What Kafka had to be so clear and simple about was that nothing is clear and simple. On his death bed he said of a vase of flowers that they were like him: simultaneously alive and dead. All demarcations are shimmeringly blurred. Some powerful sets of opposites absolutely do not, as Heraclitus said, cooperate. They fight. They tip over the balance of every certainty. We can, Kafka said, easily believe any truth and its negative at the same time.
It was with pure relish that I read the latest posting by my friend Mimi Kramer-Bryk, Confessions of a Theme Whore, on the blog she writes with her husband William Byrk, City of Smoke. Nobody makes popular culture as entertaining, engaging and provocative as Mimi does. Who else could take us on such a satisfying search for meaning and significance through Hugh Laurie’s TV series House or the Sopranos?
It was Mimi’s insights into the pervasive House theme of the Divided Self that made this Guy Davenport passage about Kafka even more personal and thought-provoking. That’s one of the steady themes that is prevalent on my personal programming right now—the concept of leaky margins, of the “shimmeringly blurred” demarcations between things, states of mind, knowing.
Guy Davenport–poet, essayist, literary critic, teacher, visual artist–died in 2005. This passage was included in the Whiskey River commonplace book.