Autodidact: self-taught


Kafka: “Wedding Preparations in the Country”

by V. L. Craven

This one is about the difference between how others see us and how we actually are… I think. It’s difficult to know, as several pages of the manuscript were missing. On the outside, it’s about a man who lives in the city making the arduous journey to the countryside where he’s to make preparations for his wedding. He’s full of doubt and anxiety about the entire endeavour, though we find out in the end that people see him in quite a different light.

At first, I thought it was unfair that Kafka led us on such a roundabout journey, which became as difficult for the reader as it was for the protagonist, when in the end—the very last paragraph, in fact—we finally get the point of the story.

Perhaps on another level it’s about reality versus perception, as the travelling that need be done in order to get to the countryside isn’t really all that strenuous, it’s only made so by our man out of fear and dislike of the countryside.

-7- The lady…now looked at him. She did so indifferently, and she was perhaps, in any case, only looking at the falling rain in front of him or at the small nameplates of firms that were fixed to the door over his head. Raban thought she looked amazed. “Well,” he thought, “if I could tell her the whole story, she would ceased to be astonished. One works so feverishly at the office that afterwards one is too tired even to enjoy one’s holidays properly. But even all that work does not give one a claim to be treated lovingly by everyone; on the contrary, one is alone, a total stranger and only an object of curiosity. And so long as you say ‘one’ instead of ‘I’, there’s nothing in it and one can easily tell the story; but as soon as you admit to yourself that it is you yourself, you feel as though transfixed and horrified.”

-8- Then it seemed to Raban that he would get through the long bad time of the next fortnight, too. For it was only a fortnight, that was to say, a limited period, and even if the annoyances grew ever greater, still, the time during which one had to endure them would be growing shorter and shorter. Thus, undoubtedly, courage would increase. “All the people who try to torment me, and who have now occupied the entire space around me, will quite gradually be thrust back by the beneficent passage of these days, without my having to help them even in the very least. And, as it will come about quite naturally, I can be weak and quiet and let everything happen to me, and yet everything must turn out well, through the sheer fact of the passing of the days. And besides, can’t I do it the way I always used to as a child in matters that were dangerous? I don’t even need to go to the country myself, it isn’t necessary. I’ll send my clothed body. If it staggers out of the door of my room, the staggering will indicate not fear but nothingness. Nor is it a sign of excitement if it stumbles on the stairs, if it travels into the country, sobbing as it goes, and there eats its supper in tears.”

-9- “…I shall make them angry if I try to pacify them. Oh, if I could only make them thoroughly angry in the attempt to pacify them.”

-10- There was the omnibus; he quickly climbed into the empty compartment, sat down by the windowpane behind the driver’s box, and hunched his back into the corner, for he had done all that was necessary. For if the driver is asleep, he will wake up toward morning; if he is dead, then a new driver will come, or the innkeeper, and should that not happen either, then passengers will come by early morning train, people in a hurry, making a noise. In any case one can be quiet, one may even draw the curtains over the windows and wait for the jerk with which the vehicle must start.

-11- …it was really wasting one’s time to stand about here in this hall, looking at the rain, but if one spent the time, besides, in chatter, one was wasting it double.

-12- Now Raban had believed for some time that nothing other people said about his capabilities or opinions had been able to affect him, on the contrary, that he had positively abandoned the position where he had listened, all submissively, to everything that was said, so that people were now simply wasting their breath whether they happened to be against him or for him.

-13- …books are useful in every sense and quite especially in respects in which one would not expect it. For when one is about to embark on some enterprise, it is precisely the books whose contents have nothing at all in common with the enterprise that are the most useful. For the reader…will be stimulated by the book to all kinds of thoughts concerning his enterprise. Now, however, since the contents of the book are precisely something of utter indifferent, the reader is not at all impeded in those thoughts, and he passes through the midst of the book with the,. As once the Jews passed through the Red Sea…

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