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Mephistopheles and Kafka

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And he is saying that he was forced to kill this man in a duel, only because the woman said she wanted to be the wife of whoever survived, that she cannot live with the fact that 2 men had seen her shamed. And we also find him getting excited by the fact that he had killed a highly trained Samurai warrior, that too in a fair fight. And he also asks, very heroically asks for the worst penalty possible and here we find him doing this more for the sake of this reputation that would endure even after his execution. And it is perhaps the memory of this glorious battle he thinks will outlive him even after his execution. We can find several inconsistencies in this story. For example, the woodcutter claims that he was cutting his daily quota of cedars in and out of the way Grove. One tends to be a little sceptical about this claim because daily, it is not needed perhaps for the woodcutter to go into and out of the, go into and out of the way Grove. The Buddhist priest, he claims to have taken little notice of the girl's details, the woman's details, but he can recollect the colour of her clothing. And he can even estimate this woman's height, though she was sitting on a horse. The priest does not tell us about any kind of interaction that they had but the details that he provides us, it makes his claims suspect that he was merely passing through and had barely noticed them. The policeman comes across clearly as a naive and as an inept fellow and he is more bent on convincing his supervisor than giving the right version of the story. The old woman, we find her protesting too much, she is, of course, emotional and she has every right to do so, but she also protests too much when she claims that her daughter had never known any man except Takehiko. And this is assertion also begins to make us a little suspicious. Tajomaru, there is every reason when we go through his version that he must have perhaps omitted a lot of details and occasionally due to his exaggeration, due to particularly how he presents himself as this noble heroic figure, it tends to be unbelievable as well. The woman, the woman who was the victim here and she says that her husband was tied to a tree, while she was getting violated by the thief and after the thief had left, she does not make any attempt to remove, she fails to remove the bamboo leaves from her husband's mouth, she only says that she takes this nod from her husband as response and affirmative that he wants to be killed. But she removes ropes after stabbing him to death. This also comes across as slightly unbelievable because she does not make any attempt to save him and assumes that he would rather be killed and does not give him a chance to speak up. And then to make her tale more believable, she gives this narration of the failed suicide attempts that she made. The samurai who talks to us through the medium, his attitude to the rapist and the wife, it is also a bit strange. The moment he realises that the wife is paying attention to the thief's words after being raped, his attitude entirely changes and that is what the medium claims. And he also begins to think of the nobility of the thief and says he could pardon him for the kind of kindness that he showed towards this man who was tied with a rope. And he also begins to denigrate his wife. And his version says that his wife outran the thief, which is not possible, given that she is also, her costume is also quite heavy and it would be quite impossible for her to run and escape in that unfamiliar territory. And this question of who removed the sword from the samurai's body, that also leaves this quite open-ended. There are certain premises which we can take for granted, based on the recurrent facts that are presented by almost all the narrators. Takehiko, the samurai, he is dead, and Tajomaru had violated Masago, this woman, the thief had violated this w preserve the husband's honour. In Tajomaru, the thief's version, it is because the woman instigated them to fight with each other, which is why he had to go for a duel. And in the dead man's version, the wife chooses to leave with the robber and instructs the robber to kill him. And in all these versions, we also get to know that after the violation and after the death of this man in whichever way the version says, Masago and Tajomaru, the woman and this robber, they have not left together, no one has claimed that they were together after the man's death. Apart from these premises, we do not have too many details to resolve this story, to resolve this murder. If you ask this question, who did it, there is no answer to it, it could be anyone of those. All of their versions are equally believable and all of their versions are equally under suspect, there are only certain common factors that we can elucidate from this, some common premises that we can extract from this to recreate the story, at least in a partial way. After the story was made into this movie, Kurosawa's movie Rashomon, the term Rashomon effect came to be used widely to describe how different witnesses can produce contradictory accounts of the same event, though each version is presented with equal sincerity and each is plausible. And this is particularly interesting because this story and the movie version tells us that there is a way in which each of these 7 narrators can present their version as the most believable version. Of course, they contradict each other, but when we take each account separately, it is difficult to find loopholes in them. Only when we look at them together, we begin to see that all are equally fallible. And we cannot trust any of them together and even collectively, unlike the common truism, that