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Adolfo Sanchez Vasquez. Kafka’s character Joseph K

In this work, we propose to discover the rich and complex Kafkaesque world through one of its Central characters. In General, we will start our journey together with the inhabitant of this world – Josef K.

But first let’s imagine our hero, answering the question “Who is Joseph K.?”Josef K. is an employee of one of the banks in Prague. We know nothing and will never know anything about his past; this, as we will see, is very inherent in the way Kafka presents the main character. Starting our acquaintance with Josef K., we notice that his life passes evenly, without sharp turns, at work in the Bank, where he is like a fish in water. Soon this gray, routine rhythm of his existence is suddenly interrupted. The reason for this is a banal, at first glance, banal event, which is described in a few words, the same ones that describe our first meeting with the character: “Someone apparently slandered Joseph K., because, without doing anything wrong, he was arrested” [1]. Being sure of his own innocence, he tries to quickly settle this annoying and ridiculous case, but this, although it is something banal, can not be done without getting into the tangled loop of the vile judicial bureaucracy of Prague during the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. This case, which from a logical point of view seemed to be in the hat, more and more crumbles as the accused sinks irrevocably in the thick of a dark and ramified judicial organization. A year later, two unknown people appear at the house of Joseph K. to execute a decision made at a court hearing, which he could not have known about. Once at an abandoned wasteland, in a rather Kafkaesque atmosphere of phantasmagoria and realism, horror and irony, the main character continues to ask himself, not wanting to admit that the process itself is coming to an end:

“Maybe everyone wanted to help? Are there any other arguments forgotten? Undoubtedly, such arguments existed, and, although logic is unshakable, but against a person who wants to live, and it can not resist. Where was the judge he had never seen? Where is the high court that he never got to? K. raised his hands and spread them.”[2]

But one of the executioners had already put an end to the life of Joseph K. by plunging the butcher’s knife twice into his heart. It was only then that Joseph K. was able to realize the inhumane nature of his death, although he did not know the cause of it. Perhaps because he had never been able to comprehend the inhumane nature of his own life.

“With dim eyes, K. saw the two gentlemen close to his face, cheek to cheek, watching the denouement.
— Like a dog, — he said, as if this disgrace was destined to outlive him.”[3]

And with these words, which end the novel itself, we leave our hero, who is dying a death that he imagined unworthy of the existence that he considered real.

The work in which this strange plot unfolds is called “the Process”. And, indeed, the entire novel shows us the trial of the accused, which begins with an accusation that he never learns about and which he considers unfounded, then appears before the execution of the sentence, passing through the long, endless and mysterious steps of the judicial mechanism. But the trial itself is not depicted objectively in the novel, except that it is reflected in the main character through his increasing anxiety and sadness, through the countless steps and turns of his fate. The work itself is therefore also a course, a trajectory of life beginning with a banal event, which gradually gains more mysterious and dramatic significance, and ends in the terrible dimension of death. The novel traces the movement between two events: one of them is insignificant – an unjustified detention, which is rather the result of a mistake – and the death of the accused, the meaning of which the main character seems to be trying to save from banality by comparing it with the death of a dog. Between these two events-the detention of Joseph K. and the execution of the main sentence-there is a mandatory link, a continuous link that Joseph K. will never recognize. It is from there that his bold attempts to stop the invisible judicial machine that is preparing his death with its invisible steps.

“Process” is a product of a single dimension, one-dimensional. Therefore, it should be said that the real main character of the novel is not so much Joseph K., but the trial itself. In fact, everything we encounter in the pages of the novel exists only in relation to this single dimension. And Josef K himself, as we will see, is a man who lives on the same level.

Franz Kafka, the author of the work, was born on July 3, 1883. He received a law degree and for several years worked for an insurance company that dealt with industrial accidents. But his real ambition was to find free time to write. Thus, he leads a double life, but goes out of his way to live the life that he believes is real, without ever achieving it.

“That’s why I became an official in the social insurance society. But these two professions can’t possibly get along with each other and allow me to be happy with both at once. The smallest happiness given to one of them turns into a great misfortune in the other. If I wrote something good in the evening, I’m on fire the next day at the service and can’t do anything. This tossing from side to side becomes more and more painful. In the service, I outwardly fulfill my duties, but I do not fulfill my internal duties, and every unfulfilled internal duty turns into misery, and it does not leave me afterward.”[4]

This bifurcation of being, which Kafka himself painfully feels, will be, as it will become clear later, one of the key points for understanding the abstract – bloodless-fate of Joseph K..

In the midst of these melancholy tosses between what Kafka calls external duties and internal ones, he writes one of his most important works: “America”, “Transformation” and “the Process” (the last of these he wrote in 1914-1915). Three times he falls in love and avoids marriage, fearing that it will not meet the requirements of his literary vocation. These fears are magnified when his morbid nature is revealed in its entirety. Since 1920, his condition has been deteriorating. In 1923, love again bursts into his life, and Kafka this time decides to go further with confidence and hope to a place where he previously saw only the danger of his creative solitude. But in the winter of 1923-1924, the disease further eroded his weakened strength and, as a result, on June 3, 1924, he died.

Kafka’s works have suffered a precarious and strange fate. During the author’s lifetime, few works were published, and not the most important ones. In his will of 1921, he specified that all his writings, without exception, should be destroyed. However, without fulfilling his will, Kafka’s close friend Max Brod gradually published a series of works by the writer, among them “the Process”, and 12 notebooks, which were included in the” Diaries ” written between 1910 and 1923. The publication of these previously unreleased texts soon attracted the attention of specialists, but this mainly happened during the Second world war and after, when his fame reached a peak, going beyond the circles of researchers of the writer’s work.

Kafka’s interpretations of the universe

As soon as his most important works appeared, Kafka became the subject of various interpretations. The publication of his “Letter to his father” gave rise to a psychoanalytic interpretation. The entire legacy of the brilliant Czech author was examined from the point of view of this letter, written in 1919, which was considered a great find of psychoanalysis. Thanks to this reductionist method, the dark, mysterious, and complex writer became more understandable and open the more simplified and narrowed the problems of Kafka’s works, completely devoid of historical and social context. The ambivalence of Kafka’s relationship with his father should explain everything. This duality did take place – it was Kafka who brought it to the surface – but it, being far from the essence of Kafka’s world, in turn required an explanation far beyond the framework of the schematic model of the Oedipus complex. It is no coincidence that Kafka himself, perhaps wary of this simplification, drew attention to the limitations of psychoanalysis.

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