RMSYL 17: The Spur of the Moment Stroll and Passers-by by Franz Kafka (read by Shaun Levin)

Happy birthday, Franz.

I’m not sure if it’s a birthday present you would have ever wanted, but did you know that you’re all set to be included in the update of the Bible of Psychological Pathologies (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM-5)?

That’s right. So fragmented and multifarious have mood, anxiety, and personality disorders become, that ever greater refining of the codes is needed for each new update. The category bearing your name covers the full maladaptive spectrum you’ll be pleased to know (mild, moderate, severe with/without psychotic features, and unspecified).

These are the criteria:

1) identification with insects and animals 2) self dislike 3) lack of inner freedom 4) distillation of abjection into allegory 5) cultivation of comic detachment from one’s own words 6) reluctance to change clothes 7) compulsion to win love, or at least understanding 8) amoeba-like self-division 9) indecision 10) indifference to practical usefulness 11) looking out of windows and/or masochistically greedy window-shopping 12) affinity with Robert Walser 13) inability to remember pleasant experiences 14) absent-mindedness 15) compulsion to inflict pain on oneself 16) tormented by noises 17) dreams combining human and metallic 18) dissatisfaction with body 19) rage for proximity to good writing 20) desire for company whilst maintaining loner position 21) feelings of being plural 22) the illusion of human intercourse through writing 23) prejudicial feelings towards one’s own ‘tribe’ (e.g. the anti-semitic Jew) 24) fear of paternity 25) increasingly transcendental thinking 26) writing as deliberately protracted farewell to father 27) perceiving humanity as nihilistic hope in God’s head 28) vicarious relationship with life dans le vrai 29) arrogant love for the unattainable 30) hope and or hopelessness.

It might also amuse you, Franz, that this birthday podcast was recorded by two individuals (myself and the writer Shaun Levin) who share a number of the above criteria. But this is probably not surprising. As Zadie Smith reminds us, we are all now in some way your verminous children:

“For there is a sense in which Kafka’s Jewish question (“What have I in common with Jews?”) has become everybody’s question, Jewish alienation the template for all our doubts. What is Muslimness? What is Femaleness? What is Polishness? What is Englishness? These days we all find our anterior legs flailing before us. We’re all insects, all Ungeziefer, now.”

I hope you enjoy our reading of your work. I would very much recommend you read Shaun’s story ‘A Cup of Vodka’, which we refer to in our discussion, as well as his book Snapshots of The Boy, which is very fine.

We love you Franz.


[Intro tune: Latché Swing]


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