Kafkaesque Situations

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Kafkaesque - of, pertaining to, characteristic of, or resembling the literary work of Franz Kafka..

Franz  (frants). 1883--1924, Czech novelist writing in German. In his two main novels The Trial  (1925) and The Castle  (1926), published posthumously against his wishes, he portrays man's fear, isolation, and bewilderment in a nightmarish dehumanized world marked by a senseless, disorienting, often menacing complexity: Kafkaesque.

Not every novel gets to quite the stage outlined above, but based on the twists and turns of our plots, our stories sometimes feel this way. Writers know that conflict feeds plotlines and it’s our job to tie intricate the threads together to form a cohesive whole.

This way of writing obviously won’t work for every genre, but it can be tweaked so that our characters descend into nightmarish situations that they have to work through to the reader’s satisfaction. My work doesn’t quite get to the stage where the world turns into totally unfamiliar territory, but I do get close in Contraband by dropping my character into the following situations, after he’s led a fairly uncomplicated life.
  • His protection deal with a greedy policeman goes sour.
  • Trafficking in marijuana becomes more risky
  • MC is detained by said policeman
  • MC’s cousin witnesses a murder and becomes a target
  • Murder attempts are made on both their lives
  • Things settle down for a second while MC gets his cousin safely off the island
  • MC’s outgoing shipments are repeated hijacked @ great financial cost
  • MC gets shot in his girlfriend’s apartment
  • While he’s recovering, his girlfriend is kidnapped
  • The kidnappers demand a ransom in cash and kind
  • MC has to reap marijuana and make a bank withdrawal in record time to get her back
  • Girlfriend comes home safe but demands he give up dabbling in marijuana.
  • Things turn right side up, but not before someone integral to the plot commits suicide
  • All’s well that ends well. Eventually

So MC goes through 260 pages of foreign territory, shaken out of his former complacency and terrified by the possibility that he will not stay alive for long.  How do you turn your character’s world into a  Kafkaesque situation that keeps the reader engrossed?

N.B. If you’re up for a really funny book that smacks of a Kafkaesque turn of events, check out Mad Cows

Useful links: 

Franz Kafka 

Kafka & Freud  


Raw Beef Kidney
Not many people are keen on eating organ meats, but we consume lots of it in Jamaica. We eat beef liver and kidney, which are rich in vitamins and minerals. Some of us even eat cow entrails, which we call tripe. Did your face just twist in disgust? Don’t knock it 'til you’ve tried it.:) I’ll be sure to save that tripe recipe for ‘T’ day. Kidney is prepared by dissecting and cleaning it up. It is seasoned like any other meat and is great with lots of pepper and onion. We sauté in hot oil and then simmer in its own juices. Kidney is mostly eaten as breakfast food with green bananas, yam, dumplings, and even rice when it’s used as the evening meal. Deelishus! Picture below taken from here.
Cooked Kidney Meal


  1. My husband LOVES kidneys. Me, not so much! But this does look good.

  2. You're very cruel to your main character in Contraband but then that's the joy of writing. We can do what we want to our characters and they can't touch us for it!

  3. Talli, I'd guess he's British.

    Rosalind, all that cruelty made for a fast moving story. :)

  4. Kafka was so deep. Love how you used the "K" and entwined it with writing. I do need to work on making that kafkaesque moment intense. Left my MC in a burning building to check out your blog. Maybe I can do more with that scene. Thanks!

  5. My favorite Kafka piece is A Hunger Artist. I love how it has to be read several times and is packed with a variety of meanings depending on the reader. Great post!

  6. Great post and it was interesting to read about the eating habits in different places!

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  8. Great use of the letter K. It is so interesting how we take our MCs on these fantastic journeys and then it turns out okay or kinda okay.

  9. Kathi, glad you found some inspiration.

    Junebug, I'll be sure to look up that book.

    Nas, thanks. We do have some interesting menu items.

    Thanks, Josh!

  10. What creative letter K choices! I'd try kidney (I'm pretty open minded about food) but the whole time I'd be thinking about the labs I check on kidneys, ha ha.

  11. Lydia, I wanted to do something different, so having come across the word again recently from the last book I read, I thought it could work.

    Hmm...I can see how what you do can affect what you eat. :)

  12. I have never tried organ meat of any kind, but you make it sound delicious so I may have to.

    I am wowed by all the things that happen to your MC. What a high-octane story this is!

  13. Great idea for K, Kidneys. I love Kidneys, whether they are cooked in Steak And Kidney (pie or suet pudding) or fried or whatever, just yummy.

    When I moved from England to the USA, I really missed my Kidneys, because people would just look at you in horror and say "you eat kidneys???"

    Thanks for commenting on my article about Lime Cay. I would love to go back there, in fact I would love to go back to Jamaica. That was the 3rd of 3 articles I wrote on Jamaica, the others being on (J)amaica and (K)ingston. Good use of the letters J K and L :)

    I love the food too - don't theink there is anything Jamaican I don't like to eat.

  14. I find kidney quite strong, but it's soooo good for you. I'm absolutely loving the insights on the Jamaican food you're sharing!

    (PS -- you're one of the links in my writing tips article this week on male/female point of view!)

  15. Melissa, yes, the story was action adventure, but the publisher branded it as something else.

    Tony, I definitely will come across and read those articles, like I said, we natives take everything here for granted. Bet you'll like the L menu item too.

    Amie, thanks! We do eat a whole range of things that other people might find a bit too adventurous. :D Thanks for the article link.

  16. Part of my degree was in German literature, so I've read quite a bit of Kafka.

    I'm intrigued by his worlds and his use of language, but it's not a style I could write in myself.

    Interesting post!

  17. Thanks, K.C. To each his own, I guess. :)


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