Franz Kafka – The Judgement
The cover shows a detail from Saturn Devouring One of His Sons
from the series of Black Paintings, 1819-23,
by Francisco Jose de Goya y Lucientes, in the
Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain.
It is disturbing, much like the story itself.
Kafka considered this his best story, it is a heavy,
dark, short story which deals with the tension
between isolation and alienation of the modern
artist and the demands of family and societal expectations.
Some critics have said that this story is a breakthrough
of the conflict between a father and son that
produces guilt in the younger character and that
this is ultimately reconciled through his suffering
and expiation; that there is a parallel between
The Judgement and Kafka’s own life.
- Georg Bendeman, a young merchant writes a letter to a childhood friend in St Petersburg, announcing his engagement to a wealthy young woman, Frieda Bradenfield
- Georg tells his old father who then questions the very existence of this friend of his son (?!)
- The father then brings up his deceased wife, Georg’s mother and then accuses Georg of being a ‘bad’ human being and condemns him to death by drowning
- Georg then flees from the house and jumps off a bridge to his untimely death!!
I quote from this dramatic, surprising ending:
‘Out of the front door he sprang, across the roadway, towards the water he was driven. Already he was grasping at the railings as a starving man grasps at food. He swung himself over, like the outstanding gymnast who had once been his parents’ pride. Still holding on, with a weakening grip, he spied through the railings a motor-bus that would easily cover the noise of his fall, called out softly: ‘ Dear parents, I did always love you,’ and let himself drop.
At that moment the traffic was passing over the bridge in a positively unending stream.’
Comments about the story are that Kafka was plagued
by the discord between his literary ambitions and
his ambivalence about marriage.
Some Biographers say his relationship to Felice Bauer,
to whom he was engaged twice but never married,
was a catalyst to some of his most brillant work,
of which ‘The Judgement’ is the first.
Hardly ‘laugh-a-minute’ reading!
I can’t wait to get stuck into ‘In the Penal Colony’
I believe it is all about pain and torture! (heavy sarcasm)