## 30 Jun 2015

### Priest, “Preface” of Logic: A Very Short Introduction, Summary

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Summary of

Graham Priest

Logic: A Very Short Introduction

Preface

Brief Summary:
Logic is an ancient discipline that was revolutionized in the 20th century with mathematical techniques and is currently very useful in information and computational sciences. This book will give a brief, broad, and non-technical overview.

Summary

Priest writes:

Logic is one of the most ancient intellectual disciplines, and one of the most modern. Its beginnings go back to the 4th century BC. The only older disciplines are philosophy and mathematics, with both of which it has always been intimately connected.
(xi)

In the turn from the 19th to the 20th centuries, mathematical techniques were applied to logic, causing a major revolution in its development. More recently it has been very important for the fields of computation and information processing. “It is thus a subject that is central to much human thought and endeavor” (xi).

This book is not a textbook in logic; rather, it will give a brief introduction to logic as it is now understood. It will also provide some explanation of formal logic (xi).

Priest will begin each main chapter by addressing a philosophical problem or a logical puzzle. He proceeds by examining a particular approach to the problem or puzzle. That approach may not be a standard one, as in cases where logicians disagree on the proper solution, and “Nearly all the approaches, whether standard or not, may be challenged” (xi). Priest ends each chapter by addressing problems for the examined approach. “The aim is to challenge you to figure out what you make of the matter” (xii).

As he noted above, modern logic has become highly mathematical. But Priest will try to explain the ideas with little or no mathematics. However, the reader will need to master some new symbolism, which is inevitable when learning any new language. “And the perspicuity that the symbolism gives to difficult questions makes any trouble one may have in mastering it well worth it” (xii). Priest then warns the reader that reading logic books is not like reading novels where the pace is brisk and steady, for the most part. Rather, we will need to read slowly and carefully at some points in order to grasp the concepts (xii).

The last chapter is about logic’s historical development. It will “show that logic is a living subject, which has always evolved, and which will continue to do so” (xii). This final chapter also offers suggestions for further reading.

In the first of the two appendices there is a glossary of logic terms and symbols that we may consult as needed. The second appendix offers further questions related to each chapter for testing our understanding of the main concepts (xi).

“The book goes for breadth rather than depth” (xi). Each chapter could itself be further developed into a book of its own. “And even so, there are very many important issues in logic that I have not even touched on here. But if you hang in there till the end of the book, you will have a pretty good idea of the fundamentals of modern logic, and why people find it worth thinking about the subject” (xi).

From:

Priest, Graham. Logic: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University, 2000.

### Spiegelman. ch5. of Maus I, “Mouse Holes,” summary

by Corry Shores
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Art Spiegelman

Maus: A Survivor’s Tale, vol.1

Ch. 5
Mouse Holes

Brief summary:

Vladek and Art discuss the comic that Art made some time ago, which depicts his mother’s suicide and Vladek’s and Art’s incredible grief over it. Vladek then describes a period during the war when they hid in “bunkers” (secret places hidden away in houses of the ghettos, where people survived by living a rodent-like existence). This is a very difficult time for them, when they had to be very careful and resourceful. In the present, Vladek entrusts Art with the key to a security box at the bank, which contains some saved items from this period, along with other valuables that Vladek wants to hide from taxation and from Mala, when he dies.

Summary

[As always, we begin in the present.] [Recall previously that Vladek wanted to fix the roof himself in order to save money, despite his son Art explaining that this is a bad idea for someone of his age and failing health.] Mala awakes Art in bed with a call, announcing that Vladek went ahead and climbed the roof to make repairs. He apparently got dizzy, came down, but now wants to climb again. Mala cannot dissuade him, which is why she now calls Art. Vladek takes the phone and asks Art to come help him. Art says he will call back after having some coffee (it is 7:30 AM), and he wonders if maybe he dreamt the whole conversation (p.96). As he gets out of bed, Art complains to his wife that in the past, Vladek used to prove how handy he was, which made Art neurotic about fixing things. He says, “One reason I became an artist was that he thought it was impractical – just a waste of time … it was an area where I wouldn’t have to compete with him” (97). Art then calls to say he will not help, but in the meantime, Vladek already found someone else to do it, and in the process makes Art feel guilty. When Art does arrive, he finds Vladek in the shed sorting long from short nails. Vladek seems preoccupied, and Art asks if everything is okay. He replies that not everything can be ok, and he sends Art away while he finishes his work (98). Art goes inside to talk to Mala. She says Vladek should sell the house and buy a condo in Miami, since he is getting too old to take care of this one. Art observes that Vladek seems depressed, and Mala suggests that it could be about the comic strip Art once wrote a while ago about his mother (Vladek’s first wife Anja). Mala’s friend’s son obtains a copy and gave it to Mala, who hid it from Vladek. However, he eventually found it (99). [The following pages reproduce the comic, “Prisoner on the Hell Planet: A Case History,” at an angle and with Art’s finger showing, to indicate he is reading it while we are.] Art [seemingly] rereads it, and the reader sees it too. It opens by recalling Anja’s suicide, which Vladek discovers coming home from work.

In this comic, Art continues to explain that he was previously released from a state mental hospital, and under the conditions of his release, he had to live with his parents. He come home to a crowd of people gathered outside the home. A cousin pulls him aside, saying his mother is sick, then takes him to a doctor who explains her suicide.

Art begins to cry.

Despite being so broken apart himself, when he returned home, Vladek expected Art to provide comfort and assurance to him. In accordance with Jewish custom, Vladek and Art sleep together on the floor. “He held me and moaned to himself all night. I was uncomfortable… we were scared!” The next day at the funeral, Vladek apparently breaks down.

Later a family friend makes Art guilty for waiting to cry until after the funeral. In the following days, his father’s friends seemed to mix blame with their condolences, and when alone, Art was haunted by his own memories and conscience.

He especially remembers the last time when he saw her. She came into his room late one night, asking hesitantly if he still loved her. Although he says yes, while doing so, he “turned away, resentful of the way she tightened the umbilical cord” (103). As she walks out and closes the door, Art displays this transition as being like shutting prison doors [from the beginning his is drawn with a prison suit].