collectively the whole picture will begin to emerge, we only find the whole picture getting more and more blurred and more complicated and unable to resolve. So, if we ask this question towards the end of the story, what exactly happened, who did this murder, who removed the sword, did the woman want to kill his kill her husband or not, that, did she gets violated and was the thief's attitude towards the man and the woman, was it of sympathy or is he just being the smart criminal? There is no way of knowing it. And the story is also challenging the fact that there is no way of knowing the truth and which is where the modernist and even the post-modernist tendencies of the story began to expose itself. The story is underscoring the fact that there is perhaps no truth, there are only different versions of it. And through these 7 narrators and these 7 testimonies, Akutagawa is also showing us that none of them is evil, nor are they noble and the truth, the reality, it is somewhere in between. And what is real is given to us, only through these narrations, it is a mediated kind of reality that we get, there is no way of knowing the real truth, even when one is there is because eyewitness accounts can also be mediated by other vested interests and other kinds of versions, which is what the story is telling us. And we find the influence of truth, though in a very indirect way, modernism and Buddhism. Though they may seem as apparently not connected, modernism in terms of the narrative techniques, in terms of the newer thoughts which are coming out and Buddhism in terms of its celebrated attitude that there is nothing certain in this world and whatever we see and whatever we perceive to be reality may not be a reality at all. The story has been the focus of interest of a lot of critics and some possible readings have emerged from this story. Just like the story refutes the possibility of a single truth, these readings have also refuted the possibility of a single reading, single interpretation. These are some of the possible readings that we can come across. The image of the samurai, we do not find this dead man, we refer to as the samurai, except by this mother, except by this woman who claims to be his mother-in-law. Others refer to him as a body, as the corpse, as an unfortunate man, so there is a reduction of his heroism, he is merely reduced to a dead body. And he is also robbed of all his symbols of power, unlike the Japanese tradition, especially given the fact that this was written in the early 20th-century. Akutagawa deliberately tries to break away from these dominant images. So, this figure of the samurai, he is robbed of all his symbols of power, the sword in his arrows, the priest when he 1st sees him, he especially notices how his, he is armed very well, he is equipped very well. But later he is deprived of these privileged symbols, instead, he is left with just a robber’s robe and lady's coat. And we also find the samurai, especially in the Thief's version, he is blinded by greed, he is not this hero can persuade all such basic emotions and he is also unable to protect his wife, when he is in the popular imagination, presented as the hero who can protect anyone and everyone. And his testimony is also suspect, we find him, we suspect that he is lying to save his reputation, to save his honour. There is the figure of a Buddhist priest, we also find the use of a medium and there is this woman who walks into the Buddhist temple. We find certain images of religion, especially Buddhism, though not directly but we find that even religion is unable to provide a solution over here. It celebrates only this broad dictum that everything is uncertain, that even religion cannot provide a resolution when something like this happens. The woman, the figure of the woman is presented interestingly. There is a dichotomy between the ideal and the actual. The woman herself tries to present her as a weak victim but the versions of, especially the thief and the man who is dead, they begin to present a more ambiguous, a more complicated picture of the woman, where she comes across as not just a weak, not just as a victim but also as being manipulative. Having said that, it is also useful to remember that even contemporary critics and readers, they all claim to be finding new truths or rather newer facts from this entire story. This is also a story which can be read in whichever order. So, it also celebrates a certain postmodern spirit in that way, you need not necessarily have to start with the 1st section. Though there is a rational in arranging the 7 sections, it is in order of the increased involvement of these narrators in this entire episode, direct or indirect. Even if you read it in whichever reversed order or even if you start reading it from the middle, from say 3rd or the 4th section onwards, it does not make much of a difference in terms of recreating the story. So, it also celebrates this post-modernist hypertextual version of narration. And this is the story with multiple interpretative possibilities, it is a story which gives an active role to the reader and this is also a story in which the author is trying to tease the reader by giving us a story, giving us certain kinds of details and deliberately keeping away certain significant ones, so that the reader would never reach the so-called destination. And finally, the story is the celebration of the kind of narration where the meaning-making, where the focus is only on this process of reading and not on arriving somewhere and not on arriving at the destination which gives the final meaning of the story. More than the final meaning, what is celebrated here is the absence of a single meaning. As we begin to wrap up, I would also like to leave you with this note that the movie version tries to make it a