Kafka Doll Story
About halfway through The Brooklyn Follies Paul Auster tells a beguiling story about Franz Kafka. Legend has it, that while living in Berlin, Kafka wrote a series of letters from the point of view of a doll. His doll/narrator was traveling around the world. The letters described her adventures. The reason Kafka wrote these letters was to console a little girl he met in the park one day. The girl was crying because she had lost her doll. To cheer her up, Kafka said that the doll was not lost, but on a trip. The girl asked Kafka how he knew this and he said that he had just received a letter from the doll but had forgotten to bring it to the park with him. That afternoon Kafka wrote his first doll letter for the little girl. He continued to write these letters for 3 weeks until he came up with a happy ending to the doll’s adventures (the doll falls in love and gets married).
Auster tells this story as a reminder of the power of fiction. Well-crafted fiction can be more than a mere distraction. Given the right circumstance, it can even become a favorable reality – a healing delusion capable of countering the pain of living. As his narrator states, “when a person is lucky enough to live inside a story, to live inside an imaginary world, the pains of this world disappear.”
Auster’s novels often flirt with the surreal. Chance encounters and miraculous coincidences drive his narratives. But in the Brooklyn Follies, Auster seems less interested in shocking his readers with