by MARTIN TULINIUS
K. centres on one of the past century’s most significant writers – Franz Kafka. To create a play about Kafka is to dive into a dreamy, sometimes nightmarish universe inhabited by peculiar creatures and bizarre people – a labyrinthine world, full of contradiction and despair. In many ways, Kafka in his writing tried to comprehend the world surrounding him in the hopes of becoming a whole person. It is this existential dilemma that the play uses as its pivot. The narrative is played out in just the last three hours of Kafka’s life.
Sick with tuberculosis, surrounded by doctors, the writer hovers between life and death. On his deathbed he remembers fragments from his life. But nothing is at it seems. Reality and fiction merge in delirium and dream. K is confronted with different figures, all of them evoking his own universe and era. The Doctor and his co-conspirator, seemingly represent reality – which quickly turns out to be an inscrutable plan. The Father (about whom Kafka had a perpetual guilt complex and is a source of suffering that marked much of Kafka’s work) represents the religious dimension, or the hope of a deeper understanding of life. Lilith, a deeply mysterious woman, plays with the intellect, emotions and lust of the vulnerable Kafka.
At the heart of the play is its exploration of the human soul - tormented by inner angels and demons - signified by the constant struggle between father and sun. K's inability to function fully as a human being is examined through society's structures of language, religion, community, and marriage. As Kafka expressed it:
"I am a luftmensch (a person with the ability to see things that more accustomed eyes miss) standing on the top step of a ladder that is already wobbling."
The typical portrait of Kafka evokes the idea of the tormented artist. But Kafka was also an extremely generous person, intensely preoccupied by his era, full of wisdom and constantly creating surprising reflections of life. He was a brilliant person, if warped and self-destructive. His charisma was noted by everyone who met him, through his innate talent for writing was never fully acknowledged in his lifetime. K. is about a tenuous and fragile character, whose highest aim is to understand: to discover the meaning of a meaningless world, to empathize with the father he hated, and to make sense of his surroundings - but most of all to understand himself.
K. was not written to solve, explain, or even to come closer to some adamant truth about Kafka, but to hold up a mirror to our current existence and our growing feeling of powerlessness when confronted with the big questions of life: who are we, and where are we going? The world has never appeared more fragmentary and incomprehensible. The apparatus of the state has never seemed more bureaucratic and impenetrable. It has never been more relevant to venture into Kafka than it is now.