Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Number Thirty-Three

Die Märtyrer unterschätzen den Leib nicht, sie lassen ihn auf dem Kreuz erhöhen. Darin sind sie mit ihren Gegnern einig.

Martyrs do not underrate the body, they allow it to be elevated on the cross. In this they are at one with their antagonists. [Kaiser/Wilkins]

Martyrs do not underestimate the body, they allow it to be hoisted up onto the cross. In that way they are like their enemies. [Hofmann]

Commentary

Kaiser/Wilkins marks this aphorism cancelled.

Martyrs are at one with their tormentors, whether the tormentor likes it or not. Martyrs are tactical.

Physical suffering is celebrated from two directions; as the vindication of the tormentors on the one hand, the tormented on the other. One has the power to inflict suffering, the other has the power to volunteer for it. This seems to me to proceed from the thirty first aphorism, involving the self-flagellation of the beast.

Suffering is strongly associated with the idea of recompense. The martyr is more or less creating his own posthumous recompense by suffering, using suffering as a way to compel it. The tormentor is trying to stop and destroy, while the martyr is trying to use this very act of destruction to create or redistribute something. It is not a confrontation of two sides, any more than there is a confrontation between the master and the animal that whips itself, not its master, or between the crows and the sky. One side confronts, the other does not. Time and again Kafka returns to asymmetry in values.

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