Kafka, Angry Poet

Pascale Casanova

Translated by Chris Turner


5 x 8 inches, 304pp. March 2015

ISBN : 9780857421623

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‘What,’ asks Pascale Casanova, ‘if Kafka were the most radical of social critics? What if he were concerned with the question of power, particularly in its most invisible form: symbolic power? What if he had actually attempted to pull the wool over our eyes with narratives that are, in fact, subtly deceptive?’


The hypothesis she develops is that Kafka began with an awareness of the tragic fate of the German-speaking Jews of early twentieth-century Prague and was subsequently led to reflect on other forms of power, such as male dominance and colonial oppression. The stories produced as a result were, however, traps for the unwary, throwing the reader off the scent with the use of unreliable—and, indeed, mendacious—narrators. Curiously, says Casanova, it is not in literature that one finds the answers to the questions that she poses, but in German ethnology, a field which, as an intellectual of the Austro-Hungarian empire, Kafka knew well. Through her detailed research, Casanova shows us a novel, combative Kafka who is at once ethnologist and investigator, unstintingly denouncing all forms of domination with the kind of tireless rage that was his hallmark. In so doing, she sheds light on the deep-seated reasons for Kafka’s anger. 

Pascale Casanova is the author of A Study of Samuel Beckett, which won the Grand Prix de l’Essai de la Société des Gens de Lettres (1997), and of the internationally acclaimed The World Republic of Letters (2004). She currently teaches literature as a visiting professor in the Romance Studies Department of Duke University, North Carolina, and is an associate researcher at CRAL-EFISAL, Paris. 


Chris Turner is a writer and translator who lives in Birmingham, England.

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