[The next page continues with the kitchen scene of Art and Mala.] Art is surprised Vladek took interest in this comic, since he never takes interest in any of Art’s comics work. Mala says this one was personal, and she herself was shocked by it. She also notes, however, that it was very accurate and objective, since she helped out after the funeral and saw how things were. Vladek enters. Art asks about the comic. Vladek says it made him cry to see the picture of dead Anja, and it brought back many memories of her. Yet he also notes “… of course I’m thinking always about her anyway” (104). Mala notes that in fact Vladek keeps many photos of her on his desk “like a shrine” (104). Vladek tries to defend himself, but not to Mala’s satisfaction, and she leaves. Art asks again about Anja’s diaries, but Vladek says he still cannot find them. Together they now go to the bank. Art is carrying a notepad and begins asking questions, beginning with, “what happened to you and Anja after the big selection at the stadium?” (105). Vladek says that things were quiet for a while, but then in 1943, all Jews in Sosnowiec were ordered to move to a nearby village called Srodula. As part of this move, the Jews had to pay the poles of this village to move to Sosnowiec. Although they would get a small place, at least they would not live on the street like many others had to.

[[Note in the panel above how the present and past are mixed in a single flashback transition.]] [The next three panels are exclusively in the present.] Vladek explains that he and the family members all had to work in German shops [cuts to past]. Jews with big sticks, working for the Nazis, marched the other Jews for an hour and a half each day to work. At night, they marched everyone back, counting all the people and locking them in the ghetto. In this scene, Anja tells Vladek to hurry home, because “Wolfe’s uncle Persis is at our house!” He is from Zawiercie, and as Anja explains, “He’s a big shot there … The head of their Jewish council. He wants Wolfe, Tosha and Bibi to go live with him in Zawiercie” (106) [I quoted because I do not remember these names or places]. When they enter the home, it seems that Persis is telling a group of people [Art’s family perhaps] that since Auschwitz is so much worse than the ghetto, it would be very bad to be deported. He explains to the people gathered around him that they do not have much influence, but he himself has much influence in Zawiercie. He can bribe the Nazis, and he has even succeeded in keeping his 90 year-old father with him. [Single panel cut to present]. Vladek explains that Persis was a good man, unlike the head of their own ghetto, since he actually tried to help the Jews of his town. Persis then offers to take with him Wolfe, Tosha, Bibi, Lonia, and Richieu. Then Anja’s mother resists, saying they should stick together. After that, someone [Vladek perhaps] tells her to be realistic, and finally she is persuaded (107). [Single-panel cut to present]. Later Persis comes back to take the people named before.

[Two-panel cut to present]. Things get worse in their own ghetto. One day that spring, Germans took over a thousand people from the village. They mostly took children, and if they would not stop screaming, they would smash the children to death against the walls.

[[Again note the present-past overlap in the final panel above.]] [Single panel cut to present]. Art then asks what happened to Richieu. Shortly after the Nazis decided to clear out Zawiercie. They shoot Persis and the rest of the Jewish council there, and they round up everyone else to send to Auschwitz. Tosha, the woman taking care of Richieu and other children, decides to kill herself and the three other children, including Richieu. [Cut to present]. Vladek says it was a great tragedy. They learned of this only later. Vladek then describes the “bunkers” they built to hide in, since Germans started taking everyone, even if they had papers. Vladek arranged a hiding place in their cellar where coal was stored. He then draws the structure on Art’s notepad. There was a coal bin in the kitchen with a false bottom. Under the false bottom was an entrance below into a bunker.

[[Note the rodent-like strategies they took to survive the threat of the Nazis.]] Even though the Nazis and their dogs know Jews were hiding somewhere, they could not discover them. The conditions were bad in the bunker, with worms crawling over them. They had enough food to stay for days.

Then later in June all the highest people of the Jewish council, the Judenrat, were arrested, including someone named Moniek Merin. They were placed into another house, and there they made a bunker in the attic. [Single panel cut to present].

[[We see again rodent-like “burrowing” but this time in the attic rather than in the ground.]] By the end of the next month, the Nazis came to take all 10,000 Jews in the ghetto. “Except to sneak for food, we stayed mostly in the bunker” (112).

[[Again we note the rodent-like strategies. We see one person squeezing through a hole, bringing a store of food.]] One night when sneaking out for food, they discover someone in their house. He insists he was just looking for food for his family. They suspect he is an informer, but they take pity on him, letting him live and also sending him off with food the next morning. That afternoon, the Gestapo came and took them to a building in town separated by wires, where they had to sit and wait (113). They waited with 200 other people, and every Wednesday vans came to take people to Auschwitz. The were caught on a Thursday [so they still had some time]. Vladek sees out the window his cousin Jakov, carrying a box. Vladek calls out to him for help, and Jaokov says there is nothing he can do. But then Vladek made signs that he could pay [a panel shows Vladek displaying a pocket watch]. Jakov then assures Vladek not to worry, because another cousin Haskel would come to help them. [Doubled panel cut to present]. Art is then confused, asking that, if they were family, why did they not help anyway? Vladek replies that at this time, there were no more family ties, since everyone had to take care of themselves first.

[[Note the restructuring of relations, like how Canetti describes the way that the relations among members in “packs” are always in flux. “In the changing constellation of the pack, in its dances and expeditions, he will again and again find himself at its edge. He may be in the centre, and then, immediately afterwards, at the edge again; at the edge and then back in the centre” (Canetti, 93).]] The next day comes Haskel, who is a chief of the Jewish police. He says that he can get out Vladek and Anja along with their nephew, but not the in-laws, who are too old to get past the guards. Anja’s parents plead with Vladek to convince Haskel to get them out, even offering a gold watch and a diamond. Haskel takes the jewels, but he does not take the parents. Vladek and Anja escape, yet they must do so while seeing Anja’s father in agony and despair. [Exactly what takes place is a bit confusing, so please consult the page displayed below. It seems that the operation went like this. Haskel brings two work girls with a large pail of steaming food. He sends the girls to the kitchen, then has Lolek (the nephew) carry the pail out with him, enabling his escape. Then the next day, presumably the same thing happens (there is no mention of what happens to the first two girls and if they come back the next day or if another pair come or whatever else). This time, both Anja and Vladek together carry a pail, while Haskal carries something else along with them, maybe another pail.]

[[We begin by noting the economic relation, in the first panel. There is an opportunistic exchange of goods and services that creates a stronger bond, and a larger composite grouping or whole, which is temporary and responsive to the immediate needs of the given circumstance, rather than being based on the family relations which already existed between the people. We next observe the power of falsity, as the escapees survive in this situation by modifying their identities into kitchen helpers. We also note the use of window pane lattice, which serves visually like the bars of a jail cell. In the final panel we observe a number of things. The first is the conjunction of present and past, with the current Vladek and his memory superposed on one another. And there is a contrast between Vladek’s bowed head and his father-in-law’s upturned wailing head. We also notice here the expressionist contortion of the lines of the window and the dark and light shading contrasts. The narrowing of the vertical bars gives the impression of falling down a hole or trap. And so the father-in-law is not only locked away behind bars, but he is also in world of inner torment and despair, visually appearing like a rat in a cage or trap. And lastly, we see how prior social privileges that could be bought in the past with wealth no longer apply under these new fluid conditions where such privileges are less established and more generated spontaneously and temporarily using guile and resourcefulness.]]

