Apparatets sammenbrud. 'I straffekolonien' med Franz Kafka

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


The Breakdown of the Apparatus: With Franz Kafka ‘In the Penal Colony’
The article proposes a meticulous reading of ‘In the Penal Colony’ (1914), aiming to show how this story, in ways so far unnoticed by Kafka scholarship, represents something decisively new in his work. ‘In the Penal Colony’ (1914) introduces a new social motif, afterwards recurrent in Kafka: a cruel, old legal and social formation breaking up, leaving an empty gap and opening to a new situation that could be even worse. My initial reading is expanded by placing the story in personal, literary and historical contexts. From a point of departure in Kafka’s diaries in 1914 a mapping is suggested of some important instances of specific intertextuality – Octave Mirbeau, Fyodor Dostoevsky and the Passion of the New Testament. Further, the story’s conception of society is – through Oswald Spengler – read into concrete historical contexts. Though in the kafkaesque form of an alienated parable, the story is also a shrewd analysis of the political dilemmas of the intellectual as Kafka saw them at the beginning of the First World War, foreseeing the disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Because of Kafka’s specific position in the autumn of 1914, ‘In the Penal Colony’ reflects problems of a wider historical and general significance.
Original languageDanish
Issue number66
Pages (from-to)69-86
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2011

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