Kafka’s animals between mimicry and assimilation

Abstract

In Kafka’s literary world, several animals emerge; they belong to an odd and enigmatic fauna, on the edge between violence and artistry but also between stillness and music; according to the writer, scripture represents both the fault and the punishment waiting for the solitary artist. Animals, especially depicted as hordes of small mice or other rodents, also hint to the heterogeneous structure of the Self, who doesn’t manage to keep under control all the divisions in his ambiguous dentity. Through opposition between the point of view of the subject, who considers his own isolation as indispensable to carry on writing, and the multitude of escaping small animals, Kafka also expresses and experiences his own impossibility of “description” (Beschreibung). In the meantime, Kafka’s animals embody the creatural and unconscious sources of imagination the writer draws from that constantly escape his own control and willingness, pushing forwards into an unknown and inhospitable region, towards the wasteland, the eternal winter that can be identified with scripture. In writing, a deep metamorphosis of the Self takes place. Kafka shares this belief with one of the writers he most admired and considered his master, Gustave Flaubert, who firmly thought that, while writing, one loses his previous identity, becoming someone else, even assuming the appearence of the “otherness”. We can state that Kafka’s imagery of animals takes to the extreme the paradox and ambiguity the idea of writing relies on, also reproducing, especially, in his hybrid creatures, the feeling of uncertainty and lack of safety of the assimilated Jewish artist.

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