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Wednesday 9 March 2011

Franz Kafka: The Next Village


The Wire-drawing Mill: Albrecht Dürer, c. 1489 (Staatliche Museum, Berlin)

My grandfather used to say: "Life is astoundingly short. To me, looking back over it, life seems so foreshortened that I scarcely understand, for instance, how a young man can decide to ride over to the next village without being afraid that -- not to mention accidents -- even the span of a normal happy life may fall far short of the time needed for such a journey."

The Return of the Herd (November): Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1565 (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna)

Franz Kafka: The Next Village (Das nächste Dorf), 1919, translated by Willa and Edwin Muir in The Penal Colony: Stories and Short Pieces, 1948


Anonymous said...

These words placed between these images make all the sense in the world to me. I never fail to marvel at Albrecht Durer's surpassing genius. He astounds but also makes it look so natural and easy. I'm never sure whether he's a perfect window or an actual set of new eyes. In my case, the latter (and having Durer's eyes) would be a great delight and an improvement.

TC said...


I am happy that you have your own eyes, they are excellent.

So glad you like the Dürer. Sheer genius. Somewhere between that sense of the clarity of the impossible distance to the next village and the Bruegel vision of the obscurity of that same distance, possibly some of the complications of the Kafka riddle/parable might be planted -- but of course up would then inevitably spring more complications still.

Really the challenge here was to get the two images to begin to do for the Kafka piece something words could never do, because it is already such a knotty, irreducible little element, hard as a diamond, dark as a cloudy night.

(That is, I mean, "say something about it".)