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History, Metaphors, FablesA Hans Blumenberg Reader$
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Hans Blumenberg

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781501732829

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501732829.001.0001

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The Absolute Father

The Absolute Father


(p.469) 18 The Absolute Father
History, Metaphors, Fables

Hans Blumenberg

Cornell University Press

This chapter assesses Hans Blumenberg's interpretation of Franz Kafka in “The Absolute Father.” It examines the “Letter to My Father,” written in November 1919, in which Kafka unfolds the central conflict of his life: his experience of his father. This father has all the properties assigned to anonymous powers in Kafka's novels and stories — the labyrinthine instances of the court in The Trial, the shady bureaucracy of The Castle. He is an “absolute” father, inaccessible in his distance, inescapable in his presence. Under his power, one can feel all otherwise reliable realities, as it were, “melt into air”; what remains is the awareness of an unfathomable nothingness. The son's efforts to assert himself against this father, indeed merely to be able to exist beside him, are as futile and hopeless as they are necessary. The “Letter to My Father” is the last of these attempts and at the same time the summary and account of all earlier ones. Kafka never delivered this quite respectful attempt at a reckoning to his father. That is almost symbolic: against this father there was no appeal.

Keywords:   Hans Blumenberg, Franz Kafka, absolute father, novels, The Trial, The Castle

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