Mashup: Murakami's Samsa in Love + Davis' Kafka Cooks Dinner

If Kafka were cooking dinner, would you stick around? Or would you just roll your eyes at yet another celebrity-turned-chef?

You may have reason to question the scenario. Kafka is synonymous with that widespread modern ailment: alienation. His non-culinary creations practically embody the condition. (Think Samsa.)

So, is there a possible cure for it? Love (food helps, too) may well have been touted as the antidote, yet this reader has found scant evidence in Kafka's words. Or even his actions. (By most accounts, he was an impossible lover.)

Yet, this hasn't stopped two Kafka-obsessed contemporary writers, Haruki Murakami and Lydia Davis, from injecting some love potion to discombobulating effect into two Kafka-inspired scenarios.

In "Samsa in Love" Murakami gives us a metamorphosis reversal: Gregor Samsa wakes up as a man, instead of a cockroach. But this has its share of unexpected challenges. While Davis imagines Kafka himself trying to cook for one of his real-life lovers, Milena. Kafkaesque humor ensues.

You can find the two stories here:

http://www.newyorker.com/fiction/features/2013/10/28/131028fi_fiction_murakami

http://www.penguin.co.uk/static/cs/uk/0/downloadextracts/PT_Davis_Stories.pdf

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  • Arlinda S.

    I meant to thank Helle for bringing the NYTimes book review of Jay Cantor's Forgiving the Angel. Going to that author's reading a few weeks ago gave me the idea for our meeting. So if you want to continue exploring Kafka's intensely feverish and perversely modern world by way of other people's stories, find that book.

    February 25, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    Very lively discussion! I bet Kafka himself didn't know after his death he would be so alive.

    1 · February 24, 2014

    • Arlinda S.

      He is the rare writer who never died.

      1 · February 25, 2014

    • Gillian D.

      I like that. It's very true. I think his memory survives so long in fiction and popular imagination because we all relate to the persona he created.

      1 · February 25, 2014

  • Chris

    Long book nomination if the book hasn't been read in the group already - The New Life by Pamuk

    February 23, 2014

    • Arlinda S.

      Thanks for the recommendation. I'll keep it in mind.

      February 24, 2014

  • Kenny L.

    Happiest Moment

    If you ask her what is a favorite story she has written, she will hesitate for a long time and then say it may be this story that she read in a book once: an English language teacher in China asked his Chinese student to say what was the happiest moment in his life. The student hesitated for a long time. At last he smiled with embarrassment and said that his wife had once gone to Beijing and eaten duck there, and she often told him about it, and he would have to say the happiest moment of his life was her trip, and the eating of the duck.

    Lydia Davis

    1 · February 23, 2014

    • Arlinda S.

      Kenny, that collection is a treasure trove of perfect stories. One of my very favorites. A few stories that have stayed with me: Story, Break It Down, Mr. Knockly, A Few Things Wrong with Me, Fear, Head, Heart etc.

      February 23, 2014

    • Kenny L.

      I love the way her short pieces (and many of her longer ones) stretch our idea of the short story. Here, she conflates writing and reading, and reminds us our happiness is often a vicarious thing --- something most readers know full well.

      2 · February 24, 2014

  • Arlinda S.

    Two things: The film I mentioned is called House of Tolerance by Bonello. And if you left wanting to know more about Kafka's love life... http://www.bookslut.com/nonfiction/2012_11_019672.php

    February 23, 2014

  • Lisa L

    Sorry, I didn't realize I had rsvped to this, as I was just learning to use the site.

    February 23, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    Sorry to back out last minute, nasty sore throat :( Going back to bed, but looking forward to meeting you all at a future event.

    February 23, 2014

  • Arlinda S.

    Dear all, the gentlest reminder to update your RSVP to reflect your REAL attendance plans for our Sunday meeting. As if the system weren't enough, I have an extremely good memory...so if you tend to ghost in the last minute, I'll remember who you are. :)

    February 20, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    Happy Wednesday morning! Arlinda, great choice of texts. Murakami makes the human life seems fresh and funny, the freshest I've seen. Davis, on the other hand, just keeps me laughing from cheek to cheek. I feel like an English major all over again. Unlike the sentimental Gatsby, I feel the "freshest part" is very much still with us:).

    February 19, 2014

    • Arlinda S.

      I'm glad you enjoyed the stories, Thuy. I hope the universe conspires so that you do get to come to the meeting to share your insights and that "freshest part" that remains after reading.

      February 20, 2014

  • Arlinda S.

    If your favorite authors were cooking, what dishes would they make? One author took up the question. Wait till you hear what he says about Kafka: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/3321254/If-Kafka-made-the-dinner....html

    February 16, 2014

  • Revonda M.

    I find myself wondering what a Kafka-esque repast would consist of....which leads to the question "Why are there so few Kafka themed cookbooks?"

    1 · February 11, 2014

    • Arlinda S.

      Maybe we should consider putting together one. Or at the very least, curating one.

      1 · February 11, 2014

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