Saturday, December 10, 2011

Number Eleven / Twelve

Verschiedenheit der Anschauungen, die man etwa von einem Apfel haben kann: die Anschauung des kleinen Jungen, der den Hals strecken muß, um noch knapp den Apfel auf der Tischplatte zu sehn, und die Anschauung des Hausherrn, der den Apfel nimmt und frei dem Tischgenossen reicht.

Differences in the view one can have of things, for instance of an apple: the view of a little boy who has to crane his neck in order even to glimpse the apple on the table, and the view of the master of the house, who takes the apple and freely hands it to the person sitting at table with him. [Kaiser/Wilkins]

The variety of views that one may have, say, of an apple: the view of the small boy who has to crane his neck for a glimpse of the apple on the table, and the view of the master of the house who picks up the apple and hands it to his guest. [Hofmann]


This aphorism is given a dual number in all the versions I've seen, although it's not clear to me exactly where the break occurs.

The views are not angles but really different lives or modes of life, since the boy might grow up to be a paterfamilias himself. The one eyes the apple with longing or with curiosity, the other gives it away without a second thought, or even a look. His view is not looking. The meaning of the apple varies with the desires that are brought to bear on it, and also the lack of desire, perhaps, if the host doesn't value the apple or sees it as only one of a store of apples each of which is at his command and available for his use. Perhaps the child wants the apple and the host wants what the apple can help him to acquire, that is, the good will of his guests.

There's the view of the one who seems to have no power over the apple, and that of the one who has complete power over the apple. So power affects this difference also. The child may have a hunger and a secretiveness - they both might. If the boy isn't supposed to take the apple, and he takes it, thoughtlessly, he has done wrong from an external point of view only. From an internal point of view, there was no opportunity for thinking to prevent the act, no struggle against the impulse. There's evil only if he stops to think about it, to struggle with the impulse to take it; then, apparently, there will be evil there even if he doesn't take the apple.

Reach - out of reach, barely, and within easy reach. There is a world of difference between those two. The boy may be able to take the apple, but does not dare to.

I don't want to read this as an allegory of the fall, particularly because Kafka says nothing about the boy taking the apple, but why would he want to look at it if not because he wants it for himself?

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