March 4, 2011

"Kafka 'Before the Law' has a door and a doorkeeper refusing admittance. Moral: Don't believe doorkeepers."

Says rhhardin in the comments to my post about resisting the doorkeepers.
Before the law sits a gatekeeper. To this gatekeeper comes a man from the country who asks to gain entry into the law. But the gatekeeper says that he cannot grant him entry at the moment. The man thinks about it and then asks if he will be allowed to come in sometime later on. “It is possible,” says the gatekeeper, “but not now.”....
Go read it. It's only one paragraph.

65 comments:

chickelit said...

Heh. Timing is everything I guess: link.

Gabriel Hanna said...

That's like a super-condensed version of The Trial. I kind of wish I had read this instead.

My favorite legal-themed book is Bleak House. The book spends little time on the actual legal proceedings, but the lawsuit poisons the lives of nearly every character in the book.

edutcher said...

True not only of the law, but of many lawyers.

This is why petty bureaucracy strangles all else. Nothing and no one will be allowed to infringe on their petty little empire.

One of the great endorsements for cutting government back to its pre FDR levels.

G Joubert said...

Kafka. Way underrated.

Alex Ignatiev said...

So very true. Never seen this passage before, but I live it regularly with my clients.

traditionalguy said...

One Paragraph, my foot. That was a short story. Kafka's theme applies to everyman who strives to keep law perfectly. It is an inhuman activity, because we are not perfect... although we pretend to be. So don't kick yourself out of a life by obeying a law given to you by an evil man. Come to America and work and preserve your own property and live as a free man. That is "The Last Great Hope of Mankind" that is under a massive attack by Obama/Soros fascists today.

David said...

"It's only one paragraph."

So was the first 35 pages of "The Bear."

MikeR said...

Good story. But what does Law mean in the story? I think I could have replaced it with any number of nice things, and probably would have. "Before Heaven sits a gatekeeper." Happiness, Justice,...

Gabriel Hanna said...

@MikeR:"Before Heaven sits a gatekeeper." Happiness, Justice,...

No, it wouldn't work with any of those things substituted. You get in to Heaven when you're dead, at least, but not into the Law. Happiness is up to you. Justice denied by random gatekeepers is not justice at all.

David said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
PaulV said...

Gatekeeper let this Virginia community organizer father and his home schooled child in.

http://www2.timesdispatch
.com/news/columnists
-blogs/2011/mar/04/TDMET
01-michael-paul-williams
-a-father-and-son-fro-ar
-882059/

I'm a Shaaaaark said...

You're a smelly hippie. You stand at the Wisconsin Capitol Building. in front of you stands two doors,and in front of each door stands a union cop. You know the following things:

1. One door leads to you being able to kick Scott Walker's ass, and receive lots of taxpayer-provided goodies. The other door leads to certain death.

From where you stand, you cannot distinguish between the two doors. Worse, once you go in a door, you cannot turn back.

2. One of the two cops always tells the truth. The other cop always lies. Unfortunately, it is impossible for you to distinguish between the two union cops.

You have permission to ask one cop a single question to ascertain which path leads to kicking Scott Walker's ass. Remember that you do not know which union cop you're asking -- the truth-teller or the liar -- and that this single question determines whether you kick Scott Walker's ass and get lots of taxpayer-supplied goodies, or die.

So. What one question asked of one cop guarantees that you go through the correct door to kick Scott Walker's ass and get lots of free shit, regardless of which cop you happen to ask?

kent said...

So. What one question asked of one cop guarantees that you go through the correct door to kick Scott Walker's ass and get lots of free shit, regardless of which cop you happen to ask?

Hah! Trick question! The correct answer, obviously, is: "I skitter across the border to Illinois, under cover of darkness; there to courageously cower and sulk, with naught but the hotel's 24-hour SkineMax access to comfort me in my time of trial."

Mickey said...

Spooky.

Back to playing Duke Nukem.

