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Old 10-03-2007, 09:34 PM   #1
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Kafka, Franz: In the Penal Colony, IMP, v1, 4 Oct 2007.

Franz Kafka: In the Penal Colony, (In der Strafkolonie)
(1919)
(Translated from the German by Ian Johnston)

A short story of about 12,000 words.

Set in an un-named penal colony, this is at first sight very similar to Octave Mirbeau’s ‘The Torture Garden’. In both cases the torturer gets a taste of their own medicine.

But this is an incomparably greater work than Mirbeau’s (which I find merely nasty) because it is enigmatic and capable of many interpretations.

Some have seen it as a metaphor for Christianity: the Jehovah-like Commandant has devised a machine to implement retributive justice in a world where all are guilty. When the visitor points out that this system is unfair, the young Officer submits to the torture-machine in a Christ-like atonement. Or it may be a comment on the Great War. Or something else. Decide for yourself.


Copyright Statement (from http://www.kafka.org )
“This translation, which has been prepared by Ian Johnston of Malaspina University-College, Nanaimo, BC, Canada, is in the public domain and may be used by anyone, in whole or in part, without permission and without charge, provided the source is acknowledged. Released October 2003. ”
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