8 August, 2022


Kafka’s Dream

By Sumanasiri Liyanage

Sumanasiri Liyanage

Sumanasiri Liyanage

This was first published in The Island, on 05/06/2011. I added some of my recent imaginations into it. Highest court of the land decided to trial KG in absentia, whom the government has been seeking to capture and deport to an unidentified place that is believed by the government to be his native land. Many people in the country began to think that KG would finally receive justice as he was considered by them as one of them, who were forced to leave the country unlawfully and arbitrarily. Many people have seen him as a child in walking in the mountains. His mother identified him as his son. His schoolmates remembered him. Trial began and I was eagerly watching everything that was happening around me. Court was beautiful with its wooden panels over the rusty walls. Three judges who looked smart and old and tired of delivering justice for a long period were sitting on the bench and began the proceedings. Lawyers were looking at their notes and files often asking questions from their assistants for clarifications.

Learned lawyer who appeared for KG submitted massive file of documents showing that KG was born in the country and went to a school in nearby town henceforth should be considered as a citizen of the country. Countering this argument, the government lawyers made two objections. “No my lords, KG cannot be treated as a citizen. Like in Athens, he belongs to the category of excluded, non-Aryans who live beyond the boundary of the city.” Furthermore, he continued: “How to determine the citizenship of a person? My lord, it is not by birth, or by living, but by leaving? Only lawful citizen can leave the country. Has KG belonged to this category? No there were no records that he left the country.”

Franz KafkaWhile the proceedings were in progress, I looked at the judges and was surprised to see that they were, like Gregor Samsa, a travelling salesman in The Metamorphosis, transformed into a monstrous insect-like creatures. I closed my eyes and opened them once again to see if I am in a kind of hallucination. No I was not. They were transformed into a monstrous insect-like creatures. Verdict was read by one of the insect-like judges who sat in the middle and the verdict it said that KG should be deported because if the government failed to do so it would an injustice to KG as he would be depicted as a ‘stateless’ person and such person cannot exist in this world of nation-states. I stood up and left the hall without making any noise.

The doorkeeper was on guard. There was a man from the countryside who was begging the doorkeeper that he would be allowed to enter the court room. But the doorkeeper told him that he could not admit the man at the moment. The man, on reflection, asked if he would be allowed, then, to enter later. “It is possible,” answers the doorkeeper, “but not at this moment.”’ Since the door leading into the Court stood open as usual and the doorkeeper stepped aside and the man bent down to peer through the entrance. When the doorkeeper saw that, he laughed and said: “If you are so strongly tempted, try to get in without my permission. But note that I am powerful. And I am only the lowest doorkeeper. From hall to hall keepers stand at every door, one more powerful than the other. Even the third of these has an aspect that even I cannot bear to look at.” These are difficulties which the man from the country has not expected to meet; the Law, he used to think because he listened to some of the speeches made at the previous election, should be accessible to every man and at all times. I was listening to this conversation between the doorkeeper and the villager and found myself spellbound to see that the doorkeeper was in fact the same judge who heard KG’s case but now in different attire, furred robe, with his huge pointed nose and long, thin, Tartar beard. The villager pleaded time and again and asked with anger: “Everyone strives to reach the Law, why is it that, over all these years, no one but me has asked to be let in?” The judge turned doorman replied angrily: “Nobody else could have gained admission here, as this entrance was meant only for you. Now I will go and close it.” A realisation came to me that there was no use for me to try and enter the courtroom. The villager was trying to obtain justice through law. There was no law but only a web of undefined power relationships in bureaucratic machines that swallow up the individual. No one was responsible. In this matrix of relationships, there was a dialectical tension between the doorkeeper and the villager leading nowhere over the lifetime of the petitioner for justice.

I was awoken by this dream. I felt I was sweating and could not sleep. So I got out of bed and went to my study and sat down near a fire place. I wanted to read something, but I found all the books in my book shelves were of no use. I took Jataka Stories the only book in my library that was closer to religion. Almost all Jataka stories connect past with the present. I was astonished to hear my mobile ringing at this time of the day. It was SMS. “Who the hell is sending SMS to me at this time?” “May be someone from Europe or North America” I surmised. SMS read: “If you seek justice, go to national executive council” No number but the name of the sender: “Montesquieu”. “What, wasn’t he the same guy who talked about the separation of power” I thought. “Yes, I have changed my ideas to suit your country” the second SMS informed. GK’s erstwhile colleague is a member of the NEC. I realized Montesquieu knew very little about my country. I threw my phone away to the fireplace and watched the way it was finally burned down without a trace. I woke up and realized it was in fact another dream.

I found the two novels by Franz Kafka, The Trial and The Metamorphosis were still on the bed. Kafka wrote in one of his notebooks: “The myth tries to explain the unexplainable. As it comes out of a ground of truth, it must end again in the unexplainable.” “Is it true for dreams?” I wondered.

After these two terrible dreams (I am not sure if it was two episodes of the same dream), I was not able to sleep and browsed through online papers. Financial Times carries this: “As a young girl, Arundhati Roy once raided her teacher’s garden in her native village in Kerala, the lush tropical state in the south of India. She dug up the carrots, removed the edible orange roots then carefully replanted the green tops in the soil. It took four days for the greenery to wither and the crime to be discovered. The culprit was never identified.

Roy tells this story on a sweltering night in May in New Delhi, at the India launch of her new book, Broken Republic. She argues that India’s much-touted democratic institutions now resemble the post-raid carrots in the teacher’s garden: the green tops, or external forms, are present and visible, but the substance, or essence, is missing.”

*The writer is the co-coordinator of the Marx School. -e-mail: sumane_l@yahoo.com

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  • 1

    Since when did the Aryan aristocracy rooted in Athens, to exclude the native Athenians as pariahs?

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