Thursday, April 14, 2011

Blumfeld, Part II - or - Kafka's Balls.

As I suspected and feared,  the bouncing balls in "Blumfeld, An Elderly Bachelor" were never explained. 

When last I left the story, Blumfeld had trapped the balls in his wardrobe, and was trying to give them to the charwoman's son.  This had to be a convoluted transaction, because Blumfeld was afraid the balls would follow him if he got anywhere near them.  He needed to give the key to his wardrobe to the boy, then the boy would have to get the key to his room from the the charwoman (the boy's mother) then go get the balls, then give both keys back to his mother.  The boy was dense and could not understand what he needed to do or why, but there were two little girls there who grasped the instructions clearly, so Blumfeld reluctantly gave them the key to his wardrobe.  They raced downstairs to the charwoman to get the key to his room, and Blumfeld left for work.  And that is the last the two bouncing balls are mentioned.

Blumfeld holds a supervisory position in a linen factory.  He's in charge of accounts etc for women who do piece work.   He has two assistants (both incompetent in his eyes), and a servant who cleans up around the place.  He had to beg his boss (who doesn't understand the complexities of the work) for assistants, and finally he got some, but now he feels his boss took an extra long time in order to find the dullest, most incompetent people possible.  He had hoped to train them and they they'd take initiative on their own, but that hasn't happened.  Blumfeld is convinced that if he dies or leaves the company, everything will fall apart because no one but him knows the complexities involved. 

I suspect that what has really happened is that the industry has changed, new technologies of sorts have been introduced and the world has passed Blumfeld by & he doesn't realize it.  But you have to infer that, everything in the story is from Blumfeld's point of view.

Now, back to the balls.  If a character in a story I was writing came home one day and found balls bouncing in his room,  bouncing in sync and following him around, with energy levels more or less reflecting his own, with no means of locomotion, I would probably feel compelled to explain how that could be.  But, I'm not Kafka.  Kafka feels no need for an explanation.

I've not read the Cliff Notes on this, so I don't really have a clue.

It is interesting that there are lots of  "pairs" in the story.  The balls, the assistants, the charwoman and her son (both dullards in Blumfeld's eyes), the two little girls (smart but untrustworthy, per Blumfeld).  I don't believe in literary co-incidences, but then what do I know.  Even the fact that Kafka chose the share the information that Blumfeld is a bachelor in the title instead of drawing it out is the story may have significance.  But I can't draw any lines to explain anything.  I can't connect the dots.  I don't even know where the dots are.  I don't know what it all means.   I understood the words, I followed the story, but I'm missing something.

I just know that Blumfeld is a very typical main character for a Kafka story.   And anytime I get through a Kafka story, it's a victory.


Patti Anne said...

Upon Googling the story, it is made clear that the "novella" was unfinished. A guy named David Musgrave went on to complete it, but how could someone possibly complete what even Kafka couldn't finish? Did Kafka die before he finished it or just give up on it himself? You are a bold man, Valdese Blog, to even attempt Kafka.

A Valdese Blogger said...

PA: This was not published in his lifetime, so, if it was indeed unfinished, it's probably 'cause he up & died on us. I think he was only 41 when he died in 1924 or so.

A Valdese Blogger said...

Yep, this story was unfinihed. That just added to its wierdness.