Jimmy's Reviews > Amerika

Amerika by Franz Kafka
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Jul 16, 08

really liked it
bookshelves: austria-hungary, male, novel, year-1920s
Read in July, 2008

** spoiler alert ** I disagree with Max Brod's afterword claiming that this is Kafka's lightest most optimistic and funny book. Though its subject matter is bleak, The Trial is funnier and lighter in tone overall. Amerika, perhaps because it's less "doomed from the start", offers a glimmer of hope throughout, which makes it all the more unbearable as the protagonist gets trapped into situation after situation where he is caught as a victim of absurd forces. The harder he tries, the further down into the trap he slips. It gave me a sinking feeling as I read. At the same time, it is also a very funny novel. It makes for a very weird feeling in me.

Like his other novels, Amerika is unfinished. There are a few missing chapters after he gets trapped in an apartment with a few scoundrel friends. He must have escaped somehow in the missing chapters because in the last chapter, he is looking for employment with a theater company. It is the most hopeful chapter of the novel (though it's not completely positive; there are signs of foreboding in it too) and probably the reason why the novel is claimed as Kafka's most optimistic novel.

But I don't buy that because the last chapter says more about Kafka himself than it does about the protagonist and his story. It feels disconnected from the rest of the novel, almost as if this was Kafka's impossible wish for his protagonist rather than what he really believed in. But how would his protagonist get to this point? Kafka himself doesn't know. In a way, this (literally) angel-filled chapter makes the novel as a whole even darker, because it seems more like an exercise in futility.
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