Study Guide

Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari - Was Kafka Disturbed, or Was Kafka Happy?

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Was Kafka Disturbed, or Was Kafka Happy?

D&G viewed Kafka's work as joyful, which may seem strange, given that many of Kafka's characters are imprisoned, some commit suicide, and one turns into a bug. But according to D&G, the meanings of Kafka's texts are less important than the way Kafka tosses meanings around. He writes in German, but he infuses it with elements of minority Jewish culture and of the Czech and Yiddish languages.

Some Kafka scholars, like Marthe Roberts, try to apply Freudian psychoanalysis to analyze thematic structures in Kafka's stories. Roberts's Freudian interpretations of Kafka focus on themes like hopelessness, alienation, and the Oedipal desires driving a wedge between Kafka's characters and their moms and dads.

If you ask D&G, though, they'll say that even though Kafka may have had such issues, he was far too intelligent, innovative, and playful to have been bogged down in the workings of his own mind. Kafka was no brooding teenager, they say.

For D&G, it's not that Kafka was trying to exorcise his own inner demons through his writing. They think Kafka used his position as a social and linguistic outsider to construct stories that confuse and confound the reader—and they think he took pleasure in putting a bunch of bizarre ideas and images together and making strange worlds out of them. Think of this way: D&G see Kafka as more like Beetlejuice than Lydia Deetz.

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