my rabbi. Why am I here, waiting to get through that door? See what? My destiny? My punishment? My . . . . Yes, he would say. All of those things and none of them. Judgment is what you want, he would say. But you won’t recognize it when you see it, and you will mock it when you hear it.

 I have long thought there was an implicit kinship between several poets, artists, musicians and philosophers. As if they could be grouped together, despite the separation of time and space. Linked. Connected.

The Church at Auvers, by Vincent Van Gogh. 1890. Musee d’Orsay, Paris.

Their metaphysical and metaphorical kinship bridged that distance, and they crowd me now, crowd around me, telling me stories, begging me to open my eyes and ears to the world.

Starry Night Over the Rhone, by Vincent Van Gogh. 1888
Starry Night Over the Rhone, by Vincent Van Gogh. 1888

In that pantheon of life-advisers, of rabbis, priests and counselors, Kafka sits with Kierkegaard, Rilke, Van Gogh, Camus, Flann O’Brien, and the Beatles. And it never really mattered, ultimately, that their own lives were often screwed up beyond all reason, or that they may have been cruel to their friends and loved-ones at times. As we all are. What really matters is that their words, images and sounds could and did change the external and internal world. What really matters is that I get by with a little help — I get high with a little help from my pantheon.

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