on 6 January 2012
Dr. Delvis Memphistopheles's review below outlines a conventional A-level cramming notes view of Kafka but fails to engage with any aspect of the text under consideration or with any of the authors original ideas. He merely seems angry that he could not understand the challenging language and ideas in the book. His review displays almost no knowledge of Deleuze and Guattari's concepts, the origins and development of their ideas, their critique of biographical literary interpretation, the importance they place on Kafka or of their view of art and literature as sources of new philosophical concepts. IMO his is not a genuine review, merely an ignorant rant which Amazon should remove.
on 23 October 2004
While most interpretations of Kafka's work centre around a psychoanalytic point of view, especially concerning the Oedipal rebellion as it corresponded to his real-life relationship with his father, this book proposes that these sort of approaches only denigrate Kafka's work by applying terms of reference which are not suitable. By asserting that Kafka's work must be read POLITICALLY (and no, not in a Marxist way, rather in the sense that it overtly sets out to change the prevailing standards) rather than as an intimate portrayal of his life (something Kafka himself hated) they, quite convincingly, argue that his work is a subverison of language, not of personal, cultural, or religious signification. The work is semi-accesible (though at points head scratchingly vague in that super-intellectual sense) and undoubtably interesting for those enamored of Kafka's work, but it is important to understand that Deleuze and Guattari come to this subject with an alterior motive in mind (Deleuze being a philospher/theorist, Guattari being a psychoanalyst). Deleuze (I cannot speak of Guattari) coming from a semi-deconstructionist angle and therefore interested in destabilising essentialism (meaning that it is within their own self interests to confirm this theory rather than explore it). With this in mind however, this work is extremely rich and a refreshing counterpoint to all the "the bug was Kafka" interpretations.
This is tedium. And Chomsky is right about European navel gazing - behold the belly fluff taken in chunks by the Aristopseudery. All written and undertaken as Bourdieu highlighted around creating an intellectualised bourgeoisie that inhabits a netherworld without connecting to the reality principle - enter D&G.
Kafka is a great soothsayer of the 20th C. The depth of knowledge in the minutiae of bureaucracies derived from an involved experience, the constant passing of the baton and psychological wearing down of the supplicant. The invocation in the Castle and the Trial, are key works alongside 1984, Catch 22, Sorrows of War and Celine's early work. Jaws another insight looks at how a town bureaucracy covers up a problem until it becomes obvious echoing SARS in China.
Kafka articulated entrapment in the bureaucratic gaze, the impersonalised demeaning feeling of utter powerlessness, caught within time for some unknown crime and omnipresent fear. Procedures existing to provide fair play and civility are revealed as masques to impose power and meaning on the miscreant. Help only exists to suck out the lifeblood and money out of the already trapped and keep them there.
Displays of power and authority are initially couched in kind gestures in Kafka. The impersonal nature of the entrapment makes it all the more terrifying as the tormentors do not have personal dislike.
Deleuze and Guattari fail in every respect to engage. This is pseuds corner writ large written in obtuse, opaque language only the acolyte and disciple could unravel.
Locked in the police station.
"Do you notice the contours of those tiles on the wall? The colors are not evenly matched and the grouting appears disfigured."
Meanwhile the screams of real anguish fail to penetrate the ears that cannot ear because they are bodies without organs. In fact they may consist of a rhythm yet to be decoded. This intrepid pair of minutiae gatherers, a schizo machine wish to disrupt linearity.
As the grouting is carefully dissected as a reterritorialization of the present. It is reconfigured in the mind, not as a prison cell but as a tropical island.
At a certain juncture the guards appear and batter the two bodies without organs into a mess. Reality finally dawns on our two heroes, social reality exists beyond the imagination. Gasping on their last dying breaths the charade becomes clear to keep a legacy afloat - the post modern charade; power exists only in the head.
The language is borrowed from Althusser. Obfuscation, mystification and obtuse sentences ensure the dedicated apostle approaches the gate of meaning. The basis of all cults where the dead gain revenge on the living. The supplicants bask in the reverence afforded being misunderstood. A subtle form of intellectual pyramid selling ensures the supplicant enters, wears the t shirt, gains the university degree through prostration to these great works.
Ultimately the only meaning is the belief of the adherent. Outside of the intellectual bubble, akin to a financial bubble, occurring when the herd congregate quickly in one particular space and frame, its meaning does not exist.
Kafka works because he communicates on an emotional level in any language. Anyone fresh out of school can understand him, the institution carves its ethos into the psyche of the student. The potential fear of hearing your name called nothing to do with you is always everpresent unless you can obtain Bettelheim's invisibility.
Alfred McCoy's work on torture speaks louder volumes than this piece of intellectual flotsam
This misses Kafka's health, his early death, his anorexia, his plea for love and understanding to his father. Instead Deleuze and Guattari become the amateur psychologists, those with no personal insight. They use Kafka as an emotional mirror to project onto others.
"We noted the deliberate absence of social critique in Kafka". Yeh - it is written large and bold as he wrote as a Jewish guy in an anti semitic era in Central Europe - the critique requires a slight analysis but this appears to elude the acolytes as well as the authors.
If you were in the CIA and you wanted to create a piece of leftist nonsense where people chase their tales round and round then this D&G exercise would be your prototype.
Intellectual frippery, its adherents dressed as middlebrow pseuds feeling very distinguished.