Wednesday, August 10, 2005

And now for a trip in the wayback machine

I found this post about Amerika in my old /. journal. I used to use that before I found out about an entirely new way to publish my thoughts that would still remain unread by everyone. But still, I wanted to put this bit o' business on here since I kind of got off track while talking about Amerika the last time. So without further ado, here it is:

from /. Wednesday, July 13 2-double-aught-5

Two lines from Kafka's Amerika really stood out to me when i read them recently. As Karl is walking away from New York along the road, the line "The occasional automobile shot out of the fog, and all three turned their heads towards these cars, which were usually enormous and so striking in appearance and so fleetingly present there was no time to notice whether they had any occupants or not."

It is amazing how precise Kafka pinpoints a feeling of awe and wonderment at the sight of an American automobile whizzing by a pedestrian on the road. It calls to mind the oversized "space age" cars we Americans were so fond of during the fifties and sixties; yet this book was written years before, and by a man who never even visited the US. Kafka writes in such a way as to make the normal seem surreal, not in the same vein as Gabriel Garcia Marquez with his fantastic realism, but in an uncanny manner, the simple act of a car passing on the road becomes an event, a large imposing symbol of American ingenuity personified.

The second line comes after Karl realizes that it will be harder to leave the US if he is in the interior of the country rather than New York. His traveling companions convince him to continue away from the city and it reads "Even then he wouldn't have gone if he hadn't told himself that it was probably better for him to go to a place from which it would be less easy to return home. It would be better for his work and his general progress, if he had no useless thoughts to distract him."

That line is particularly telling about the character and his work ethic. Being distracted by alternative prospects is undesirable to him. His desire, it seems is to be locked into a situation so as to attack it head on, certainly an interesting way to approach life.


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