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Inconceivable EffectsEthics through Twentieth-Century German Literature, Thought, and Film$
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Martin Blumenthal-Barby

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780801478123

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801478123.001.0001

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“A Peculiar Apparatus”

“A Peculiar Apparatus”

Kafka’s Thanatopoetics

(p.56) 3 “A Peculiar Apparatus”
Inconceivable Effects

Martin Blumenthal-Barby

Cornell University Press

This chapter studies Franz Kafka’s 1914 story, “In the Penal Colony,” and how the word “apparatus” attains significance in it. The apparatus is an execution machine that not only tortures and executes, but also informs the prisoner of his sentence. In a general sense, the word “apparatus” denotes something that operates according to an established set of rules—similar to the juridical institution of a penal colony. Kafka also presents another construct, an “anatomical apparatus”—the condemned man’s body. This condemned man has largely been deprived of a sense of justice, thus is unaware of the injustice brought against him. The chapter illustrates how the two different apparatuses appear suspicious regarding their seeming absence of justice. Both constructs, that of law and of life, are not only bound closely to one another, but are in fact interlocked.

Keywords:   Franz Kafka, In the Penal Colony, execution machine, penal colony, condemned man, justice, juridical apparatus, anatomical apparatus

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