Who is ‘He’…Kafka or… Someone…Else? Maurice Blanchot and Paul Auster’s Childish Fascination with ‘Him’

When I first read Paul Auster’s “Pages for Kafka,” I was struck by the fact that, although he mentioned Kafka’s name in his title, he didn’t make any reference to Kafka’s name throughout the piece.  Instead, Auster refers to “he” and “him” repeatedly. Here is one instance, which I cited in my last blog entry: […]

Imperative or Description? On Roland Barthes’ Notion of The Neutral in Minimalist Art and Ethical Minimalism

  I can’t seem to get smallness out of my mind.  It’s not simply an obsession.  The Kabbalists of Safed and also Kafka knew that.  The notion of “tsimtsum” (also spelled “tzimtzum”), in particular, addresses smallness and contraction in terms of a dynamic (a movement from one state to another).  It emerges in JS Foer’s recent […]

Chronicles of Smallness, or Becoming “Infrathin” in the Digital World

Translating Charles Baudelaire and Walter Benjamin’s notion of the flaneur into the language of the digital world, Kenneth Goldsmith argues that the flaneur “is hardwired into the ethos of the Internet”(65, Wasting Time on the Internet).    We are, like the flanuer, constantly “browsing.” But as we do we become smaller and less noticeable.   Goldsmith, drawing […]

A Note on Smallness, Memory & Comedy in Walter Benjamin’s “Berlin Childhood” and Stuart Ross’s “Snowball, Dragonfly, Jew”

At the outset of Berlin Childhood around 1900, Walter Benjamin suggests that something out of his past was calling to him and that he had decided to surrender himself to it.  His memory has a narcotic affect.  But it is teaching him something.  Peter Szondi argues that, for Benjamin, the “search for time past is […]

He Says I Look Like a Jew: Anti-Semitism, Misfortune, and Crypto-Jewishness in Robert Walser’s “Jakob Von Gunten”

  What I love about a great novelist is his or her ability to surprise the reader.  However, sometimes the surprise throws everything the reader thought about the writer into question.  This is especially prescient when the main character of his or her novels is often someone we find charming, pitiable, and yet insightful.  What […]