Extended Definition: Kafkaesque

It’s certainly not surprising that almost any cool sounding word is likely to be picked up by the subliterati and its meaning distorted, especially by people ignorant of the word’s origins.

Take the word “Kafkaesque,” for example.  How many people who haven’t read Kafka throw the word around as if it only means “weird-ass strange,” not aware that to be Kafkaesque an event must be characterized by surreal distortion and a sense of impending danger.  

Let me offer an example of a not even close to Kafkaesque incident from the Police Blotter of the 11 October 2017 edition of my hometown weekly, The Folly Current.


BAD NIGHT FOR EVERYONE

The R/O[1] was dispatched to Center Street around 1:30 a.m. in reference to a Hit-and Run. Upon arrival, he found the suspect vehicle in the roadway, with the 44-year-old female driver in the driver’s seat, passed out with the car still running. Two victims were also on the scene and said the suspect had backed into their car hard, then drove off. They had followed the car to Center Street. The R/O opened the suspect’s door and then she woke up and asked what was going on. The officer immediately noticed the suspect had bloodshot eyes and impaired motor function. She also smelled like alcohol. The officer asked the woman to step out of the car to look at her back bumper. The woman complied, and nearly fell down getting out of the car. In the process, her boob fell out, and the officer had to ask her to cover up. During the discussion, the suspect asked several times, “what do you need again?” The woman became aggressive with the officer and refused to follow instructions on field sobriety tests. Then she resisted arrest and had to be manhandled into the patrol car. She refused to provide a Breathalyzer test sample, and was arrested for Driving While Intoxicated, Leaving the Scene of an Accident, and Resisting Arrest. While being transported to the county jail, the suspect made several declarations, including that the R/O was violating her, that she was going to tell her lawyer and her sister who is in the media business, and that the R/O was a “wannabe white boy.” The officer notes the suspect made “so many derogatory statements during the arrest, the breath test and all the transports, I couldn’t write them all down, but have it recorded on body camera.”

[1] Blotterspeak for responding officers


Okay, while this incident might well be described as “bizarre,” it is by no means rises to the dada nightmarish distortion of a Kafka story. To be Kafkaesque, it would have to go something like this:


SCHLECHTE NACHT FüR ALLE

The R/Os, conjoined biracial twins (Cuban/Chinese) sporting a freshly laundered uniform (complete with his-and-his golden-fringed epaulets) are shark fishing from the pier at 1:30 a.m. when their supervisor dispatches them to Hauptstraße [1] in reference to a Hit-and Run.

Upon arrival, they find the suspect’s Citroen parked in the middle of Hauptstraße with its 44-year-old female driver – a dead ringer for Marlene Dietrich – in the driver’s seat passed out with the car still running and her cigarette holder in her hand, the cigarette still lit, its ash a gravity-defying six centimeters long.

The two hit-and-run victims, unemployed Lithuanian circus clowns in costume, are also on the scene and report (in heavily accented English) the suspect had backed into their car hard, then fishtailed off, headed beachward.  The victims hopped into their vehicle and trailed in hot pursuit.

One of  R/Os opens the suspect’s door. She stirs slowly into consciousness and asks, “Wo bin ich?”[2]  

The officers immediately take note of the suspect’s bloodshot eyes and impaired motor function. She moves and speaks as if through a green aspic salad reeking of Schnapps.

In falsetto unison, the officers ask the woman to step out of the car to look at her back bumper, The Citroen seems to spit her out in disgust as if she were a chunk of rancid Meeräsche. [3]

Teetering on her stilettoes, she stumbles into the open arms of one of the circus clowns. In the process, her right breast falls out, and the officers, again in unison, ask her to adjust her décolleté, which she accomplishes beneath muttered curses.

Interrogation begins. During the discussion, the suspect asks several times, “Was brauchst du nochmal?”[4]

During her field sobriety tests – reciting the 23th Psalm backwards, walking on her hands on the sidewalk in front of St. James pub – she emits a howling a scream that sets off the car alarms of the vehicles parked along the bars and restaurants. Having had enough, the officers manhandle her into the patrol car as ants crawl from her ear.

Refusing to provide a Breathalyzer test sample, the R/Os handcuff her and charge her with Driving While Intoxicated, Leaving the Scene of an Accident, and Resisting Arrest. While being transported to the county jail, the suspect accuses the R/Os of groping her and threatens that to tell her lawyer Rudy Giuliani and her sister Laura Ingram, who is in the media business.  She calls the R/Os wannabe weiße Jungs.[5]

One of the R/Os notes, the suspect made “so many derogatory statements during the arrest, the breath test and all the transports, I couldn’t write them all down, but have it recorded on my Luis Buñuel body camera.”


So there, that’s Kafkaesque, Lynchian, messed-up, creepy.

That’s it. Thanks for listening to my Ted Talk.

from R Crumb’s book Kafka

[1] Center Street

[2] Where am I?

[3] mullet

[4] What do you need again?

[5] White boy

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