[Continues in present for 7 panels.] Right afterward Anja’s parents died in the gas chambers in Auschwitz. Vladek calls Haskel a Kombinator or Kombinacya, “a schemer – a crook” (116). While they are walking, Vladek picks wire up off the ground, since it is useful. When Art questions the need for this, Vladek replies, “Why always you want to buy when you can find!?”

[[This is the combination of past and present, but not in memorial form. Rather, they are combined in automatic habitual behaviors which condense all his past experience of dealing with shortages into one present action of conservation.]]

Haskel was a big person in the ghetto. He was respected by the Gestapo, and he even played cards with them. “He lost to them big amounts of money, so they would like him” (116). Haskel sets them up at the Braun shoe shop. Haskel had a Kombinator brother Pesach, but also a good brother Miloch, who helps Vladek at the shop [at this point we do not know what Anja is doing]. He shows Vladek what to do, but says he only really needs to look busy when the German commission comes to inspect. [Three panel cut to the present.] Vladek then recalls the informer who discovered their attic bunker. Haskel arranged for him to be shot, and Vladek happened to be on the work detail that buried him. His corpse’s eyes were still open, since he was struggling to survive when he was killed (117). [Eight panel cut to the present.] Vladek continues the story, but is suddenly hit with what seems to be a small heart attack or seizure or something like that, and he asks Art for his nitrostat pills. They take a seat to rest a while. Vladek mentions that Haskel survived the war, and he even sent him gifts. Art mentions that he was a rotten guy, and Vladek replies “Yes. I don’t know why. I know only that I sent” (118). Vladek then says one night a Nazi stopped him, held a gun to his head, asked for his papers, and said he will “blow your brains out.” But then he sees that he is “a member of the illustrious Spiegelman family,” and the soldier continues, “Go on your way then, and give Haskel my regards.” Vladek says, “…such friends Haskel had” (118). Vladek tells Haskel and Miloch about this later, and they tell Vladek he is lucky, since the soldier is called “the shooter” and he kills one Jew every day just for fun. Someone comes and asks the group if they will go to Pesach’s to buy cake. “For years we didn’t see any cake. Hardly even bread we saw,” Vladek explains. But indeed Pesach was selling cake to whomever could afford it. Pesach, a Kombinator, says he has confiscated the ingredients from captured Jews. Vladek pays the high price and buys him and Anja some cake. [Single panel cut to the present.] But actually instead of flour they accidentally used laundry soap, making many customers that night “sick like dogs” (119).

[Page 120 is all set in the present.] Vladek then describes one of Pesach’s tricks that he played before the war. He had a resort hotel. Apparently many guests did not want to pay high Polish taxes, so they instead paid Pesach extra not to register them. [This of course was an illegal arrangement, and it meant also that they should not be found there by the authorities, since they are evading taxes.] So when an inspector came, these unofficial guests needed to run off and hide somewhere. One day Pesach and his wife failed to make enough deserts for everyone. So, they lied and yelled, “inspectors are coming!” About 40 percent of the guests fled, and “Pesach had enough desserts left over even for the next day!” (120). Art and Vladek then rise up from the steps where they sat, and Vladek notes that without the medicine, something very bad could have happened. He continues that Miloch survived the war along with his wife. He recently had a seizure on the street, but he forgot his pills. His wife ran to the drug store to get some, but when she returned, Miloch was dead. “Nu? So life goes,” Vladek observes (120). Vladek now wants to finish what he has to say about Srodula, since they are nearing the bank [and will be interrupted by their visit to it] (120). The vans kept coming each week to take the people to Auschwitz, and Vladek and Miloch wonder when their turn will come. The two go into the shoe shop, where no one is present yet, and Miloch confides in Vladek that Haskel has made plans to escape, as have Pesach and himself. There is a pile of shoes, and Miloch moves some of the shoes to reveal a hidden tunnel, leading to a secret bunker that could hold up to 16 people.

[[We yet again notice the rodent strategies of burrowing.]] Their nephew Lolek refused to join them in the hole, since he is sick of hiding. “Always Lolek was a little Meshuga,” Vladek explains. Lolek thought that since he was an electrician, they would value his skills and preserve him. In truth, he was taken to die in Auschwitz on one of the next transports. Anja falls into despair, since she has seen all her family taken off to death, and they recently learned about the deaths of Tosha and Richieu. Anja even cries out that she wants to be left to die. Vladek convinces her she must struggle to survive. [Page 122 ends with a single panel cut to the present.]

[[Here past and present, in the transition to the final panel, is successive. However, the similarities in the composition make the images overlap, bringing them into a parallel formation.]] As the Nazis clear the ghetto out, twelve people hide in the bunker. There is a crying child who needs to be quieted, and one person suggests they keep him under blankets. Vladek explains, “It was nothing to do all day but to lie and to starve. The whole day and night Anja sat writing into her notebook” (123). Through a peephole they saw soldiers searching for remaining Jews. They all were starving. They even resort to gnawing on wood to stave off hunger.

[[Here they are reduced again to rodent-like strategies of gnawing on blocks of wood.]]

After a while, Pesach enters the bunker with a plan. He says that in exchange for a fortune, one of the guards agrees to look the other way while they escape. Then, “our group will mix in with the Poles when they walk past Srodula on the way to work tomorrow” (124). Many agree to join, but Miloch and Vladek do not agree, since they do not trust the Germans. A bunk-mate offers Vladek two watches and some diamond rings just to advise him and his girlfriend on when to leave [apparently they trusted Vladek’s ability to accurately assess risks]. Vladek did not want to take too much, so he only took a small watch [it is not explained why he did not just give the advice for free. He must have needed the watch too much for such charity]. The next day, Vladek secretly follows the others who planned to escape, to see what would happen. They give the money to the guard, but what happens after, Vladek does not see. He only hears loud shouting [and a panel has the sounds “TAKKA TAKKA TAKKA” which could perhaps be gun fire, but that is not clarified]. Vladek did not go see what happened but instead fled back to the bunker (124). Only a few remained there. But after noticing the guard house lights being out for two nights, they think it is safe to emerge. They see that Srodula is deserted. They had already organized good clothes and I.D. papers. [[They now wear pig masks, which might suggest that the I.D. papers conceal their Jewish heritage and instead only show them as normal Poles.]] They split up in different directions, mixing in with the Poles going to work, and Miloch gives Vladek his address, saying Vladek should get in touch when he finds a safe place.

