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Drawing directly on original manuscripts, this collection comprises the major short stories published after Kafka’s death. It includes The Great Wall of China, Blumfeld, An Elderly Bachelor, Investigations of a Dog and his great sequences of aphorisms, with fables and parables on subjects ranging from the legend of Prometheus to the Tower of Babel. Allegorical, disturbing Drawing directly on original manuscripts, this collection comprises the major short stories published after Kafka’s death. It includes The Great Wall of China, Blumfeld, An Elderly Bachelor, Investigations of a Dog and his great sequences of aphorisms, with fables and parables on subjects ranging from the legend of Prometheus to the Tower of Babel. Allegorical, disturbing and possessing a dream-like clarity, these writings are quintessential Kafka.


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Drawing directly on original manuscripts, this collection comprises the major short stories published after Kafka’s death. It includes The Great Wall of China, Blumfeld, An Elderly Bachelor, Investigations of a Dog and his great sequences of aphorisms, with fables and parables on subjects ranging from the legend of Prometheus to the Tower of Babel. Allegorical, disturbing Drawing directly on original manuscripts, this collection comprises the major short stories published after Kafka’s death. It includes The Great Wall of China, Blumfeld, An Elderly Bachelor, Investigations of a Dog and his great sequences of aphorisms, with fables and parables on subjects ranging from the legend of Prometheus to the Tower of Babel. Allegorical, disturbing and possessing a dream-like clarity, these writings are quintessential Kafka.

