Kafka: Gleichnis und Paradox (Kafka: Parable and Paradox)
(The paper is a minimally modified version of my B.A. thesis, written 2000. In German.)
[ pdf (215 kB) ] [ Abstract (deutsch) ]
The paper focuses on a special type of Franz Kafka's short prose texts, as exemplified by "Über Gleichnisse".
The predominant approach taken in the research literature is to regard those pieces as self-interpreting and self-reducing ad absurdum: such a text states the general impossibility of interpreting and understanding texts, and thereby demonstrates (because it is, in a sense, an attempt to an interpretation of a text, namely: itself) the impossibility of interpreting itself. So it is in a strong sense paradoxical.
In my paper this approach is critizised from two directions: the idea of a piece of prose as interpreting itself is shown to be incoherent, and an explanation is given of the difficulty in understanding those texts in a consistent way while avoiding the accusation of paradoxicality.
The perspective is then widened to another feature of Kafka's short prose texts which is equally seen as highly characteristical: their frequent possession of a Pointe, or punch line. The most famous example here is, of course, "Vor dem Gesetz", also often referred to as a 'parable'.
Document update: 8 Dec 2001