[[Notice the masks on Miloch and Vladek, but how the figure on the far right does not wear a mask. Here we have both the fluid identity of the Jews in this situation and the power of falsehood.]] The wife of the guy who previously asked for advice [on the prior page she was called his girlfriend] had friends to take them, which they did, until he ran out of money and were reported. Vladek and Anja did not have a place to go to, so they walked toward Sosnowiec, without an idea where to go once they arrived.

[Note the swastika formation of the road. Perhaps this suggests that no matter where they do go, they will be hunted by Nazis.] [Final cut to the present.] Vladek and Art arrive at the bank. Vladek requests they assign a key to Art so he can access Vladek’s safety box (125). As they walk to the room with the boxes, Vladek instructs Art to run here if anything bad ever happens to him [that is, if Vladek ever dies]. Art is to remove everything from the box, so that it cannot go to taxes, and also to prevent Mala from taking any of it. Art expresses his reluctance to think about Vladek’s death. Art asks why Vladek does not just spend the money now while he is alive. Vladek does not answer this question, and instead says that he will keep Art’s copy of the key in his [Vladek’s] desk, since Art would probably lose it. Vladek opens the box and shows golden cigarette and powder cases that he had in the attic bunker. Art is confused how he still has them [since later as we learn Vladek was taken to the camps and thus would have lost everything of value in the process]. Vladek explains that he hid them in the chimney [[again note the rodent stocking strategy]]. Then, he explains, “After I came out from the camps in 1945 I sneaked back to Srodula and – at night while the people inside slept – I digged these things out from the bottom of the chimney” (126). Vladek then shows a large diamond that he gave to Anja when they first came to the U.S. Anja wanted Art to give it to his wife. But Vladek kept it instead, fearing Mala would demand it. Vladek then complains that Mala does not want Vladek to share their possessions with family, including Art, and that she had Vladek change his will three times. Art replies, “C’mon – Mala’s okay!” (127). Vladek then claims that when he had a heart attack, while still sick in bed, Mala demanded they change the will again. Vladek continues that he pleaded with Mala, asking, “what you want from me?” According to Vladek, she screamed, “I want the money! The money, the money!” (127). Vladek then expresses regret that he remarried, and buries his head in his hands, saying, “Oy, Anja! Anja! Anja!” (127). Art tells Vladek to go easy, and suggests they go home.

From:

Spielgelman, Art. Maus: A Survivor’s Tale, vol 1. New York: Pantheon Books, 1986.

Or if otherwise noted:

Canetti, Elias. Crowds and Power. Transl. Carol Stewart. New York: Continuum, 1962 / 1973.

## 29 Jun 2015

### Kafka, “Josephine the Singer, or The Mouse Folk,” summary

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[Proofreading is incomplete, so please overlook my typos. My own commentary is in brackets, and boldface and underlining are also my own additions.]

Summary (with Commentary) of

Franz Kafka

“Josephine the Singer, or The Mouse Folk”

Willa and Edwin Muir translation

Brief Summary:
Josephine is a member of a mouse people, and she supposedly sings. Really what she does is not even singing and is apparently not very remarkable, whatever it is (the narrator calls it “piping”). Still she holds some important yet complicated relation to her people. It is never made very clear, but it seems that she speaks to some deep sentiment in the people which cannot be expressed very directly in words. Her role is somehow both very unique while at the same time dispensable. Deleuze and Deleuze & Guattari take interest in this story for the following reasons: 1) Josephine’s singing is expressive and non-representational, 2) by means of the singing, she enters into the collective or “pack,” 3) Josephine is anomalous, meaning that she occupies a privileged yet changing and anonymous position in the pack, and 4) her singing is [somehow] like Augustinian eternal time since it “produces inexplicable differences in the collective present of mice.” Art Speigelman says that in this story, the mice are metaphors for Jews, and it opened the way for his own use of mice as Jews in Maus. Some commentators have argued that Josephine’s singing is to be understood as Yiddish or Hebrew.

Summary

We are introduced to Josephine, who is a remarkable “singer.”
Our singer is called Josephine. Anyone who has not heard her does not know the power of song. There is no one but is carried away by her singing
(360)

The narrator then wonders what her music really means. We cannot understand her singing as being “so great that even the most insensitive cannot be deaf to it,” since “I do not feel this and have never observed that others feel anything of the kind” (360). In fact, “Josephine’s singing, as singing, is nothing out of the ordinary” (361).

The narrator then wonders if Josephine’s singing is really singing after all. The narrator notes that “we are unmusical,” and she seems to imply this is so to an extreme degree. For although some songs from long ago have survived, “no one can now sing” (361). But in fact, what Josephine does is not even such singing as this. So perhaps it is not even singing at all. It might be “piping.” [I am not sure what is meant here; perhaps it is something like whistling.] But even farmhands pipe well, and thus perhaps better than Josephine. But were that so, we would still be left with “the real riddle which needs solving, the enormous influence she has” (361). [So she must not be piping, since she has influence. For, were she piping, she would not have such influence, given that there are many superior pipers.]

Nonetheless, it is still
a kind of piping that she produces. If you post yourself quite far away from her and listen, or, still better, put your judgment to the test, whenever she happens to be singing along with others, by trying to identify her voice, you will undoubtedly distinguish nothing but a quite ordinary piping tone, which at most differs a little from the others through being delicate or weak.
(361)
One thing that makes her piping different from normal work piping is that she makes “a ceremonial performance out of doing the usual thing” (361). So suppose it were a matter of nut-cracking. We all now do it very well and eventually we become unaware of all the complexity, skill, and practice that are actually involved in it. So perhaps Josephine is not any better than the rest of us, but in her naïve approach, she “shows us its real nature” (362a).

[The next paragraph is a bit mysterious. The first point continues the prior: “we admire in her what we do not at all
admire in ourselves.” The next point is that she resents it when you note that there is nothing special about her piping, since everyone else is doing it too. The final point seems to be that she herself truly believes that her piping is out of the ordinary, despite all appearances to the contrary. I am missing some subtle things, especially at the end regarding opposition, so I quote:]
Perhaps it is much the same with Josephine's singing; we admire in her what we do not at all admire in ourselves; in this respect, I may say, she is of one mind with us. I was once present when someone, as of course often happens, drew her attention to the folk piping everywhere going on, making only a modest reference to it, yet for Josephine that was more than enough. A smile so sarcastic and arrogant as she then assumed I have never seen; she, who in appearance is delicacy itself, conspicuously so even among our people who are prolific in such feminine types, seemed at that moment actually vulgar; she was at once aware of it herself, by the way, with her extreme sensibility, and controlled herself. At any rate she denies any connection between her art and ordinary piping. For those who are of the contrary opinion she has only contempt and probably unacknowledged hatred. This is not simple vanity, for the opposition, with which I too am half in sympathy, certainly admires her no less than the crowd does, but Josephine does not want mere admiration, she wants to be admired exactly in the way she prescribes, mere admiration leaves her cold. And when you take a seat before her, you understand her; opposition is possible only at a distance, when you sit before her, you know: this piping of hers is no piping.
(362)

