RARA-AVIS: Re: kafka quote

From: Frederick Zackel ( fzackel@wcnet.org)
Date: 21 Apr 2000

Here's the full quote & where to find it:

"I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we're reading doesn't wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading for? So that it will make us happy, as you write? ... But we need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us. That is my belief." (Franz Kafka to Oskar Pollak, January 27, 1904)

That's pretty hard-boiled, I believe. But then don't forget Ralph Waldo Emerson who said literature had to be "blood-warm" for it to matter. Emerson could be hard-boiled. I forget the title, but he wrote an essay about death shortly after the death of his son. Folks at the time thought there was something weird in his "attitude", if I 'member correctly.

And for the real aficionados, check out the 19th journalist (& fiction writer extraordinaire) Lafcadio Hearn's newspaper account of a murder in 1870s Cincinnati, Ohio, where the body is discovered in the furnace.

Best wishes

Frederick Zackel

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