This week could have been shared between Gilles Deleuze AND Felix Guattari as it is the third article in a row that I write about a book written by both of them. This one is about the book Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature published in 1986. In this essay, the two authors, thanks to Franz Kafka’s work attempt to create a manifesto for what they call a minor literature. Minor, here, is of course ambiguous as it can both means secondary or from the minority. One can definitely bet that this ambiguity was not disturbing them at all as they have always refused any form of transcendental judgment on a work and this way would have not mind to be considered to take care of a “secondary” discipline. However, the primary meaning of minor here is referring to their recurrent call for the expression of minor becoming as we have seen in the previous article entitled What is it to be “from the left”.
The three characteristics of minor literature are the deterritorialization of language, the connection of the individual to a political immediacy, and the collective assemblage of enunciation write Deleuze and Guattari in the same book. Kafka’s work develops those three conditions both in its contents as in its form, himself being part of minority within a minority (Jewish and Czech in a region part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire). His writing, in German particularly registers in the following paragraph that concentrate the essence of the minor literature :
We might as well say that minor no longer designates specific literatures but the revolutionary conditions for every literature within the heart of what is called great (or established) literature. Even he who has the misfortune of being born in the country of a great literature must write in its language, just as a Czech Jew writes in German, or an Ouzbekian writes in Russian. Writing like a dog digging a hole, a rat digging its burrow.
And to do that, finding his own point of underdevelopment, his own patois, his own third world, his own desert. There has been much discussion of the questions “What is a marginal literature?” and “What is a popular literature, a proletarian literature?” The criteria are obviously difficult to establish if one doesn’t start with a more objective concept—that of minor literature. Only the possibility of setting up a minor practice of major language from within allows one to define popular literature, marginal literature, and so on. Only in this way
can literature really become a collective machine of expression and really be able to treat and develop its contents.
Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari. Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986.
I could insist on the political side of Kakfa that deconstructs transcendence and describes the power of immanence as I have been doing in the past (see my essay about Kafka’s immanent labyrinth). Nevertheless, this notion of language is more important here as it refer to this notion of revolutionary becoming that involves one or several people to create continuously a resistance against the standard. Deleuze and Guattari express this will in two sentences:
How to become a nomad and an immigrant and a gypsy in relation to one’s own language? Kafka answers: steal the baby from its crib, walk the tightrope. This tightrope gives its name to this blog and hopefully also carries its spirit of this minor becoming…