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Sunday, January 18, 2009

"Not a word of contradiction!" is said to some children


This post is dedicated to all of those who struggle with sad memories from childhood. It's from Franz Kafka's Letter to his father. There are some excerpts here.

"The impossibility of getting on calmly together had one more result, actually a very natural one: I lost the capacity to talk. I daresay I would not have become a very eloquent person in any case, but I would, after all, have acquired the usual fluency of human language. But at a very early stage you forbade me to speak. Your threat, "Not a word of contradiction!" and the raised hand that accompanied it have been with me ever since. What I got from you—and you are, whenever it is a matter of your own affairs, an excellent talker—was a hesitant, stammering mode of speech, and even that was still too much for you, and finally I kept silent, at first perhaps out of defiance, and then because I could neither think nor speak in your presence. And because you were the person who really brought me up, this has had its repercussions throughout my life. It is altogether a remarkable mistake for you to believe I never complied with your wishes. "Always contrary" was really not my basic principle where you were concerned, as you believe and as you reproach me. On the contrary: if I had obeyed you less, I am sure you would have been much better pleased with me. As it is, all your educational measures hit the mark exactly. There was no hold I tried to escape. As I now am, I am (apart, of course, from the fundamentals and the influence of life itself) the result of your upbringing and of my obedience. That this result is nevertheless distressing to you, indeed that you unconsciously refuse to acknowledge it as the result of your methods of upbringing, is due to the fact that your hand and the material I offered were so alien to each other. You would say: "Not a word of contradiction!" thinking that that was a way of silencing the oppositional forces in me that were disagreeable to you, but the effect of it was too strong for me, I was too docile, I became completely dumb, cringed away from you, hid from you, and only dared to stir when I was so far away from you that your power could no longer reach me—at least not directly. But you were faced with all that, and it all seemed to you to be "contrary," whereas it was only the inevitable consequence of your strength and my weakness."

This is specially for you my dear friend who is haunted by some memories but dared to stay far away from them and has turned into a great man.

10 comments:

Anonymous Drifter said...

Kafka is one of my favorite authors.

Ana said...

He's great!

Radagast said...

I've only ever read "The Trial," as part of our introductory reading, when I read Law. It was supposed to convey to us what the legal process was like, for the uninitiated!

Anyway, judging by this piece, he was a very perceptive guy.

Matt

Ana said...

In his letter to father he does an analysis on how his father has not only affected him but his whole family.
He never send the letter.
I like some short stories and his "In the Penal Colony" is great.
But it's strange using Kafka to talk about legal process.

susan said...

Loved the Metamorphosis.

Hi Ana!

Ana said...

Wow!
I'm missing you.
Don't leave me!
You're very important to me!!!!!

susan said...

I am not going anywhere. I am feeling better from the cold.......... just slept a lot the last few days, as you do when you have a cold and had the furr ball next to me.

I missed you too on the blogosphere sweetie. Love to you and Nell.

BAARK BARK

Ana said...

I'm sure Holly is taking good care of you!
Love to you and her.

Radagast said...

Well, Joseph K is completely in the dark, throughout, isn't he? He's not allowed to see the evidence against him, nor who's denounced him. And he's not allowed to know anything about the process. His defence is conducted by a lawyer, who also is not allowed to see the "damning" evidence, and is thus also operating in the dark, trying to guess what needs to be said, to defend Joseph.

And then there's the trial itself, where the machinations of the courtroom are utterly impenetrable to the uninitiated. On one occasion, Joseph visits a courtroom, and it appears to be just a whole bunch of people shouting at one another.

And then he's found guilty, and he's executed, without ever knowing what it was that he was supposed to have done. It was supposed to be a metaphor, I think, for the perplexing, anxiety-inducing nature of the legal process, notwithstanding due process.

Matt

Ana said...

It's been a long time I've read it.
I've post "Before the Law"
http://justana-justana.blogspot.com/2008/08/before-law-kafka.html
He is always trying to show how justice is unachievable.
Perplexity, yes.
"where the machinations of the courtroom are utterly impenetrable to the uninitiated"
Yes!