"The Limited Circle Is Pure"

Smith, Zadie
November 2003
New Republic;11/3/2003, Vol. 229 Issue 18, p33
This article focuses on the effect of author Franz Kafka on the novel genre of literature. Kafka is the novel's bad conscience. His work demonstrates a purity of intention, a precision of language, and a level of metaphysical commitment that the novel partially comprehends but is unable to replicate without, in the process, ceasing to be a novel at all. Consequently, Kafka makes novelists nervous. What is it about Kafka's lessons for the novel that cannot be contained within the novel in the form as we have come to know it? Clearly, the intentions of most novels are not Kafka's intentions. When we turn to Kafka's own real life, as everything he wrote induces us to do, there is still no respite. As a the son of a Czech Jew he was isolated in a Germanic culture, but as a German speaker, without any Yiddish, he felt isolated from many of his fellow Jews. What freaks out the novelists among us is that Kafka's rejection of the central in favor of the resonant particular on the periphery also happens to exclude that rather central matter of "other people.".


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