Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another

The Kafka Curve

Think Gregor Samsa had it rough? He never had to wait in line at Carnegie Hall.

Print Email

“We don’t have any press list back here,” said the balding man behind the glass at Carnegie Hall. I was hoping to get a seat for Gyorgy Kurtag‘s Kafka Fragments, a well-received (and sold-out) setting of letters and diaries featuring Dawn Upshaw and a solitary violin. The press office had told me I was first on the wait list, but the box office staff didn’t know what I was talking about; I would just have to stand on line with everyone else.

Ever since reading “The Metamorphosis” in high school, my experience with Kafka has followed a similar curve. What draws me in is the way he puts his reader through the same frustrations as K. and Karl and Samsa. This method, perversely pleasing, soon turns maddening and sends me packing. Yet I keep returning, as if the outcome will be different.

A few months ago, I picked up Amerika, and was amused and amazed by the audacity of the opening sentence:

As the seventeen-year-old Karl Rossmann, who had been sent to America by his unfortunate parents because a maid had seduced him and had a child by him, sailed slowly into New York harbour, he suddenly saw the Statue of Liberty, which had already been in view for some time, as though in an intenser sunlight.

Though not as often quoted, it’s as forthright as the start of “The Metamorphosis” or The Trial, combining the bright immigrant’s vision and the shadowy past. But I put down Amerika midway, knowing it would only lead me down the same spiral.
At Carnegie Hall last night, I waited on the ticket line for about a half-hour, eavesdropping, tracing the carved ceiling, glancing at my watch. “A few minutes more,” the uniformed house manager assured me and a dozen other diehards, only to usher us out the door. Dejected, I returned to the ticket booth, and asked another teller about press tickets. “You have to go around to the Press Office, on 56th,” she said. I ran outside and around the block, but the performance had started and the press person was already gone. So I walked away with an appropriate frustration without the pleasure of the opening flourish.

Print Email

Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180

Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.

Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.

We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.


Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

The Kafka Curve

Think Gregor Samsa had it rough? He never had to wait in line at Carnegie Hall.

More on Tablet:

Obama: Denying Israel’s Right to Exist as a Jewish Homeland is Anti-Semitic

By Yair Rosenberg — The president draws a line in the sand in his latest interview