I'm a Shaaaaark said...

Hah! Trick question! The correct answer, obviously, is: "I skitter across the border to Illinois, under cover of darkness; there to courageously cower and sulk, with naught but the hotel's 24-hour SkineMax access to comfort me in my time of trial."

And, as you skitter across the state line, you look back over your shoulder to get in one last shout of "THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE, HITLER-BOY!"...

chuckR said...

"In Heaven, there will be no law and the lion will lie down with the lamb.... - in Hell, there will be nothing but law, and due process will be meticulously observed."

Grant Gilmore

so I'm thinking Kafka got his directions mixed up

Lincolntf said...

Ask one cop what the other cop would tell him to do.

I'm a Shaaaaark said...

Ask one cop what the other cop would tell him to do.

Close.

I'm a Shaaaaark said...

"If you were the other cop, which door would you tell me to go through so I can kick Scott Walker's ass and get lots of taxpayer-provided freebies".

Then, cuz you're a smelly hippie who doesn't listen to cops, you'd go through the other door.

Reagan said...

In particular, don't believe doorkeepers with fur coats and "large, pointed nose[s]." Also, I saw zero reference to either duct tape or a Sharpie (TM).

TML said...

I don't get it. But it's frightening nonetheless. And depressing, too.

Michael said...

But if the gate was only for the man and the man passed through what would become of the gatekeeper?

I'm a Shaaaaark said...

Kafka is pretty dark anyway. It isn't exactly material meant to make you walk away feeling good, that's for sure ;)

That, and reading it again after all these years, I remembered what I actually liked about the story - To me, the 'Law' represented society, or at least the idea of belonging to society and being a part of it. Much like the character, I always kind of wanted 'in', and tried all kinds of things to try to belong, but wasn't ever successful, and didn't really push it all that much.

If that makes any sense :)

ricpic said...

$7.5 million worth of damage to the marble in the state capitol building by those angelic protesters. Story at American Thinker.com.

I'm a Shaaaaark said...

But if the gate was only for the man and the man passed through what would become of the gatekeeper?

Even if the guy had passed through, the gatekeeper would still be there. I think of the gatekeeper as one of those judgmental jerkoffs who act like they get to pick and choose who belongs and who doesn't.

Sure, he may let you in to be a part of everything, but he'll still be watching and waiting for you to slip up, and then you'll find yourself sitting back outside alone again, wondering why you can't get in again.

But that's just my take on it.

lucid said...

Kafka is saying not to listen to the authorities when they are denying you what you have a right to, but that you must seize on your own without their permission.

Walker, like Pelosi and Gingrich before him, is taking his electoral victory and marching off a cliff.

The protesters are providing the opportunity to destroy himself. Kafka would give him a shove.

RuyDiaz said...

That's so... Kafkaesque. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

ricpic said...

Probably the most underrated play by a 20th century American was Steambath by Bruce Jay Friedman, in which a steambath served as death's antechamber. Each character at some point in the play had to make his exit through the door to...death. And of course each put that moment off as long as possible. But all had to go. And when they all had gone through the door the play was over.

The play didn't change my life (all the BS to the contrary art does not and should not have that power) but it did in its simplicity clarify matters.

Henry said...

Then, cuz you're a smelly hippie who doesn't listen to cops, you'd go through the other door.

And behind that door is the tiger that your lover told you would be a lady.

I'm a Shaaaaark said...

@lucid - I disagree. That may be what it says to you, but it may say something else to others.

shoutingthomas said...

Kafka is saying not to listen to the authorities when they are denying you what you have a right to, but that you must seize on your own without their permission.

You've obviously never read Kafka.

Kafka was the soul of timidity and obedience.

You've got it completely backwards.

Alex said...

One door leads to you being able to kick Scott Walker's ass, and receive lots of taxpayer-provided goodies. The other door leads to certain death.

