No, freedom was not what I wanted. Only a way out; to right, to left, no matter where.
This was the second collection of Kafka’s stories published during his lifetime and it’s an improvement over his first for sure, but it’s still extremely sketchy. There are a couple of stories here that work pretty well; the final story, A Report to an Academy, is a witty speech from the perspective of an ape that has achieved human level intelligence; it’s surprisingly funny and yet also very sad. Jackals & Arabs is a pretty troubling story about a traveler in the desert discovering a strange rivalry between, well, jackals & Arabs. But some of these are just sketches: Up in the Gallery is just a description of a horse riding act in a circus; Eleven Sons is just a paragraph each for all eleven of a guy’s sons, just a description of their personality. The title story is kind of Kafka’s riff on Young Goodman Brown by Hawthorne, a story I’ve always found kind of overrated itself. Once again, I read the translation of this book by Malcolm Pasley; it’s included in The Metamorphosis & Other Stories from Penguin’s Great Books of the 20th Century Series. I’m kind of disappointed to find myself reacting in a lukewarm way to a lot of Kafka’s stuff. Maybe I was expecting too much. 2 stars.
tl;dr – Kafka’s second collection of short stories is an improvement over his first, but it’s still mostly filled with short sketches rather than actual stories. 2 stars.