DULL LEGAL DOCUMENTS AND LITERATURE. The appeal of Stendhal’s use of the civil code is that there seems to be little connection between dull legal writing and literature. With Google, I found this review of FRANZ KAFKA: THE OFFICE DOCUMENTS by Louis Begley, who is both a distinguished lawyer and a distinguished novelist. (The review is from the New Republic and appears at the Powell’s website). Begley confirms my impression that Kafka had hated his legal job, which kept him from the creative writing he loved. He also persuasively and amusingly rejects a number of claims that Kafka’s daily work had any direct influence on Kafka’s fiction. Begley does allow that: “…the documents composed by Kafka show certainly that he knew how to marshal and to organize facts, to present arguments, and, within the limits of the particular assignment, to write effectively and clearly about his subject….” But Begley believes that Kafka would have know how to do this anyway, concluding: “… Kafka was a writer of genius, with an almost inconceivable plenitude of imagination. It is simplistic, to put it mildly, to reduce his literary astonishments to his work as an insurance lawyer.”

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