Sunday, November 18, 2012

Kafka: The Man Who Disappeared

Also known as America. This edition is newly translated by Ritchie Robertson. This is my first foray into Kafka in some time. The first thing that strikes me is that The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro, a wonderful novel by a versatile writer, is not merely Kafkaesque, it is very much written using Kafka's techniques, maybe even an homage to Kafka. Some of these characteristics include the announcement that you are a related to an individual you seem to have met randomly and yet you are expected (you are surprised, the relative is not), a character's long, confident pronouncement seemingly out of nowhere--with no signs to the reader that the character should have that knowledge or the confidence to deliver it, unexplained attachments, and, of course, the inability to find one's way.  In The Unconsoled, Ishiguro's main character, a concert pianist, is looking for a place to practice. Try as he might, he never finds the practice room, but winds (an appropriate descriptive term) up somewhere else where people know and perhaps even expect him. At the very beginning of Ishiguro's novel, the protagonist finds out that he is related to the elderly bell hop. Kafka's main character, Karl Rossman, arrives in America via ship after having been sent away from his German home. He loses himself on board at the time of disembarkation, losing his suitcase while looking for his umbrella.  In the process, he is taken in by the surly and disgruntled "stoker," who Karl confidently helps to make a case to the Captain of the ship, despite having met him minutes earlier, for better treatment and pay. While engaging with the captain and the stoker, another man who has been waiting about, asks Karl who he is and then pronounces himself to be Karl's uncle. The uncle knows every detail of Karl's story, and despite the fact that his name does not fit Karl's recollection or logical expectations, he accepts the fact although he heart broken at having to leave the stoker.

to be serially reviewed ... 

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