• Jason Frydman deposited Kafka, the Caribbean, and the Holocaust on Humanities Commons 4 years, 1 month ago

    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.