Selections from the shorter stories – Franz Kafka

Book: The Complete Short Stories of Franz Kafka.
Status: Read

Here is a selection of quotes from the shorter stories included in this book. I’ve had to leave out a lot of my favourite stories due to them being so short!
Discovering Kafka, I realise what myths surround him, how much he’s over-analysed and misconstrued. Put into so many different catagories, labelled, picked apart. The ‘Kafkaesque’ myth has overshadowed even the man himself.
His stories are him, his subconscious. You’re getting to know a man, not an ethos. So, I know that reading Kafka brings some connotations – highbrow, existentialist, etc.. but my advice is to start with the shorter stories such as these, and get to know the real Kafka. Put all your preconceptions of him behind you.
‘The Trial’ is amazing, a masterpiece, as is everything else he’s known for – but you get to see the real diversity, mystery and beauty in his work when you read more of these. Anyway.. rant over! These quotes come from the following stories – ‘Children on a Country Road’, ‘The Way Home’, ‘Unmasking A Confidence Trickster’, ‘Resolutions’, ‘Unhappiness’, ‘The Bucket Rider’ and ‘A Crossbreed’.
As you can see, ‘Unhappiness’ is a particular favourite of mine.. I could quote the whole conversation with the ghost! It’s very comical!

Children on a Country Road

“Then birds flew up as if in showers, I followed them with my eyes and saw how high they soared in one breath, till I felt not that they were rising but that I was falling, and holding fast to the ropes began to swing a little out of sheer weakness. Soon I was swinging more strongly as the air blew colder and instead of soaring birds trembling stars appeared.”

The Way Home

“I stride along and my tempo is the tempo of all my side of the street, of the whole street, of the whole quarter. Mine is the responsibility, and rightly so, for all the raps on doors or on the flat of a table, for all toasts drunk, for lovers in their beds, in the scaffolding of new buildings, pressed to each other against the house walls in dark alleys, or on the divans of a brothel.”

Unmasking a Confidence Trickster

“’Well!’ I said, and clapped my hands to show that I really had to bid him goodbye. I had already made several less explicit attempts to get rid of him. I was tired out.”

Resolutions

“To lift yourself out of a miserable mood, even if you have to do it by strength of will, should be easy. I force myself out of my chair, stride around the table, exercise my head and neck, make my eyes sparkle, tighten the muscles around them. ..”

“Yet even if I manage that, one single slip, and a slip cannot be avoided, will stop the whole process, easy and painful alike, and I will have to shrink back into my own circle again.”

Unhappiness

“When it was becoming unbearable – once towards evening in November – and I ran along the narrow strip of carpet in my room as on a racetrack, shrank from the sight of the lit-up street, then turning to the interior of the room found a new goal in the depths of the looking glass and screamed aloud, to hear only my own scream which met no answer…”

“’…Besides, you know that as well as I do. Now Let me shut the door.’
‘Why, what’s the matter with you? I don’t mind if the whole house comes in. Anyhow, as I told you, I’ve already shut the door, do you think you’re the only person who can shut doors? I’ve even turned the key in the lock.’”

“’That I can well believe; that’s no great discovery. No stranger could come any nearer to you than I am already by nature. You know that, too, so why all this pathos? If you’re only wanting to stage a comedy I’ll go away immediately.’
‘What? You have the impudence to tell me that? You make a little too bold. After all, it’s my room you’re in. It’s my wall you’re rubbing your fingers on like mad. My room, my wall! And besides, what you are saying is ridiculous as well as impudent. You say your nature forces you to speak to me like that. Is that so? Your nature forces you? That’s kind of your nature. Your nature is mine, and if I feel friendly to you by nature, then you mustn’t be anything else.’”

“And I went to the table and lit the candle on it. At that time I had neither gas nor electric in my room. Then I sat for a while at the table till I got tired of it, put on my greatcoat, took my hat from the sofa, and blew out the candle. As I went out I tripped over the leg of a chair.”

“’What can I do?’ I said, ‘I’ve just had a ghost in my room.’
‘You say that exactly as if you had just found a hair in your soup.’”

The Bucket Rider

“’But I’m sitting up here on the bucket,’ I cry, and numb, frozen tears dim my eyes, ‘please look up here, just once; you’ll see me directly; I beg you, just a shovelful; and if you give me more It’ll make me happy so I won’t know what to do. All the other customers are provided for. Oh, if only I could hear the coal clattering into the bucket!’”

A Crossbreed

“Once when, as may happen to anyone, I could see no way out of my business problems and all that they involved, and was ready to let everything go, and in this mood was lying in my rocking chair in my room, the beast on my knees, I happened to glance down and saw tears dropping down its huge whiskers. Were they mine, or were they the animal’s?
Had this cat, along with the soul of a lamb, the ambitions of a human being?”

Taken from ‘The Complete Short Stories -Franz Kafka’, 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

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4 thoughts on “Selections from the shorter stories – Franz Kafka

  1. Your advice is spot on about starting with this collection and putting preconceptions behind you. I’m so glad I did. Had I come across “Kafka’s counter-metamorphosis of the metaphor in the metamorphosis is inspired by his fundamental objection to the metaphor …” I doubt I would have read any Kafka at all (but would i have read this if I hadn’t already started reading the short stories!!!) I’m up to ‘a report to an academy’ I’m making him last….

    • niftybooks says:

      I’m so glad you’re enjoying the book, you have no idea! And exactly, that is a great example… I was totally perplexed when you showed me that sentence, haha.
      Such things make him almost intimidating. Which is ironic as he constantly compared himself to small animals, making himself tiny and insignificant, rather than this complicated literary giant we think of.
      I know his work often screams “analyse me!!” and some of it is fascinating when looked at from all different angles but… you just get tangled up after a while!

      I’m making him last too, I’ve got Amerika, the Parables, Aphorisms to read yet.. then it’s onto the letters and diaries! Slowly but surely…

      • read the diary entries which covered the period around metamorphosis. It’s interesting to know some of his feelings and thoughts that produced great stories.

        • niftybooks says:

          I’ve got all the diaries and letters, haven’t read them all the way through (I’m making myself read the fiction first) but I couldn’t resist a peek.. they’re fascinating!
          Some are dark, some are hilarious. They’re all a great insight to such a complex man. I’d definitely recommend the Letters to Felice, Letters to Milena and the Letter To My Father..

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