30 review for The Great Wall of China and other Stories

  1. 5 out of 5

    Το Άθχημο γατί του θενιόρ Γκουαναμίρου

    "The Great Wall of China" (Beim Bau der Chinesischen Mauer), was written in 1917 and remained unpublished during the author's lifetime, besides the small parable "A Message from the Emperor" (Eine kaiserliche Botschaft). This short story can be read in tandem with Kafka's two other smaller stories: The Refusal" (Die Abweisung) " and "The City Coat of Arms" (Das Stadtwappen). As the narrative progresses, it becomes clear that the purpose of building the wall is not what it seems. Because as a wal "The Great Wall of China" (Beim Bau der Chinesischen Mauer), was written in 1917 and remained unpublished during the author's lifetime, besides the small parable "A Message from the Emperor" (Eine kaiserliche Botschaft). This short story can be read in tandem with Kafka's two other smaller stories: The Refusal" (Die Abweisung) " and "The City Coat of Arms" (Das Stadtwappen). As the narrative progresses, it becomes clear that the purpose of building the wall is not what it seems. Because as a wall of protection is inadequate. It is made in piecemeal construction and raises suspicions that there are gaps and openings between the various sections. Besides that, there is no real danger from the people of the North. At least not for the people of the South. The vast, almost endless, distance between the two worlds is in itself the only protection needed. During his research, the narrator discovers an even more probable, obscure and mysterious reason for building the wall. Someone wants it as the foundation to create a Ο Kafka γράφει στις 24 Νοέμβρη 1912 (απόγευμα) στην αρραβωνιαστικιά του, τη Felice, μια επιστολή η οποία περιέχει ένα σύντομο κινέζικο ποίημα του ποιητή Jan-Tsen-Tsai (1716-97, εμφανίζεται επίσης ως Yuan Tzu-tsai ή Yuan Mei) το οποίο κατά κάποιο τρόπο περιγράφει τη σχέση τους: ΜΕΣΑ ΣΤΗ ΠΑΓΩΜΕΝΗ ΝΥΧΤΑ. Μέσα στην παγωμένη νύχτα, απορροφημένος από το βιβλίο μου, ξέχασα πως ήταν ώρα να πέσω για ύπνο. Το άρωμα από το χρυσοκέντητο πάπλωμά μου έχει εδώ και ώρα εξατμιστεί, η φωτιά στο τζάκι έχει σβήσει. Η ωραία ερωμένη μου που μέχρι τώρα συγκρατούσε την οργή της με δυσκολία, αρπάζει τη λάμπα και ρωτάει: Έχεις ιδέα τι ώρα έχει πάει;" Αυτό το ποίημα απέκτησε μια ιδιαίτερη σημασία για τους δύο αυτούς ερωτευμένους δι' αλληλογραφίας (βλέπε επιστολή Ιανουαρίου της επόμενης χρονιάς: εκείνο το κινέζικο ποίημα έχει αποκτήσει τόσο σπουδαίο νόημα για εμάς). Το 1912 είναι η χρονιά που ο Kafka γράφει τη Μεταμόρφωση, ένα έργο που ίδιος χαρακτηρίζει ως τρομαχτικό και εξαιρετικά αποκρουστικό. Για εκείνον όπως αποκαλύπτει στο γράμμα που περιέχει το μικρό κινέζικο ποίημα, η Felice είναι το στήριγμα και η δύναμή του: "Wenn es mir aber gelingt, dann verdanke ich es wieder nur dem starkenden Bewusstsein, Dich zur Freundin zu haben und auf einen Menschen, wie Du es bist, mich verlassen zu konnen. But if I succeed, it will be due entirely to the fortifying knowledge of having you as a friend, and being able to rely on someone like you. Όμως αν τα καταφέρω, θα οφείλεται ολοκληρωτικά στη ενδυναμωτική γνώση πως είσαι φίλη μου, και στο ότι μπορώ να βασίζομαι σε κάποια σαν κι εσένα. Κι αυτή η μικρή λέξη starkenden από το ρήμα starken σημαίνει ενισχύω, ενδυναμώνω, αναζωογονώ αλλά επίσης σημαίνει οχυρώνω. Χτίζω ένα τείχος προστασίας. Έτσι έβλεπε τη σχέση τους ο Kafka και πιθανώς και η ίδια η Felice (οι δικές της οι απαντήσεις δεν σώζονται) σαν ένα όριο ανάμεσα στη νύχτα που κυοφορεί τα λογοτεχνικά του δημιουργήματα, τους εφιάλτες και τις πνευματικές του αγωνίες που τον κρατούν ξάγρυπνο και τη νύχτα που επιφυλάσσει μια ζεστή αγκαλιά, αγάπη, έρωτα, ένα ζεστό κρεβάτι και ανάπαυση. Ήθελε να κρατήσει μια ισορροπία ανάμεσα στους δύο κόσμους. Κατά βάθος πρέπει να γνώριζε πως όλα αυτά ήταν μέσα στο μυαλό του, πως προσπαθούσε να προστατευθεί από έναν ανύπαρκτο εχθρό, από έναν αόρατο κίνδυνο που υπήρχε μόνο μέσα στο κεφάλι του. Ωστόσο το τείχος προστασίας του ήταν διάτρητο, είχε κενά και χάσματα. Κι αυτός, μετέωρος ανάμεσα στους δύο κόσμους, ήταν εκτεθειμένος σε χίλιους δυο πραγματικούς ή φανταστικούς κινδύνους. Είναι σαν να λέμε πως η δεσποινίδα Bauer ήταν το προσωπικό του Mauer (τείχος). Και κάπως έτσι φτάνουμε στο καθεαυτό διήγημα "Το μεγάλο Τείχος της Κίνας" (Beim Bau der Chinesischen Mauer) το οποίο επίσης γράφτηκε στα 1917 και παρέμεινε αδημοσίευτο κατά τη διάρκεια της ζωής του συγγραφέα, πέρα από τη μικρή παραβολή "Ένα μήνυμα από τον αυτοκράτορα" (Eine kaiserliche Botschaft). Το συγκεκριμένο διήγημα μπορεί να καταστεί ιδιαίτερα κατανοητό αν διαβαστεί σε συνδυασμό με δύο άλλες πιο μικρές ιστορίες του Kafka: "Η απόρριψη" (Die Abweisung) και "Ο θυρεός της πόλης" (Das Stadtwappen). Καθώς προχωρεί η διήγηση καθίσταται προφανές πως