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Kafka Stories - 2014 > Discussion - Week Seven - Kafka - The Warden of the Tomb

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Jim | 3055 comments Mod
This discussion covers the story, The Warden of the Tomb


“Steward: …The Prince has a dual nature. The one, concerning itself with government, wavers absent-mindedly in public, disregarding its own privileges. The other nature admittedly searches very painstakingly for a strengthening of its foundations. It searches for them in the past, delving deeper and deeper. What a misunderstanding of the situation! A misunderstanding that doesn’t lack greatness – although its defectiveness is even greater than its appearance. Can you fail to see that?

Chamberlain: It’s not the description I object to, it’s the interpretation.”



An enchanted kingdom, unduly ruled by evil spirits? Seems plain to the outsider.

Given the small amount of information and a group of unreliable narrators, the most obvious first question is “Who’s fooling who?” What motivates the Steward, a foreigner? What motivates the Warden? The Prince? The spirits of the dead?

As is often the case with Kafka, we’re presented with more questions than answers.


Zadignose | 444 comments This is the second of our discussion stories that I haven't commented on yet, as my time for reading has been limited, but I will be catching up soon if possible. I hope to see thriving discussions! Kafka is the master.


Zadignose | 444 comments OK. Hmm. This one certainly ends mysteriously. Or rather, it is mysterious from the beginning, but by the end it is mysterious AND infinitely unresolved. While Kafka's stories sometimes end, with a sort of nominal closure, they usually are not fully resolved, but this one feels somewhat less resolved because of the tantalizing nature of ghost stories.

Impressions:

-The Warden seems vitally important in a way we can't comprehend.
-The Warden is tricky, and we can't get a handle on him. But I sympathize with him.
-There is intrigue, but it's intentionally kept abstract.
-The court intrigue and ghost-story elements invoke conventional story-telling tropes, but the story doesn't go where convention suggests it should. The author is not inclined to fill in the details to render the conflict complete and comprehensible. He's invoking something.
-The actual encounter with the ghosts is quite absurd, startling, and creepy in ways that one can expect only from Kafka.
-The Warden has something in common with the father from The Judgment.
-In the contrast between the Warden and the Steward, we see two methods of "serving" the prince. The Warden serves the prince by obeying what he supposes the Prince's will to be, though he may be entirely mistaken. He can't actually know what the Prince wants, and he may have inadvertently made the wrong judgement and pursued the wrong course in his dealings with the ghosts (after all, the Prince perceived his duties only as protecting the tomb from outsiders). The Steward, on the other hand, believes in serving the Prince against his will. The Chamberlain is non-committal except in symbolically affirming his devotion.
-There's probably a psychoanalytic way to interpret the tomb as a kind of subconscious (again) and the various actors could probably be defined in terms of this, but I'm not in the mood to open that up at the moment... gotta run!


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