Book Section
The present essay engages with the short story ‘The Burrow’, written by Franz Kafka between 1923 and 1924, a few months before his death. The ambiguity of the original title, ‘Der Bau’, which defies translation by pointing at the same time at a construction and an excavation work, anticipates the multi-layered image of the burrow itself. While both nature and function of the burrow are hard to pinpoint (is it a dwelling, a shelter, a fortress, a labyrinth, a ruin?), the initially reported success of its construction is revealed as illusory, thus prompting the ongoing first-person narration of the incessant builder’s work. Similarly unsuccessful is any attempt of the reader to attain metaphorical closure. In the light of other impossible, i.e., unfinished, bound-to-fail, ruinous, or self-dismantling structures portrayed by Kafka, as well as on the background of coeval texts by Paul Valéry and Georg Simmel, the essay investigates the wide and deep significance of the burrow’s countering the classical ideal of architectural wholeness.
Title
Incomplete and Self-Dismantling Structures
Subtitle
The Built Space, the Text, the Body
Author(s)
Antonio Castore
Identifier
Description
The present essay engages with the short story ‘The Burrow’, written by Franz Kafka between 1923 and 1924, a few months before his death. The ambiguity of the original title, ‘Der Bau’, which defies translation by pointing at the same time at a construction and an excavation work, anticipates the multi-layered image of the burrow itself. While both nature and function of the burrow are hard to pinpoint (is it a dwelling, a shelter, a fortress, a labyrinth, a ruin?), the initially reported success of its construction is revealed as illusory, thus prompting the ongoing first-person narration of the incessant builder’s work. Similarly unsuccessful is any attempt of the reader to attain metaphorical closure. In the light of other impossible, i.e., unfinished, bound-to-fail, ruinous, or self-dismantling structures portrayed by Kafka, as well as on the background of coeval texts by Paul Valéry and Georg Simmel, the essay investigates the wide and deep significance of the burrow’s countering the classical ideal of architectural wholeness.
Is Part Of
Place
Berlin
Publisher
ICI Berlin Press
Date
20 September 2022
Subject
Kafka, Franz
Incompleteness
Ruins
Fragmentation (Philosophy) in literature
Babel
Vitruvius
Valéry, Paul
Simmel, Georg
Architecture and literature
Rights
© by the author(s)
Except for images or otherwise noted, this publication is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Language
en-GB
page start
93
page end
112
Source
Errans: Going Astray, Being Adrift, Coming to Nothing, ed. by Christoph F. E. Holzhey and Arnd Wedemeyer, Cultural Inquiry, 24 (Berlin: ICI Berlin Press, 2022), pp. 93–112
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