Because what is a question but a voided space?

Lost in the woods

“We are as forlorn as children lost in the woods. When you stand in front of me and look at me, what do you know of the griefs that are in me and what do I know of yours. And if I were to cast myself down before you and weep and tell you, what more would you know about me than you know about Hell when someone tells you it is hot and dreadful? For that reason alone we human beings ought to stand before one another as reverently, as reflectively, as lovingly, as we would before the entrance to Hell.”

– Franz Kafka, Letter to Oskar Pollak (8 November 1903). IN:  Franz Kafka, Representative Man (1991), translated by Frederick R. Karl, p. 98. Original in Briefe, 1902-1924 (1958), edited by Max Brod, p. 27.

*

On the threshold

“No one ever inhabited the threshold more thoroughly than Kafka. On the threshold of happiness; of the beyond; of Canaan; of the door only open for us. On the threshold of escape, of transformation. Of an enormous and final understanding. No one made so much art of it. And yet if Kafka is never sinister or nihilistic, it’s because to even reach the threshold requires a susceptibility to hope and vivid yearning. There is a door. There’s a way up or over. It’s just that one almost certainly won’t manage to reach it, or recognize it, or pass through it in this life.”

― Nicole Krauss, Forest Dark

*

Out of himself

“But Lech lecha was never really about moving from the land of his birth over the river to the unknown land of Canaan. To read it like that is to miss the point, I think, since what God was demanding was so much harder, was very nearly impossible: for Abram to go out of himself so that he might make space for what God intended him to be.”

― Nicole Krauss, Forest Dark

*

A voided space

“But the finite remembers the infinite,” Klausner said, holding up a long finger. “It still contains the will of infinity!” The will of infinity, Epstein repeated to himself, weighing the phrase in his mind as one weighs a hammer to see if it is enough to drive the nail. But the words came apart on him and raised only dust. “And so everything in this world longs to return there. To repair itself to infinity. This process of repair, this most beautiful of processes which we call tikkun, is the operating system of this world. Tikkun olam, the transformation of the world, which cannot happen without tikkun ha’nefesh, our own internal transformation. The moment we enter into Jewish thought, Jewish questioning, we enter into this process. Because what is a question but a voided space? A space that seeks to be filled again with its portion of infinity?”

― Nicole Krauss, Forest Dark

*

Continuously in Paradise

“The expulsion from Paradise is in its main significance eternal:
Consequently the expulsion from Paradise is final, and life in this world irrevocable, but the eternal nature of the occurrence (or, temporally expressed, the eternal recapitulation of the occurrence) makes it nevertheless possible that not only could we live continuously in Paradise, but that we are continuously there in actual fact, no matter whether we know it here or not.”

– Franz Kafka, Parables and Paradoxes, edited by Nahum N. Glatzer

*

Stumbling into grace

“Was there a more complicated hero in the Bible than David? David who manipulated the love of Saul, of Jonathan, of Michal, of Bathsheba, of everyone who ever came close to him. A warrior, a murderer, hungry for power, willing to do whatever it took to become king. Betrayal was nothing to him. Killing was nothing. Nothing was left to stand in the way of his desires. He took what he wanted. And then, to let him rest from what he had been, the authors of David ascribed to him the most plaintive poetry ever written. Had him, at the end of his days, stumble into the discovery of what was most radical in himself. Into grace.”

― Nicole Krauss, Forest Dark


Joos van Cleve. Self-Portrait (c.1519). Détail.
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