Tuesday, 8 September 2009

On Parables

by Franz Kafka

Many complain that the words of the wise are always merely parables and of no use in daily life, which is the only life we have. When the sage says: "Go over," he does not mean that we should cross over to some actual place, which we could do anyhow if the labour were worth it; he means some fabulous yonder, something unknown to us, something too that he cannot designate more precisely, and therefore cannot help us here in the very least. All these parables really set out to say merely that the incomprehensible is incomprehensible, and we know that already. But the cares we have to struggle with every day: that is a different matter.

Concerning this, a man once said: Why such reluctance? If you only followed the parables, you yourselves would become parables and with that rid yourself of all your daily cares.

Another said: I bet that is also a parable.

The first said: You have won.

The second said: But unfortunately only in parable.

The first said: No, in reality: in parable you have lost.

Franz Kafka (1883-1924). A Czech writer of monumental importance, Kafka was barely published in his own lifetime and left instructions that his manuscripts should be burned after his death. Fortunately this did not occur. Novels such as The Trial, The Castle and Amerika explained the frustrations of the modern world in a way that had never been achieved before. His complete short stories constitute a trove that can be continually mined for wonders.

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