Since we all thoughtlessly pipe out of habit, you would think the audience would join her when she performs. However, “her audience never pipes, it sits in mouselike stillness” (362). The narrator wonders if it because the audience is enchanted or if (perhaps out of sympathy or concern for her) that maybe the cause is “the solemn stillness enclosing her frail little voice” (362). In fact, one time a child started piping, in the same “unselfconscious,” innocent way: “it would have been impossible to define the difference” (363). The audience hushed the child, but this was unnecessarily, since the child would have quit in shame, since “Josephine struck up her most triumphal notes and was quite beyond herself, spreading her arms wide and stretching her throat as high as it could reach” (363).

In fact, Josephine welcomes the opposition, since it encourages her to perform better and thereby prove the value of her song. “So all disturbance is very welcome to her; whatever intervenes from outside to hinder the purity of her song, to be overcome with a slight effort, even with no effort at all, merely by confronting it, can help to awaken the masses, to teach them not perhaps understanding but awed respect” (363).

At times Josephine even dramatically brings herself to her limits in her performing and seems on the verge of exhaustion. [I quote since I miss some subtleties:]
And if small events do her such service, how much more do great ones. Our life is very uneasy, every day brings surprises, apprehensions, hopes, and terrors, so that it would be impossible for a single individual to bear it all did he not always have by day and night the support of his fellows; but even so it often becomes very difficult; frequently as many as a thousand shoulders are trembling under a burden that was really meant only for one pair. Then Josephine holds that her time has come. So there she stands, the delicate creature, shaken by vibrations especially below the breastbone, so that one feels anxious for her, it is as if she has concentrated all her strength on her song, as if from everything in her that does not directly subserve her singing all strength has been withdrawn, almost all power of life, as if she were laid bare, abandoned, committed merely to the care of good angels, as if while she is so wholly withdrawn and living only in her song a cold breath blowing upon her might kill her. | But just when she makes such an appearance, we who are supposed to be her opponents are in the habit of saying: "She can't even pipe; she has to put such a terrible strain on herself to force out not a song — we can't call it song — but some approximation to our usual customary piping." So it seems to us, but this impression although, as I said, inevitable is yet fleeting and transient. We too are soon sunk in the feeling of the mass, which, warmly pressed body to body, listens with indrawn breath.
(363-364)

In order to gain an audience, “Josephine mostly needs to do nothing else than take up her stand, head thrown back, mouth half-open, eyes turned upwards, in the position that indicates her intention to sing” (364). Since she likes to sing “when things are most upset,” this can result in a crowd building too slowly. This makes her upset, and she sometimes even starts biting people. This only makes people try to serve her better by building her audience, although she is not made aware of these efforts. (364)

It is not immediately clear why people are so devoted to Josephine, since this doing so is not part of their culture and customs. (364)

The people are devoted to her, but not unconditionally. [The narrator then gives the example of not laughing at her, but there does not seem to be mention of a condition when it is appropriate.] People show their devotion by not laughing at her, even though there are legitimate reasons to laugh. They think of her more as someone who needs their protection and care (364-365).

The people are protective toward her like a father is to a daughter. Like such a child, she pretends she does not need the protection, while the people pretend that too for her sake (365-366).

In fact, Josephine even believes she is the protector of the people. “When we are in a bad way politically or economically, her singing is supposed to save us, nothing less than that, and if it does not drive away the evil, at least gives us the strength to bear it” (365). When bad news comes to the people, “he rises up at once, whereas usually she sits listlessly on the ground, she rises up and stretches her neck and tries to see over the heads of her flock like a shepherd before a thunderstorm” (365). Although in truth she does not give the people any strength, despite her posturing, still in these times of emergency they listen to her more attentively.
The menaces that loom over us make us quieter, more humble, more submissive to Josephine's domination; we like to come together, we like to huddle close to each other, especially on an occasion set apart from the troubles | preoccupying us; it is as if we were drinking in all haste — yes, haste is necessary, Josephine too often forgets that — from a cup of peace in common before the battle, It is not so much a performance of songs as an assembly of the people, and an assembly where except for the small piping voice in front there is complete stillness; the hour is much too grave for us to waste it in chatter.
(366-367)

[This next paragraph is not entirely explicit, but it is very important. I will quote it first:]
A relationship of this kind, of course, would never content Josephine. Despite all the nervous uneasiness that fills Josephine because her position has never been quite defined, there is still much that she does not see, blinded by her self-conceit, and she can be brought fairly easily to overlook much more, a swarm of flatterers is always busy about her to this end, thus really doing a public service — and yet to be only an incidental, unnoticed performer in a corner of an assembly of the people, for that, although in itself it would be no small thing, she would certainly not make us the sacrifice of her singing.
(367)
[The relationship seems to be the relationship between a savior and a people, or something similar to that, but I do not know why this would not content Josephine. The next point is that she is uneasy because her position is not quite defined. We might here think of Canetti’s notion that in an animal pack, the members’ relative positions are constantly changing. Canetti writes:
In the pack which, from time to time, forms out of the group, and which most strongly expresses its feeling of unity, the individual can never lose himself as completely as modem man can in any crowd today. In the changing constellation of the pack, in its dances and' expeditions, he will again and again find himself at its edge. He may be in the centre, and then, immediately afterwards, at the edge again ; at the edge and then back in the centre. When the pack forms a ring round the fire, each man will have neighbours to right and left, but no-one behind him; his back is naked and exposed to the wilderness. Density within the pack is always something of an illusion. Men may press closely together and enact a multitude in traditional rhythmic movements, but they are not a multitude ; they are a few, and have to make up in intensity what they lack in actual numbers. (Canetti, 93)
The next point is that although Josephine is nervous and perhaps for that reason more aware than normal of her place (and its uncertainty) in the group, she still is not seeing everything there is to know in these matters. This is because her own self-confidence and the flattery of others make her blind to this. Exactly what she is missing is not stated. So further it is even more mysterious why the narrator says that the flatterers are doing a public service. I lastly do not understand the final point, mainly because I do not know what it would mean for people to be “the sacrifice of her singing”. My interpretation of this part is that the flattery is needed so that she thinks that her purpose is strong enough to justify all that she invests of herself into it.]

