What does Kafkas convey before the law

Franz Kafka: Before the law

An unfree interpretation by Clifford Beul

The parable “Before the Law” was written by Franz Kafka. A country man goes to the gate of the law and demands entry from the doorkeeper. However, the latter relentlessly denies him entry and so the man waits, more or less patiently, for the rest of his life before the law without ever having got inside the gate.

A neutral narrator reports on a man from the country who reaches the gate of the law believing it is open as always and should be accessible to everyone. However, the doorkeeper refuses his request to enter and puts him off until a later date, although the man can still try to gain entry despite the ban. Standing in front of the mighty doorkeeper, he rejects this possibility unused. So the man from the country waits for the almost eternal period of "days and years" (line 16). Every request and every attempt at bribery will come to nothing.

While time gradually pulls the man away, physically and mentally, he recognizes “a splendor that inextricably breaks out of the door of the law” (lines 31 f.). Already very close to death, he asks the doorkeeper why "in all these years no one except [him] has asked for admission?" and so the doorkeeper finally reveals to him that “this entrance was only intended for [him]” (line 41) and is now being closed. “Before the law” classically offers possibilities for interpretation in all variations. Life can be symbolic here as an example. Every day, opportunities open up for us in the most impossible situations, the dimensions of which are unimaginable, but we only stand next to us as viewers of ourselves to become viewers of an improvised theater in which one simply lets the chance of a lifetime pass. You run after, mourn, only to finally find out that it was all in vain. Maybe you have to give up your own dreams for happiness to find you again. Franz Kafka's parable also gives the impression that he had already foreseen the problems of today's youth. How many hours we stood in vain in the night, in the cold in front of the clubs and discos in our country, asking for admission into a world that means fun, forgetting and life for us. But rejected by the bouncers, who seem more powerful than all doorkeepers could ever have been, we defiantly but hopelessly wait for a chance to somehow, somewhere and someday bring the evening to its completion.

Anyone looking for Kafka's popular rhetorical means will search in vain, almost as in vain as the country man asks for entry into the gateway to the law. The interplay of action and reaction appears astonishingly simple here. Every request is followed by a clear refusal. But what would Franz Kafka's parables be worth if a fateful contradiction did not emerge in the end, like the poor man's unprecedented chance to pass through his personal gate of the law.

From: Clifford Beul, Somewhere deep in nowhere, unpublished, Haiger 2009

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