The Curious Case of Kafka’s “Odradek”: A Trickster in the Old World
Abstract: Franz Kafka’s “The Cares of a Family Man” is a narrative riddle that has created an interpretive frenzy. Central to the discussion of the short story is Odradek, a wooden bobbin, which veers between being human and nonhuman. The transgression of identity is informed by an assemblage that makes Odradek a character that is both social and anti-social. Kafka presents this character as a bricolage between the sacred and the profane. More importantly, it is connected to some threads which can be identified as a metaphor for narrative. This paper considers various interpretations of Odradek and compares it with the culture hero, the trickster. AlthoughOdradek is a modernist figure that responds to the angst of the Europe after the Great War, I shall argue that it can be considered as a marginal figure trickster that continuously asserts the need for continuance and survival.
Keywords: Kafka, animal, sacred, profane, trickster, assemblage, thing-power, Marxism, psychoanalysis
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Published in 2015