So on the one hand, the audience is not really paying as close attention at it seems. However, her singing does not go unnoticed either, since she communicates something important. [It seems she communicates the frailty of the people’s situation using the frailty of her voice, in the grave situations.] The people in fact would not listen to a real singer at those times. The performance would seem senseless [perhaps because the people are not feeling a sense of normality or perfection, and thus such a  normal or perfect performance would seem odd when people feel vulnerable.]
Nor does she need to, for her art does not go unnoticed. Although we are at bottom preoccupied with quite other things and it is by no means only for the sake of her singing that stillness prevails and many a listener does not even look up but buries his face in his neighbor's fur, so that Josephine up in front seems to be exerting herself to no purpose, there is yet something — it cannot be denied — that irresistibly makes its way into us from Josephine's piping. This piping, which rises up where everyone else is pledged to silence, comes almost like a message from the whole people to each individual; Josephine's thin piping amidst grave decisions is almost like our people's precarious existence amidst the tumult of a hostile world. Josephine exerts herself, a mere nothing in voice, a mere nothing in execution, she asserts herself and gets across to us; it does us good to think of that. A really trained singer, if ever such a one should be found among us, we could certainly not endure at such a time and we should unanimously turn away from the senselessness of any such performance. May Josephine be spared from perceiving that the mere fact of our listening to her is proof that she is | no singer. An intuition of it she must have, else why does she so passionately deny that we do listen, only she keeps on singing and piping her intuition away.
(367-368)

The narrator then says somewhat ironically that Josephine could take comfort knowing that people do listen to her, but only because she is not very good.
But there are other things she could take comfort from: we do really listen to her in a sense, probably much as one listens to a trained singer; she gets effects which a trained singer would try in vain to achieve among us and which are only produced precisely because her means are so inadequate. For this, doubtless, our way of life is mainly responsible.
(368)

The narrator then turns to the topic of the children among their people (or the mouse folk). They have only a very brief childhood, during which they are allowed to be playful and childish. But very soon the child must look after itself like an adult. This is because economic limitations, population dispersion, numerous threats, and overpopulation make it too difficult to protect children.
We have no schools, but from our race come pouring at the briefest intervals the innumerable swarms of our | children, merrily lisping or chirping so long as they cannot yet pipe, rolling or tumbling along by sheer impetus so long as they cannot yet run, clumsily carrying everything before them by mass weight so long as they cannot yet see, our children! And not the same children, as in those schools, no, always new children again and again, without end, without a break, hardly does a child appear than it is no more a child, while behind it new childish faces are already crowding so fast and so thick that they are indistinguishable, rosy with happiness. Truly, however delightful this may be and however much others may envy us for it, and rightly, we simply cannot give a real childhood to our children.
(368-369)
For this reason, however, the lost childishness of childhood bubbles up and is expressed at times in adulthood.
And that has its consequences. A kind of unexpended, ineradicable childishness pervades our people; in direct opposition to what is best in us, our infallible practical common sense, we often behave with the utmost foolishness, with exactly the same foolishness as children, senselessly, wastefully, grandiosely, irresponsibly, and all that often for the sake of some trivial amusement.
(369)
[Somehow] Josephine benefits from the childishness of the people.

But also, since they lose their childhood early, they also become prematurely old; thus there is “a certain weariness and hopelessness spreading from that leaves a broad trail through our people's nature” (369). This weariness of age might also explain why the people lack musical abilities. But unlike the other people who only pipe now and then, wearily, she can pipe at will. [I quote the following, since the ending is a bit obscure:] “Josephine on the other hand can pipe as much as she will, or sing or whatever she likes to call it, that does not disturb us, that suits us, that we can well put up with; | any music there may be in it is reduced to the least possible trace; a certain tradition of music is preserved, yet without making the slightest demand upon us” (369-370).

In times of stress, the younger people tend to be much more engaged by her singing, while “the real mass of people .. are quite withdrawn into themselves” (370). They dream and the piping somehow animates these dreams. [I quote, since I am missing some subtleties:]
Here in the brief intervals between their struggles our people dream, it is as if the limbs of each were loosened, as if the harried individual once in a while could relax and stretch himself at ease in the great, warm bed of the community. And into these dreams Josephine's piping drops note by note; she calls it pearl-like, we call it staccato; but at any rate here it is in its right place, as nowhere else, finding the moment wait for it as music scarcely ever does. Something of our poor brief childhood is in it, something of lost happiness that can never be found again, but also something of active daily life, of its small gaieties, unaccountable and yet springing up and not to be obliterated. And indeed this is all expressed not in full round tones but softly, in whispers, confidentially, sometimes a little hoarsely. Of course it is a kind of piping. Why not? Piping is our people's daily speech, only many a one pipes his whole life long and does not know it, where here piping is set free from the fetters of daily life and it sets us free too for a little while. We certainly should not want to do without these performances.
(370)

Her flatterers look at the crowds that gather during trying times, and claim that she gives the people “new strength” (370). The narrator says this is not so evident, however. [For one thing, it could be that people gather around her in such times of danger only because she happens also to be in the safest places. I think that is what is meant here:]
Now, this last statement is unfortunately true, but can |  hardly be counted as one of Josephine's titles to fame, especially considering that when such large gatherings have been unexpectedly flushed by the enemy and many of our people left lying for dead, Josephine, who was responsible for it all, and indeed perhaps attracted the enemy by her piping, has always occupied the safest place and was always the first to whisk away quietly and speedily under cover of her escort.
(370-371)
[Since she attracts the danger and the people at the same time,] “One could argue from this that Josephine stands almost beyond the law, that she can do what she pleases, at the risk of actually endangering the community, and will be forgiven for everything” (371). This [somehow] would confirm that the people misunderstand her [I quote since I am missing something]:
One could argue from this that Josephine stands almost beyond the law, that she can do what she pleases, at the risk of actually endangering the community, and will be forgiven for everything. If this were so, even Josephine's claims would be entirely comprehensible, yes, in this freedom to be allowed her, this extraordinary gift granted to her and to no one else in direct contravention of the laws, one could see an admission of the fact that the people do not understand Josephine, just as she alleges, that they marvel helplessly at her art, feel themselves unworthy of it, try to assuage the pity she rouses in them by making really desperate sacrifices for her and, to the same extent that her art is beyond their comprehension, consider her personality and her wishes to lie beyond their jurisdiction. Well, that is simply not true at all, perhaps as individuals the people may surrender too easily to Josephine, but as a whole they surrender unconditionally to no one, and not to her either.
(371)

Josephine argues that she should not have to do normal daily work, for a variety of reasons, for example, that the work strains her and diminishes her ability to sing. The people do not accept her arguments.
The people listen to her arguments and pay no attention. Our people, so easily moved, sometimes cannot be moved at all. Their refusal is sometimes so decided that even Josephine is taken aback, she appears to submit, does her proper share of work, sings as best she can, but all only for a time, then with renewed strength — for this purpose her strength seems inexhaustible — she takes up the fight again.
(372)

In truth Josephine does not even want to be relieved of her non-singing duties. She would continue them even if allowed not to. Instead “what she wants is public, unambiguous, permanent recognition of her art, going far beyond any precedent so far known” (372). The narrator notes that perhaps she should have argued for this in the first place, but is now stuck with the false argument. “Perhaps she should have taken a different line of attack from the beginning, perhaps she herself sees that her approach was wrong, but now she cannot draw back, retreat would be self-betrayal, now she must stand or fall by her petition” (372).

