Franz Kafka, Der Verschollene (1912ff.), posthumous publication as “Amerika” (1927) Chapter 1: Der Heizer

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Franz Kafka, Der Verschollene (1912ff.), posthumous publication as “Amerika” (1927)
Chapter 1: Der Heizer
Kafka started writing his first novel Der Verschollene in December 1911 and kept working on the manuscript until July 1912. He resumed working on the novel on 25 September 1912, immediately after the completion of Das Urteil. In a letter to Felice Bauer, dated 11.11. 1912, he wrote:

“Die Geschichte, die ich schrieb und die allerdings ins Endlose angelegt ist, heißt, um Ihnen einen vorläufigen Begriff zu geben, Der Verschollene und handelt ausschließlich in den vereinigten Staaten von Nordamerika.”

  • Kafka’s friend Max Brod published the novel posthumously in 1927 under the title Amerika. Consider the implications of these two titles:

Textual analysis: Der Heizer

  • Analyse the first paragraph:
    How is the protagonist introduced?

    • What is striking about Karl’s first perception of New York?

  • What prevents Karl from disembarking?

    • Analyse his journey through the ship.

    • The narrative perspective: through whose eyes do we follow the events?

  • Karl’s encounter with the Stoker: How is the conversation initiated?

    • What common bond do they establish?

    • What are the main reasons for the Stoker’s complaints about his work on board the ship?

    • Why does Karl feel at home in the Stoker’s bunk?

  • Summarise the scene in the officer’s room: how are the men of authority described?

  • Karl’s speech: on what grounds does he defend the Stoker?

    • What type of sentence structure does Karl use?

    • Compare his speech with the Stoker’s own speech (p. 22)

  • How does Karl evaluate the Stoker’s own attempt to explain his grievances?

  • What is the effect of Karl’s criticism on the Stoker?

  • The recognition scene:

  • How does Karl react when uncle Jakob’s identity is revealed?

  • How did Karl experience the seduction by the maid?

  • Karl’s reaction to his sudden change of fortune: analyse his language – how would you describe it?

  • Why is the Stoker’s story so important for Karl? How does Uncle Jakob view it?

  • The farewell scene: why is Karl so emotional when taking leave from the Stoker?(see the last sentences of the chapter)

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