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Thursday, April 10, 2008

The One

posted by on April 10 at 13:52 PM

An Imperial Message, a story by Kafka, a writer I generally do not like (if not seen through the conceptual lens of Adorno’s negative mimesis, his major novels do not at all appear interesting to me), is a marvelous jewel. In it we see the alien power and shine of the infinite. In a black box must we keep this jewel, and that box must only be opened when we are in the blackness of a black room. Open and let its strange light illuminate the nothingness of space.

The Emperor, so a parable runs, has sent a message to you, the humble subject, the insignificant shadow cowering in the remotest distance before the imperial sun; the Emperor from his deathbed has sent a message to you alone. He has commanded the messenger to kneel down by the bed, and has whispered the message to him; so much store did he lay on it that he ordered the messenger to whisper it back into his ear again. Then by a nod of the head he has confirmed that it is right. Yes, before the assembled spectators of his death—all the obstructing walls have been broken down, and on the spacious and loftily mounting open staircases stand in a ring the great princes of the Empire—before all these he has delivered his message. The messenger immediately sets out on his journey; a powerful, an indefatigable man; now pushing with his right arm, now with his left, he cleaves a way for himself through the throng; if he encounters resistance he points to his breast, where the symbol of the sun glitters; the way is made easier for him than it would be for any other man. But the multitudes are so vast; their numbers have no end. If he could reach the open fields how fast he would fly, and soon doubtless you would hear the welcoming hammering of his fists on your door. But instead how vainly does he wear out his strength; still he is only making his way through the chambers of the innermost palace; never will he get to the end of them; and if he succeeded in that nothing would be gained; he must next fight his way down the stair; and if he succeeded in that nothing would be gained; the courts would still have to be crossed; and after the courts the second outer palace; and once more stairs and courts; and once more another palace; and so on for thousands of years; and if at last he should burst through the outermost gate—but never, never can that happen—the imperial capital would lie before him, the center of the world, crammed to bursting with its own sediment. Nobody could fight his way through here even with a message from a dead man. But you sit at your window when evening falls and dream it to yourself.

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Posted by Mr. Poe | April 10, 2008 2:08 PM
Posted by chops | April 10, 2008 2:19 PM

you do kafka a massive injustice to judge him only on his ability to mimic the imaginary ideal of art.

Posted by some dude | April 10, 2008 2:21 PM

I think Mr. Poe nailed it.

Posted by Spoogie | April 10, 2008 2:53 PM

Yet another classic Mudede turd shat all over the pages of Slog. Will it never end?

Posted by Bwana | April 10, 2008 3:18 PM

You people are nuts! This is fucking perfection. Thanks for the post, Charles. This totally made my afternoon.

Posted by kid icarus | April 10, 2008 3:57 PM

Red plus purple equals whore.

Posted by Moniker duder | April 10, 2008 4:00 PM

I agree with kid icarus. Magnificent. Thanks, Charles.

Posted by Lincolnish | April 10, 2008 4:54 PM

So what does Kafka look like seen through the conceptual lens of Adorno’s negative mimesis?

Posted by Tim Appelo | April 10, 2008 6:04 PM

Good question, Tim. But hell, that's a wonderful story. Thanks, Charles, for putting it up, but how can you love this and not the novels? I would have thought Kafka, c'est toi.

Posted by Lesley Hazleton | April 11, 2008 11:09 AM

hazleton and appelo. first hazleton, I think Borges' said somewhere that a story should only have one miracle or supernatural event. Something like that is at work with stories about the infinite. The best expression of infinity is not large works but small ones. Kafak's novels, like the short piece posted, are about the infinite but they are much too long. the smaller the better.

Appelo, because the novels are much too long, too long about the infinite, it is only through a marxist lens that their value can be seen. this lens sees this long infinity as a negative reflection to the endlessness of the capitalist market and system of exploitation. Each of kafka's novels is a negative of society in the age monopoly capital.

Posted by charles mudede | April 11, 2008 1:27 PM

Ha -- Tim, I think I got the better answer!

Posted by Lesley Hazleton | April 11, 2008 5:51 PM

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