I was in great difficulty. –Franz Kafka - The Country Doctor, c. 1919
Translated by Ian Johnston ; read Online at Franz Kafka online
A doctor is needed, but he has no transport. It is winter, he has no horse to harness to his buggy. His own is dead, and no one else will risk their own animals on a journey of ten miles or more in the snow and ice. He has sent his servant girl out searching, but has very little hope. Suddenly, out of his own abandoned pig-sty a man crawls, followed by two horses. The doctor can leave. But the groom immediately bites Rose, the servant girl on the cheek. He says he will not be going but will stay behind with Rose. The doctor protests but can do nothing as before he knows it the horses are galloping off and he is in the farm where his patient awaits.
If that all seems a bit crazy to you, well, you might have some understanding of how it feels to read this story. It is short. There are no explanations for anything. One thing happens. Then something changes and another happens. Is it all a dream? is the doctor hallucinating from exposure standing out in the cold of winter? Is the groom a strange sort of representation of what the doctor wants to do?
The only answer I can give is maybe. There is no way to know. Reading it the first time I was totally lost. It made no sense to me. So I reread it. It still didn’t seem to make much sense, only after watching the lecture on the story did it really start to fall into place.
But even when I didn’t understand it I still liked it. I think I may be turning into a fan of Kafka, even if he is terribly depressing.