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On Kafkaesque pedagogy
Giorgio Fontana
07 December 2022

Kafka’s families can be fatal traps. In The Metamorphosis, it is the beloved sister who passes the fatal sentence on the now-vermin Gregor Samsa (on whose vermin-form the family can no longer financially depend); the Letter to His Father, an accusation of abusive parenting, written but never delivered, abounds with traumatic details (for instance when Hermann Kafka left young Franz alone on the balcony in his nightshirt, because he « kept on whimpering for water »); and in The Man Who Disappeared, Karl Roßmann is sent away by his parents because a maid has seduced him (a typically Kafkian inversion of the logic of punishment: it’s the victim who gets banished). The family can certainly be « a haven in a heartless world », as Christopher Lasch put it; it can also be a prison or a regime.

Kafka knew it: less known are his ideas about what a sensible and truly devoted childhood education should be.

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Schocken Books, 1977

Cambridge University Press, 2017

Jewish Chronicle Literary Supplement, 1984