I’ve been listening to Resurrection by Leo Tolstoy, my first Tolstoy, and am enjoying the lack of moral relativism. It’s somehow refreshing to have a narrator with a clear opinion of what is evil and what is good, and a character who also knows this and is trying to be good. All the shades of grey in current fiction, though realistic, leave a bit to be desired as far as inspiration goes.
The story is about a nobleman in 188x, Nekhlyudov, who is on a jury, and sees that one of the accused is a woman he was in love with, and wronged, in his youth. She has since become a prostitute, and he blames himself and the way he treated her for her decline over the years. After at first wanting to ignore the situation, he decides he wants to ask her forgiveness, and help her, and do anything he can to make it right, he will even, he thinks, go so far as to marry her.
The drive to do good, and make things right, and make up for a past error are appealing in a character. And its sort of a spark of light among all the antiheros of the day.
We’ll see where it goes, though, I’m only at the start…
This is the first writing by Kafka I’ve read that I haven’t been impressed by. And unlike the Trial, when they say it is unfinished, they really mean unfinished, like it cuts off in the middle of a sentence. I don’t understand why this was published, or why people continue to read it today.
The story is about ‘K’, who arrives in a nameless town, and at the center of this town is a ‘the castle’ which may or may not be an actual castle, but contains offices and officials who may or may not have influence over people in the town. K wants to get into the castle for a reason we never learn, and makes nearly zero progress toward this goal for the entirety of the writing.
I think the point of it was the paranoia and confusion of impenetrable bureaucracy, but I’m not totally sure. Similar to The Trial (which also features a character called ‘K’) K is overwhelmed at every step by incomprehensible rules, but unlike the Trial, in which he is trying to find out what he’s been accused of, or at least be done with his trial, in the Castle we have no idea what his objective is other than ‘get to the castle.’ We have no idea who he is or where he came from, what was his life before.
The only part of the book that I really liked was when the story of Frieda’s father trying to remove what he sees as a ‘black mark’ on his daughter because she did not meet an official who asked her out for a drink. After she does this, every wrong thing that happens to the family, he perceives as being because the officials have them on some kind of the list. He expends all his energy trying to contact these officials in the castle (which he, like K, cannot get into) and spends all his money trying to bribe them, all when they have not even confirmed that the family has any black mark at all.
In the end, I wouldn’t recommend it. There was too many long, seemingly meaningless conversations, and not enough of K being foiled to make it as claustrophobic as The Trial was. Mostly I was just bored.
I’m reading Perfume: The story of a murderer, by Patrick Suskind, and am impressed with the amount of detail he’s put into describing smells. It is an underused sense, in writing, and maybe that is part of why it seems so amazing, but I’m really being drawn into the strange way this character perceives the world.
Scents are so varied, and so strongly tied to memory and emotion, that it’s a wonder they aren’t more widely used in descriptions. People are just so visual in everything we do, that the other senses get overwhelmed…
Cause I haven’t been writing every day, I feel the write is just draining out of me. So this is me trying to fill it back up again.
Reading: I finished listening to Heart of Darkness and found it a bit disturbing, and also very well written. It was referenced in Rings of Saturn by W.G. Sebald, which I loved so much, and that’s why I picked it up. I’m now listening to the Castle, by Kafka, and it’s very similar to The Trial in that he’s overwhelmed by senseless bureaucracy. In this one though, he’s trying to do something (get to the castle) and being impeded, instead of having something thrust on him. I also finished Burial Rites, and got a bit bored in the middle parts, cause it’s all about what happened, and I don’t really care what happened. I want to know how she feels, what she’s thinking, how it affects her. The details of how she got into the situation are kind of meaningless to me.
I’ve also been wasting a lot of time playing chess, which is distracting me from writing. Oh well, what can I do but follow my interests! I must make it a point to write some today…
The end saved this one a bit for me. I really was not a fan of a lot of the middle, so much of it seemed disconnected from everything and meaningless and confusing, but maybe that was the point.
The end was really surreal and creepy and dark, but the kooky humor of the rest of the book sort of undercut the effect of it I think.
I feel there was probably some meaning I was missing in this one, as nothing seemed to have any connection to anything… a strange read, but not recommended unless it’s your brand of humor.
26 hours ago we received the first print run of Lucent Dreaming’s debut issue. Oh my goodness. It looks awesome. It’s full colour, illustrated and high quality and features new and emerging authors and artists. And when you’ve read and reread the stories and poems, you can even colour in our illustrations! We’re open for […]
via Our Debut Issue has Arrived! — Lucent Dreaming
I finished it, and though parts of it made me think and feel and were interesting, overall I was mostly bored and impatient with it.
I enjoyed the close-view narration style of The Stranger a lot more, and maybe if I’d gone into it more expecting a sort of dry historical style account for most of it, I’d have liked it more. The last third of the book did have a lot of good stuff to it though.
On to new things!