Book: The Complete Short Stories of Franz Kafka
Status: Still Reading.
Continuing posts on the book I am currently reading, ‘The Complete Short Stories of Franz Kafka’. The next post on this book should be my last, as I’m now onto the shorter stories – and some are so short that a quote may ruin them. So I’ll do a little selection on quotes of those next time, then it’s onto the next book! Whatever that may be!
I loved these two stories, ‘Blumfeld, An Elderly Bachelor’ and ‘A Report To An Academy’. ‘Blumfeld’ is quite slapstick, an example of Kafka’s ability to get humour from the absurd. A bachelor, wondering if he should get a pet but not liking the mess a dog makes, returns home to find two balls in his room, bouncing around and one following the other.
Seems like an early version of Rover from The Prisoner..
‘A Report To An Academy’ is another wonderful example of Kafka writing about animals and giving them human qualities. A captured ape, learns to behave like a human through realising that that is the only way to get out of his cage. Five years later, he tells his story to an audience.
Blumfeld, An Elderly Bachelor
“And sure enough a moment later the ball on the floor also jumps onto the bed. Now I’ve got them, thinks Blumfeld, hot with joy, and tears his dressing gown from his body to throw himself into bed. At that moment, however, the very same ball jumps back under the bed. Overwhelmed with disappointment, Blumfeld almost collapses. Very likely the ball just took a good look around up there and didn’t like it.”
“Like children pushing away blankets that annoy them at night, the balls have apparently spend all night pushing the rugs, with tiny twitching movements, so far away from under the bed that they are now on the parquet, where they can continue making their noise.”
“So, Blumfeld has to call the boy and pronounce his name, a name that to him seems as ludicrous as everything else connected with the child.”
“Unfortunately, the boy had not understood. Blumfeld has tried to make everything particularly clear to this hopelessly dense creature, but for this very reason has repeated everything too often, has in turn too often mentioned keys, room and wardrobe, and as a result the boy stares at him as though he were rather a seducer than his benefactor.”
“Blumfeld on the other hand can’t very well climb down the basement stairs and shout into the charwoman’s ear to make her son for God’s sake relieve him of the balls!”
A Report To An Academy
“…Because I could not help it, because my senses were reeling, called a brief and unmistakable ‘Hallo!‘ breaking into human speech, and with this outburst broke into the human community, and felt its echo: ‘Listen, he’s talking!’ like a caress over the whole of my sweat drenched body.”
“I read an article recently by one of the ten thousand windbags who vent themselves concerning me in the newspapers, saying: my ape nature is not yet quite under control; the proof being that when visitors come to see me, I have a predilection for taking down my trousers to show them where the shot went in. The hand which wrote that should have its fingers shot away one by one. As for me, I can take my trousers down before anyone if I like; you would find nothing but a well-groomed fur and a scar made – let me be particular in the choice of a word for this particular purpose, to avoid misunderstanding – the scar made by a wanton shot. Everything is open and aboveboard; there is nothing to conceal; when the plain truth is in question, great minds discard the niceties of refinement. But if the writer of the article were to take down his trousers before a visitor, that would be quite another story, and I will let it stand to his credit that he does not do it.”
Taken from ‘Blumfeld, An Elderly Bachelor’ translated by Tania and James Stern and ‘A Report To An Academy’ translated by Willa and Edwin Muir.
Available from Amazon UK : http://www.amazon.co.uk/Complete-Short-Stories-Vintage-classics/dp/0749399465/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1247842148&sr=8-1