Since the first was so short, I read the second right after it.
The writing style of Kafka is more along the lines of allegories and seems, to me, to be more like a recounted dream or a disjointed thought rather than what we all, him included, consider to be “proper” short stories.
Both The Judgment and The Stoker were written in 1912; both were published in 1913. The Stoker won the Fontane Prize in 1915 and became the beginning of his novel, Amerika, published posthumously in 1927
The Judgment is more like a half remembered dream, the beginning is understandable and realistic. I didn’t like the main character, Georg Bendemann, at all. From his musings over a letter he’d just written to a friend in Russia, he doesn’t strike me as being much of a friend. You’ll see what I mean when you read it. After preparing the letter to be mailed, it suddenly occurs to Georg he should consult his elderly father whom he still lives with, about the wisdom of sending this particular letter with its particular news. The interview with the father is like a twisted dream – it is full of drama, conflicting action and emotion which made it surreal to me. The ending, didn’t make much sense.
Still, it is worth reading, if only so you can shake your head and think”what is the world was he thinking when he wrote this?”
The Stoker is a story taken out of a passage in young Karl Rossman’s like. He is sent off to America to avoid a scandal involving a 32 yr old chambermaid who seduced him and bore him a child. Karl is described as not quite old enough for college though he has finished what we would deem “high school”.
The entire story happens on the ship Karl has taken to Ellis Island but not yet embarked due to a forgotten umbrella. He is lost while searching for the lost item below decks and happens upon the stoker of the ship who is also a fellow German. They strike up a friendship of sorts, trading tales of woe and bad treatment. Karl, is a bid to assist the stoker with getting justice for his own mistreatment aboard the ship, urges the man, whose name is never mentioned, to go to the captain with him to tell him all about it.
Off they go, resolute the stoker should have his say, and Karl, poor guy, is separated from the stoker during the course of the meeting by his estranged uncle who also happens to be a Senator. Nothing more is said in this story about the poor stoker, or his fate, but Karl is left quite unhappy and a bit bereft.
This second story is quite good I feel. It was like two ships passing in the night only these two actually got to know one another enough to touch each other’s lives – like the fingertip stroke of a pretty girl across your arm as she passes – a fleeting touch that means very little but still changes your perspective for a bit.
I am eager to read more of Kafka’s work and will look for Amerika as I really want to see what becomes of young Karl.