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Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: confrontation between art and technology

Roditi, Edouard
[Book reviews: allegory and alienation],   pp. [236]-[243] PDF (9.2 MB)

Page 237

Allegory and Alienation
Alfred Kubin, The Other Side.
A fantastic novel, translated by
Denver Lindley. Crown Publishers, Inc.,
By Edouard Roditi                             1967. $5.95
The American publication of a long
overdue but very capable translation of
the Austrian artist Alfred Kubin's strange
novel Die Andere Seite, which the
author also illustrated, may inspire
discussion at several levels of our intellectual
community. Firstly, The Other Side will
now acquaint the increasingly numerous
English-speaking Kafka-commentators who
do not read German with an
important source that can serve as a
key to their interpretations of some
of the ambiguities of Kafka's allegorical
genre and of his evolution as a writer.
As early as 1913, Kafka indeed noted
in his diaries that he had met
Kubin in Prague. Though he discusses this
only briefly, Kafka expressed enough
interest in the author of Die Andere Seite
to lead us to believe that he
subsequently made a point of reading
it if he was not already familiar with it.
Kafka's evolution as a writer of allegorical
fiction is less puzzling if we consider
it in the light of his probable
previous knowledge of the writings of
Alfred Kubin and of another odd-ball, the
Swiss novelist Robert Walser, authors
who had both produced and published
allegorical novels of the same
general kind as The Castle, The Trial, and
America some years before Kafka began to
write his own major works. In America,
in particular, Kafka seems to be
consciously improving on the less broadly
meaningful kind of dream-world
allegory that he could find in the works
of both Walser and Kubin.
Secondly, The Other Side might provoke
some comment in a very different area of
scholarship, among students of the
English novel of the latter part
of the Nineteenth century. Kubin's
only novel indeed fills a gap between two
types of novels that now appear to
be much more closely related than one
might at first suspect, between Samuel
Butler's Erewhon, on the one hand, and, on
the other hand, Rider Haggard's She
or John Buchan's Prester John.
The dividing line between adventurous
archaeological or exploratory "science
fiction" set in the mysterious heart
of some exotic continent and a
more philosophical or satirical kind of
utopian or allegorical fiction
has never been very clear; and few critics
have yet dared to tread the cloudy
no-man's-land that spreads between
these two areas of fantasy. The opening
chapters of Erewhon and of She
have nevertheless much in common,
progressing only gradually from realistic
descriptions of the known or
relatively familiar to equally realistic
descriptions of the utterly alien. In this
respect, both Butler and Rider
Haggard have chosen to borrow stylistic
devices from the published accounts of the
travels of such contemporary explorers

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