A Genetic Analysis of Writing and Poetic Evolution in the Quaderni in Ottavo by Franz Kafka
The eight Octavo Notebooks, written by Kafka in the crucial months between the end of 1916 and the beginning of 1918, represent for many reasons a precious and partially still unexplored source for Kafka studies. Not only do they include some of the greatest and most representative short prose works of the author (as The Great Wall of China, the Gracchus’ fragments, The Bucket Rider, A Report to an Academy), but they also bear witness to a highly creative and experimental writing phase, in which short stories, diary records, aphorisms and moral reflections come together as fragments and rough drafts. Far from considering the heterogeneity and fragmentary nature of these notebooks as an obstacle to a systematic interpretative analysis of the texts, this article will show how this extraordinary stylistic and thematic variety, as well as the private character of the drafts, provides useful elements for a textual-genetic approach and offers the perfect opportunity to reflect upon the relationship between ‘life’ and ‘writing’. The article intends to bring to light the peculiarity and the research potential of the Octavo Notebooks considered as a whole, which will be done through a comprehensive and chronological examination of the eight notebooks on the one hand, and a comparison with the other private documents of the author on the other. This kind of approach will enable to gain a careful insight into Kafka’s writing process and into his characteristic metaphorical system.