Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Short Story Wednesday: Putting the Kafka in From Kafka to Kindergarten.

It has been pointed out to me that considering my blog is called what it is; it’s strange that I haven’t ever written about Kafka or his works. Honestly, I find it incredibly hard to write about his works only because they are so wide open to interpretation that there is a danger of reading too much between the lines and very little of the lines themselves. I've read reviews of the Trial which made the novel sound like a dystopian thriller and I've read an article which claims that Kafka meant the story to be a metaphor for sexual repression.  Besides which, there is the fact that however much one may love the man and his writings, they aren't easy reads. I've been meaning to read The Castle for ages but with a toddler underfoot, it’s not going to happen anytime soon. I can and did read some of his short stories though. Although Metamorphosis is probably his most famous short story, I think The Great Wall is an easier read so this is how Kafka makes his debut on my blog.

The Great Wall of China

The story is narrated by an unnamed Chinese narrator who is one of the thousands involved in the building of the Great Wall. We learn nothing more about him and this is, I assume intentional, to underline his irrelevance. The narrator explains the social and economic reasons due to which the great wall was built piece meal and not in one continuous line. He also reflects on the absolute disconnect between the Rulers and the people of the land.
If humour is what you want, Kafka is obviously not where you go looking for it. But there is an unmistakeable tongue-in-cheek tone to this story. I consider this one of Kafka’s most accessible works where he doesn’t try at every sentence to shut the door on his thoughts and leave the reader grappling in the dark. However, with Kafka, accessible is a word one always uses with caution.
If you’ve never read a Kafka before, this story is probably the gentlest way to ease into the genre (yes genre, Kafka didn’t write like anyone else, not Sartre not Camus). You could see this as a quasi-historical insider’s view of the building of the Great Wall or as a political allegory.  Either way, I recommend you read it, you can make of it what you will.

Short story Wednesday is an event hosted by Risa at Bread Crumb Reads to encourage readers to explore short stories. You can read this short story HERE.


  1. Thanks for the Kafka run down Che. I have always been curious about Kafka but chalked him down to one of those writer's who books I would just never understand because I'm not big on literary novels. The Great Wall of China sounds like something I'd definitely be interested in and your review made the book seen accessible.

  2. Hi, I stumbled on your blog from Short Stories on Wednesday at Bread Crumb Reads!
    I have only read a bit of Kakfa - three short stories: Metamorphosis, The Judgement and A Report to an Academy. I know what you mean when you say that there is a danger of reading too much between the lines. Still, I am somewhat intrigued by those stories, enough to want to read more!!
    This one sounds like something I'd definitely like to read :) So thanks for this post!!

  3. Lan Do try The Great Wall of China. I hope you'll like it.

    Priya I'm glad you liked the post. I haven't read A Report to an Academy yet but I mean to.

  4. As I told Priya last week, I have as yet to read anything by Kafka. This story sounds intriguing... I'm hoping to read it sometime in the next week so I can comment a little intelligently on this post.:D

  5. That's quite funny, I was talking to a friend about Kafka this week. I haven't read any of his works but it's definitely on my list.

  6. Risa this event was a great idea. I'm re-discovering my love for short stories.

    Karen maybe you can start with this one.

  7. I have posted on his "Metamorphosis" which is one of the world's most influential short stories-years ago I also read his story "The Hunger Artist"-I will try "The Great Wall Soon"-