'At last I understand Kafka'

Richard Crary on reading Franz Kafka

Richard Crary examines the difference between reading a book and reading it well, and William H. Gass' observation that it is absurd to claim an understanding of Kafka:
Since the beginning of [The Existence Machine], I've been ostentatiously listing on the sidebar the books I've read in the current year, which I then convert into a mammoth end of year round-up of sorts. I don't really know why I do this, other than I enjoy lists and like keeping track of my reading. Regardless, there is a tension even in such a simple exercise as this. If I've read a book, do I claim to have read it well? Or to have understood it? Some weeks ago, I added Blanchot's Friendship to the list; given my admitted struggles with Blanchot's writing, how did I do with this particular book? I confess that I was unable to get much of anything out of some of the essays, whereas others I found myself able to read and profit from. I don't pretend to have a full grasp of all of Blanchot's major themes, but the best of the essays are remarkably supple and subtle pieces that I hope to return to again and again. [Read More]