Franz Kafka writes in a way that is bizarre and disturbing. It isn’t the sort of thing I’m naturally drawn to, and yet, when I crack open one of his stories, I’m never left wanting. His writing is elegant and reminds me of a Gustav Klimt painting. Like Klimt, Kafka’s words paint a story that is simple on the surface, but filled with detail and texture that makes me admire it long after I’ve stopped reading.
I find his writing instructional, too. He tells a story without giving much away. Today, I’ve been reading The Penal Colony and am amazed at how there are so few devices to keep me reading and yet it was so hard to stop. I did stop, just to write this post, though. He doesn’t use chase scenes or cliff hangers, he just keeps telling the same weird story knowing that one will have difficulty turning away. He puts road side accidents to paper.
One often reads debates about character vs. plot. For me, Kafka introduces such strange people that my interest is held without really caring where the story goes. I do ask the question, “How is this going to end?” over and over, but I don’t really care, because I’m sure that it won’t matter how it ends, I’ll be satisfied.
In most stories, I want the good guy to win. I’m not a Kafka scholar, but I can’t remember there being any good guys in his writings. I started The Castle about ten years ago. It was his last book and is so strange that I can’t read more than a few pages at a time. I have to set it down and say “What the hell!”. Still, I keep pulling it off the shelf. It is like cheese cake. One needs to have just a couple of bites to really enjoy it, because if one gets overly exuberant and eats a second helping, a tummy ache will ensue.
It bothers me that I can’t put into words, being that I fancy myself a writer, why I like Kafka. Perhaps, it’s a case of being really impressed with how he crafts his stories, I just don’t know. I do know that though I don’t have any aspirations to have my own writing described as “Kafaesque”, reading his word smithing makes me want to write more…and better.
I guess, in the end, sometimes I don’t want to be able to guess where a story is going or how it will end. I just want to read. And that makes it good.