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March Books 14) The Castle, by Franz Kafka

Nirgends noch hatte K. Amt und Leben so verflochten gesehen wie hier, so verflochten, daß es manchmal scheinen konnte, Amt und Leben hätten ihre Plätze gewechselt.
Nowhere else had K. ever seen one's official position and one's life so intertwined as they were here, so intertwined that it sometimes seemed as though office and life had switched places.
Kafka's unfinished novel, published in contravention of his dying wishes, is generally known as The Castle in English, and indeed that is the sense in which the word Schloß is generally used in the text. But Schloß also means "lock", and it is close to Schluß which means "end" or "closure". In one of Agatha Christies barmy later novels, the hero reflects, "’What a nice word it is. A Schloss. So solid-sounding." These are the nuances one loses in translation. (Note also how Amt is translated two different ways in the quote above, neither very graceful.) Unfortunately I am not courageous enough to tackle it in the original.

The book itself was different from my expectations. I had somehow imagined a story of crushing omnipresent bureaucracy; but in fact it's a tale of a society under constant threat from an oppressive authority which is distant and largely absent, and encountered only in baffling and frustrating ways; but its effect on the villagers is to put everyone on edge and cause ordinary relationships to be distorted, men and women both desperate to prove that they don't care for authority and also conscious that they must buckle to it. It's a shame that it isn't finished, but we know where it is going and where it has been - it finishes in mid-sentence, "...mühselig sprach sie, man hatte Mühe sie zu verstehen, aber was sie sagte" - "...she spoke with difficulty, it was hard to understand her, but what she said" - and there it ends.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
redfiona99
Mar. 30th, 2013 09:02 pm (UTC)
>>(Note also how Amt is translated two different ways in the quote above, neither very graceful.)<< That's one of the reasons I get very annoyed when English speakers say that German isn't a complex language.
nwhyte
Mar. 30th, 2013 09:41 pm (UTC)
Good lord, I must say that is practically the least well-founded complaint I can imagine making about a language with three genders, four cases, arbitrarily long compound nouns and rigid but numerous rules about word order!!!!
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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