Kafkaesque Criticism

Writing on Franz Kafka: The Office Writings in The New Republic, Louis Begley makes Kafka criticism sound a little, well, Kafkaesque:

Thus was constituted the trove of Kafka's painfully personal papers
that has since been ransacked by scholars looking for the sources of
his inspiration, for the materials that he put to use in his fiction.
They have battened by preference on scraps of paper: unconnected pages
in his notebooks, for example, of which there are many. Stanley
Corngold, one of the editors of The Office Writings,
repeats in his contribution to the volume, as though they were an
incantation fraught with meaning, the words "You, I said…." taken
from a jejune fragment transcribed in 1910 in Kafka's diary. Such
Delphic pronouncements from the grave lend themselves with particular
ease to fanciful, if not bizarre, interpretations. In the words of
Reiner Stach, the author of the most recent comprehensive biography of
Kafka, most of the published material resulting from such research
"consists of unsupported speculation or academic verbiage. No theory is
too far-fetched to have been advocated somewhere by someone; there is
no methodological approach that has not been used to interpret Kafka's
work. Some monographs resemble autistic games; it is impossible to
imagine a reader who might reasonably benefit from them….It seems
like an industry that is an end unto itself…."

And a largely superfluous industry, when one recalls that Kafka was
able to gain the admiration of early readers, including Rilke and
Musil, Benjamin (perhaps the most astute critic of Kafka's work) and
Thomas Mann, Auden and Camus, without any of them having had access to
his personal papers, or being aware of more than the barest outline of
his life story. The silver lining in this large dark cloud of advanced
Kafka studies is that the more extreme conceits of the professors are
so rebarbative that there is almost no risk of their coming to the
attention of general readers, and thereby interfering with their
response to Kafka's art.

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Isn’t referring to fragments as “Delphic pronouncements from the grave” itself subject to the same example-free critique provided here and by Stach?
If it’s just a fragment that only people as commonsensical as Begley and Stach can see as such, then why call suggest it is Delphic? (I realise it’s probably sarcastic but sarcasm relies also on smug, insider knowledge). Those unnamed scholars who attend to the place of such fragments in Kafka’s work are Kafkaesque only to the extent that generalising articles like this dominate the perception of Kafka in particular and literature in general. That is, they *don’t* exist. So Scott you’re right to recognise *this* brand of Kafka criticism as Kafkaesque.


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