• "Social Sciences"
  • Date:04-01-2000(SSC-No.002)
  • Size:61,815 Kb.
  • Words: 10163

A Meeting In A Labyrinth: Franz Kafka and Nikolai Gogol

Yuri MANN

In one of her short stories the German authoress Anna Seghers describes a meeting in a cafe in Prague of Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann, Franz Kafka and Nikolai Gogol. In the story, the three outstanding authors read to one another passages from their works or retell their novels, discussing, along the way, creative problems and the way to solve them.

The story is quite schematic and naОve. The best thing about it is the idea of a meeting between the three writers (actually, thats the storys title ? "A Meeting on a Journey" (Reisebegegnung). And it is not so much a matter of Kafka meeting Hoffmann, since the kinship of these two was already an established fact for the Western reader, but of the meeting between Kafka and Gogol, whose relationship still awaited elucidation.

It must be noted that, chronology notwithstanding, the "meeting" occurred on the initiative not of the follower, but of the predecessor, that is, not Kafka, but Gogol. Let me explain. It is obvious that Kafka knew Gogols work, he mentioned them on a number of occasions, but only by the way, as it were, among other observations, and these references have nothing particularly "Kafkian" about them. In a diary entry for 14th February, 1915, Kafka, while speaking about "the infinite attraction of Russia", mentions Gogols "troika" (from Dead Souls), and somewhat later, on March 14, speaks about "reading Gogols essay on the lyric" (probably About the Lyricism of our Poets or The Selected Passages from Correspondence with My Friends")1. On the other hand, Gogols emergence on the forefront of world culture, which occurred in the 20th century, especially in its second half, the new awareness of him as a topical writer, who anticipated the trends of irrationality and absurdism in modern art, made the concatenation of these two names a problem of importance in the history of literature.

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