From Franz Kafka, “Josephine the Singer, or the Mouse Folk”

by J.R.

I wanted to set the scene briefly. In this short story, Kafka (the narrator Kafka) describes a village of mice folk¬†who all work very hard and ‘pipe’ while they work. Josephine is the exception in this community because she sings when she pipes, she has a beautiful voice, though it is not always so clear why. In this passage, Josephine has started “petitioning” “for exemption from all daily work”, a request that the community constantly refuses, doing so however with a “paternal” anxiety for their beloved songstress.

“Suppose that instead of the people one had an individual to deal with: one might imagine that this man had been giving in to Josephine all the time while nursing a wild desire to put an end to his submissiveness one fine day; that he had made superhuman sacrifices for Josephine in the firm belief that there was a natural limit to his capacity for sacrifice; yes, that he had sacrificed more than was needful merely to hasten the process, merely to spoil Josephine and encourage her to ask for more and more until she did indeed reach the limit with this last petition of hers; and that he then cut her off with a final refusal which was curt because long held in reserve.”

Franz Kafka, The Complete Stories, ed. Nahum N. Glazer (New York: Schocken Books, 1971), p. 373.

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