Thursday, October 25, 2007

Break up the frozen sea

The following is a good word on books from Franz Kafka. The next time we want to reach for the latest quick-fix, self-help book, or the best-selling "Christian" novella, or volume number 28 in the Left Behind series, let's think about his words.

With so little time in life and so much left to learn, why would we settle for something mindless and unchallenging?

"If the book we are reading does not wake us, as with a fist hammering on our skull, why then do we read it? So that it shall make us happy? Good God, we would also be happy if we had no books, and such books as make us happy we could if need be, write ourselves. But what we must have are those books which come upon us like ill-fortune, and distress us deeply, like the death of one we love better than ourselves, like suicide. A book must be an ice axe to break the sea frozen inside of us."
- Franz Kafka


UnderMidnight said...

Goodbye Left Behind. Hello Metamorphosis. No day will ever be as bad as waking up as a six-foot roach.
Sadly that's all I have read of Kafka, but I loved it and want to read more...someday. My list of books to read is staggering. They're stacking up all around me.
And I love that quote from Kafka. I like writers that shake us from the inside out and remind us that we're alive.

Carn-Dog said...

you know I read Kafka, "metamorphasis and other short stories," and really only got a good bit from metamophasis and that was only because I read a good deal of commentary on him. The only thing I get from Kafka is that he is one of countless people from history who is smarter than I. If you ever want to send a Kafka interpretation my way, I would greatly appreciate it.

good word.

Steve said...

Any book into which you can immerse yourself can elevate you, even a spy or mystery novel. More than once, I have actually mourned the close of a great tale. When was the last time that this happened to anyone watching a movie?

Emily Hunter McGowin said...


I have never read anything by Kafka, so you are several steps ahead of me. I liked what he had to say about reading: no more, no less. Sorry I can't help you!

Grace to you,


UnderMidnight said...

Naah. Don't let literature make you feel less smart than anyone else, especially the critics. All it takes to be a hot critic of literature is some Freud and a lot of marijuana. I mean a lot of marijuana.

Emily Hunter McGowin said...

Undermidnight, you're hilarious. Thanks for a good laugh.

UnderMidnight said...

Regarding the quote, the metamorphosis definitely doesn't give a persona warm fuzzy feeling all over.

Off the top of my head though, The Fall by Camus is the ultimate way to ruin your day.
I can't remember who said that the unexamined life is not worth living...but after reading The Fall...maybe it's not so bad after all.