RARA-AVIS: Kafka and noir

From: Jay Gertzman ( jgertzma@earthlink.net)
Date: 13 Feb 2005

Last month, a staging of Kafka's _The Trial_ in New York was praised for its noir staging and emphasis: bedridden, ill-tempered authorities located in bunker like conditions but dictating life or death, a pretty but oddly deformed secretary fixated on men suffering from unjust arrests, a society under the microscope of an impersonal set of laws resulting in brutal executions.

Kafka's protagonists are not able to break out of routines imposed from within themselves as well as by institutions. Their scruples weaken them, and their fellow citizens observe their trials with indifference and contempt. When the hero (the hunger artist, who never finds decent nourishment) dies, the boobocracy turns in adulation to the single minded strong man who replaces him. The hero has wounded himself by introspection, actually, and becomes his own worst enemy as those in power sneer at him as coarse and indecent, and control his preening successor.

When Kafka read _The Trial_ aloud to friends, he was reported to have laughed uncontrollably. He could not explain why he was laughing, but it wasn't funny "ha ha." It was more like soldiers charging onto a beachfront with bullets whistling by, and breaking into fatalistic laughter. If Chandler, Cain, Hammett, or Goodis, and the screenwriter for the movie "Chinatown," had not read Kafka, I'd be surprised.

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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 13 Feb 2005 EST