Sunday, August 10, 2008

Reading without sleeping...

At the corn college, one long-time reader of this blog was comparing experiences with me on listening to books versus reading them. He told me on the trip over to Illinois, he listened to The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka.


Color me tres impressed. But I also flinched just thinking about it.  Great books tend to be books that can lull me senseless in ten minutes, largely due the the intricacy of the thinking, but even more so by the style of writing. I think I have read a total of six pages of Kafka in my life.
Kafka often made extensive use of a trait special to the German language allowing for long sentences that sometimes can span an entire page. Kafka's sentences then deliver an unexpected impact just before the full stop - that being the finalizing meaning and focus. This is achieved due to the construction of certain sentences in German which require that the verb be positioned at the end of the sentence. Such constructions cannot be duplicated in English, so it is up to the translator to provide the reader with the same effect found in the original text.[12] One such instance of a Kafka translator's quandary is demonstrated in the first sentence of The Metamorphosis. [More]
But after we spoke, it dawned on me this is at the heart of the enjoyment I have been having with the lectures and books I listen to in the car while commuting to South Bend.  I finally get to "read" some serious thinking without struggling to stay awake.

The traffic on I-65 and the Indiana Tollway accomplishes that task very efficiently.

Still, I think I'll pass on James Joyce.

[BTW, I'm halfway through "Emperors of Rome" in the Great Courses.  Really good, second only to "The Viking Age"]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi John,

Thanks for the mention. I have long known what Orwellian means, but never got Kafka-esque. So with the pickings pretty slim at the library, I thought what the heck. The CD's were a compendium of short stories, of which The Metamorphasis was the longest. The translation must have been good, because the listening was not bad. Kafka has a strange, but interesting insight into human nature. Another story on the CD, The Judgment, blew me away.

His most famous novel is The Trial, and now I wouldn't be afraid to try it some time. On audio, of course.