All this week, we'll be hearing from some of the authors involved in this fabulous new anthology, which is out now in paperback and ebook, so sit back and relax as they take you through their favourite fantasy worlds...
Tonight, Robert V. S Redick discusses his his favourite fantasy - Kafka The Crooner
A favourite novel, a favourite story: how could any reader choose just one? The search has always eluded me.
Certain candidates — Invisible Cities, The Brothers Karamazov, Love in the Time of Cholera — leap up to offer themselves, and for a time I’ll concede: yes, you’re my favourite, my king of kings. But I swear no loyalty, and achieve none. The next week finds me marching under a different flag.
But there exists a larger council to which my loyalty is permanent and fierce. It is comprised of fifty or sixty works to whose call I never fail to respond, works that touch both my imagination and my heart. When asked for a favourite story, I invariable name of one these.
I’ve ransacked that private list for one resembling “Forever People,” my contribution to Jonathan Strahan’s Fearsome Journeys. The closest match is Kafka’s strange little nightmare story, “A Country Doctor.”
I do not generally read Kafka with my heart aflutter. Like Borges, he often exalts the brilliant above the beautiful, algebra over song. His characters speak like upright citizens on some civic commission: stifling their passions, groping for hard facts, left mute by the rules of procedure. Of course, this is the point—and it’s a great point. For better or worse, however, it leaves me rather cold.
But in “A Country Doctor” Kafka reveals just how well he can sing. The story is almost too simple to summarize: a very old provincial doctor is called out into a blizzard to tend a wounded boy. He makes the journey; he confronts the patient and the patient’s family; he departs. That’s it. A mere six pages. And yet, in our reading the old man’s journey becomes immense, for there’s a second blizzard raging. It’s a surreal force, one that alters the ground beneath his feet, transforms his patients into spiritual accusers, torments him with glimpses of long-since-departed youth and love. The effect is heartbreaking. It is at once vintage Kafka and unlike anything else he ever wrote.
I doubt many readers will find much to link Kafka’s story with my “Forever People.” They’re really fish and fowl. If there’s any common ground, I’m sure it’s one of tone: both are dreams of a kind. And perhaps both have something of that rare, heart’s-deep-core kaleidoscopic yearning we find only in dreams, and those waking dreams we call fantasy fiction. As a reader and a writer, that’s what I reach for.