Someone on NPR today was talking about Starbucks’ Race Together campaign and kept throwing around the words “Kafka” and “Kafkaesque” in reference to Corporations as Storytellers.
I didn’t understand the use of Kafka’s name except in the general sense of “nightmarish” or “strange”. But from even what little I remember of reading and experiencing Kafka in my M.A. program, this seems like such an unfair misuse. It’s like calling someone “Picasso-esque” when you mean “paints a lot”.
Kafka’s world puts *everyone* and *everything* in a state of estrangement: from themselves, one another, from the universe, etc. It is not a world of Us vs. Them nor an Orwell or Huxley battle between the Individual and the State.
That’s what makes Kafka feel more authentic to me than those other authors. More real.
Especially here with Starbucks, when a group of individuals (whose particular relationship and responsibilities is described as a “Company”) is criticized via messages from other individuals carried by omnipresent electric screens, for talking about an issue (racism) that those same individuals (through their screens) otherwise say isn’t talked about enough.
On the other hand, “Kafkaesque” might apply to the interaction with my phone while following the radio interview.
Now forbidden to touch my device unless it is secured to the car, here I was driving down the street to buy a present for a 2 year old daughter of a friend, trying to teach my smartphone voice-to-text to understand “Kafka” so I could transcribe my thoughts.
It didn’t go well.
The trouble started when my phone wrote “cops got” instead of “Kafka”. It got worse from there. I said things to my phone I now regret, as you can see from the transcript below (with my intended words in CAPITAL LETTERS).
“So I guess I need to reread some cops got [KAFKA].” “Haha kkka [Here I am enunciating KAF-KA]]. F*cking Polish off they’re [AUTHOR] not cops got [FRANZ KAFKA] you later on piece of sh*t device Hey afka [Spelling it out: K A F K A] Tom Tom Ryan’s mother fucking off to on for fucking fellas time.”
I don’t know if people should apologize to Starbucks for their harsh response, or if the NPR commentator should apologize for misusing Kafka’s name, but I apologize to Tom Ryan for unintentionally making salacious observations about his mother’s sexual habits.