Recently I’ve come across Franz Kafka’s short story „A Little Fable“ which I found both hilariously entertaining and profoundly sad. It seems to me as if it captures the very essence of life within just one paragraph.
Initially I learned about it in „Consider The Lobster“ by David Foster Wallace who reproduces it in the chapter „Some remarks on Kafka’s funniness from which probably not enough has been removed,“ which is quite a roundabout way considering that Kafka was part of my liberal arts education, however limited said education was.
My curiosity thus piqued I started to investigate the original German version comparing it in detail to the English translation. Although German is my native language I find myself preferring the English version as the German within the original short story is dated and consequently feels stilted which, in my humble opinion, blunts the story’s delivery.
On a interesting side-note I’d like to mention that the English translation on Wikipedia differs from the one reproduced by David Foster Wallace by one small detail:
… and there in the corner stands the trap that I am running into.“ [Wikipedia]
… and there in the corner stands the trap that I must run into.“ [„Consider The Lobster“]
While the former wording indicates unthinking, mindless following of a preordained path the second version leaves me with the impression that the mouse is at least aware of its fate and, despite its inevitability, chooses to embrace it, much like Nietzsche’s concept of „Amor fati“.
I must confess that my analysis into the text may have gone a little too far, since the main purpose of this blog article was actually to write down my own „Little Fable“. The story I want to tell is not even fiction as it happened to me in real-life and felt so absurd – so Kafkaesque – that I want to preserve it in writing before my memory of those events become foggy themselves. Let me proceed with a short disclaimer that my own talents of writing are in fact non-existent and that by no means I intend to put myself into similar league with Franz Kafka, whose insight into the human condition far surpasses my own.
„Alas“, said the general, „if you want to work through the whole night you just have to tell us. We will tell the guards so you can continue working. Otherwise you will be apprehended and might spend the night in a not so comfortable room. Just tell us and we will work something out.“
At eight o’clock the power was turned off.