In Patrice Martin’s ticklish tip of the hat to the writing of Franz Kafka, we follow the misadventures of a bureaucrat – aptly named “P.” (pun intended) – as he embarks on the illustrious task of collecting the titular headgear. “P.” expects that the accomplishment of this seemingly simple task will grant him both a professional and a personal promotion. But Martin’s eager protagonist has overlooked the systematic diﬃculty in modern bureaucracies – as well as in some of twentieth-century’s best ﬁction – of getting things done. And so Kafka’s hat is increasingly unreachable: express elevators get stuck between ﬂoors, rooms full of suitcases must be searched, unsympathetic bureaucrats must be confronted, and then there’s the rather unanticipated discovery of a fresh cadaver in the library … Naturally, “P.” knows that every hero has his coming-of-age trial to go through; trouble is, he’s no modern Ulysses.
Never departing in tone and timbre from a somewhat amicable and farcical, obstinately absurd storytelling style, Kafka’s Hat assembles a pleasant labyrinth of intertextual references, which make room for the diverse imaginary worlds of Jorge Luis Borges, Italo Calvino, and Paul Auster. Living in a diﬀerent city, wearing new clothes, but still immersed in the part-tragic and part-comical ambience of Franz Kafka’s best existentialist literature, Patrice Martin’s “P.” is the compelling alter ego of a not-so-distant “Joseph K.” – still contemporary, still relevant.
Invoking some of modern literature’s most meaningful authors, Martin’s prose playfully reminds us that we do not create new work without reintroducing past ﬁctions inside our present desires.