“The Incomprehensibility of the World and the Inextricability of the Guilt: Lessons from Kafka” (CANCELLED)

16 May 2018; 16:00-1800

Senate House – Room 246


Our competence as Kafka’s readers does not consist in our ability to discover hidden messages or hidden links with the author’s biography, but in our sensitivity for the situations in which Kafka’s protagonists find themselves – which cannot have any other source than (and should not be separated from) our sensitivity for the situations we experience in our everyday lives. I will focus on a few selected parameters of these situations: their physical components (or: various ways in which they are physically constituted); their specific (“Kafkaesque“) strangeness; the corresponding inability of Kafka’s protagonists to find a way of behaving which would fit into these situations; and the readers’ inability to make sense, in ordinary pragmatic terms, of these situations. The latter does not amount to inability to understand Kafka’s text and to get access to its literary functions (which should be compensated by discovering its „hidden sense“), neither it undermines our ability to relate these functions to our own everyday experience. On the contrary, the key function of the text consists precisely in this: the failures of our attempts to make sense of the Kafkian situations  should remind us about the incomprehensibility of our own world  – precisely like the collapses of our attempts at continuous reading of late Beckett’s texts are supposed to let us experience various sides of the universal mess (the literary work being part and product of this mess). The incomprehensibility of Kafkian situations and of the world they are anchored in implies the “inextricability of the guilt” (structurally analogical to Quine’s inextricability of meaning) – in that sense that it is impossible to identify those elements of the protagonist’s biography which constitute his guilt and separate them from the „innocent“ rest.