From where you stand, you cannot distinguish between the two doors. Worse, once you go in a door, you cannot turn back.


Unfortunately this is how they see it. Life & death struggle. Maybe for them it really is, given their lack of marketable skills, this is the ultimate gravy train.

Dandapani said...

The words of the tongue should have three gatekeepers: * Is it true? * Is it necessary? * Is it kind? - Arabian Proverb

rmblam said...

Rights come from God not the Government. Each doorway is an increasing barrier designed to protect those rights. If one sees a doorway to circumvent those rights, then it will be closed to further protect those rights. We do not take our freedoms being used as a weapon against us kindly.

I'm a Shaaaaark said...

Obama’s Labor Secretary Hilda Solis Tells Unions Battling WI Gov. Scott Walker, “Let’s Keep Fighting”

Well, I guess the Labor Secretary is only really concerned with one type of labor.

traditionalguy said...

The American tradition starts with a final rejection of european authority in the New World. We govern ourselves the way we want to do it after a vote. No King Obama nor Emperor Soros has a speck of authority over us unless we let them back in against kafka's warnings.

Jeff Gee said...

Here's the two and a half minute version Orson Welles did as the prelude to his movie of "The Trial."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pqPeI7-eVgc

shoutingthomas said...

You guys sure as hell don't know your Kafka.

Kafka was a wimp who shriveled up and died in the face of authority.

His work is often seen as a premonition of the Holocaust.

Kafka was not a rebellious figure warning us against the depredations of authority.

He was a beaten down clerk who trembled in the face of authority.

You got it?

There's absolutely nothing triumphant and rebellious about Kafka. His heroes got the shit kicked out of them while they licked the boots of their tormentors.

J said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J said...

Kafka's parable shows at least two things---one, never take literary analogies as accurate presentations of "reality." And-- relatedly--two, don't trust a writer whose claim to fame was his autobiography as a dung beetle.


That said, only a tweekhouser would interpret a fratboy biz major such as Scott Walker as a peoples' hero. He's just following orders

shoutingthomas said...

And, Kafka didn't beat down the door to the law.

His hero in The Trial became the most dreary supplicant in history.

Although the Court didn't even bother to notify the hero that he was on trial, the hero turned over his entire life to defending himself against unknown charges.

The Trial is an allegory of existential guilt. The defendant is drawn to the court by his overwhelming guilt for simply being alive.

You guys need to go back and read the source.

Issob Morocco said...

Never take a "No" answer from someone not empowered to give you a "Yes" in the first place.

Proud of Meade then, proud of him now for doing what he did.

J said...

K's not my fave writer but The Trial's a bit more involved than that, Tommy Tweek.

Has to do with the tyranny, at least potential tyranny of...the Joodiciary. So like instantiate some corrupt Black Robe of the SC in place of K's judge...like Scaliaberg, etc. oy vey

rhhardin said...

Thomas Mann said Kafka was a religious humorist.

Kenneth Burke said the stories were about hierarchy.

shoutingthomas said...

Thomas Mann said Kafka was a religious humorist.

When I was in college, it was common at local student theaters to re-stage scenes from Kafka as Laurel & Hardy, or The Marx Brothers.

In the manner of the day, this was known as underground theater.

Everything was underground back in those days (mid 60s). That was supposed to be very dark and expressive.

Jerry said...

After thinking this was a "scroll down for the punch line" thing I was forced into thought.

I guessed this was a method of preclusion used by Althouse, noticing the few trolls lined up to expose their hollowness.

The 'law' would be human righteousness I would guess from the time frame and a common attempt to approach it.

My guess is that the gatekeeper is correct in his descriptions of the other gatekeepers, at least in the authors mind.

Further comment by the author would narrow the reach of the idea, the meaning being for each to work out himself.

Ann Althouse said...

@shouting What interpretation are you attributing to rh? Nobody said that Meade and I were like the character in the story. He was held up as someone who made a terrible mistake waiting for permission to enter.

shoutingthomas said...

