Transmutation of Franz Kafka -or- Dystopian Existence
Visualizing History -or- Underground Man and the Grand Inquisitor
Franz Kafka whose literary works include Metamorphosis, The Trial and The Castle has left us with the cultural idiom known as the "Kafkaesque" . The surreal sense of the Kafkaesque is found represented time and again in the dreams sent to the International Institute for Dream Research (IIDR).
In "The Literary Underground: Writers and the Totalitarian Experience 1900-1950" John Hoyle using the visual metaphor of "camera-work" in terms of the historical "long shot", the medium shot and the close up attempts to picture and trace humanities political movements, in terms of visualizing the cultural inheritance of the Enlightenment and Romanticism, and the history of ideas from Rousseau until the 20th century.
Said differently, Hoyle puts a face to our visual cultural history and the changing marketplace of ideas from Rousseau to the 20th century. Hoyle uses Kafka's ideas as the metaphoric "close up" shot of viewing dystopian and totalitarian experience of the 20th century. Hoyle sees Kafka's personality as a schizophrenic cross between Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Underground Man ("Notes from the Underground") and the Grand Inquisitor. Hoyle states that Kafka is; "Victim to his own persecutor, he flogs himself to death."
Can we find evidence of this poetic image that Hoyle gives of Kafka's personality of a persecutor and a victim self flagellating (flogging) himself to death? The answer is yes. Where can this psychological evidence be found? As I have said before, and will indeed most likely will say numerous countless times again in the future..."in our dreams".
Calvin Hall and Richard S. Lind "Dreams, Life, and Literature: A Study of Franz Kafka" provided us with 37 dreams of Franz Kafka. The dreams are clear reflection of Kafka's life, the final dream, dream #37 is the subject of this Field Note of a Dream Researcher;
"Last night I dreamt about you. What happened in detail I can hardly remember, all I know is that we kept merging into one another, I was you, you were me. Finally you somehow caught fire. Remembering that one extinguishes fire with clothing, I took an old coat and beat you with it. But again the transmutations began and it went so far that you were no longer even there, instead it was I who was on fire and was also I who beat the fire with the coat. But the beating didn't help and it only confirmed my old fear that such things can't extinguish fire. In the meantime, however, the fire brigade arrived and somehow you were saved. But you were different from before, spectral, as though drawn with chalk against the dark, and you fell, lifeless or perhaps having fainted from joy at having been saved, into my arms. But here too the uncertainty of transmutability entered, perhaps it was I who fell into someone's arms."
The dream was about Milena Jesenska, who was a married woman. Kafka and Jesenska had a passionate correspondence with each other and reportedly met twice. This passion can be seen in the symbiotic merging of identity that Kafka describes in the dream. Other more modern dreams "Tantric Dream Telepathy" received by the IIDR speak of similar experiences. However, the passion seems to become a fire that rages out of psychological control and Kafka attempts to beat himself and Jesenka in an attempt to bring the fire under control. The dream seems to represent "sadomasochism", where the roles are "switchable". Kafka realizes that beating her or himself will not extinguish the fire. The "transmutability" the dream speaks of, may be an alchemical allusion to the archetypal sexual sublimation (of anima and animus) of love. Evidently Jesenka decided not to leave her husband which effectively put an end to the relationship.