Revistes Catalanes amb Accés Obert (RACO)

The Unknowable Meaning of Good-Evil, Self, and Existence in Kafka's, Vian's, and Murakami's Literary Works

Michel Dion


In this article, we will describe the sameness of existing in a meaningless world as it is expressed in the literary works of Franz Kafka, Boris Vian, and Murakami Haruki. Existence and meaninglessness will be analyzed as they are closely linked to the changing frontiers between good and evil as well as to the unknowable self. Existence and meaninglessness cannot be described without referring to existential categories, such as suffering, freedom, temporality, death, hope, and despair. Kafka was basically concerned with the unknowable meaning of existence. He interpreted the world in a Hobbesian way (the primacy of self-interest and search for power). But above all, Kafka’s hope in humankind remains the ultimate power people should use to fight existentially rooted meaninglessness. Vian rather focused on the unknowable meaning of good-evil and was closer to a Nietzschean transmutation of values. Murakami criticized the static frontiers between the real and the unreal. He unveiled the unknowable meaning of good-evil, self and existence. Like Bergson, Murakami was quite concerned with simultaneous durations and the meaning of temporality. Also, similarly to Sartre, Murakami was emphasizing existential freedom and the meaning of death. Kafka, Vian, and Murakami have thus widened the scope of the unknowable.

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