little more coherent, the movie version tries to introduce certain newer elements because the movie also needs elements as the dialogue and there is also some kind of a resolution towards the end which comes across as being, comes across as being more hopeful. Akutagawa's original story, it does not romanticise anything, it does not try to give out a ray of hope, it remains as dark as ever, as ambiguous as ever, it leaves the reader to come up with his or her interpretation. But Kurosawa's Rashomon ends with a ray of hope and there is the image of a baby, a newborn which is introduced to show that despite all of this, life will continue to move on with hope. so this was the story 'In a Grove' for you, I hope you enjoyed listening to this, I thank you for listening and I look forward to seeing you in the next session. Hi, welcome to NPTEL course on introduction to world literature. So in this lecture, we will be taking a look at Franz Kafka the German writer and especially his work called metamorphosis which is a short story or novella. (Refer Slide Time: 00:36) So we will be taking a look at metamorphosis in detail. In some detail because it’s almost impossible to go through every interpretation that has been given to this story. But to understand the story completely will be a huge task because this story has been put through rigorous academic analysis many times. So to have a complete look at all of it will be mostly impossible. We will try to read metamorphosis in some detail in this lecture and as part of the course in world literature as the name suggests, we will try to place Franz Kafka in world literary canon and also try to have some idea about how this work especially contributes to Kafka’s place in world literary canon. So there are 2 aims we have in this particular video that first thing, we read metamorphosis and try to stand at least a little bit about how this work works in the literary canon and why it has got acceptance in the literary canon. Placing Kafka in world literature is immensely important because it also has political connotations in the sense of politics as we use in day-to-day life. But also there is a politics of literary canon making which we do not see but if one looks into it deeply we can get some sense of how this literary canon production words. So we look at Kafka in that way too. (Refer Slide Time: 2:34) So we will have a short introduction to the story and its plot. So that we can understand the analyses we will be going through, we will be putting this so that we can understand how to analyze this in light of the so many academic rigorous analysis the story has been through. So the story in its form is classified usually as a novella which means it is longer than a short story but shorter than a novel. Again we will see metamorphosis prescribed in university syllabi under short story courses, courses on short stories and maybe in world literature or say readings in German literature for example, so that’s about the form. It was written in 1915 around 9 years before Kafka’s death in 1924 and Kafka has divided the novella into 3 parts and that gives us a basis of classification of the events which happen in the story. And since this is a story which we usually see in most of the university courses in literature, we will also see the formal, the textual implications of how the story is written and also the more wide, broader understandings and connotations which the story gives us. So the story starts with a very important sentence. I say this because that sentence is probably classified as one of those most important and loaded opening sentences of world literature. So the story starts with a travelling salesman who deals in cloth waking up from a dream and realizing that overnight he has transformed into something nonhuman which is given in most translations as a monstrous vermin Ungeheures Ungeziefer is the German original and the translation usually is as I explained monstrous vermin but many translations also give us the translation as a bug, a big bug or a huge beetle or a dung beetle, etc. and so on. So I will give you a brief explanation of the 3 parts the plotline, so part one is about Samsa, Gregor Sansa is the protagonist of this novella, about him waking up and realizing that he has transformed into something nonhuman and he realizes that he is late for his work and he keeps thinking about his work and in this part get an idea of what Samsa is. What is his job? What is his surroundings? How is his family? And etc, When the clerk comes to meet Samsa because Samsa has not not yet shown up for work and his mother, father and his younger sister named Grete is also getting worried about why is Samsa still not awake. So the clerk comes knocks on his door there is no reply and Samsa because he feels that he has a responsibility to show up for work opens the door and seeing his monstrous form as Kafka puts it the clerk runs away from the home and father chases Samsa back into his bedroom. So this is the first part where we are given an introduction into the social surrounding and a brief look into Samsa’s mind. From this section we also understand that Samsa’s occupation and his financial situation in relation to his family is an important thing in this text. We will see that when it comes to the analysis part but also again we also see how Samsa’s thinking process is. In terms of how he thinks about his work. We also see how Samsa’s thinking process is in relation to his work, so we have a huge a long description of how Samsa thinks about his work and the problems that might happen if he does not show up for work and its possible ramifications on the financial situation of his family and etc. So here we have both material and also a subjective insight into what the story about. In part 2 we have his younger