ο σκοπός της ανοικοδόμησης του τείχους δεν είναι αυτός που φαίνεται. Γιατί ως τείχος προστασίας αποτυγχάνει. Είναι κατασκευασμένο κομματιαστά και εκφράζονται υπόνοιες που υπάρχουν κενά και χάσματα ανάμεσα στα διάφορα τμήματα. Εκτός αυτού δεν υπάρχει κάποιος πραγματικός κίνδυνος από τους ανθρώπους του Βορρά. Τουλάχιστον όχι για τους ανθρώπους του Νότου. Η τεράστια, σχεδόν ατελείωτη, αέναη απόσταση ανάμεσα στους δύο κόσμους αποτελεί από μόνη της ικανή προστασία. Όλα ωστόσο, από την επιλογή της μεθόδου της σταδιακής ανοικοδόμησης ως την καθιέρωση ενός ενιαίου εκπαιδευτικού συστήματος με κύριο άξονα τις τέχνες της οικοδομικής και αρχιτεκτονικής έχουν ως σκοπό να ενώσουν έναν λαό κάτω από μία κοινή ιδέα, έναν κοινό στόχο. Κατά την έρευνά του ο αφηγητής ανακαλύπτει έναν ακόμα πιθανό, πιο σκοτεινό, μυστηριώδη και κρυμμένο σκοπό της ανοικοδόμησης του τείχους. Κάποιος το θέλει ως θεμέλιο για να δημιουργήσει έναν νέο Πύργο της Βαβέλ. Σε αυτήν την εκδοχή, ο παλιός Πύργος της Βαβέλ απέτυχε γιατί δεν είχε γερά θεμέλια. Υπάρχει ωστόσο και μια άλλη εκδοχή, στη σύντομη διήγηση με τίτλο: "Ο Θυρεός της Πόλης" (Das Stadtwappen) η οποία επίσης δημοσιεύτηκε μετά τον θάνατο του Kafka, στην οποία η κατασκευή αναβάλλεται επ' αόριστον λόγω της αναβλητικότητας των ανθρώπων αλλά και της τάσης τους να αναλώνονται σε συγκρούσεις, διχασμούς και έριδες καθώς επίσης και του χάσματος ανάμεσα στις παλιότερες και νεότερες γενιές, οι οποίες έχουν διαφορετικές ιδέες, ανάγκες, αντιλήψεις και προτεραιότητες. Αν το σινικό τείχος χτίζεται με προφανή σκοπό να αποτελέσει ένα τείχος προστασίας και με απώτερο σκοπό να αποτελέσει ένα αποτελεσματικό και γερό θεμέλιο για την ανοικοδόμηση του Πύργου της Βαβέλ, τότε... ποιος είναι ο σκοπός της ανέγερσης ενός Πύργου της Βαβέλ; "Das Wesentliche des ganzen Unternehmens ist der Gedanke, einen bis in den Himmel reichenden Turm zu bauen". "Η ουσία της όλης επιχείρησης ήταν ήταν η ιδέα του να φτιάξουν έναν πύργο που να φτάνει ως τον Ουρανό". Τι άλλο ξέρουμε για τον τρόπο που εννοεί ο Kafka την έννοια του Πύργου της Βαβέλ; Τον έχει αναφέρει ξανά στον "Φύλακα του τάφου", όταν λέει "welche das Fundament zusammenscharrt, das etwa fur den Babylonischen Turm" πως δηλαδή ο πρίγκιπας σκάβει τα θεμέλια που χρειάζονται για να χτίσει κάτι σαν τον πύργο της Βαβέλ. Στο μεγάλο τείχος της Κίνας, το τείχος καθεαυτό χαρακτηρίζεται ως ημικύκλιο ή ένα τέταρτο του κύκλου "Die Mauer, die doch nicht einmal einen Kreis, sondern nur eine Art Viertel". Αυτό σημαίνει πως ο νέος Πύργος της Βαβέλ προκειμένου να υπάρξει θα πρέπει να θεμελιωθεί ανάμεσα στους δύο κόσμους, ένα σύνορο που τελικά θα συνδέει τη γη με τον ουρανό (άνθρωπος - παιδί και Θεός - Πατέρας) και τους δύο κόσμους (βάρβαρο Βορρά και πολιτισμένο Νότο, τον κόσμο των αισθήσεων και τον κόσμο του πνεύματος). Είναι λοιπόν ο Πύργος της Βαβέλ η πολυθρύλητη πύλη που αναλόγως επιτρέπει ή εμποδίζει το πέρασμα από την μία ή την άλλη πλευρά από το ένα επίπεδο στο άλλο. Και ποια είναι η σχέση του ίδιου του Kafka με όλο αυτό; Και ο ίδιος ένιωθε πως έφερε μέσα του έναν Πύργο της Βαβέλ. Μια σπάνια ματιά στο εσωτερικό του, δίνει σε μια επιστολή του προς τον φίλο του, τον Max Brod, όπου προσπαθεί να του απολογηθεί για μια κρίση νευρικού γέλιου η οποία τον είχε πιάσει την προηγούμενη ημέρα. Ο Kafka έχει ομολογήσει και αλλού (σε επιστολή του στην Felice) πως τις πιο ακατάλληλες και σοβαρές στιγμές τον ευαίσθητο νευρικό του σύστημα τον πρόδιδε και τον εξέθετε στα μάτια των άλλων που σίγουρα θα είχαν δυσκολία να κατανοήσουν ή να δικαιολογήσουν την συμπεριφορά του: Ξεσπούσε σε νευρικά γέλια. Ήταν ένας τρόπος του για να εκτονώνει το άγχος και την πίεση που προέκυπτε από μια ορισμένη περίσταση. Από μια τέτοια αφορμή γράφει λοιπόν στον φίλο του ( Προς Max Brod Καρτ Ποστάλ, Πράγα 29 Αυγούστου [1913?]): "Αγαπημένε Max, σκέφτηκα πως χτες πρέπει να σου έδωσα την εντύπωση ενός απαίσιου ανθρώπου, βασικά εξαιτίας του τρόπου που γελούσα την ώρα που αποχαιρετιστήκαμε. Συνάμα ήξερα, όπως το ξέρω και τώρα, πως με εσένα δεν χρειάζονται εξηγήσεις. Ωστόσο πρέπει να πω, περισσότερο για μένα κι όχι για σένα, πως αυτό που παρουσίασα χτες και το οποίο σε αυτήν τη μορφή μόνο εσύ, η F (σσ. η αρραβωνιαστικιά του Kafka) και η Ottla (σσ. η αδερφή του Kafka) γνωρίζετε σε αυτήν την μορφή (παρόλο που θα έπρεπε να το είχα καταπιέσει ακόμα και με εσάς) είναι βεβαίως μόνο ό,τι συμβαίνει σε έναν από τους ορόφους του εσώτερου Πύργου της Βαβέλ μου, και όλα όσα υπάρχουν πάνω και κάτω από αυτό, δεν μπορεί να γίνει κατανοητό από τους πολίτες της πόλης της Βαβέλ. Όπως και να έχει αυτό πιστεύω πως αρκεί, καίτοι προσπαθώ να διορθώσω όσα περισσότερα μπορώ με το αδέξιο χέρι μου". Κάτι άλλο που είχε στο παρελθόν προκαλέσει νευρική κρίση γέλιου στον Kafka ήταν η καρικατούρα του Αυτοκράτορα. Αν δούμε το "Μεγάλο Τείχος της Κίνας" ως μια παρωδία