• Kafka, the Caribbean, and the Holocaust

    Jason Frydman (see profile)
    CLCS Caribbean, TC Postcolonial Studies
    German literature, Twentieth century, African diaspora, Jewish Holocaust (1939-1945), Slavery
    Item Type:
    Auschwitz, Black Atlantic, Franz Kafka, 20th-century German literature, Holocaust, Holocaust studies, Modernism
    Permanent URL:
    This essay reexamines the figure of Franz Kafka (1883–1924) in light of his largely ignored, recursive links to circum-Caribbean and Black Atlantic processes of racialized exploitation and corporal punishment. When we centre Kafka’s extensive biographical and literary engagements with these processes, the persistent debate over Kafka’s status as a Holocaust prophet emerges in a new light. Kafka’s archival trail connects his lifelong attention to African enslavement and New World plantation economies to his nightmarish vision of murderous bureaucracies – a connection that crystallizes concretely in his 1919 short story “In the Penal Colony.” The archival and aesthetic connections direct us to a historiographical one, namely the increasingly excavated genealogical linkages between the Holocaust and anterior genocidal depredations in Africa and the New World under the auspices of European colonialism. This historiographical reorientation allows us to recast, in a global frame, the debate over Kafka’s status as a prophet of world history, a debate that has heretofore operated through the exclusion of the transatlantic slave trade. Kafka’s extensively documented attunement to colonial political economies provides formal, figural mechanisms that not only link the juridical–economic worlds of Caribbean slavery and Hitler’s Third Reich, but also anticipate, and disable, the dehistoricized, Eurocentric appropriation of his textual archive as a premonition of Auschwitz.
    Published as:
    Journal article    
    Last Updated:
    4 years ago
    All Rights Reserved


    Item Name: pdf kafka-the-caribbean-and-the-holocaust.pdf
      Download View in browser
    Activity: Downloads: 912