In the Penal Colony
by Franz Kafka
In the Penal Colony Tradition and Custom Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Paragraph). We used Willa and Edwin Muir's translation.
[The officer:] "During the old Commandant's lifetime the colony was full of his adherents; his strength of conviction I still have in some measure, but not an atom of his power; consequently, the adherents have skulked out of sight, there are still many of them but none of them will admit it." (22)
It's now quite clear that the officer's tradition is falling apart. What he says raises several questions, though. Do we believe him that there are still many adherents, or is he the only one? Were the "adherents" of the old days, if they've stopped being adherents, ever adherents in the first place? And has anything stepped up to replace the old convictions?
"I didn't want to upset you," he [the officer] said, "I know it is impossible to make those days credible now." (23)
The officer admits there is something mythical-sounding or unbelievable about the days of the old Commandant, as he describes them. This adds more to the somewhat religious aura around the guy. It also raises the question of how much we should believe the officer's descriptions of the past. Are they true, if hard to believe, or hopelessly exaggerated or idealized?