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'.


  1. Anonymous9:39 pm

    as far as i know, the first volume out of three (or 4? don't know) of jahnns' titanic 'fluss ohne ufer' was translated to english sometime in the early sixties by the name 'the ship' (if i remember correctly the german title of the first chapter is 'das holzschiff')

    all in all, ya regard stach as a decent biographer? those are surely hard to find.

    and another question, is there any piece on sebald you found engaging in particular? i thought 'the anatomist of melancholy' was a good read. most of the other stuff i found were rather superficial (yours excluded in this, honestly)


  2. Thanks Omer.

    I loved reading the Kafka biography; it's gripping. Though maybe you have to be interested in the writer and writing to find it so.

    On Sebald, I think James Wood's essay in The Broken Estate is good. I've read the Critical Companion but can't remember much about it!

  3. Anonymous2:35 pm

    i tend to despise critical companions, tour guiders of the lamest kind, decoding much too harshly ('...playing piano with fists rather than fingers', trying to translate rosenzweig).

    unfortunately, this one:
    is postponed to august 06...



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