The Narrative Problem

  • W. J. Dodd


Kafka’s comment on The Brothers Karamazov [T 712] reveals a profound sensitivity to Dostoyevsky’s personalized and fallible narrator, and to the nuances of interpretation which follow from particular narrative situations. In concluding this study, I would like briefly to explore an important area of affinity in narrative craft, located essentially in the concept of narrative as problem,1 and in doing so I will consider Kafka’s use of the first-person form, an aspect of his writing that has scarcely figured in this study, for the good reason that all the major works of the ‘Strafen’ period are third-person narratives. Outside this period, however, Kafka shows a marked preference for the first-person form. Bringing first-person narratives into the arena enhances our sense of an underlying affinity, and opens up some intriguing correspondences, in theme and technique, between Dostoyevsky and the early Kafka. The parallels between Hochzeitsvorbereitungen and the Dostoyevskian Underground (quintessentially the domain of first-person narrators) have already been noted, and there are other intriguing connexions between Dostoyevsky and the early Kafka which could, if taken as evidence of influence, push back the chronology to include Kafka’s earliest extant work, the ‘Fassung A’ of Beschreibung eines Kampfes. The correspondences between this work and Dostoyevskian first-person narratives such as A Raw Youth or White Nights testify at least to a profound affinity of vision and technique.


Defence Counsel Narrative Technique Narrative Situation Narrative Logic White Night 
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  1. 15.
    W. W. Rowe, ‘Dostoyevskian patterned antinomy and its function in Crime and Punishment’, SEE] 16 (1972) pp. 287–96Google Scholar
  2. 17.
    Brod, ‘Kommentar zu Robert Walser’, Pan 2 (1911) no. 2, p. 54.Google Scholar
  3. 20.
    Sheppard, ‘Kafka’s Ein Hungerkünstler: A Reconsideration’, GQ 46 (1973) 219–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© W. J. Dodd 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • W. J. Dodd
    • 1
  1. 1.University of BirminghamUK

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