Precarious Futures: Kafka's Prose of Survival

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Philosophical readings from Walter Benjamin to Hans Blumenberg and beyond often emphasize the death-boundness of Franz Kafka's prose, characterizing his work as a literature determined by the certainty of finitude. This article explores a series of critical moments in Kafka's oeuvre where finitude is explicitly called into question for the sake of a movement of survival ("Überleben"). Survival manifests as a fragile mode of persistence that is neither governed by the authority of death, nor does it simply fall on the side of infinity. Instead, it indicates something like a precarious future-the subjunctive anticipation of a remainder beyond the limit of finitude. Advancing an understanding of Kafka's work in terms of a prose of survival, this article suggests an intense kinship between Kafka's works and other literary endeavors invested in probing the limits of finitude, most notably in works by Jorge Luis Borges.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)113-137
Number of pages25
JournalYearbook of Comparative Literature
StatePublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Religious studies


  • Adorno
  • Benjamin
  • Blumenberg
  • Borges
  • death
  • finitude
  • Heidegger
  • Kafka
  • living-on
  • Ordradek
  • shame
  • survival
  • temporality


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