του πολιτικού συστήματος της αυστροουγγρικής αυτοκρατορίας αλλά και ως μια συμβολική εικόνα της διαρθρωτικής δομής ενός εταιρικού οργανισμού, σαν κι εκείνους για τους οποίους εργαζόταν ο Kafka, θα διαπιστώσουμε κάποια κοινά στοιχεία. Μια Βαβέλ ανθρώπων κάτω από ένα κοινό στέμμα, μια μέθοδος διακυβέρνησης όπου δεν σου επιτρέπει να έχεις άμεση και απεριόριστη πρόσβαση στο σύνολο της γνώσης που σχετίζεται με τους στόχους, τις αποφάσεις αλλά και το καθεαυτό ποιόν των φορέων που ασκούν την εξουσία, λίγο έως πολύ οι περισσότεροι οφείλουμε να υπακούμε σε αποφάσεις που δεν έχουμε πάρει οι ίδιοι, χωρίς να τις καταλαβαίνουμε ιδιαίτερα, χωρίς να ξέρουμε αυτούς που τις παίρνουν για λογαριασμό μας και οι οποίοι μπορεί πολύ συχνά να είναι τελείως ηλίθιοι ή να είναι και οι ίδιοι ανδρείκελα ενός άλλου φορέα εξουσίας. Γράφει για παράδειγμα στη Felice, για τον πρόεδρο της εταιρίας του, τον Dr. Otto Přibram: "Θα έπαιρνε πολύ για να σου περιγράψω πόσο σημαντικός είναι αυτός ο άνθρωπος. Αλλά πίστεψέ με είναι εξαιρετικά σημαντικός. Ένας συνηθισμένος υπάλληλος θεωρεί πως αυτός ο άνδρας δεν ανήκει στη γη αλλά στα ουράνια. Και συνήθως έχουμε ελάχιστες ευκαιρίες να μιλούμε στον Αυτοκράτορα, για το μέσο υπάλληλο η επαφή με αυτόν τον άνδρα - μια περίσταση πολύ συνηθισμένη σε όλους τους εταιρικούς οργανισμούς - ισοδυναμεί ως συνάντηση με τον ίδιο τον Αυτοκράτορα. Να μην παραλείψω πως όπως καθένας που έπειτα από μια γενική εξέταση αποδεικνύεται κατώτερος της θέσης του, αυτός ο άνδρας είναι για γέλια. Αλλά το να αφεθεί κάποιος να γελάσει με κάτι τόσο κοινότοπο και επιπλέον ενώπιον του σπουδαίου άνδρα είναι σωστή τρέλα". (8 με 9 Ιανουαρίου 1912 [1913]) Αυτό ωστόσο έκανε ο Kafka ο οποίος στη συνέχεια περιγράφει την κρίση νευρικού γέλιου με έναν ιδιαίτερα χιουμοριστικό τρόπο, και το γέλιο του ομολογώ πως είναι απολύτως μεταδοτικό, αν κρίνω από την προσωπική μου και άμεση αναγνωστική εμπειρία. Και φτάνουμε στο μείζον ερώτημα: Ποια είναι αυτή η ανώτατη εξουσία; " In der Stube der Führerschaft – wo sie war und wer dort saß, weiß und wußte niemand, den ich fragte – in dieser Stube kreisten wohl alle menschlichen Gedanken und Wünsche und in Gegenkreisen alle menschlichen Ziele und Erfüllungen. Durch das Fenster aber fiel der Abglanz der göttlichen Welten auf die Pläne zeichnenden Hände der Führerschaft". "Στο δωμάτιο της εξουσίας - πού βρισκόταν αυτό και ποιοι κάθονταν εκεί κανένας από όσους ρώτησα ούτε τότε ήξερε ούτε τώρα γνωρίζει - σε αυτό το δωμάτιο πιθανώς όλες οι ανθρώπινες σκέψεις και επιθυμίες σχημάτιζαν έναν κύκλο και όλοι οι ανθρώπινοι στόχοι και επιτεύγματα σχημάτιζαν έναν αντίστροφο κύκλο. Ωστόσο από το παράθυρο έπεφτε στα χέρια της εξουσίας που κατέστρωνε τα σχέδια η αντανάκλαση των θεϊκών κόσμων". Οπότε ακόμα και αυτή η απρόσιτη και ακριβοθώρητη εξουσία, δεν ξέρει τι κάνει, μόνο μια αντανάκλαση μπορεί να δει από κάτι άλλο, ανώτερο και δυσερμήνευτο, το οποίο καταφτάνει σε αυτούς με έμμεσο τρόπο. Κι ο αυτοκράτορας ο ίδιος, είναι περισσότερο σημαντικός για την εξουσία που συμβολίζει και όχι για την αληθινή εξουσία που κατέχει. Κατά τα άλλα δεν διαφέρει σε τίποτα από τους συνηθισμένους ανθρώπους. Κι αν ήθελε να σου μεταφέρει την αινιγματική γνώση της αντανάκλασης του παραθύρου, το μήνυμά του θα χανόταν μέσα στις αχανείς εκτάσεις της αυτοκρατορίας του "Αλλά εσύ κάθεσαι στο παράθυρό σου, την ώρα που νυχτώνει και ονειρεύεσαι το μήνυμα του αυτοκράτορα" το οποίο δεν θα λάβεις ποτέ. Δηλαδή αυτό που συμπεραίνει με απλά λόγια ο Kafka είναι πως όλοι οι θεσμοί και οι φορείς εξουσίας υπάρχουν προκειμένου να εξασφαλιστεί η συνύπαρξη των ανθρώπων, να ρυθμιστούν οι μεταξύ τους σχέσεις και η άγνοια (το μήνυμα χωρίς παραλήπτη) ο φόβος (οι βάρβαροι Βόρειοι λαοί), οι νόμοι και τα διατάγματα (διαταγή για αποσπασματική ανοικοδόμηση του τείχους) είναι μέσα που στοχεύουν στην υπακοή, συνεργασία των ανθρώπων και προορίζονται για να τους κρατούν ικανοποιημένους με το υπάρχον καθεστώς. Αυτό που ο ίδιος ο Kafka ονομάζει "Einheit!" δηλαδή "Ενότητα". Ίσως γι' αυτό στο τέλος της διήγησης το μήνυμα των επαναστατών φτάνει πολύ αργά και είναι ιδιαίτερα απαρχαιωμένο (μια εκδοχή της σύγχυσης των γλωσσών της Βαβέλ, ένα μήνυμα που παραμένει χαμένο γιατί δεν φτάνει εγκαίρως στον παραλήπτη) για να συγκινήσει ή να ξεσηκώσει τους συγχωριανούς του αφηγητή, η αντίδρασή τους είναι να ξεσπάσουν σε γέλια. Είναι τόσο μεγάλος και τόσο ετερόκλητος αυτός ο κόσμος που καμία επανάσταση δεν θα μπορούσε να φτάσει ταυτόχρονα σε όλους τους ανθρώπους και να αντιπροσωπεύσει τις ανάγκες και τα αιτήματα της κάθε γενιάς ή εποχής. Πάντα θα υπάρχουν αυτοί που κόντρα σε όσους εξεγείρονται, θα συνεχίζουν να χτίζουν σαν συνεπείς εργάτες το θεμέλιο ενός επινοημένου κόσμου, πολύ απασχολημένοι με αυτό που κάνουν ώστε να σηκώσουν το κεφάλι και να δουν, πως στην πραγματικότητα "Δεν έχουμε αυτοκράτορα".

