INTRODUCTION BY JOHN WILLIAMS Kafka's final novel was written during 1922, when the tuberculosis that was to kill him was already at an advanced stage. Fragmentary and unfinished, it perhaps never could have been finished; perhaps the tensions between K., the Castle and the village, K. s struggle for acceptance or recognition by the mysterious Castle authorities or by the people of the village, never will and never can be resolved. Like much of Kafka's work, The Castle is enigmatic and polyvalent. Is it an allegory of the sprawling Austro-Hungarian Empire as it disintegrates into modern nation states, or a quasi-feudal system giving way to a new freedom for the subject? Is it the search by a central European Jew for acceptance and integration into a dominant culture? Is it a spiritual quest for grace or salvation, or an individual s struggle between his sense of independence and his need for approval? Is K. is an opportunist, a victim, or an outsider battling against an elusive authority? Is the Castle a benign source of authority or a whimsical system of control? Like K., the reader is presented with conflicting perspectives that rehearse the existential dilemmas and uncertainties of literary modernity.
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They are perhaps the most famous literary instructions never followed: "Dearest Max, my last request: Everything I leave behind me ... in the way of diaries, manuscripts, letters (my own and others'), sketches, and so on, [is] to be burned unread...." Thankfully, Max Brod did not honor his friend Franz Kafka's final wishes. Instead, he did everything within his power to ensure that Kafka's work would find publication--including making some sweeping changes in the original texts. Until recently, the world has known only Brod's version of Kafka, with its altered punctuation, word order, and chapter divisions. Restoring much of what had previously been expunged, as well as the fluid, oral quality of Kafka's original German, Mark Harman's new translation of The Castle is a major literary event.
One of three unfinished novels left after Kafka's death, The Castle is in many ways the writer's most enduring and influential work. In Harman's muscular translation, Kafka's text seems more modern than ever, the words tumbling over one another, the sentences separated only by commas. Harman's version also ends the same way as Kafka's original manuscript--that is, in mid-sentence: "She held out her trembling hand to K. and had him sit down beside her, she spoke with great difficulty, it was difficult to understand her, but what she said--." For anyone used to reading Kafka in his artificially complete form, the effect is extraordinary; it is as if Kafka himself had just stepped from the room, leaving behind him a work whose resolution is the more haunting for being forever out of reach.From the Publisher:
Mark Harman's new translation of "The Castle" was the winner of the Modern Language Association's Lois Roth Award (1999). The jury's citation read as follows:
"Mark Harman has produced a worthy successor to the long-established 1930 translation by Edwin Muir and Willa Muir. While maintaining high standards of literal accuracy and employing an English that is contemporary in its vocabulary and idiom, he has also fashioned a style that expressively re-creates Kafka's unsettling blend of the mundane and the unnerving, the wryly comic and the obliquely menacing. Harman's syntax in particular, with its controlled and grammatically subversive use of comma splices, captures the narrative's progressive mood of disorientation and bafflement. Mark Harman's translation has recharged the imaginative energy and impact of Kafka's novel, ensuring that its influence in English-speaking countries will in the next century be as powerful as it has been in this."
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