21 July 2010

Kafkaesque

An illustration from R. Crumb's book Kafka

"Kafkaesque" is an eponym used to describe concepts, situations, and ideas which are reminiscent of the literary work of the writer Franz Kafka.

The term generally means a senseless, disorienting, frightening complexity. It is similar to the bureaucracies found in his novels The Trial and The Castle, and some stories such as "The Metamorphosis."

The term has become used in a less literary and looser sense as surreal situations and ones where reality seems distorted in some bizarre way or are incomprehensibly complex, bizarre, or illogical.

In Woody Allen's Annie Hall, a woman tells Alvy after sex that it was a Kafkasque experience. "I mean that as a compliment," she adds when he seems understandably baffled.

In The Trial, the protagonist is supposed to go to a meeting but isn't told the time of the meeting. He assumes it will be at 9 o'clock, but arrives an hour late and is told he should have been there at 8:45. The next week, he shows up at 8:45, but no one is there. He feel absurd when arriving early and guilty when late.

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