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ray

    Stories of dislocation, confusion and bewildering bureaucracy. Snippets really, but interesting all the same. Better perhaps to read the longer books - I would recommend The Castle

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sean Blake

    This collection contains some of Kafka's other major short stories, as well as his numerous one-page sketches and excerpts of his aphorisms. 'Investigations of a Dog' is one of the very finest pieces of literature I've read. A triumph of artistic, comic and philosophical imagination, exploring the possibilities of knowledge, perception and reality. His aphorisms (written between 1915 and 1920) are also significant in itself, highlighting the existential depth he was willing to delve into in orde This collection contains some of Kafka's other major short stories, as well as his numerous one-page sketches and excerpts of his aphorisms. 'Investigations of a Dog' is one of the very finest pieces of literature I've read. A triumph of artistic, comic and philosophical imagination, exploring the possibilities of knowledge, perception and reality. His aphorisms (written between 1915 and 1920) are also significant in itself, highlighting the existential depth he was willing to delve into in order to make some sort of sense over (his) existence.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Cecily

    Various short stories (generally not as good as in Metamorphosis) and a short play. Several have legal/bureaucratic themes and others continue his habit of first-person musings, imagining himself as another creature (Report of a Dog and The Burrow). The Burrow is a very touching insight into the concept of home as a castle, fear of intrusion and persecution etc - very easy to add a Jewish spin to the interpretation. See my Kafka-related bookshelf for other works by and about Kafka (http://www.goo Various short stories (generally not as good as in Metamorphosis) and a short play. Several have legal/bureaucratic themes and others continue his habit of first-person musings, imagining himself as another creature (Report of a Dog and The Burrow). The Burrow is a very touching insight into the concept of home as a castle, fear of intrusion and persecution etc - very easy to add a Jewish spin to the interpretation. See my Kafka-related bookshelf for other works by and about Kafka (http://www.goodreads.com/review/list/...).

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kate Savage

    "You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait. Do not even wait, be quite still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet." -Reflections on Sin, Pain, Hope, and the True Way I am completely charmed by Kafka's short stories and aphorisms. "The Great Wall of China" is the fictional equivalent of the anthropology of James C. Scott and David Graeber, abo "You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait. Do not even wait, be quite still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet." -Reflections on Sin, Pain, Hope, and the True Way I am completely charmed by Kafka's short stories and aphorisms. "The Great Wall of China" is the fictional equivalent of the anthropology of James C. Scott and David Graeber, about societies slippery to control, egalitarian in the teeth of hierarchical empire. And good lord, that singing dog. Some reviewers have been miss-listing the short stories in this volume. It doesn't contain a lot of his most well-known short stories, like "In the Penal Colony" or "The Hunger Artist," or the one about the ape's report. These are much lesser known. Begin with the book IN THE PENAL COLONY, and only venture here if you've already fallen in love with Kafka.

  6. 5 out of 5

    cd

    "Alas," said the mouse, "the world is growing smaller every day. At first it was so big that I was afraid, I ran on and I was glad when at last I saw walls to left and right of me in the distance, but these long walls are closing in on each other so fast that I have already reached the end room, and there in the corner stands the trap that I am heading for." "You only have to change direction," said the cat, and ate it up. "Alas," said the mouse, "the world is growing smaller every day. At first it was so big that I was afraid, I ran on and I was glad when at last I saw walls to left and right of me in the distance, but these long walls are closing in on each other so fast that I have already reached the end room, and there in the corner stands the trap that I am heading for." "You only have to change direction," said the cat, and ate it up.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Greta Barber-Stones

    Didn’t think I’d finish the year with short stories, but pleasantly surprised! Faves were: A Report to an Academy, The Vulture, and The City Coat of Arms

