Nothing is complete until it’s gone

Star Trek - The Cage 1

Some people ask why Kafka wanted all of his work burned after his death, others may ask why artists occasionally destroy their work after its final incarnation, and I’m personally of the belief that relationships are usually only fully understood and appreciated in retrospect.  As far as I’m concerned the answer is similar to something Kafka himself said of his request which was the work needed to be destroyed to free him of its ghosts, or something along those lines anyway.  Perhaps he thought his inability to finish them would make him a restless spirit, or he just wanted them to be as finished as they would ever be, which was burned.

As I approach the end of a seemingly endless editing process for my soon to be complete book, I realize that it will never really be complete because I’m not ever really going to be complete, that is unless I happen to be dead, in which case there is no more me to influence the editing process and therefore my particular obsessions over minutiae will cease to carry on.  Something similar albeit on an infinitely more important scale happened in the 14th century when Dante Alighieri may or may not have died while writing Paradiso.  Now he may have just been old and losing his mind, but if you were to read all three books of the Divine Comedy back to back, Paradiso is certainly a departure and I guess that could make sense as it takes place in a sort of relatively happy place, whereas the other two take place in realms of punishment and purging respectively.

Anyway, it is theorized that his sons finished Paradiso and put it in a wall so that they could miraculously find it in front of some witnesses and thus complete the series, which if incomplete might not carry the same significance it does today.  It doesn’t really matter some seven hundred years later who technically wrote it because it was actually finished the minute Dante died.  His sons simply went one step further than Kafka’s friend Max Brod and filled in the gaps.  If Brod had the ability to complete Kafka’s work he may very well have, but he was probably quite aware that filling in pieces of incomplete Kafka would be slightly harder than thoroughly smashing a few cartons of eggs and then trying to accurately reassemble the shells.

So I’m doing one more read through and hopefully publishing this thing next week.  It is the first of three in a series set in Baltimore and although the stories are for the most part unrelated, they all take place in the same Baltimore.  I’m finishing the first draft of the second one next week and will then start the last book.  Even in their incomplete state I’m not sure I would request that they all be burned in the event of my death, but I probably don’t hold my work in as high regard as Kafka held his, and rightly fucking so.  Kafka probably knew people would analyze and attempt explanations about his incomplete work, which I guess would be akin to the aliens in the Star Trek episode “The Cage” interpreting human anatomy when presented with an incomplete and/or mutilated body and coming to their own hopelessly inaccurate conclusions.

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About christophermwilt

Design, invent, write, parent, cook, create View all posts by christophermwilt

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