From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
) in Prague
is featured prominently in "Description
of a Struggle."
"Description of a Struggle" (German:
"Beschreibung eines Kampfes") is a short story by Franz Kafka.
"Description of a Struggle" is one of Kafka's earliest stories
that was not destroyed and is usually the earliest included in
collections of his work. (His oldest surviving work of fiction is
"Shamefaced Lanky and Impure in Heart," which he wrote a few years
earlier and which only survived because it was included in a letter
to a friend.) Kafka began the story in 1904 at the age of 20 and
worked on it on and off until 1909.
It is also notable for being the story that Kafka first showed
to his friend Max Brod and
which convinced Brod that Kafka should further pursue his writing.
Brod liked the story so much that he mentioned Kafka as an example
of "the high level reached by [today's] German literature" in a
theatre review of his, this before Kafka had even been
Brod eventually convinced Kafka to submit his work to Franz Blei's literary
which published a short fragment of the story in its inaugural 1908
Two further chapters were published in the short-lived
Hyperion's final issue in the spring of 1909.
The fat man on a litter, from Tony Pemberton's short film
"Description of a Struggle" is one of Kafka's longer minor works
and is divided into three chapters. The first chapter is narrated
by a young man attending a party and tells of his "acquaintance"
(as he is referred to in the story) that he meets there. The second
chapter is the longest and is itself split into several sections.
The narrator leaps onto his acquaintance's back and rides him like
a horse and imagines a landscape that responds to his every whim.
He then meets an extraordinarily fat man carried on a litter who
tells him the story of a "supplicant" that prays by smashing his head into the ground. In
the third chapter, the narrator returns to reality, so to speak,
and continues his walk up the Laurenziberg in winter
with his acquaintance.
"Description of a Struggle" is not usually considered one of
Kafka's better works and it is often dismissed by critics turned
off by its fragmentary nature and lack of polish.
John Updike, in his
foreword to an English language collection of Kafka's
stories calls it (along with "Wedding Preparations in
the Country," another early story) "repellent" containing
"something of adolescent posturing" and advises new readers of
Kafka to skip them.
Updike encourages readers to return to these early stories once
"initiated" with his other works.
The original version of "Description of a Struggle" ran to 110
pages long; in 1909 he attempted to completely rewrite it. This
rewrite, which is only 58 pages, is the version that is known
today. It is not clear if the rest was lost or if he simply never
finished it. In 1910 Kafka gave the manuscript to Brod, writing
"what pleases me most about the novella, dear Max, is that it's out
of the house."
More fragments appeared in Kafka's first book, 1913's Meditations and the modern
version of the story was assembled by Brod in 1935 after Kafka's
Adaptations and derivative
Inspired by events in the story, a monument in Prague
depicts Kafka riding on the back of an
- A short film
loosely based on the work was made in 1993 by Tony Pemberton
Posey and himself. Some of the scenes, like those depicting the
fat man on his litter and those about the supplicant, are somewhat
faithful to the original and use Kafka's (translated) dialogue
almost verbatim, while others are variations on the theme that
otherwise have little to do with it. Pemberton plays the part of
the unnamed protagonist and Posey plays a female version of his
acquaintance who is also the protagonist's ex-lover.
- A monument to Kafka in Prague created by sculptor Jaroslav Róna is
inspired by the events of the story; it depicts Kafka riding on the
back of an empty suit.
- ^ a
Pawel, Ernst (1984). The Nightmare
of Reason: A Life of Franz Kafka. New York:
Farrar-Straus-Giroux. pp. 160–163. ISBN
- ^ Franz Kafka: The Complete Stories.
Schocken. 1971. xii-xiii. ISBN