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sidharth Vardhan

    Most of these were published posthumously. A lot many are incomplete. A few of my favorites: The Truth about Sancho Panza The brain(Sancho Panza) knows that the heart (Quixote) is full of desires that will be destructive to the whole person and so it calms the heart down by feeding it on dreams and fantasies of adventures during evenings and nights. The Hunter Gracchus This one begins in a very realistic environment for a Kafka story; The vivid descriptions of very normal village people seems to make Most of these were published posthumously. A lot many are incomplete. A few of my favorites: The Truth about Sancho Panza The brain(Sancho Panza) knows that the heart (Quixote) is full of desires that will be destructive to the whole person and so it calms the heart down by feeding it on dreams and fantasies of adventures during evenings and nights. The Hunter Gracchus This one begins in a very realistic environment for a Kafka story; The vivid descriptions of very normal village people seems to make direct contrast with Grachus’ fabulous story – and none shows any amazement on seeing the other. They both belong to same world. Another story about pre-destined - loneliness - something of a wondering Jew in it. The Silence of the Sirens A very good study in game theory. Both sirens and Ulysses seems to be aware of each other’s tactics and each is trying to better the other. The Great Wall of China An allegory on absurdity that a common man finds with his role in (God’s ) grater plan regarding the universe. The Giant Mole How the thing that is most important part of your life can be seen as of no value to others. It can also be read as an allegory on miracles – showing the problem of lack of belief in miracles. Giant mole being the miracle, the village school teacher being apostle and the business man being believer. Village schoolmaster lacks the skill and tools to prove beyond doubt the occurrence of miracle.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Pete daPixie

    'The Great Wall of China and other Stories' contain over forty short works, quite a number being just a page or two in length. Kafka himself left instructions for these writings to be destroyed after his death, instructions which were disobeyed by a certain Max Brod. I have to think that Kafka's wishes should have been met. I feel that I am being my usual generous self in rating two stars for this collection. It began quite well with the first short stories, perhaps my favourite among them being 'The Great Wall of China and other Stories' contain over forty short works, quite a number being just a page or two in length. Kafka himself left instructions for these writings to be destroyed after his death, instructions which were disobeyed by a certain Max Brod. I have to think that Kafka's wishes should have been met. I feel that I am being my usual generous self in rating two stars for this collection. It began quite well with the first short stories, perhaps my favourite among them being 'The Hunter Gracchus', but with the Collected Aphorisms and most of the subsequent pieces, I became less and less engaged. Disappointing, as Kafka's 'Metamorphosis' and 'The Trial' were influential fictional works from my youth.

  10. 4 out of 5

    sanne_reads

    I loved most of the stories, I would just wish to read the original so I can make a better review.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Madhura Sondharangalla

    Kafkaesque and absurd bureaucracy...

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    I don’t recall how I found Kafka in college, but once I did I was hooked. I devoured all the writings he’d published during his lifetime, along with two of the three novels that did not, “The Trial” and “The Castle.” I read and reread him as if unable to quench my thirst, and then suddenly I stopped. I haven’t read him since. Now, I didn’t begin the year with the goal of finally getting to those long-lingering literary works and ticking them off the list, but that’s eventually what I began to do. I don’t recall how I found Kafka in college, but once I did I was hooked. I devoured all the writings he’d published during his lifetime, along with two of the three novels that did not, “The Trial” and “The Castle.” I read and reread him as if unable to quench my thirst, and then suddenly I stopped. I haven’t read him since. Now, I didn’t begin the year with the goal of finally getting to those long-lingering literary works and ticking them off the list, but that’s eventually what I began to do. After books by Orwell, Steinbeck, Kawabata, Faulkner, Roth and Palahniuk (one of these is not like the others), “The Great Wall of China: Stories and Reflections” (a book on my shelf for nearly 20 years) was practically left standing alone, flashing in garish neon and throbbing like a thumb just hit by a hammer. With apprehension I relented, and for days since finishing it I’ve been somewhat rudderless, my Kafka compass no longer dutifully pointing to true north. I stalled on this review with the hope that some of my certainty would return, that my whole Kafka world hadn’t been irreparably shattered in light of this latest read. A little time for reflection, along with an auspiciously-timed conversation with a friend and fellow Kafkaphile, has begun to right the ship, and I no longer feel like Dorothy discovering that the Wizard is just an old guy behind a curtain with a microphone and booming speaker. Kafka never intended for the stories, fables, and aphorisms that appear here to be published. In fact, he explicitly instructed his friend, Max Brod, to burn everything, whether finished or in rough draft. Max dutifully ignored the order, and, in addition to this book, thus preserved his three novels, copious letters, and other biographical material. So we’ve got a collection of works the author never intended to have published (though, naturally, there is some debate about whether Kafka really wanted his extant manuscripts destroyed), and a reader worried he may no longer carry the pedestaled love he once did. What could go wrong? “The Great Wall of China” opens with four longer stories, and the first of these, “Investigations of a Dog,” seems like a story that would have hooked me in my college days, but now I found it tedious and boring. “The Burrow” followed, building perfectly, little by little, and, though incomplete, restored my hopes greatly, as it had the perfect mix of paranoia, anxiety, overly-abundant attention to detail, and, most importantly, wry humor that are, for me, the hallmarks of great Kafka. The eponymous “Great Wall” came next and suffered from a lack of focus as if it had been written stream-of-consciously, switching gears midway with the original story line exhausting itself and a new one, that also went nowhere, taking its place. Finally, “The Giant Mole” was a frustrating mix of the first two stories, and was an appropriately unsatisfying end to the first section of the collection. More than a dozen shorter stories and fables followed, though only “My Neighbor,” “The Bridge,” the oddly-titled “A Sport,” and “The City Coat of Arms” made much of an impression. The book concludes with two sets of aphorisms, “He” and “Reflections on Sin, Pain, Hope, and the True Way,” the latter of which having since been republished in a slightly modified form as “The Zürau Aphorisms.” I’m not much of an aphorist, and while the format in general is designed to give the pithy (and ideally universal) observations more weight than they often deserve, many here seemed highly personal, and most did nothing for me. The final aphorism, and the final words of this collection, did, however: “You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait. Do not even wait, be quite still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Those five sentences may have been worth the price of admission, and also served to put my mind at rest: though these Kafka works largely failed for me, they did nothing to change my feelings for the writer or his stories and novels that have lingered so strongly within me all these years.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Coenraad

