|Kafka, by Robert Crumb, watercolor, early 1990s|
Crumb Prints Webpage
DEN TURM VON BABEL
Wenn es möglich gewesen wäre, den Turm von Babel zu erbauen, ohne ihn zu erklettern, es wäre erlaubt worden.
THE TOWER OF BABELIf it had been possible to build the tower of Babel without ascending it, the work would have been permitted.
DER SCHACHT VON BABEL
Was baust Du?
Ich will einen Gang graben.
Es muß ein Fortschritt geschehn.
Zu hoch oben ist mein Standort.
Wir graben den Schacht von Babel.
THE PIT OF BABEL
What are you building?
I want to dig a subterannean passage.
Some progress must be made.
My station up there is much too high.
We are digging the pit of Babel.
—Kafka, Franz (1883-07-03/1924-06-03). Parabeln und Paradoxe (Parables and Paradoxes). Edited by Nahum N. Glatzer. Translated by Clement Greenberg, Ernst Kaiser & Eithne Wilkins, Willa & Edwin Muir, and Tania & James Stern. (New York: Schocken Books, 1961).
Parables and Paradoxes is a bilingual collection drawn from throughout Kafka's published and unpublished writings.
"The Tower of Babel is found in Kafka's unpublished works 1916/1918, as aphorism 18 in "Aphorismen (II, 4)" ("Aphorisms"): Text at The Kafka Project
"The Pit of Babel" is found in his unpublished works 1922/1924, in "Ich entlief ihr…" (II, 16) ("I escaped her…"): Text at The Kafka Project
Cited in Kenneth Smith's upcoming book Millennia in Microcosm, Part I: Fugitive Images, Chapter 1: Y2K and the Conflict of Cultures (previously published in the "End Times" column of issue 210 of The Comics Journal):
Little wonder moderns are so destitute of philosophical intelligence: the sheer interference-noise of these incommensurable principles of “order” must be deafening if not maddening. “We are digging the pit of Babel,” wrote Kafka: our heads are full of flotsam and jetsam because neither in a religious nor in a philosophical sense do we esteem the value of profound self-coherence. It is a building boom, a rush-hour in Babel—all the more fanatically, to drown out unsettling questions. We are swept up in a culture of busi-ness and in the pathetic lifestyles and mentalities that symptomize it. Not for nothing are moderns philosophically confused and intellectually self-distracted, to the point of making philosophy incomprehensible to them.