In fact, Josephine has no such enemies. But,

The important thing, both in the people's refusal and in Josephine's petition, is not the action itself, but the fact that the people are capable of presenting a stony, impenetrable front to one of their own, and that it is all the more impenetrable because in other respects they show an | anxious paternal care, and more than paternal care, for this very member of the people.
(372-373)

The narrator then has us consider the possibility that there be a person who sacrifices themselves for Josephine, only later on that basis to demand so much of her that they push her past her limits, at which point cuttin off their support for her. [This part is not so obvious, so I quote it:]

Suppose that instead of the people one had an individual to deal with: one might imagine that this man had been giving in to Josephine all the time while nursing a wild desire to put an end to his submissiveness one fine day; that he had made superhuman sacrifices for Josephine in the firm belief that there was a natural limit to his capacity for sacrifice; yes, that he had sacrificed more than was needful merely to hasten the process, merely to spoil Josephine and encourage her to ask for more and more until she did indeed reach the limit with this last petition of hers; and that he then cut her off with a final refusal which was curt because long held in reserve. Now, this is certainly not how the matter stands, the people have no need of such guile, besides, their respect for Josephine is well tried and genuine, and Josephine's demands are after all so far-reaching that any simple child could have told her what the outcome would be; yet it may be that such considerations enter into Josephine's way of taking the matter and so add a certain bitterness to the pain of being refused.
(373)

The narrator then says that Josephine is resorting to other [unnamed] means in her fight [I think it is still the fight for not working, which is really a fight for recognition, but I am unsure.]

But whatever her ideas on the subject, she does not let them deter her from pursuing the campaign. Recently she has even intensified her attack; hitherto she has used only words as her weapons but now she is beginning to have recourse to other means, which she thinks will prove more efficacious but which we think will run her into greater dangers.
(373)

Some think that she puts up such a fight “because she feels herself growing old and her voice falling off, and so she thinks it high time to wage the last battle for recognition” (373). The narrator disagrees. [The reasoning here is not obvious. It seems that perhaps Josephine really does not want the recognition but merely the struggle for it. I quote since I am unsure:]

Josephine would not be Josephine if that were true. For her there is no growing old and no falling off in her voice. If she makes demands it is not because of outward circumstances but because of an inner logic. She reaches for the highest garland not because it is momentarily hanging a little lower but because it is the highest; if she had any say in the matter she would have it still higher.
(373)

Josephine is willing to use “unworthy methods” in her fight [for recognition]. [Since methods do not matter, this is perhaps why she is willing to even falsify her stated goals by saying she wants to work less.] [The meaning of the next point is also a bit obscure, so I must quote it:] “Her supporters have let it be known that, according to herself, she feels quite capable of singing in such a way that all levels of the populace, even to the remotest corners of the opposition, would find it a real delight, a real delight not by popular standards, for the people affirm that they have always delighted in her singing, but a delight by her own standards. However, she adds, since she cannot falsify the highest standards nor pander to the lowest, her singing will have to stay as it is” (374). However, when she argues that she should not work so much, her argument is no longer based on the value of her music, “so any instrument she uses is good enough” (374). For example, a rumor went around that she withheld grace notes in protest. The narrator however noticed no difference in her singing. Yet after the performance she announced she would put them all back. Nonetheless, she changed her mind for the next performance and announced an end to the grace notes. “Well, the people let all these announcements, decisions and counterdecisions go in at one ear and out at the other, like a grown-up person deep in thought turning a deaf ear to a child’s babble, fundamentally well disposed but not accessible” (374d).

Josephine continued the fight by claiming that she hurt her foot and would need to cut her performances short. Even though she limps and leans on supporters, no one believes she is actually hurt. The people nonetheless listen gratefully to her singing and do not complain of its brevity. (375)

But since the limping act cannot last for too long, she becomes theatrical and complains that she is tired and unable to sing further. In the background her supporters beg her to go one. She fights on and sings with “unusual feeling” and with more energy.

Since she cannot very well go on limping forever, she thinks of something else, she pleads that she is tired, not in the mood for singing, feeling faint. And so we get a theatrical performance as well as a concert. We see Josephine's supporters in the background begging and imploring her to sing. She would be glad to oblige, but she cannot. They comfort and caress her with flatteries, they almost carry her to the selected spot where she is supposed to sing. At last, bursting inexplicably into tears, she gives way, but when she stands up to sing, obviously at the end of her resources, weary, her arms not widespread as usual but hanging lifelessly down, so that one gets the impression that they are perhaps a little too short — just as she is about to strike up, there, she cannot do it after all, an unwilling shake of the head tells us so and she breaks down before our eyes. To be sure, she pulls herself together again and sings, I fancy, much as usual; perhaps, if one has an ear for the finer shades of expression, one can hear that she is singing with unusual feeling, which is, however, all to the good. And in the end she is actually less tired than before, with a firm tread, if one can use such a term for her tripping gait, she moves off, refusing all help from her supporters and measuring with cold eyes the crowd which respectfully makes way for her.
(375)

Recently, however, she disappeared.

That happened a day or two ago; but the latest is that she has disappeared, just at a time when she was supposed to sing. It is not only her supporters who are looking for her, many are de- | voting themselves to the search, but all in vain; Josephine has vanished, she will not sing; she will not even be cajoled into singing, this time she has deserted us entirely.
(375-376)

[If her intent was to prove her purpose to the group,] she has miscalculated, since the people have “continued on their way” without her.

Curious, how mistaken she is in her calculations, the clever creature, so mistaken that one might fancy she has made no calculations at all but is only being driven on by her destiny, which in our world cannot be anything but a sad one. Of her own accord she abandons her singing, of her own accord she destroys the power she has gained over people's hearts. How could she ever have gained that power, since she knows so little about these hearts of ours? She hides herself and does not sing, but our people, quietly, without visible disappointment, a self-confident mass in perfect equilibrium, so constituted, even though appearances are misleading, that they can only bestow gifts and not receive them, even from Josephine, our people continue on their way.
(376)

Josephine’s singing will be forgotten, and the people will need to adjust to the circumstances where they gather in silence. [The narrator then asks questions whose meaning is not clear to me, so I quote.]

