Unfoldings (socks & parables)

[The interpretation of “Vor dem Gesetz”] is done by the priest in Der Prozeß, and at such a significant moment that it looks as if the novel were nothing but the unfolding of the parable. The word “unfolding” has a double meaning. A bud unfolds into a blossom, but the boat which one teaches children to make by folding paper unfolds into a flat sheet of paper. This second kind of “unfolding” is really appropriate to parable; the reader takes pleasure in smoothing it out so that he has the meaning on the palm of his hand. Kafka’s parables, however, unfold in the first sense, the way a bud turns into a blossom. This is why their effect is literary. [2, 802]

The Sock

The first cabinet that would yield whenever I wanted was the wardrobe. I had only to pull on the knob, and the door would click open and swing towards me. Among the nightshirts, aprons, and undershirts … I would come upon my socks, which lay piled in the traditional fashion—that is to say, rolled up and turned inside out. Every pair had the appearance of a little pocket. For me, nothing surpassed the pleasure of thrusting my hand as deeply as possible into its interior. I did not do this for the sake of the pocket’s warmth. It was “the little present” [das Mitgebrachte, “what is brought with” — a dowry] rolled up inside that I always held in my hand and that drew me into the depths. When I had closed my fist around it and, so far as I was able, made certain that I possessed the stretchable woolen mass, there began the second phase of the game, which brought with it the unveiling. For now I proceeded to unwrap “the present,” to tease it out of its woolen pocket. I drew it ever nearer to me, until something rather disconcerting would happen: I had brought out “the present,” but “the pocket” in which it had lain was no longer there. I could not repeat the experiment on this phenomenon often enough. It taught me that form and content, veil and what is veiled, are the same. It led me to draw truth from works of literature as warily as a child’s hand retrieved the sock from “the pocket.” [3, 374]

Another variant: “The stocking which has the structure of this dream world when, rolled up in the laundry hamper, it is a ‘bag’ and a ‘present’ at the same time. … And just as children do not tire of quickly changing the bag and its contents into a third thing — namely, a stocking — Proust could not get his fill of emptying the dummy, his self, at one stroke in order to keep garnering that third thing, the image which satisfied his curiosity — indeed assuaged his homesickness. He lay on his bed racked with homesickness, homesick for the world distorted in the state of similarity [im Stand der Ähnlichkeit entstellten]. [“On the Image of Proust”]

Return.