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Kafka and the Book of Job

Making That Connection
Making that connection. By Detlef.
Reading “Politik” by Friedrich Dürrenmatt (Zürich 1998), I found a connection between Franz  Kafka and the enigmatic book of Job.

Richard Reeve referred to Job in our discussion about a slogan by Yogi Bhajan about how god is to be seen in all things and all deeds – a statement I reject.

The book of Job exemplifies that “Thou shalt not judge god” – which I try to accept as part of the human condition, although I have my difficulties with the notion of a good, beneficial and almighty God. Okay: Thou shalt not judge. Thou cannot judge.

In his essay “Nachrichten vom Schloss”  (News from the Castle), referring to Kafka’s novel “The Castle”, Dürrenmatt depicts Kafka as a religious writer, which never came to my mind before. The utterly absurd, “kafkaesque” world of the castle signifying that God’s actions have to seem senseless to us – as we are not equipped to make that “higher sense”.

Okay: I’m still misunderstanding – not “higher sense”: no sense at all. Since I refuse to see any sense in e.g. the holocaust, let alone a higher one. The presence of evil in a world created by a good, almighty God remains a mystery to me. Yet the connection to Kafka helps to ponder, to meditate on it.

  1. February 21, 2009 at 7:09 am

    In the “Answer to Job”, Jung challenges us to reframe our notion of God based on Job’s insights. His idea: that Job’s attains through his awareness of God’s “backside” and that this recognition forced on the plane of the divine drama the need for the incarnation. The point being that the human relationship alters the divine drama. If you do like pondering these things, I highly recommend this short gem of a book to stimulate any meditations in this direction…

  2. February 21, 2009 at 8:02 am

    I’ve always seen Kafka as a spiritual, if not a religious, writer. The whole notion of “being before the law” seems deeply rooted in Jewish tradition.

    I read the issue is that human rationality is unable to comprehend the divine. Kafka’s prose is always subremely rational and matter of fact. His topics are irrational and horrifying. It is the tension between the style and the content that creates Kafka’s power.

    The American joke is about the student who having done well in German picks up Der Prozess as vacation reading. He comes to his professor his first day back to ask “What did I miss?” Only to be told that he grasped the language, but the tale.

  3. February 22, 2009 at 12:10 am

    Richard, I will look up Jung’s book at the library. Although from your summary I’d gather Jung still tries to make sense where sense must fail. I tend to read the Book of Job from the viewpoint of Job’s first children.

  4. February 22, 2009 at 12:34 am

    Sid, you are right, let me tell you why I was wrong. The emotion attached to my first Kafka reception was anger. I was misunderstanding. At school and university there were two dominant schools of thought I had to deal with: Marxism/ Socialism and Existentialism. I didn’t like and disputed both, but that was the intellectual currency in the seventies and eighties in Germany. Kafka “obviously” belonging to Existentialism I dismissed him. He made no sense to me. His writing was powerful and impressive – but that angered me all the more: “If you write so beautifully – why can’t you write something that’s intellectually relevant to me? Like e.g. Saul Bellow does?” Those were my juvenile thoughts.

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