A Little Woman by Franz Kafka, 1924
The magic trick:
Making the narrator even more confused than the reader about the nature of a relationship in the story
One of Kafka’s last stories, it is not among my favorites of his. The narrator either finds himself in a very strange situation or is himself a very strange person. Honestly, it might be both. We don’t really know.
The story, in a very modern way, demands that the reader assemble the pieces of the narrative without much direction. But just as we’re making progress in our attempt to determine what the nature of the narrator’s relationship is with the little woman, we realize that the narrator has no idea what’s going on either. And that’s quite a trick on Kafka’s part.
This little woman, then, is very ill-pleased with me, she always finds something objectionable in me, I am always doing the wrong thing to her, I annoy her at every step; if a life could be cut into the smallest of small pieces and every scrap of it could be separately assessed, every scrap of my life would certainly be an offense to her. I have often wondered why I am such an offense to her; it may be that everything about me outrages her sense of beauty, her feeling for justice, her habits, her traditions, her hopes, there are such completely incompatible natures, but why does that upset her so much?