Monday 16 November 2015

Kafka's parents

Marriage is certainly the clearest proof of self-liberation and independence [from one’s family]. It would give me a family of my own – the highest of all achievements in my opinion, and indeed your highest achievement. It would make me your equal. All the old and new embarrassments and your tyranny would be no more than past history then. That would be like a fairy tale, and that is what makes it questionable. It is too great an achievement to be attainable. I would be like a captive who had intentions not only to flee, which might be attainable, but who intended at the same time to remodel his prison and make it into a pleasure dome. But when he flees he cannot remodel it, and if he wants to remodel it, he cannot flee.

If I want to free myself from my particularly unhappy relationship with you and become independent, I must achieve something that has, if possible, nothing whatsoever to do with you. Marriage is the greatest achievement and offers an honourable way to become independent, but it is also most closely associated with you. To escape in this manner has an element of madness about it, and every attempt therefore carries a penalty…

The way things are between us blocks my way to marriage, because it is your most personal area of engagement. Sometimes I imagine a map of the world laid out before me, and you lying stretched across it. Then I have the feeling that the only areas feasible for me to inhabit are those you do not cover, those that are outside your reach. That is, roughly, my idea of your greatness. There are not many or very comfortable areas left, and marriage is among the areas [covered by you]…

Your marriage offered me in many ways an exemplary model, exemplary in loyalty, mutual support, and number of children. Even after the children grew up and increasingly disturbed the peace, your marriage remained untouched in its essence.  It may have been exactly this example that developed in me a high opinion of marriage. There were other reasons that made me powerless to realize my own desire to marry. They had to do with your relationship to your children, and that’s what this whole letter is about. 

(Source: Letter to my Father, text on; my translation. Image: slidesharecdn)

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