Sunday, September 25, 2005

Blogging Kafka

September 25,2005

Blogging on the internet reminds me of Kafka's Imperial Message: the emperor of all the vast kingdoms of the earth is lying on his deathbed. With his dying breath he calls his courier to his side and whispers a message in his ear....a message meant for you......you, the farthest flung of all the empire's millions of anonymous subjects, you, the most insignificant speck on the map of the empire......the Emperor expends his dying breath on a message intended for .....you.

And now the messenger sets out to deliver the message....to you.He pushes his way through the throngs that are gathered in the castle and in the courtyard, he finds his way into the street and then into the village, finally onto a country road and hence on to the next village, pushing through that village and on to the next. In village after village he prods his way through the crowds. And that is only the one province. There are countless other villages in countless other provinces. And if he makes it to the end of the last village in the last province then he must cross the ocean to other countries and into other provinces. Everywhere he goes the masses hold him back, the weather, the threat of highwaymen. Still he plods on with his message. If he had ten lifetimes to pursue his mission he could not find you wherever you might be in the hinterland of millions. It's plain that he can never reach you with the message. And yet, as Kafka says, you sit by your window and wait.

Blogging on the internet is similar to that. You write your message. You think it has a special meaning that people will be interested in reading. You send it out over the airwaves. And you wait for something to happen. But the internet is vast and anonymous. Surfing the blogosphere page after page you find not a single soul mate and if you surfed a lifetime day and night you would only make a tiny scratch on the surface of the internet. Your literary efforts are like those audio sounds that scientists beam into space in search of signs of life. The audio signals disappear into the void and no one can be sure whether they're heard. Yet still you continue to form the words and put the message out no matter what. It's the perfect example of hope springing eternal in the human breast.

3 Comments:

Blogger uresmane said...

your translation/version of the story is a little weird. It doesn't match the original, although it has the same point.

The connection though... I would say that the original story is more about a peon thinking that somewhere out there is an important message just for him, which is not like a blogger thinking that his message is important.

6:16 AM  
Blogger uresmane said...

The Emperor, so a parable runs, has sent a message to you, the humble subject, the insignificant shadow cowering in the remotest distance before the imperial sun; the Emperor from his deathbed has sent a message to you alone. He has commanded the messenger to kneel down by the bed, and has whispered the message to him; so much store did he lay on it that he ordered the messenger to whisper it back into his ear again.

Then by a nod of the head he has confirmed that it is right. Yes, before the assembled spectators of his death – all the obstructing walls have been broken down, and on the spacious and loftily mounting open staircases stand in a ring the great princes of the Empire- before all these he has delivered his message.

The messenger immediately sets out on his journey; a powerful, an indefatigable man; now pushing with his right arm, now with his left, he cleaves a way for himself through the throng; if he encounters resistance he points to his breast, where the symbol of the sun glitters; the way is made easier for him than it would be for any other man.

But the multitudes are so vast; their numbers have no end. If he could reach the open fields how fast he would fly, and soon doubtless you would hear the welcome hammering of his fists on your door.

But instead how vainly does he wear out his strength; still he is only making his way through the chambers of the innermost palace; never will he get to the end of them; and if he succeeded in that nothing would be gained; he must next fight his way down the stair; and if he succeeded in that nothing would be gained; the courts would still have to be crossed; and after the courts the second outer palace; and once more stairs and courts; and once more another palace; and so on for thousands of years; and if at last he should burst through the outermost gate – but never, never can that happen- the imperial capital would lie before him, the center of the world, crammed to bursting with its own sediment.

Nobody could fight his way through here even with a message from a dead man. But you sit at your window when evening falls and dream it to yourself.
-Translated by Willa and Edwin Muir (most accurate, I think)

6:32 AM  
Blogger uresmane said...

as you can see, with the actual story, the meaning changes a bit, especially at the ending.

6:33 AM  

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