It is clear what we mean by Kafkaesque.
On July 25, Alex Neve, the Secretary-General of Amnesty International Canada, wrote in The Globe and Mail that Omar Khadr marked a fateful anniversary this week: ten years trapped within the Kafkaesque injustice of the U.S. “war on terror.”
On July 16, the Munich paper Die Süddeutsche Zeitung published a column pointing out that Franz Kafka would not have used the word to describe his novel, The Trial. In fact, while the work was in progress, he read a few pages in a Prague café to his friend Max Brod and they both roared with laughter.
The author of the Munich column then went on to describe a scene in a Chaplin film, wondering whether the term Chaplinesque applied. Charlie was to sing a chanson in a cabaret. He had written the words on his cuff, but while he stepped on the stage the cuff flew away and he had to make up a language of his own for the chanson: Se bella giu satore, je te notre so cavore, je la tula tila twah.
Now, was this chaplinesque? The author cannot answer the question with precision. Perhaps an approximation is suggested by the word “counter-intuitive.”When the English critic Kenneth Tynan discovered the ageing movie actress Louise Brooks in her Rochester hideaway in 1979 (she had fled Hollywood decades earlier), she told him about her affair with Charlie Chaplin in the twenties. Of her many lovers, none had been as gentle, as considerate, as patient and as chivalrous as Charlie Chaplin. And as good a listener.
Now, that is Chaplinesque.