(Radiance) (Possibility) (Religion) Kafka Complete Stories


I was sort of expecting to find it, and there it was: religion in Kafka. What I did not expect to find was modal possibility, meaning that “the religious” in Kafka’s stories is bound up with possibility. Bear in mind that the religion in Kafka has nothing to do with community, justice, God, hope, mercy, or salvation. The king remains encased in his own transcendent palace or place. The religion in Kafka is religion as radiance. It’s just not often pretty, like the radiance of the person committed to the apparatus in “The Penal Colony” during the sixth hour (p.154).

But “everything is possible,” open to sensation and to the “power of apprehension” (p.194). Sometimes those dogs can conjure music out of thin air and soar, those dogs can soar. “Oh, the music these dogs made almost drove me out of my senses!” (“Investigation of a Dog”) (p.184).

“Could there be a conspiracy to fool me? But after that I saw the dog musicians with my own eyes, and from that day I  considered everything possible, no prejudices  fettered my powers of apprehension, I investigated the most senseless rumors, following them as far as they could tale me, and the most senseless seemed to me in this senseless world more probable than the sensible…But far more strange to my mind is the senselessness , the dumb senselessness of these existences. They have no relation whatever to the general life of the community, they hover in the aid, and this all, and life goes on its usual way…Why do they hover up there, letting their legs, the pride of dogs, fall into desuetude, preserving a detachment form the nourishing earth, reaping  without having sowed?…`That is true’ remarks someone, ‘but their contributions are wordless and wearisome.’ The reply to that is a shrug, or a change of the subject, or annoyance, or laughter…One does not even know where they come from..The facts, however, show that there are always new soaring dogs in evidence” (p.294-6).

Again, “it is indeed this greater sense of possibility that moves us so deeply whe  we listen to those old and strangely simple stories” (p.299). Is this about as much religion as anyone really ever should ever need?



About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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