Thursday, May 27, 2010

Floating Dogs

I finally finished that Kafka short story, "Investigations of a Dog".  38 pages of hard, tortuous reading.  A 38 page fictional examination of the psyche of a somewhat bohemian, slightly alienated, extremely curious, sociable against his will,  and a very 19th century dog.

Like most Kafka stories, there was something bizarre in it, something that flies in the face of reality.  And like the typical reality based (usually) human that I am I try to rationalize it.  This came when, without any apparent provocation, the canine protagonist began describing floating and soaring dogs.  I closed the book and closed my eyes and thought, here we go again.  This took me back to a Kafka story where one minute he was at a party, then some how he's on a footpath running up a small hill with a friend on his shoulders.  In both cases I don't know how it happened.  

My great urge is to go back a few pages and see if I missed anything.  This rarely works.  So this time I didn't.  I just cleared my mind and accepted it.  Floating dogs.  Dogs soaring thru the air.  Dogs who's arguments, philosophies and science were worthless, maybe because you couldn't understand anything they said, or maybe because they never touched the ground.   Just let it go - in this story there are dogs in the air.

Several pages later though, I had a revelation.  Someone else may have had this revelation earlier, I don't know.  But at some point in the story it became apparent that our protagonist did not differentiate between the species - everything was some type of dog.  The soaring dogs were birds.   I can't describe the relief I felt when I realized the author wasn't describing Bischon Frises floating amongst the trees.   He was in the mind of a dog, describing how a dog saw birds.  Big sigh of relief - I finally understood something.

Anyway, the protagonist was trying to get at the nature of what it was to be a dog, in a scientific manner.  He decided a dog's nature was all wrapped up in food, so that's where he conducted a lot of his experiments. After all, according to dog science, if one "had food between his jaws, all his problems were solved, for the time being". He wanted to see if his "incantations and singing" had any effect on if he received food or not.  He was very confused about exactly how food appeared, and wanted to nail that down.   He failed.  He could not escape his dog-ness, and it tainted every observation and every experiment he did. 

It'll be awhile before I read another Kafka story.  But I'm sure I will sometime in the future.  I'm drawn to them, even though I know they never do me any favors.

1 comment:

Heather said...

Sounds like a book that would lead me into confusion from the beginning. It doesn't take much!