sister Grete giving him food. Now we understand that the family has come into terms with Samsa’s condition as in how he is no more human and how he has turned into a beetle. So we see the family going on as if it is a usual thing as if there is nothing much which has happened but there is also awareness in the family that something has happened already. Because we see them talking about their financial situation because Samsa will not be able to go to work anymore. And also we see how the attitudes change in people around Samsa. So, for example, Grete is very kind towards him now, she offers him food and she even understands that Samsa because of his bug characteristics now does not like fresh food and instead starts giving him rotten food which Samsa eats with very much of interest. So this transformation which is detailed by Kafka is of interest to us. And we also see how Samsa’s thought processes change because of his material transformation. So he is no more human in his appearance and so we have, how this physical transformation, physical metamorphosis plays in his mind and how his thought process had changed. So we see that Samsa had fallen into a deep depression of his condition and he also is aware of how the family around him is changing. So we also have details like Grete and his mum taking the furniture away from his room, so that Samsa can move around freely and climb the walls, etc. This is also one of those important points when we see Samsa reacting to his environment. So now he realizes that he can climb the walls and he can walk in the ceiling, etc etc. And he also hides behind the furniture or hides under the bed whenever his mom and sister come in, so as not to scare them. And in this moment in the story when Grete screams at Samsa and Samsa is unable to go back into his bedroom. His father chases him with a cane and throws apples at Samsa of which one Apple gets lurched in his back in a sensitive spot as Kafka puts it and Samsa becomes incapacitated to move or to think freely, so it causes him permanent injury and Samsa has to stay in his bedroom. In part 3 there are 3 lodges in Samsa’s house. So since Samsa is not able to go to work, his father, mother and sister had taken up some work and also to supplement their incomes they have invited 3 lodges who stay in the Samsa’s house and the 3 lodges scene is very important because it is in the 3 lodges scene that we see how much Samsa cares about his sister, so the 3 lodges are sitting and dining and Grete is playing the violin for them and Samsa moved by this music goes into the dining hall to listen to the music and the 3 lodges see him, get scared and threatens Samsa’s father that they will leave the house because of this monstrous vermin staying at his house. And then Grete tells her parents that they need to get rid of Samsa somehow because he is making it tough for the rest of the family to live. So hearing this Samsa staying in his bedroom starves himself to death. So this is an ambiguous point in the story because we don’t know for sure if it is voluntarily starving oneself to death or is it. After all, his body functions have. We know that it is an ambiguous point in the story because we do not know whether the death of Samsa is voluntary by starving himself to death or an accident. After all, his bodily functions have declined over time. This is a very beautifully written part of the work. So we can see Kafka’s craft at its maybe best because few of these sentences in which Kafka describes Samsa’s death is quite beautiful. And then we see the family taking a trip outside the home because of the sudden freedom they can afford because Samsa is dead and the story ends with the parents realizing Grete has matured into a young woman and it’s time to find a husband for her. So we see that the metamorphosis has 2 implications, one is the metamorphosis of Samsa to a monstrous vermin and the other is the metamorphosis of Grete from a young girl child into a mature young woman. This is the basic plot of the story which is given as a basic bare outline to you but one should read the entire text to understand how Kafka portrays this and also reading the original is important because only by reading the original we have a feeling about how the text flows to get a feeling of the texture that is important. So this is the basic plotline which will come handy when you are trying to understand the text but it is in imperative that one should read the original too. (Refer Slide Time: 14:49) So this is the beginning sentence of this work. So there are so many translations available of the same work but certain translations are more poetic in a sense, I find this translation interesting to read, and so this is how the story begins. The first sentence I have selected the first sentence and put it on the screen so that we can understand the force with which Kafka launches the story. So as Gregor Samsa awoke one m uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a monstrous vermin. So if you were to think about this particular sentence, you see that the monstrous vermin comes in the end. And there are so many things going on in this one single sentence alone because you see that he is waking up from sleep, this point will be important to us later. And also he had uneasy dreams and he has transformed or metamorphosized into a monstrous vermin, a nonhuman entity. So this is to show how Kafka had crafted the beginning of the story by giving us a very powerful hook into the story and this sentence work as a single point in the story where you can see almost all connotations that the story give are concentrated. So as I have said earlier it is important to read the original to get a sense of how the formulaic elements of the text also work with the ideological connotations that the text has.