by Shivanee Ramlochan, Paper Based Blogger
“The meaning of life is that it stops,” wrote Jewish novelist Franz Kafka. Taking this thought up beyond the grave, Anu Lakhan’s masterfully curious chapbook, Letters to K, asks the extraordinary question, “How do I send a letter to my dead best friend?” There is, of course, the small matter of our narrator living in an entirely different timeline to the famed absurdist. Is this fan mail? It might well be that, and so much more.
The hand that writes these letters to K – K is Herr Kafka himself – belongs to someone we know only by their initials, J L. Her register to the author of The Metamorphosis is its own changeling adventure: she moves through modes of crippling anxiety, plucked-up courage, forthright candour, concern, vulnerability, and hope. In these letters to a literary master long dead, J L speaks not only to the scribe that Kafka was, but to the man Franz could not escape being. You might not expect these confessional, shy-brazen missives to be funny, but they are, offering singing cats who stalk attack birds by song; possible hallucinations of phantom felines; musings on whether ‘god’ should appear in lower or upper case.
This chapbook is something that presses past the easy definition of Kafkaesque — it understands the nightmares that all manic thinkers dream, and is a bridge between worlds of planar reality and polymorphic fantasy. Here, cups of tea are accessories to spleen-deep revelations of the human spirit, with more questions posed to dead beloveds than can ever be fully answered.
“Letters have always felt like dreams to me. Perhaps others are more careful in their letters. I am not,” writes J. Read this if you’re a fan of Wittgenstein’s Mistress, with a dash of any book where a man wakes up as a giant roach. If you’ve ever felt like dropping a wax-sealed salutation to Jane Austen in your mailbox, or firing off a racy mid-work email to D.H. Lawrence, Letters to K is that rarest and most necessary of (chap)bookish confirmations: you’re not alone.
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