Monday, December 22, 2008

James Hawes, a British lecturer and satirical novelist, in his recent book “Excavating Kafka” bombed by revealing uncelebrated “erotica” stash kept in a locked bookshelf in the journal Amethyst (1905-1906), later retitled Opals (1907) by the eminent writer Franz Kafka . They’re archived at the British Library and the Bodleian Library at Oxford.Kafka’s erotica contains illustrations, some surreal or satirical in nature. One has a wiry skeleton reaching for a cowering miniature nude; another, a frog’s mouth on a suggestively shaped plant.
The journal Amethyst / Opals was privately published and was available only via subscription in numbered, limited editions. It included reprints of material by Goethe, illustrations by artists like Aubrey Beardsley, and reprinted and newly translated erotic prose from old and recent Turkish, Indian, French, English and Italian texts, including writing by Casanova, Wilde, Rimbaud, Keats and the symbolist poet Verlaine. There was also cutting-edge fiction, like the debut of a seminal Expressionist novel, “Bebuquin” by Carl Einstein. Interestingly enough Kafka’s friend Max Brod , who later ignoring Kafka’s wishes to burn his work, published them and helped establish Kafka as a legend , was also a contributor to that journal.It is also another interesting fact that Franz Blei, te publisher of that erotic journal was the first publisher of Kafka
Kafka was not very interested with Amethyst / Opals and in one of his letter to Max Brod, he once wrote to split the cost of an expensive subscription to Amethyst, though he doesn’t go into detail about what that means. Max Brod mentioned that Kafka could never get to read more than a line of two of Casanova because according to Kafka the novel was dirty, immoral seemed to have no attraction for him.
These all facts may make the readers confused, but Mr. Hawes writes, “Things get far simpler if we forget the icon and, for once, just try to treat Kafka as a normal human being.”
Further reading: Six questions for James Hawes in Harper’s Magazine

1 comment:

amit said...

Cheers to you for sharing such illuminating information through your blogs.
-Amit Shankar Saha.