Author(s): Milena Vladić Jovanov
Subject(s): Czech Literature
Published by: Filološki fakultet, Nikšić
Keywords: justice and law; origin of the law; referenciality; identity of the fiction; fiction within the fiction; multiplicity of narrative structures; paratextuality; intertextuality

Summary/Abstract: In the work of Franz Kafka, there is an intertwining of two poetics — one is the poetics of details, which are of the realistic type, while the other is the poetics of the surreal. At the linguistic level, the poetics of detail is very precisely emphasized, with numerous linguistic expressions and descriptions that are carved as if they were a diamond. However, the intertwining is not a mixture, but rather a penetration of one poetics into the other. The poetics of detailing, no matter how thorough, in the end, is still not enough. Kafka points out that language as such is not quite ready to express directly and indirectly our thoughts, feelings, and anything related to our inner states. The poetics of the surreal and the super-real merged into the poetics of detail and made realistic poetics not only magical but also gave itself, as a surreal poetics, a basis, and a reference. The reader has found themself between the text, between the words, not always finding their way in every part. References elude, and what remains is a deconstructionist game between different forms of referentiality. The poetics of realism supports the poetics of the surreal, and the poetics of the surreal gives meaning to the poetics of realism. Penetration and intertwining remain as threads of textual fabric that the reader needs to unravel, revealing the laws of the text and adding their own threads. They, thus, create a new work, which is in between the reader and the writer — which is not a mere and simple reading, nor is it that which the author had written, but rather a newly created work which is also an interpretation that contains numerous readings and emphasizes that there is no end — that the real reading is just beginning. In that sense, the work of F. Kafka, especially the short story “Before the Law”, requires the reader to pay special attention to it. Linguistic, structural, and semantic threads are deeply intertwined with the narrative, thus questioning what fiction is. The story of the law is autonomous, but it is also part of the famous novel “The Trial”. Through this mutual relationship in which the context is already or always already, as deconstruction would state, in the text itself, Kafka reached several important elements for the study of literature. The very first question that arises is whether literature deals with or whether it is legitimate for literature to deal with the law since the law is part of another area — jurisdiction, law, and the study of law and rights. However, on a thematic level, the law fully entered Kafka’s novel and in particular, with a double gesture — the story of the law — it raised the question of its legitimacy. Did the law come into being legitimately? If so, why is it not applied as it is constituted and why is it general and universal in its constitution, while individual in its application? Precisely this type of unsustainable binary opposition, which is in the very definition of the law, is presented here. In “Before the Law”, the reader attends a kind of trial of the law. The law does not have its origin, or its origin is not unambiguously determined, so it cannot even act independently. It is necessary for it, as in Plato's “Phaedrus”, to always have some assistants and parents, as Socrates points out on the occasion of writing. The law precisely has such assistants — lawyers, legal assistants, the court, and the like. On a linguistic level, the precision of Kafka's expression “in front” is elaborated. In front of whom, or what? “In front” is not really in front but behind, because the law runs late. In its definition, it is erased by the opposition of the general and the individual, and is constantly re-established, and yet it aspires to permanence, longevity, and generality of its application. This proves that the temporal instances are also disturbed and that after comes before, and that the logic of mimesis does not function. Franz Kafka managed to achieve many a thing by introducing “Before the Law”. Not only did the context enter the text itself, and not only are the origin of the law and its functioning being examined but the story itself and how the story is constructed are placed in the process and in front of the law. In the way he wrote his novel “The Trial”, Kafka managed to raise some of the questions that remain unresolved to date or that remain to be discussed in the theory and study of literature. What is literary and what is not, and how is the story built? He made changes to the very definition of the event and eventfulness, both narratologically and hermeneutically. He introduced one of the newer ideas: that the story can be created without the event, simultaneously changing the very basis and definition of the story. The event is waiting for the event, or what is happening and around which the story that was written revolves, to be put on hold or to be stopped and moved outside the story. The story of the law is the story of waiting for the event — for the discovery of the law. The law is hidden as a secret and needs to be explained, not made clear. The story was born within the story, and at the narrative level, which implies the structural, semantic relations of fiction are within the fiction itself. “Before the Law” is a story of the story of the law. Kafka’s writing is practically a story of the story. The way of narrating simultaneously involves a double gesture, which refers to the fact that the story of the law is a story about how to narrate. Narration and its laws, as well as the experience of narration in the manner of modernist, complex meta-quality, define the interpretation not only of the law but of the literary work itself, too. Kafka showcased the method of fiction within fiction in the famous “Letter to the Father”, in which he gave a pen to Herman Kafka, and practically created a double image — an image of himself in the mirror that responds to himself through his father's words. Putting the pen into the hands of Herman Kafka, Franz Kafka created a “non-existent” character who answers his son's questions and writes him a return letter. Fiction is born within fiction, and the character of the father becomes apparitionally present. Still, the method used is division and merging, with the penetration of realistic detail that refers to the accusations of Franz Kafka addressed to his father, which relate to feelings of disrespect, insecurity, guilt, and the like, for which the father is guilty because his son expressed them as a consequence of his father's behavior towards him during their life together. The way Herman Kafka retorts to his son, as a kind of counter-accusation, is the way Franz writes to Herman as a father. What he wants to be separated from, and that is the responsibility and accusations, as well as the forgiveness he sought for himself, he did not get from the spectral, apparitional father who, as an image in the mirror — as an echo of Kafka's words — is addressed in a kind of self-perception in which questions are asked and answers are given. The absence of the father is presented in a double image, but in that image, a game with an echo and a repeated image is born. This kind of game also exists in “The Trial”, where the sentences in front of the court are repeated and new “texts” are born between them, which the readers themselves, using the experience of writing taught to them by the author, build. Fiction within fiction shifted the very idea of fictionality while introducing the topos or topoi — an important element in narration. In this regard, Tolstoy’s works, especially “Anna Karenina”, in which the indications on the narrative line are later depicted on the semantic one, have been quoted. Kafka raised many a question, out of which many have been given answers to through a careful deconstructionist reading of the novel itself and the short story, which is simultaneously a part of the novel and a part that functions independently. Such is the entirety of Kafka’s opus, metaphorically speaking — an image that should be carefully observed, because in some corners lies the author’s intention, or a sign that had been looked for in order to uncover literature and the literary in the secret.

  • Issue Year: 2021
  • Issue No: 39
  • Page Range: 125-145
  • Page Count: 21
  • Language: German