    This selection of ten of Kafka's short texts strengthens the image of one of the best and most important writers of the twentieth century. Many of the themes in these parable-like texts echo what he wrote about in his great novels, like The castle. They also emphasize his kinship with the great Argentinian writer, Jorge Luis Borges, especially in the title story, "The Great Wall of China". After this fascinating analysis of dictatorship, the longest text is "A report to an academy", made famous This selection of ten of Kafka's short texts strengthens the image of one of the best and most important writers of the twentieth century. Many of the themes in these parable-like texts echo what he wrote about in his great novels, like The castle. They also emphasize his kinship with the great Argentinian writer, Jorge Luis Borges, especially in the title story, "The Great Wall of China". After this fascinating analysis of dictatorship, the longest text is "A report to an academy", made famous in South Africa by the stage performances (in English) by Marius Weyers, and earlier this year his performance in an excellent Afrikaans version for radio. This first-person narrative of an ape that learnt how to speak and behave like a human being is spine-chilling. Another link with Borges is the consideration of the Babel myth in "The city coat of arms". If you think you "know" Kafka because you've read the novels and Metamorphosis, it's time to explore more. Franz Kafka word in sommige kringe beskou as een van die heel belangrikste skrywers van die twintigste eeu. Hierdie tien kort tekste bevestig hierdie siening, maar sal kenners van Kafka se romans en sy novelle Metamorfose laat regop sit. Sy temas is deurtastend, sluit aan by die romans, en toon ook hoe Kafka se werk skakel met dié van die Argentyn Jorge Luis Borges. Kafka was beslis 'n letterkundige reus - en om te dink: as sy vriend sy testament eerbiedig het, was al hierdie werk vir die mensdom verlore (lees hieroor meer in Milan Kundera se essaybundel, vertaal as Testaments betrayed).

  14. 5 out of 5

    Irwan

    I have a love-hate relationship with Kafka. Sometimes he bores me to death with a story that doesn't seem to go anywhere, or simply narrated coldly. In this collection of short stories, he amazed and shocked me with his power of narration. In "A Report to the Academy", he voiced an ape whose only way to achieve freedom was by imitating men. He wrote, as usual, in a dark, grim and absurd tone. The style I found in some of my current favourite authors. I have a love-hate relationship with Kafka. Sometimes he bores me to death with a story that doesn't seem to go anywhere, or simply narrated coldly. In this collection of short stories, he amazed and shocked me with his power of narration. In "A Report to the Academy", he voiced an ape whose only way to achieve freedom was by imitating men. He wrote, as usual, in a dark, grim and absurd tone. The style I found in some of my current favourite authors.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jackson Cyril

    This made no sense at the beginning, maybe Kafka has some deep meaning entrenched but it comes off as just a historical study of the building of the Great Wall. The second part of the piece was first class in its analysis of how common peasants, though called upon by the government to do much of the dirty work for them, are never involved in the process of government and treated with disdain from those hailing from the capital.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ishita

    Comes through as a piece before its times, when there is rapid speculation about China and its strong sense of identity. Such lucid profundity in a few pages, with an exact idea of one's place in the order of things. Leaves much to the known beyond one's grasp, but captures one's limitations with fluid ease. Comes through as a piece before its times, when there is rapid speculation about China and its strong sense of identity. Such lucid profundity in a few pages, with an exact idea of one's place in the order of things. Leaves much to the known beyond one's grasp, but captures one's limitations with fluid ease.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Judy Vasseur

    The drawing on this book was done by Kafka himself! What a great drawing! So full of angst! I may never really finish this book, it's like trying to get to the Castle. My favorite Kafka stories are when he writes from a small animal’s perspective: the burrowing creature, the dog, the cockroach. Flannery O’Connor said she could never finish Kafka either so I'm in good company. The drawing on this book was done by Kafka himself! What a great drawing! So full of angst! I may never really finish this book, it's like trying to get to the Castle. My favorite Kafka stories are when he writes from a small animal’s perspective: the burrowing creature, the dog, the cockroach. Flannery O’Connor said she could never finish Kafka either so I'm in good company.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Vince

    Judging by the couple of incomplete stories and notes about "no author's title" "from the diary of the author" "unlike several others in this volume, the author probably considered publishing this story" make me think it's aimed at people more familiar with Kafka. Enjoyable, but I'd probably have been better off getting a hold of The Trial first. Judging by the couple of incomplete stories and notes about "no author's title" "from the diary of the author" "unlike several others in this volume, the author probably considered publishing this story" make me think it's aimed at people more familiar with Kafka. Enjoyable, but I'd probably have been better off getting a hold of The Trial first.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Valentina van ghost

