Kafka’s Freedom

Posted on February 7, 2011


Kafka was a  freedom fighter.  Perhaps because of the arbitrary curtailment of his life his battle seems to have had no point of cessation to demonstrate the extent of his folly.  He knew himself to be a citizen of the infinite imprisoned.  Imprisoned by life he sought eternity:: the control of life’s fundamentals; but it eluded him, despite the fact that he had fully mastered the detail of .  his desires.  Impeccably understood them.  Certainly, freedom stood as a kind of theatre to him: the theatre let’s say, of true human activity, which didn’t exist: that is viewing freedom as if from the vantage of being in himself a free man – because he was not a free man – a contradiction that propelled him into fiction in order that he (so to speak) could recollect that former life (which had never been) from which to summon the actuality of his condition as a free entity.  So this perception was not without its complications, such that we find the interest of this apparently clear easily understood idea revealed under the aegis of the unreality of this journalism of estrangement, let’s call it, that recorded in detail fictional nuance that showed what did not exist and could not do so but which all the same mapped out his soul’s delusions.  The puppet strings – let’s put it this way – that he saw attached to his body, there they were, in consequence of his direct as it were fictional sensation; in the committment to being free, they became visible to him; for they were things that he knew not to be of his own invention; he knew this to be so, that these strings existed, howsoever hallucinatory they must have seemed to him sometimes because he remained convinced of their reality at every new turn in his life, as the confirmation of his fictional accounts in fact attested to, and since this can easily be understood and observed in each and every one of his stories of course, because these at least were material, thus do we have the record of his battles.  The alertness, and the sensibility and let’s call them,  let’s say the desires, that he had, to want to be free, the power of this need in him granted him the access to an intelligence, that produced the insight itself: – admittedly, it has to be said that this was of a slightly unusual kind, in that it was so circumstantial as to seem to contradict the very generality of the idea that it happened to be offered in support of: but in any case it can be supposed that he believed himself unlikely to be understood.  But it was through the act of tugging back on these metaphorical strings that he learned to enter the world of literature, because to a certain degree a quite clear more or less visible effect got produced; he heard the hubbub and consternation that he caused at the other end of these strings, the eloquent squawking that is our only evidence that something is not quite right but which – if we are maintain our own private integrity to any real extent – all the same we have to ignore in so far as were we to pay too much attention to this state of affairs then an even greater condition of helplessness could be expected so that what would be the likely result would be a far less desirable and possibly even grimmer than otherwise outcome.  But of course when Kafka was putting all this down in the form of pen and ink this was at that time, as it still is now, hardly something that could be spoken about, even in the context of a vague allusion; puppets have to wait for the master before they can mimic the actions of speech; we cannot even raise our eyes off the floor never mind speak, without somebody else’s say so – no more now than we could then; and we can hardly even speak about them at all – and after all in any case who are these people ? — most of the time – even when discussing these writings in which the puppet strings are so clearly described, themselves; because without you finding yourself carted off to an asylum how could you possibly be ‘right’ about what is to be found so precisely delineated in The Process?  If in some simultaneous sense these strings or these prison bars both do and do not exist, because of some sort of force that both is and isn’t in control of us and cannot be so because it is in fact imaginary – yet still it must be real, because and while things play themselves out over the period of a lifetime always out of our control, always unpredictable – we never gain much more than a sentimental image of our lives; in being fed peanuts; how then can this then be discussed rationally in the absence of real matters of fact?  Kafka faced this curious literary liberation: the freedom of not being the man in chains that he was describing that the act of writing about himself granted.  So that he found a way of registering this imprisonment by those things that were categorically outside literature, in so far as literature itself is a freedom, in the fables, or the parables, the fantasies that he devised, that he constructed out of the unresolved and un-resolvable enigmas that such a conflict created: again, as we find these in The Trial; or in The Castle; or in America or the Missing Person; or in A Report to the Academy; or in The Great Wall; and so on; these images depicted with such dream-like clarity that we seem to remember them having actually happened.  This is why his writing hits home.  He knew that he was in chains, as most of us don’t, partly because we seem to be obliged to believe that any such a condition can only be an absurdity however accurately it is outlined.  Quite correctly of course.  From the thinking that our lives are more or less volitional: ordinary; known; free; how could such a state of affairs ever be deduced?  Kafka’s writings are of greater importance than Freud’s, in this sense.  (Because he was so acutely aware of what was at stake.)  A Message from the Emperor.  Take this as the example: what does this parable tell us?  (Cf  Zeno.  Zeno.  Zeno.  Zeno.  Or whoever he is.)  It encapsulates our desire for freedom, by its clear implication, in the form of its supposition of the unconditionally free man – the emperor himself – being free to instruct the outside world.  In this unconditionally free man is to be described a person engaged in the sublime act of sending us the message of freedom’s iota – so: The message of freedom! – but yet it still remains simultaneously obvious equally how the opposite is true too: how we must take into account the impossibility of ever hearing what the Emperor has to say; because of the vast distances that his words must travel.  Think of them!  How do they so much as even clear the the first courtyard they must travel across, these words?  The distances, the distances preclude it, the idea of these words, the words that the Emperor has entrusted to his messenger, in full flight, these words, so perfectly encapsulating the concept of freedom, the idea of these ever actually being announced to us, by a man covered in road dust – pffft!!! So this shows us how, even as we think of this freedom, as spoken in these silent whisperings, imagining what the emperor has said, even as we think upon this, of this greatness of the superlative, of the gold of the very coin of freedom, we remain as we are, because we are freedom’s mere dreamers, at the end of a day or at the end of an afternoon of work.  We sit there of an evening, the sun catching us through a window: shining on us, its last rays reaching from the edge of the horizon; but we can only dream of this thing, that someone has called freedom, it can only be supposed actual, as we await our condition’s final outcome.

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