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The Cafe Irreal: Irreal (Re)views

A response to "On avoiding a Kafkaesque fate"

by G.S. Evans

As a way of elaborating one of David's points, I would like to ask the following: If Franz Kafka would have had the opportunity, would he have taken advantage of the Authors Guild's generous offer of a free website? And, secondly, what would he have thought about this little advertisement, and its absurdly erroneous depiction of his life and, especially, death? To the first question, anyone familiar with Kafka's life and work would have to conclude that the answer would be: No, he wouldn't have been particularly attracted by an offer of a website. At least not for any of the reasons offered by the Authors Guild. Kafka always chose writing, and especially the act of writing--from which he derived so much meaning and satisfaction--over the fame and fortune that the advertisement seems to promise. That he chose it over the promise of fame is evidenced by the fact that publishers actually pursued Kafka to send them more material, he was however too much of a perfectionist to send them anything except what he considered his best work; and that he chose it over fortune we can see in the fact that Kafka, a lawyer capable of making a considerable income, chose to work part-time so he could devote himself more to writing. I might also mention, to emphasize this point, that Kafka's celebrated issues with women did not arise because he, a law graduate from a prestigious university with a secure position at a respected insurance firm, somehow wasn't attractive to, or pursued by, women. Nor did they arise because he was, as is also often implied, some kind of a nerd who didn't know how to act around women. Rather he shied away from marriage and family, at least in part, because he knew well what those demands would do to his writing, the very least of which would be that the additional financial demands of such a household would require that he work full-time.

As for the content of the advertisement, one supposes that Kafka would have been amused, though perhaps also angered by its erroneous depiction of his life. Just to emphasize one key point: Kafka did not die penniless. Granted a generous early retirement because of his health condition, Kafka was able to travel to and spend time at a variety of sanitoria and spas, located both at home and abroad.

He would, however, have surely appreciated the absurdity of an organization that is supposed to advocate for writers distorting the events of his very writerly life to promote a self-promotional approach to writing that he didn't share.

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