Amerika – post I

The introduction to this book sets out the history of its development with it being written in stops and starts and although Franz Kafka originally seemed to be very pleased with it for some reason it got pushed to one side and what appeared in the meantime was A Stoker a Fragment, a short story that is included in most Kafka short story collections put out by various publishers. The advantage of having read that short story is that you have been introduced to Karl the focus of the story and understand his relationship with his Uncle, a senator and successful business man.

Bullet points between pages 1 – 50

* Karl has been sent to America by his parents after he was seduced by the house maid and fathered a child at 16 and has no idea what to do and as the boat starts to enter the New York harbour he realises that he has left his umbrella and goes back down to look for it

* He stumbles across a stoker who talks to him and starts to share his problems so Karl not only quickly forgets why he originally came below decks and he starts dreaming of becoming a stoker and is told that there will be a job going because the stoekr is resigning because of ill treatment

* Karl takes up the stoker’s cause and they go to see the captain to complain and while there a man with a cane interrupts Karl and asks him who he is and explains that he is his uncle and extracts the boy from the argument between engine room hands and takes him to potentially a life of wealth and security

* Once installed in the uncle’s house Karl starts to get to grips with English and begins to get introduced to his Uncle’s world but only on a limited basis because the old man only wants to see him once a day

* There are signs that there is some friction between the Uncle and Karl as the young man is sent to horse riding lessons, given reluctantly a piano and finally allowed to go and visit a banker’s house but only for an evening

* At the banker’s country house Karl is disgusted by another guest Mr Green who has come to talk finances and ends up with the banker’s daughter Klara who fights with him as she shoes him to his room and Karl who is determined to leave finds himself alone in a large dark house

Unlike the feeling you get in The Trial there is so far more effort to explain what otherwise would appear very sinister. For instance the reason why the house is in darkness is because the electricity has not been connected. But the way Karl stumbles around the house with just a candle for company is very Kafkaesque even if at this stage it is not disturbing

More to come…

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