One has just been sent out as a biblical dove, has found nothing green, and slips back
into the darkness of the ark -- Kafka

Saturday, June 11, 2011

I Returned to Flaubert Because of Kafka

Not because of Pound or Coetzee or...

For some time I'd kept this notion in my head: In his diaries Kafka oftentimes uses Flaubert as a measuring rod (in going back I see now that he keeps using Flaubert and Grillparzer--a writer I know next to nothing about--in the same breath). There are also several allusions to L'Education sentimentale, which is why I started there.

Here's Kafka writing about Moses and the ending of  Sentimental Education:

19 October.  The essence of the Wandering in the Wilderness. A man who leads his people along this way with a shred (more is unthinkable) of consciousness of what is happening. He is on the track of Canaan all his life; it is incredible that he should see the land only when on the verge of death. This dying vision of it can only be intended to illustrate how incomplete a moment is human life, incomplete because a life like this could last forever and still be nothing but a moment. Moses fails to enter Canaan not because his life is too short but because it is a human life. This ending of the Pentateuch bears a resemblance to the final scene of L'Education sentimentale.
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