The term kafkaesque is literary description of a work that has a similar feel to that of a work by the writer Franz Kafka. His works give the reader a surreal feeling of subtle terror. He does this by throwing his characters into situations where they are confronted with unacceptable or unreasonable circumstances. The reader is forced to accept the unacceptable because of the nonchalant way the characters including even the protagonist accept the situation. For instance being transformed overnight with no explanation into a giant bug. Or being placed under arrest but refused the right to know under what charge or who is bringing the charge against you.
I’ll give an example of a situation that actually happened to me that I could only describe as kafkaesque. A friend and I were walking down the street talking when suddenly a conversation from some elderly people in his tribal dialect caught his attention. He stopped and said something doesn’t smell right. All at once police officers dressed in black with the words, “NATIONAL SECURITY” displayed on their backs appeared on every corner. They immediately began arresting people. My friend had his umbrella up to protect us from the sun so he instinctively covered my face with it and told me to act calm. I should probably take a moment and explain my situation. As an American my documents are in order. Americans are welcome in the country and viewed highly by the authorities. But you see I am an African American which is rare in this country. When the police look at me they see an African foreigner from a neighboring country. This means I have no rights. They can rough me up all they like and ask questions later. At the end of the day when they realize I’m an American they’ll have to let me go. But what I’ll have to endure before they come to that realization is unpleasant. It’s easier just to run and hide along with the other undocumented foreigners. I never imagined I would be facing this kind of reverse racism when I decided to come to Africa. Anyways…Back to the story. While the police arrested a man right in front of us my friend calmly pulled me into a store to by a can of soda. He conversed nonchalantly with the store owner even laughing. I of course tried to be very calm on the outside though I was bugging out on the inside. In fact I noticed everyone was very calm except for the people being arrested. Once they had on the handcuffs they too were resigned to the situation and became calm. At this point I felt like a character in a Franz Kafka book. Though police were everywhere we ducked out of the store and into an alley. My friend spoke loudly to me in his tribal dialect to throw off the officers. We entered a small section of woods, crossed a river and discovered suddenly that their were officers searching through the woods. We quickly exited and ascended towards a main road. But as we got there an armored truck full of military personnel was driving by. They passed us but then suddenly stopped and began to reverse the vehicle. Again my friend instinctively blocked my face with his umbrella but this time he simultaneously hailed a taxi. As we sped off I could see the soldiers peering into the taxi to see if it carried any foreigners. However they didn’t bother to stop us because there was plenty of low hanging fruit surrounding them. The taxi dropped us off in an isolated neighborhood where we could visit another friend until the invasion was ended. I was agitated for the rest of the night but my friends were indifferent. They soon seemed to have forgotten that we were just running from the police. By the time we returned home it was dark out. The foreigners were back on the streets laughing and talking as if nothing had even happened. To me, describing the events of this day is the best way I can think of to answer the question: “What does kafkaesque mean?
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