Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Kafka: On reading and writing

We named our bull dog Kafka, and, in pursuit of learning more about our puppy's namesake, I discovered Kathi Diamant's book, "Kafka's Last Love." The nonfiction book focuses a lot on Kafka's last year in life, and it provided a lot of insight into who the man was... someone who wasn't ever satisfied by what he wrote and didn't want any of his works published. Thankfully Max Brod did publish his works.

While most of "Kafka's Last Love" focuses on Kafka and his relationship to Dora Diamant, Kafka can't be discussed without referencing his thoughts on writing, a pursuit he was incredibly passionate about.

One of my favorite, thought-provoking passages:
"I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we're reading doesn't wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading for? So that it will make us happy? Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books, and the kind of books that make us happy are the kind we could write ourselves, if we had to. But we need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the ax for the frozen sea inside us. That is my belief." (Pg 69).

That's not to say happy endings shouldn't exist in novels, I don't think. But novels should make us question and look at our lives more closely. And I think you very well could substitute "reading" for "writing" in this quote by Kafka.

Do you agree with Kafka? Why do you read? Write? Do you write about what disturbs you and moves you -- or is writing and reading for you pure escapism?

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