    A collection of less-well-known short stories and musings, some interesting and insightful, some failed to capture my attention. Overally I feel like every sentence he wrote was a metaphor that I failed to grasp or sort into his life (which I know next to nothing about). Regardless I quite enjoyed this short book.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Bruce

    Very interesting and absorbing, but not as crazy and disturbing as I had anticipated. Or perhaps I am just more insane than Kafka was. In any case, there are some brilliant insights and engrossing short stories in this volume. In particular 'The Bridge' and 'The Vulture' are good. Very interesting and absorbing, but not as crazy and disturbing as I had anticipated. Or perhaps I am just more insane than Kafka was. In any case, there are some brilliant insights and engrossing short stories in this volume. In particular 'The Bridge' and 'The Vulture' are good.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Vilém Zouhar

    Annual winter kafkaesque porn. I could never read Kafka except in winter. Maybe it's connected with his novel The Castle, but I reckon there's more to it. There's a strange melancholy mood pervading every story. Annual winter kafkaesque porn. I could never read Kafka except in winter. Maybe it's connected with his novel The Castle, but I reckon there's more to it. There's a strange melancholy mood pervading every story.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Boredlaura

    Kafka: over-hyped. He's got nothing to say, but an overwhelming urge to say it. Kafka: over-hyped. He's got nothing to say, but an overwhelming urge to say it.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Rand

    The Great Wall of China had a very Borges feel to it, other stores were entertaining or just damn funny.

  24. 4 out of 5

    RA

    Okay, even I say Kafka is one strange dude! Characters here: a bridge, a mole-like creature a dog, himself, etc. His own particular brand of language.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Steef

    I think I liked the last story (The Burrow) best.

  26. 4 out of 5

    João Pires

    I'm a great fan of Kafka and of short stories. This edition that I read was titled as"The Great Wall of China", but has two more stories: "The Burrow" and "Investigations of a Dog". The main storie reminds us that some great things (in the past we had the great monuments) takes ages to be built. The people that start the work, don't see the final result, and it take many generations to be built. Also sometimes we just act like pieces of a machine, we don't really know what we are doing, we just I'm a great fan of Kafka and of short stories. This edition that I read was titled as"The Great Wall of China", but has two more stories: "The Burrow" and "Investigations of a Dog". The main storie reminds us that some great things (in the past we had the great monuments) takes ages to be built. The people that start the work, don't see the final result, and it take many generations to be built. Also sometimes we just act like pieces of a machine, we don't really know what we are doing, we just do small pieces of a greater thing. The second story, my favourite, it's about a rabbit that spends all is live afraid of being hunted. Sometimes in life we became obsessed by little things that don't let us live at all. The last story I didin't remember as well as the others...

  27. 4 out of 5

    Arnau

    I feel like Kafka isn't meant to be read in a compilation format. While most of his topics, metaphors and imagery -mostly about introspection and existentialism- are appealing and interesting, reading these short stories consequently was a tedious experience. I can't say I have not enjoyed some of the narrations in it, but I was left with the impression that in many cases they began with an interesting prospect which the author later streched the hell out of, only to end up pointing at the issue I feel like Kafka isn't meant to be read in a compilation format. While most of his topics, metaphors and imagery -mostly about introspection and existentialism- are appealing and interesting, reading these short stories consequently was a tedious experience. I can't say I have not enjoyed some of the narrations in it, but I was left with the impression that in many cases they began with an interesting prospect which the author later streched the hell out of, only to end up pointing at the issues he has pointed countless times before. I won't even mention the aphorisms. They are a pity theatre, they feel unfinished and abrupt. Overall, I felt like I was reading Kafka's draft notebook, rather than a consciously crafted anthology.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Chris Hall

    This is quite a mixed bag - some of the pieces are clearly nothing more than fragments whereas others are more substantial. Almost all bear Kafka's juxtaposition of the real and surreal. The inescapable question with any collection like this concerns the extent to which the work was considered finished by the author. After the author, the second best placed person to judge this is the reader ... This reader sits on the fence - some appear complete, others do not. Generally - but not exclusively - This is quite a mixed bag - some of the pieces are clearly nothing more than fragments whereas others are more substantial. Almost all bear Kafka's juxtaposition of the real and surreal. The inescapable question with any collection like this concerns the extent to which the work was considered finished by the author. After the author, the second best placed person to judge this is the reader ... This reader sits on the fence - some appear complete, others do not. Generally - but not exclusively - good.

  29. 4 out of 5

    RUPERT WOLFE-MURRAY

    The Great Wall of China starts well with technical detail of how the job was organized but then he gets lost in inner monologues. I know he's a great writer and I should admire him, and I've tried, but after reading this third short story I have up on this particularly gloomy Czech who originally wrote in German The Great Wall of China starts well with technical detail of how the job was organized but then he gets lost in inner monologues. I know he's a great writer and I should admire him, and I've tried, but after reading this third short story I have up on this particularly gloomy Czech who originally wrote in German

  30. 4 out of 5

    Don Annand

    This collection of stories, anecdotes and meditations is uneven. There are some very unusual perspectives (Investigations of a dog, The Burrow). The Burrow, in particular is very a propos in these days of the covid self-isolation. The protagonist has a fairly extensive underground home which is well-stocked but is still anxious about his safety and security from intruders, which progresses to a love-hate attitude to his humble abode.

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