This week my existentialism class has been reading Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. To put the work in historical context, I showed my students clips from a film that portrayed Kafka’s unending torment in early twentieth-century Prague, a city suffused with the bureaucracy, anti-Semitism, and “national consciousness” that would suffocate Europe and tear it apart.
At the end of the film, a survivor of the Holocaust calls Kafka a canary in the mine, warning the rest of us of horrors to come. Then another commentator, author David Mairowitz, makes a striking final claim: one of the reasons Kafka remains worth reading, he says, is that “the world is ten times more anguish-making than it was a hundred years ago.”
Is Mairowitz right? I’m not sure. So I’m passing the question off to you and my students. Be grateful. They have to write a 2-3 page paper about it, for a grade. Talk about anguish.