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Jo Bogaerts

French existentialism is commonly regarded as the main impetus for the universal significance that Kafka gained in postwar France. A leading critic, Marthe Robert, has contended that this entailed an outright rejection of interest in the biographical, linguistic and historical dimension of Kafka's writing in order to interpret it as a general expression of the human condition. This article will consider this claim in the light of Sartre's original conceptualization of a dialectic of the universal and the particular in the intercultural mediation of the work of art. The notion of a 'true universality' proposed by Sartre as a defence of Kafka during the 1962 Moscow Peace Conference will allow for a reassessment of Robert's criticism in a paradoxical reversal of terms: it is precisely the inevitable loss of context and the appropriation within one's own particular situation which allow the literary work to elucidate a foreign historical context and thereby gain a wider significance. Rather than a universal meaning of the work, Sartre's concept points to literature's potential to continually release specific meanings in new contexts.

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Reitter Paul and Brett Wheeler

Like so much else in Kafka, the motif of reading has been discussed hotly and often—from Walter Benjamin's early essay, through seminal studies by Walter Sokel and Heinz Politzer, to poststructuralist analyses of how Kafka foregrounds the instability of language and verbal communication. In this large body of criticism, we find abundant interest in how, for Kafka, certain problems of understanding have a particularly modern character, e.g., in how they are connected to particularly modern conditions. These include the waning metaphysical authority of traditional texts and, most obviously, the rise of bureaucracies that deal programmatically in obfuscation. But Kafka's works engage substantially with what we might call the topos of reading in a modern—and often urban—setting in other ways as well, in ways that have received only passing treatment from scholars. Newspaper reading, for example, has a prominent role in "The Judgment," Kafka's breakthrough text, yet its significance has gone largely unexamined.

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Challenging the Absurd?

Sartre’s Article on Kafka and the Fantastic

Jo Bogaerts

his own version of existentialism, which risked being conflated with ‘absurdity’ and ‘nihilism’. In these articles, one author in particular, Franz Kafka, acts as the figurative ‘prism’ through which Sartre challenges rival versions of existential

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Ashley Lebner

. I shall now go and shut it’ ( Kafka 2009: 153–154 ). 1 Fiction might not be formally the same genre as ethnography, but as a product of everyday ‘serious noticing’ ( Wood 2020 [2014] ), fiction remains a legitimate companion to anthropological

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Gabriel Josipovici

Three Figures

David Herman

that fascinates Josipovici. Perhaps the central examples are Beckett, Kafka and Proust, who recur through his work from The World and the Book (1971) to What Ever Happened to Modernism? (2010) and his latest collection of essays, The Teller & The

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Human Connection in the Light of the Writings of Karl Marx and Amartya Sen

An Investigation Using Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis and Manik Bandyopadhyay's Ekannoborti

Simantini Mukhopadhyay

progressive liberalism—a theme that has been of special interest in Sen's homeland, Bengal, and in other places, not least in Eastern Europe. Next, I will use two literary texts, namely Franz Kafka's ([1915] 2020) Metamorphosis and Manik Bandyopadhyay

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Leon Yudkin

Following the First World War, writers sought to articulate both a personal position and a position within the public domain, well illustrated by the 'Prague Circle' in the heart of the failing Austro-Hungarian Empire. Jews occupied a liminal position in Czech society, straddling three identities: Jewish, Czech and German. Max Brod became the primary historian of this 'circle', which included writers as diverse as Franz Kafka, Franz Werfel, Leo Perutz and Gustav Meyrink. Prague was central to their writings. Here was a borderland position crying out for a voice in the contemporary world.

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What Was Lost?

The Czech Jewish Community

Jeremy Adler

The Czech Jewish community exercised an influence on modern European culture quite disproportionate to its tiny size. Franz Kafka has become emblematic for a vanished world, but he was by no means the only Jew from the Czech lands who helped to shape modernity. Others included Gustav Mahler, Karl Kraus and Sigmund Freud, who unlike Kafka left their homeland, and grew to prominence in Vienna, the capital of the Habsburg Monarchy. At the turn of the century, Prague fostered a unique and complex symbiosis comprising Czech, German and Jewish culture, in which values promoted by one group, such as the protestant Jan Hus's belief in the power of Truth, still echoed by Václav Havel in 1989, came to be shared by others. The pluralist symbiosis that produced this achievement has been decimated. The destruction began in 1939–45 when the Germans destroyed the Jews, and was completed after 1945 when the Czechs expelled the Germans. What was lost? Before the Shoah, in 1936, the Prague Jewish community boasted 35,425 members. Today, that number has dwindled to around fifteen hundred souls. In other words, Prague Jewry has shrunk to under 5 percent of its pre-war total. The city now has four Orthodox Rabbis, who minister to about twenty devout Jews. The larger liberal reform movement does not even own a synagogue.

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The Challenge of Living with Multiple Identities

'Does Monotheism Breed Monomania?'

Howard Cooper

My specific self-questioning title for this evening – 'Does Monotheism Breed Monomania?' – which I hope is both playful and provocative, has emerged from the conversation inside me between two of these identities, as it were. The dialogue within me between the analyst immersed in particular traditions of thinking about the human mind and its unconscious processes – and the rabbi who is one link in a chain of a millennia-old Judaic cultural heritage which can be thought of as a 'concentric tradition of reading' (the phrase is George Steiner's) centred on the Torah, but spreading ever outwards, and involving a 'fidelity to the written word' from the sacred scriptures of tradition to the definitive so-called 'secular' texts of our own times, like Kafka or Freud, texts which have their own luminosity, perhaps even, at times, numinosity.

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Anthony Rudolf

remember the occasion in 1974 when George Steiner gave a lecture at the National Book League, organized by European Judaism , to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Kafka’s death. Steiner was on his best form and spoke with magisterial brilliance, not