I was, in fact, replying to several postings with this general theme:

Kafka is saying not to listen to the authorities when they are denying you what you have a right to, but that you must seize on your own without their permission.

Lem said...

If you have clicked on chikelit first link.. you will find that my front paged link (belated thanks profe) has died..

So I'm going to borrow a page from the protesters and send in a replacement ;)

"If love calls on your door" ... let'm in

traditionalguy said...

IMO Kafka, who lived in the middle of Bavarian Austria just like Adolph Schicklgruber did, witnessed abusive authority in the socially stratified institutions around him. It was no joke when Kafka wrote No Exit. Kafka is warning us that law can be an evil ruler's tool that demands an un-doable perfection leading to a prision hell in the system for being a failure. Oh what will ever set the prisoners free? Easy for Americans, we just refused to submit again to the European governing aristocracies that once ruled here until the Washington's and Jefferson's and Franklin's and others threw them off in a great and violent Rebellion. So what if the Canadians, English, Belgian Italian, German and Hungarian envy us. We just don't envy them.

bgates said...

I was, in fact, replying to several postings with this general theme:

There is, in fact, one comment with that theme.

Don't Tread 2012 said...

Clearly Ann feels justified in her indignation over being initially denied access to the capitol.

This Kafka story vindicates her actions.

Sometimes doing the right thing requires courage and conviction (no pun intended) in the face of 'authority'.

Belkys said...

In Venezuela, tha Supreme Court just ruled that to call the judicial system "kafkian" is offensive.


http://www.tsj.gov.ve/decisiones/scon/junio/723-3609-2009-09-0183.html
Off subject, sorry but Italy needs Walker:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/art-news/8361779/Michelangelos-David-could-collapse-due-to-high-speed-train-building.html

Michael said...

Traditional Guy: Kafka wrote No Exit? Sartre certainly did but I am not so sure about Kafka.

Kafka's view of the state is pretty well captured in the linked paragraph. The state was draped over every human action and any attempt to seek justice was met by the gatekeeper who accepted the existence of justice and your right to it but insisted that it was not yet your time. If you died the next person in line awaited the same fate. Imagine your local dmv fully empowered, totally in charge.

traditionalguy said...

Michael...Mia Culpas. Sartre's play stuck in my mind as a Kafka work, but the similarities are no excuse for my. bad memory.

chickelit said...

@Lem Here's another attempt of mine to apply this Kafka story to the Althouse blog. This thread has some hilarious banter between Victoria (vbspurs) and some of the male commenters.

David said...

In other news: Please take time to welcome Iran as a member of the United Nations conference on the status of women.

MamaM said...

The play didn't change my life (all the BS to the contrary art does not and should not have that power) but it did in its simplicity clarify matters

ricpic: I would argue that this play did in fact change your life, as here you are today spending time thinking and writing about it. Out of all the countless TV shows seen, the plot of this story is remembered for some reason.

Now that I've read your description and have chosen to take time to think about and write a response instead of walking the dog or cleaning up dishes, your recall and comment about this play has changed my life too.

BJM said...

Don’t follow leaders
Watch the parkin’ meters

Graham Powell said...

That story totally ripped off the movie "After Hours".

blake said...

ricpic--

Also, naked Valerie Perrine! On public television!

Reagan said...

AA = MLK, Jr.

Kirby Olson said...

It means the law is there in possibility but not in actual fact. It's a theoretical possibility.

But this was more true for a German Jew than it is for most of us. For most of us, law does exist.

So you have to frame contextually, I think, rather than assume it's a universally valid description of the human plight.

MamaM said...

Thank you Kirby. Sometimes a thread degenerates toward the end, and sometimes something new turns up that brings more insight.

Rh's contributions usually cause me to wonder in some form or another, either with laughter or with further thought.

Charlie said...

If you had some way of rating posts I would for sure give you a high rating my friend!

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