Wedding Preparations in the Country
I rarely read Kafka straight through. Even in the middle of a story, I'll take a sudden hiatus and return to it later, not the worse for a break. The world through his eyes is weird, menacing, and illogical, yet too close to reality to make it entirely escapism. This collection of his complete short stories is no different; I've owned it for several years, and returned to it just now after an extended break.
"Wedding Preparations in the Country" is less fanciful than his more famous work, The Metamorphosis, yet it is no less Kafkaesque. Raban, a city dweller, is setting out on a rainy night to journey to the country, where his fiancee awaits him. Along the way, he encounters his friend, Lement, as well as a host of strangers who leave their own influences on him and his already tenuous nerves. Raban alternates between soaking in his surroundings and musing over the trip before him, finding little to comfort his anxieties and much to increase his sense of dread.
This short tale was quintessential Kafka. I particularly enjoyed it because it brings out one of the best qualities of his writing - the impressionism. He writes attitudes more than characters, atmospheres more than places, and feelings more than coherent thoughts (Kafka's rambling dialogues are masterful). Of course, it's not an upbeat story; like most of his plots, it seems more like a thought experiment or a bad dream. The realism that comes through, however, is what leaves me in awe every time. It's like looking at Monet painting from a distance: you don't see blobs of paint, you see a window into someone else's real world.