from Post Mortem by Albert Caraco
and Letter to His Father
by Franz Kafka
Stage Version Furio Bordon
Sandro Lombardi and Massimo Verdastro
A production of the Mittelfest 2009
Albert Caraco was born in Istanbul (then Constantinople) to a wealthy Jewish family. His life was marked by nomadism, endless reading, and solitude. His many published books produced not so much as a ripple, at least not during their author’s life. Caraco committed suicide in 1971, the day following the death of his father.
Today, Caraco is being rediscovered as one of our most unique and extreme thinkers.
Caraco wrote Post Mortem, which forms the first part of the program, shortly after the death of his mother, a woman to whom he was tied by a lush entanglement of love, estrangement, hate, dependence, and passion. Writing in “the language of lovers,” and very nearly in the tones of a funeral oration, Caraco told of a relationship that was fearsome in its intensity and its ambivalence. His mother—a frivolous woman devoted to face powder and rouge and a regular fixture at parties in South American consulates—was simultaneously the “devouring mother” and the “Mater Gloriosa.” Caraco celebrated his mother as though he were her priest, fully conscious that the goddess had mutilated him sexually. That mutilation, however, also marked his initiation. The son received his mother’s dictates and took them to extremes. Her only wish was for him to renounce sex (that is, other women); Caraco went so far as to renounce life itself, and spent his years probing—in perfect solitude and in the purest classical prose—the dark heart of existence. For Caraco, the void came to take the place of God.
“I impatiently await his death and have reached the point that I wish for my father to die, because I do not dare kill myself before he is gone. His body will not yet be cold when I am no longer in this world.” Albert Caraco wrote those words in Ma Confession and, in September 1971, he carried them out.
Letter to His Father
The narrative strength, or the nearly theatrical drama of Letter to His Father, the program’s second half, is not due solely to its fragments of dialogue nor to its more-or-less veiled allusions to Kafka’s glorious narrative works. This flavor, which strikes us so strongly, is diffused throughout the text and constitutes the true personality of Letter to His Father, a work that is, no less than Kafka’s stories The Judgment or The Metamorphosis, a “dramatized” confrontation between father and son as well as, naturally, an autobiographical confession and an exercise in self-analysis. From the very beginning, Kafka may well have felt that his letter was not addressed to his objective, exterior father, but rather to the subjective, interior one—yet one more encounter with an inner specter. As we’re accustomed to saying of the mentally ill, Kafka “talked to himself,” and this letter is no more than an anguished soliloquy committed to writing.
Today, reading these pages, we are strongly induced to take sides—obviously in favor of the genius-son, the victim, against the obtuse father, his tormentor. The temptation is nearly overwhelming, but it must be rejected. Kafka, in any case, would not have approved. Though his accusations against his father are enormously grave, Kafka is careful to make clear his father’s positive aspects or, perhaps still more, to emphasize his own negative ones. Good and bad are not sharply differentiated in this text, just as the happy and the unhappy are not cleanly divided. If anything, we might conclude that all of them—father, children, and wife—were equally unhappy, that they harbored the best of intentions and expressed them in the worst of all possible ways. Regarding the origins of these circumstances, we may well hypothesize that “there is something in the human machine that does not work or which works only badly.” Kafka’s Letter to His Father is the terrible, un-literary document of this frightening incongruence, of this stubborn madness “with no method” which, since the beginning of time, has poisoned our most promising days.
(Italo Alighiero Chiusano)