Sunday, December 11, 2005

Without end

At the beginning of Chapter 18 of Kafka: the Decisive Years, Reiner Stach writes:
The Man Who Disappeared, The Trial, The Castle, The Man without Qualities, and River without a Shore - the five monumental unfinished ruins of modern German-language prose. Kafka was the author of three of them, which may seem dismal from a personal point of view, but from the heights of comparative literary history it cries out for an explanation.
Stach's own explanation is persuasive but also unfinished. We await two further volumes of biography (and they are worth waiting for, believe me).

My own reading of the first four novels on his list is unfinished. But I'd not even heard of the fifth until I read this book. And it wasn't easy to find out the author's name, even with Google. Turns out it's a trilogy by Hans Henny Jahnn called Fluß ohne Ufer. Surely rivers have banks rather than shores. Perhaps the title should be translated as Tales of the Non-existent Riverbank.

Almost interesting too that two of the five titles contain the word 'without'.


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