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Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature (Theory and History of Literature) Paperback – October 31, 1986
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Text: English, French (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From the Back Cover
In Kafka Deleuze and Guattari free their subject from his (mis)intrepreters. In contrast to traditional readings that see in Kafka's work a case of Oedipalized neurosis or a flight into transcendence, guilt, and subjectivity, Deleuze and Guattari make a case for Kafka as a man of joy, a promoter of radical politics who resisted at every turn submission to frozen hierarchies.
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D & G decided to bring the hammer down on these reflexive doomsayers, to restore some of the joy and vibrant panache to Kafka studies. They wanted to bring him "`a little of this joy, this amorous political life that he knew how to offer, how to invent. So many dead writers must have wept over what was written about them. [We] hope that Kafka enjoyed the book that we wrote about him'"(xxv). It is useful to recall the evening Kafka read the opening chapter of *The Trial* to his circle of literary friends, assailed by roars of laughter, Kafka himself laughing so hard he had to constantly stop reading to wipe tears from his eyes. The ramifications of this episode have been repressed and overturned by the necrophilic martyrology of a reflexive Kafka scholarship. For here we have gone beyond any mere "laughter of the Abyss," the impish cackle of "black comedy," the doomed precincts of Camus's "cosmology of the Absurd." Kafka's hilarity is a laughter of resistance, of felicity, of squeezing some measure of freedom out of our peremptory and obstructionist universe. As argued in this text, the battle is within and against the political, economic, technological, bureaucratic, judiciary, and linguistic machines which held Kafka's language in thrall to its obstacles and terrors.
Here is a cento of principles developed by D & G in their dissenting text, the prolegomenon to any future in Kafka scholarship:
1. Isolation from the Law is not merely the absence of God (coinciding with the SNAFU of metaphysical realism) but rather entails the eternal suspension of judgement, ultimately an Artaudian desire "to have done with Judgement."
2. The question of ASCESIS. Deleuze has long underscored the idea that when a writer or philosopher espouses an "ascetic" lifestyle it is only as a means to achieving a more subterranean pitch of libertinism (or Life). Kafka had plenty of opportunities for conventional happiness, to live the life of a Max Brod, for example. Rather he followed the witch's wind of literary apprenticeship, a far profounder Life although, from a judgemental distance, appearing monstrous and ill-fated.
3. Kafka's oeuvre is characterized by a complete lack of *complacency*, and stands accordingly as a total rejection of every problematic of Failure. His suicidal fantasies, then, were not merely an agonizing cry of despair, but also a series of unmerciful thought-experiments designed to charge the literary machine, to clear the waters for fresh speculation.
4. Reflexive scholarship tends to move backward from unknowns to knowns (i.e. the castle is God, the beetle is oedipal frustration, the penal colony is fascism, the singing mouse is a writer, and writers are those who express CONTENT and represent THINGS). Rather we should take Walter Benjamin to his limit, by acclimatizing ourselves to a mode of literature "that consists in propelling the most diverse contents on the basis of (nonsignifying) ruptures and intertwinings of the most heterogeneous orders of signs and powers"(xvii).
5. Renovate the battlefield...: reterritorialize Kafka's "metaphysical" estrangement onto the concrete political arrangements with which he engaged throughout his life. Understand the political or "fantasmatic" nature of Kafka's simulations, that his fictions are not merely an allegory of resistance to fascism, but the infiltration of a ruptured sensibility into the fascistic functioning of the Law, a node of deterritorialization inside the torn apart.
6. The desire for innocence is as pernicious as the fetishization of guilt, since both imply an Infinity by which we can define and calibrate Judgement. Justice is desire and not law. Desire is a social investment traversed and legitimized by Kafka's literary machine, which "is capable of anticipating or precipitating contents into conditions that...concern an entire collectivity"(60), which speak for a people that may not be prepared to live through its message.
Perhaps I'm trying too hard to cram difficult arguments into tiny hard-to-swallow capsules. The text itself has to be read to be believed. Perhaps in response to those who felt *Capitalism and Schizophrenia* did not provide enough "concrete examples," D & G have steered their war-machine onto one of the most treacherous and misunderstood literary oeuvres of the preceding century. The result will either leave you cold (as is the case with virtually every reader I've conferred with on this text) or revolutionize your jilted perceptions of a great author.
This book purports to get at "the real Kafka," by stripping the man and his work of all transcendent pretensions assigned him by critics of the old school, by making him a model for the new uniformed postmodernist-socialist man. In "Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature," Deleuze and Guatarri have done the same things they accuse the old Kafkologists of doing, in effect stripping Kafka of his old Kafkalogical baggage only to create a new Kafkology, one that focuses more on a weird interpretive biography of the man as celebrity than it does by trying to understand his works in their modernist setting.