Judith Butler on the Kafka Trial

At The London Review of BooksJudith Butler weighs in on the ongoing trial in Tel Aviv over who can claim ownership to several boxes of recently discovered manuscripts by Franz Kafka. An excerpt–

I have tried to suggest that in Kafka’s parables and other writings we find brief meditations on the question of going somewhere, of going over, of the impossibility of arrival and the unrealisability of a goal. I want to suggest that many of these parables seem to allegorise a way of checking the desire to emigrate to Palestine, opening instead an infinite distance between the one place and the other – and so constitute a non-Zionist theological gesture.

We might, finally, consider this poetics of non-arrival as it pertains to Kafka’s own final bequest. As should be clear by now, many of Kafka’s works are about messages written and sent where the arrival is uncertain or impossible, about commands given and misunderstood and so obeyed in the breach or not obeyed at all. ‘An Imperial Message’ charts the travels of a messenger through several layers of architecture, as he finds himself caught up in a dense and infinite grid of people: an infinite barrier emerges between the message and its destination. So what do we say about the request that Kafka made of Brod before he died? ‘Dearest Max, My last request: Everything I leave behind me … to be burned unread.’ Kafka’s will is a message sent, to be sure, but it does not become Brod’s will; indeed Brod’s will, figuratively and literally, obeys and refuses Kafka’s will (some of the work will remain unread, but none of it will be burned, at least not by Brod).

(Via The Casual Optimist).