“Conversations with Kafka” (fragment)

“In the spring of 1921, two automatic photographic machines, recently invented abroad, were installed in Prague, which reproduced six or ten or more exposures of the same person on a single print.

When I took such a series of photographs to Kafka I said light-heartedly: “For a couple of krone one can have oneself photographed from every angle. The apparatus is a mechanical Know-Thyself.”

“You mean to say, the Mistake-Thyself,” said Kafka, with a faint smile.

I protested: “What do you mean? The camera cannot lie!”

“Who told you that?” Kafka leaned his head toward his shoulder. “Photography concentrates one’s eye on the superficial. For that reason it obscures the hidden life which glimmers through the outlines of things like a play of light and shade. One can’t catch that even with the sharpest lens. One has to grope for it by feeling… This automatic camera doesn’t multiply men’s eye but only gives a fantastically simplified fly eye’s view.”

Gustave Janouch, “Conversations with Kafka”

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