Saturday, May 19, 2012

Number Ninety-Three

Zum letztenmal Psychologie!

Never again psychology! [Kaiser/Wilkins]

No psychology ever again! [Hofmann]


Both translators mark this one cancelled.

Sometimes I wonder if the cancellation isn't part of the meaning, as in this case, which seems to capture a gesture that renounces and then renounces that renouncement. That's probably over-subtle, but it doesn't refuse to work.

Dostoevsky was consistently skeptical of psychology because it stripped humanity of its responsibility. He saw directly that this was a clash of two world orders, and a historic development in the works. I think Kafka may have some similar idea here, that psychology tends to deprive us of ultimate responsibility for what we do, making us generic figures re-enacting a biologically inevitable dramaturgy, or otherwise laying our actions at the end of a protracted series of causes and effects that originates somewhere in the remote past and which unfolds into us through our parents.

So why cancel this one? The only way is the way forward, which would entail taking psychology to its end, causing it to evolve into something new, at which point the old psychology would drop away. Or one could create an alternative, but it would still have to involve the issues and problems of psychology in order to function as an alternative. Simply banishing pyschology is not only impossible, as what's done can't be wished away, but it would also mean an attempt to go backwards, which is always impossible in Kafka.

Kafka is all about getting to the point of no return. This is why no one ever goes back in Kafka. All his departures are final.

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