Paul North’s The Yield: Kafka’s Atheological Reformation is one of the few books to have analyzed Kafka’s so-called Zürau Aphorisms, a collection of short texts from 1917–1918. North reads these notations as “reflections” in the tradition of ontological philosophy, “thoughts” in the style of Blaise Pascal’s Pensées, or a theoretical treatise. By referring to Kafka’s notations as “thoughts before” they are tamed, North suggests that they must be distinguished from all literary forms and that their “real story” cannot be reduced to a specific genre or mode of representation, let alone an epoch in the history of literature. This review is an attempt to respond to North from precisely this point of view: the perspective of literary criticism. It suggests that Kafka’s notations might indeed be part of a longer tradition of aphorisms, a genre that has often been conceived as a philosophical form of writing.

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