Kafka’s Dick – Alan Bennett

T.S.Eliot will follow tomorrow – I like to break things up a little! – so here is something else I’ve read recently.

Book: Kafka’s Dick – Alan Bennett
Status: Read

Being both an avid Kafka reader and Bennett reader, imagine my joy when I found out that the two were combined in Alan Bennett’s play, ‘Kafka’s Dick’! Apart from being a wonderful comedy with a title that makes you blush to say out-loud, it’s also a clever example of the nature of fame. Are we so obsessed with the lives and personal details of our ‘celebrities’ that we actually dwell upon that and almost ignore the brilliance of their work? And of course, Franz Kafka is a good example of this. Not only has the work itself been over-analysed, pulled apart and put back together again, the man himself and all his neuroses (and body parts?) have been too.

I better do a little summary of the plot because the excerpts will be very confusing otherwise!
The play opens in around 1919, and Franz Kafka is asking his best friend Max Brod to burn all his manuscripts after his death. I think it’s obvious to say, that Brod does not do what is asked of him! Then to Act Two, a house in Yorkshire in the 1980’s lived in by Kafka aficionado Sydney and his wife Linda. Out of the blue, Brod and Kafka turn up – and Brod is faced with the problem that Kafka does not know he’s Kafka, due to Brod not doing what he promised to do.
If that isn’t enough to deal with, Kafka’s father Hermann turns up, threatening to reveal a little secret about his son. A delightful and hilarious read, with a serious message.. Needless to say I will probably do more than one post about this!

“KAFKA: Max.
(Pause.)
BROD: What?
KAFKA: I think I shall die soon.
(BROD says nothing.)
Did you hear me Max?
BROD: Lets cross that bridge when you come to it. You’ve said you were dying before.
KAFKA: I know. But I won’t let you down this time, I promise.
BROD: Kafka, I want you to live.
KAFKA: Forgive me. If I die…
BROD: What’s this if? He says he’s dying then suddenly it’s ‘if’. Don’t you mean ‘when’?”

“KAFKA: Forgive me. I’m a terrible human being.
BROD: Don’t worry about it.
KAFKA: I’m just a dog pretending to be a person, an ape.
BROD: Yeah, yeah. We’ve been through all that. Now try and sleep a little. Come to bed.
KAFKA: I would sleep, only I dream.
BROD: Everybody dreams.
KAFKA: Not like me. I dream the future.”

“BROD: What is this, some kind of interrogation? (Recovering himself) I have to tell you, this is a shy man.
KAFKA: Max, I’m not. He always thought I was shy. I wasn’t. I even went to a nudist colony.
LINDA: That is brave.
BROD: Not if you don’t take your trunks off.”


“SYDNEY is helping to shift the books outside also. SYDNEY often has to retrieve the books right from under KAFKA’s nose.

KAFKA: Excuse me. I… I thought I saw my name.
SYDNEY: Your name? Sorry… (winking at BROD) What was your name again?
KAFKA: Kafka. Franz Kafka.
SYDNEY: No, no. This is Hollywood movie director. Frank Capra.
KAFKA: (Wistfully, looking at the bookshelves) It’s like looking for one’s headstone in a cemetery.
(BROD is carrying another pile of books out when SYDNEY bumps into him and the books go all over the floor.)
KAFKA: What’s that?
SYDNEY: What?
KAFKA: That one. It says Kafka’s Novels.
SYDNEY: This? Kafka’s Novels?  No. Tarzan’s Navel.”

Taken from ‘Kafka’s Dick’ by Alan Bennett.
Available from Amazon UK – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Two-Kafka-Plays-Kafkas-Insurance/dp/0571147275/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1249733976&sr=8-1

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