WHO OWNS KAFKA?
Judith Butler, London review of books 2015
56 min, 49 sec
Judith Butler’s lecture looks at the conflicting claims of ownership of Kafka’s original writings, and considers the way states appropriate the works of writers for nationalistic purposes. Read the full lecture here: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v33/n05/judith-b…
The legal battle between the state of Israel and the German literary archive over the question of who owns Kafka’s work has prompted Israeli lawyers to argue that Kafka is an ‘asset of the Jewish people’ and hence, of Israel. At stake is Kafka’s own complex cultural formation as a Prague Jew writing in German who alternately praised and disavowed Zionism. Equally troubling is the assumption that Israel represents the Jewish people and that Kafka might be conceived as an ‘asset.’ Judith Butler proposes a reading of Kafka’s parables that quarrels with both sides of the legal case, seeking recourse to stories and fiction as a way of illuminating the limits of law and the diasporic (and messianic) alternative to Jewish nationalism. Judith Butler is Maxine Elliot Professor in the Department of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. The lecture was delivered in the BP Lecture Theatre at the British Museum in January 2011 as part of the London Review of Books Winter Lectures series. ABOUT THE LRB Since 1979, the London Review of Books has stood up for the tradition of the literary and intellectual essay in English. Each issue contains up to 15 long reviews and essays by academics, writers and journalists. There are also shorter art and film reviews, as well as poems and a lively letters page. A typical issue moves through political commentary to science or ancient history by way of literary criticism and social anthropology. So, for example, an issue can open with a piece on the rhetoric of war, move on to reassessing the reputation of Pythagoras, follow that with articles on the situation in Iraq, the 19th-century super-rich, Nabokov’s unpublished novel, how saints got to be saints, the life and work of William Empson, and an assessment of the poetry of Alice Oswald.