Kafka and Kierkegaard’s Abrahams or the Knight of Faith versus the Schlemiel – Take 2

By way of a comic narrator, Kafka’s readings of Abraham and his creation of “other Abrahams” are educational: they teach us how the other Abrahams are.  I would suggest that, for Kafka, his Abrahams are schlemiels who, while acknowledging Kierkegaard’s Passionate Knight of Faith, also offer a challenge to it.  Instead of passion and concentration […]

“Is Franz Here?” Kafka’s Revision and Personalization of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav’s Schlemiel Narrative

Kafka read the Hasidic masters by way of Martin Buber’s translations. And of the Hasidic masters he read, Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav was, without a doubt, the most literary.   As Ruth Wisse and David Roskies point out, he made the Hasidic story (or parable) into something literary rather than something merely anecdotal.   To be sure, […]

Little Tricks: Revising Myths and Warping Fairy Tales in Kafka’s Parables and Sheila Heti’s Postmodern Fables – Part I

One of the major tasks of the modern Enlightenment project is to “demythologize.” As a part of this project all types of myths are challenged. They need not be changed by science, the humanities, and psychology, however. The greatest battling ground for challenging mythology may be in the medium that is used to convey myth; […]

Losing Time and One’s Way… but Finding Laughter: On Kafka’s “Give it Up!”

At the outset of his book Franz Kafka: Parable and Paradox, Heinz Politzer cites a Kafka manuscript piece which Max Brod, in 1936, published under the title “Give it Up!”  Politzer points out that Kafka didn’t give it this title; Brod did.  In fact, Kafka called it “A Commentary.”    Politzer uses this parable as the […]

Kierkegaard’s “Happy” Birthday: “Repetition’s Love is the Only Happy Love”

Circa 1843, Soren Kierkegaard published a book called Repetition.   When one thinks of Kierkegaard, one usually thinks of anxiety, impossible existential dilemmas, and binding of Isaac.  These things, by and large, don’t evoke the image of happiness. However, in Repetition, he entertains the possibility of happiness through the idea of repetition. Today is Kierkegaard’s […]

A Schlemiel Mystic on East Broadway

Philosophers, mystics, and schlemiels have something in common. They are all, in some way, detached from the world and aloof. In Plato’s Theaetetus, there is a telling tale about a Thracian servant girl who laughs at Thales, the philosopher; who, while gazing at the stars, falls down a well. Socrates Why, take the case of […]