Page 112 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 46

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104
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
This closeness angered him most. He quarreled with Mina in
his heart: didn’t she feel that this closeness was bad for them?
Yet, when she was distant from him he fumed.22
A d re am o f K afka’s in which he visits Felice in Berlin illu stra tes
a sim ilar de s ire to rem a in in tran s ition tow a rd s invo lvem en t
with a w om an w ithou t eve r re a ch in g th e de s tina tion :
In Berlin, through the streets to her house, calm and happy
in the knowledge that though I haven’t arrived at her house
yet, a slight possibility o f doing so exists.23
No t hav ing been t re a te d as hav ing an in h e r e n t value o f his
own, th e h e ro trea ts o th e rs in th e sam e way. His cold self- ab ­
so rp tion is a m eans by which he keeps his d is tance f rom o th e rs
an d avoids be ing h u r t — an d h u r t in g . (In one o f A g n o n ’s most
g ro te squ e stories, “H a -A don it veha -R okhe l” [T h e Lady an d th e
Pedd la r] , a wom an who is try ing literally to d e v o u r th e h e r o ’s
flesh, is p u t o f f by the co ldness o f his blood .) His secretiveness
an d the a ir o f mystery which freq u en t ly su r ro u n d s h im also
ho ld anx ie ty a t bay. In his “L e t te r to His F a th e r ,” Kafka writes,
sim ilarly, o f his co ldness an d ind if fe ren c e as a way o f survival.
T o M ilena Je sen sk a he exp la in ed his cold self-sufficiency as a
sign o f excessive d ep en d en c e :
And that is why I, in a sense, am independent o f you: just because
the dependency reaches beyond all bounds.24
T h e d ep e rson a liza tion o f the A gnon h e ro as a re su lt o f o v e r ­
b e a r in g fam ily con tro l is exp re ssed in his fan tasies, d ream s an d
n igh tm a re s o f bodily d is to r t io n o r violence. In these m om en ts
o f dissociation , the h e ro is literally ‘no t h im se lf .’ Parts o f him
cease to feel o r com e a p a r t from th e re s t o f him . H e has fan tasies
o f physical an d psychological sp litting : th e h a n d comes a p a r t
f rom th e a rm , th e h e ad is d e ta c h ed from th e sh o u ld e rs , th e
body ex p an d s o r sh r ink s as in
Alice in Wonderland,
o r even v an ­
ishes by be ing ab so rb ed o r ea ten .
In
A Simple Story,
fo r exam p le , H irsh l’s b re ak d ow n inc ludes
a sense o f physical num bness . K n e ad ing a p iece o f wax in his
h a n d , he d ro p s th e wax b u t con tinu e s to k n e ad his h an d :
22.
Ibid.,
p. 156.
23.
The Diaries o f Franz Kafka,
ed. M. Brod, Penguin Books, 13.2.1913, p. 258.
24.
Letters to Milena,
tr. T.
Sc
J. Stern, Seeker & Warburg: London, 1953, p.
194.