Simon Amstell

Tim Key and Simon Amstell considering weather he is a writer or weather being a stand up comedian differs from being a writer, on attitude towards life and that we’re all going to die, and weather this is facts, philosophy or misery, hairdo, self acceptance and so on…

And by the way here’s a quote from a blog post about Kafka, I think it fits here. Have a nice summer!

Many complain that the words of the wise are always merely parables and of no use in daily life, which is the only life we have. When the sage says: “Go over,” he does not mean that we should cross over to some actual place, which we could do anyhow if the labor were worth it; he means some fabulous yonder, something unknown to us, something too that he cannot designate more precisely, and therefore cannot help us here in the very least. All these parables really set out to say merely that the incomprehensible is incomprehensible, and we know that already. But the cares we have to struggle with every day: that is a different matter.

Concerning this a man once said: Why such reluctance? If you only followed the parables you yourselves would become parables and with that rid yourself of all your daily cares.

Another said: I bet that is also a parable.

The first said: You have won.

The second said: But unfortunately only in parable.

The first said: No, in reality: in parable you have lost.

☛ Parables and paradoxes by Franz Kafka, tr. by Clement Greenberg and als., Schocken Books, 1961, p. 11. Available online.

Kafka’s comment on parables can be experienced as a tension. There’s a message about something (parables) but it seems to account for nothing, it leads to nowhere: it is lost even to its own protagonist. What is this exactly? Is there an intention to share without anything shared? Or maybe, while there wasn’t anything that was supposed to be shared, the reader is nonetheless left with something (be it an intuition, a vague feeling, some sort of paradoxical satisfaction).

In his powerful essay “Franz Kafka: On the Tenth Anniversary of His Death” Walter Benjamin explicitly addressed the hypothesis that Kafka himself may not have had a complete understanding of what he was writing:

At times [Kafka] seems to come close to saying with Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor: “So we have before us a mystery which we cannot comprehend. And precisely because it is a mystery we have had the right to preach it, to teach the people that what matters is neither freedom nor love, but the riddle, the secret, the mystery to which they have to bow―without reflection and even against their conscience.” […] Kafka had a rare capacity for creating parables for himself. Yet his parables are never exhausted by what is explainable; on the contrary, he took all conceivable precautions against the interpretation of his writings. One has to find one’s way in them circumspectly, cautiously, and warily. […] His testament is another case in point. Given its background, the directive in which Kafka ordered the destruction of his literary remains is just as unfathomable, to be weighed just as carefully as the answers of the doorkeeper before the law. Perhaps Kafka, whose every day on earth brought him up against insoluble behavior problems and undecipherable communications, in death wished to give his contemporaries a taste of their own medicine. (originally written in 1934, reproduced in Illuminations, tr. Harry Zohn, New York: Schocken Books, [1968]2007, p. 1241)

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