Kafka was as much about non-arrival at destinations as he was about non-belonging. In any event there are problems of destination and leaving, coming and going often resemble each other. But as Kafka seems to figure, the pull of Jews to Judaism and by extension, surrogates like Palestine, this reclamation project for identity, cannot be underestimated in its force to hem in within the relentless, Kafka’s chronic fears of suffocation and breathing in the ghetto, with Zionism proffered as a solution to assuage a profound ambivalence. Perhaps the band aid solution of the banal “kicking the can down the road.”
Palestine as a flirtation for Kafka, an obsessive one, but a dalliance, a way to breathe a little invidious comparison, perhaps constructing Palestine as an object of some pity that bears the heavy stale air of European orientalism. I think Kafka saw Zionism as part of the problem of destination, the ostensible firm footing and poetic dream, ambivalent in itself muddied further muddied further by a profound restlessness and intensity of relation between the intangible and tangible, part of Chaim Weitzmann’s alleged remark of “jews are like other people, only more so,” a kind of volatile quality that stubbornly refuses categorization and entrapment; like Kafka’s metaphors of the individual as hybrid- animal, and its attraction/repulsion to secular law and the equal Jack London style “call of the wild”. Think of Israel as an attic; unpack the old valises of their anxiety, each a metaphor for an ark of the covenant:
What corruption is in the law, anxiety is in their thinking. It messes a situation up, yet it is the only hopeful thing about it. On his creatures:
Odradek stays alternately in the attic, on the staircase, in the corridors,and in the hall. So it prefers the same places as the court of law which investigates guilt. Attics are the places of discarded, forgotten objects. Perhaps having to appear before a court of justice gives rise to a feeling similar to that with which one approaches trunks in the attic which have been locked up for years. Odradek is the form which things assume in oblivion. They are distorted. The cares of a family man, which no one can identify, are distorted; the bug, which we know all to well represents Gregor Samsa, is distorted; the big animal, half lamb, half kitten, for which the butcher’s knife might be a release, is distorted. These Kafka figures are connected by a long series of figures with the prototype of distortion: a hunched back. Read More:http://www.biopolitica.cl/docs/abbott_benjamin.pdf
…In separate fashion, some distinguished Gentiles lauded Judaism’s influence upon modernity triumphant. While expressing sympathy for the Hebrew renaissance and condemning Russian antisemitism in unequivocal terms, Maxim Gorki acknowledged the contribution of Jewish “heroic idealism.” Jews, declared this acclaimed author of social realism, “saved the world from submissiveness and self-satisfaction,” and would help establish “the Law of Socialism” in a re-made order to be governed by “the new principles of equality and justice.” For the American economist Thorstein Veblen, on the other hand, the current intellectual prominence of the Jew in Europe lay in the fact that “he is the most unattached, the most marginalized, and the most skeptical and unconventional of all scientists.” By curing the Jews of their homelessness, he averred in early 1919, Zionism would spell the end of the preeminence of this “disturber of the intellectual peace.”
Other Jews, taking a particularistic stance, argued that in an amoral world, the reality of power transcended lofty appeals to spirituality, justice, and reason. Lethal Jew-hatred did not allow for much retreat into the assimilated Franz Kafka’s prose universe, where modern man makes a futile search for personal salvation. Youngsters in Russia and Palestine began to arm themselves, deeming the call of western co-religionists to radicalize humanity through the example of prophetic ethics an idle fancy.Read More:http://www.jewishmag.com/150mag/book_twentieth_century_jews/book_twentieth_century_jews.htma
Judith Butler:In Kafka Goes to the Movies, Hanns Zischler makes the case that filmic images provided Kafka with a primary means of access to the space of Palestine, and that Palestine was a film image for him, a projected field of fantasy. Zischler writes that Kafka saw the beloved land in film, as film. Indeed, Palestine was imagined as unpopulated, which has been ably confirmed by Ilan Pappe’s work on early Zionist photography, in which Palestinian dwellings are quickly renamed as part of the natural landscape. Zischler’s is an interesting thesis, but is probably not quite true, since the first of those films were not seen until 1921 according to the records we have, and Kafka was avidly attending meetings and reading journals, gaining a sense of Palestine as much from stories written and told as from public debates. In the course of those debates and reports, Kafka understood that there were conflicts emerging in the region. Indeed, his short story ‘Jackals and Arabs’, published in Der Jude in 1917, registers an impasse at the heart of Zionism. In that story, the narrator, who has wandered unknowingly into the desert, is greeted by the Jackals (die Schakale) a thinly disguised reference to the Jews….
…After treating him as a Messianic figure for whom they have been waiting for generations, they explain that his task is to kill the Arabs with a pair of scissors (perhaps a joke about how Jewish tailors from Eastern Europe are ill equipped for conflict). They don’t want to do it themselves, since it would not be ‘clean’, but the Messiah is himself apparently unbound by kosher constraints. The narrator then speaks with the Arab leader, who explains that ‘it’s common knowledge; so long as Arabs exist, that pair of scissors goes wandering through the desert and will wander with us to the end of our days. Every European is offered it for the great work; every European is just the Man that Fate has chosen for them.’ Read More:http://www.lrb.co.uk/v33/n05/judith-butler/who-owns-kafkaa