Josephine's road, however, must go downhill. The time will soon come when her last notes sound and die into silence. She is a small episode in the eternal history of our people, and the people will get over the loss of her. Not that it will be easy for us; how can our gatherings take place in utter silence? Still, were they not silent even when Josephine was present? Was her actual piping notably louder and more alive than the memory of it will be? Was it even in her lifetime more than a simple memory? Was it not rather because Josephine's singing was already past losing in this way that our people in their wisdom prized it so highly?
(376)

The narrator concludes by saying that Josephine will be forgotten like other heroes of her people, since they are “no historians.” [I am missing some subtleties here, so I quote.]

So perhaps we shall not miss so very much after all, while Josephine, redeemed from the earthly sorrows which to her thinking lay in wait for all chosen spirits, will happily lose herself in the numberless throng of the heroes of our people, and soon, since we are no historians, will rise to the heights of redemption and be forgotten like all her brothers.
(376)

Commentary

From Deleuze and Guattari, Kafka: Towards a Minor Literature:

It’s curious how the intrusion of sound often occurs in Kafka in connection with the movement to raise or straighten the head-Josephine the mouse [...].
(4)

In “Josephine the Singer, or the Mouse Folk,” it is unlikely that Josephine really | sings; she only whistles in a way that is no better than any other mouse, perhaps even worse, but in such a manner that the mystery of her nonexistent art becomes even greater.
(5-6)

As long as there is form, there is still reterritorialization, even in music. In contrast, all of Josephine’s art consists in the fact that, not knowing more than the other mice how to sing, she perhaps enacts a deterritorialization of “the usual piping” and liberates it from “the cares of daily life.” In short, sound doesn’t show up here as a form of expression, but rather as an unformed material of expression, that will act on the other terms.
(6)

Josephine the mouse renounces the individual act of singing in order to melt into the collective enunciation of “the immense crowd of the heros of [her] people.” A movement from the individuated animal to the pack or to a collective multiplicity […].

Josephine the mouse renounces the individual act of singing in order to melt into the collective enunciation of “the immense crowd of the heros of [her] people.” A movement from the individuated animal to the pack or to a collective multiplicity – seven canine musicians. In “The Investigations of a Dog,” the expressions of the solitary researcher tend toward the assemblage (agencement) of a collective enunciation of the canine species even if this collectivity is no longer or not yet given. There isn’t a subject; there are only collective assemblages of enunciation, and literature expresses these acts insofar as they’re not imposed from without and insofar as they exist only as diabolical powers to come or revolutionary forces to be constructed.
(18)

Because in the exact moment Kafka begins the novels (or tries to expand a story into a novel) he abandons the becomings-animal in order to substitute for them a more complex assemblage. The stories and their becomings-animal had already been inspired by this underground assemblage, but they weren’t able to make this assemblage function directly – they weren’t even able to make it see the light of day. It was as though the animal was still too close, still too perceptible, too visible, too individuated, and so the becoming-animal started to become a becoming-molecular: Josephine the mouse surrounded by her people, “the numberless throng of the heroes of our people,”
(38)

From Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus:
There is always a pact with a demon; the demon sometimes appears as the head of the band, sometimes as the Loner on the sidelines of the pack, and sometimes as the higher Power (Puissance) of the band. The exceptional individual has many possible positions. Kafka, another great author of real becomings-animal, sings of mouse society; but Josephine, the mouse singer, sometimes holds a privileged position in the pack, sometimes a position outside the pack, and sometimes slips into and is lost in the anonymity of the collective statements of the pack.12 In short, every Animal has its Anomalous. Let us clarify that: every animal swept up in its pack or multiplicity has its anomalous. It has been noted that the origin of the word anomal (“anomalous”), an adjective that has fallen into disuse in French, is very different from that of anormal (“abnormal”): a-normal, a Latin | adjective lacking a noun in French, refers to that which is outside rules or goes against the rules, whereas an-omalie, a Greek noun that has lost its adjective, designates the unequal, the coarse, the rough, the cutting edge of deterritorialization.13 The abnormal can be defined only in terms of characteristics, specific or generic; but the anomalous is a position or set of positions in relation to a multiplicity. Sorcerers therefore use the old adjective “anomalous” to situate the positions of the exceptional individual in the pack. It is always with the Anomalous, Moby-Dick or Josephine, that one enters into alliance to become-animal.
(243-244)
[[Footnote 12 (quoting):
12. [TRANS: Kafka, "Josephine the Singer, or the Mouse Folk," in The Complete Stories of Franz Kafka, ed. Nahum N. Glazer (New York: Schocken, 1983).]
(539)]]
[Footnote 13 (quoting):
13. Georges Canguilhem, On the Normal and the Pathological, trans. Carolyn R. Fawcett, intro. Michel Foucault (Boston: Reidel, 1978), pp. 73-74.
(539)]

From Deleuze, Cinema 2: The Time-Image

Adopting St Augustine's fine formulation, there is a present of the future, a present of the present and a present of the past, all implicated in the event, rolled up in the event, and thus simultaneous and inexplicable. From affect to time: a time is revealed inside the event, which is made from the simultaneity of these three implicated presents, from these de-actualized peaks of present. It is the possibility of treating the world or life, or simply a life or an episode, as one single event which provides the basis for the implication of presents. An accident is about to happen, it happens, it has happened; but equally it is at the same time that it will take place, has already taken place and is in the process of taking place; so that, before taking place, it has not taken place, and, taking place, will not take place ... etc. This is the paradox of Josephine the mouse in Kafka: is she singing, did she sing, will she sing, or none of these, even though it all produces inexplicable differences in the | collective present of mice?
(100-101)

Deleuze and Guattari, What is Philosophy?

Kafka’s art is the most profound meditation on the territory and the house, the burrow, portrait-postures (the inhabitant's lowered head with chin sunk into their chest or, on the contrary, “Shamefaced Lacky” whose angular head goes right through the ceiling); sounds-music (dogs who are musicians in their very postures; Josephine, the singing mouse, of whom it will never be known whether she sings; Gregor whose squeaking combines with his sister's violin in a complex bedroom-house-territory relationship).
(184)

From Art Spiegelman (with Neil Gaiman), “Neil Gaiman in Conversation with Art Spiegelman” [https://youtu.be/wCG9XjqKkqI]:

Kafka’s “Josephine the Singer” came to mind, which is a metaphor of the Jews as mice, and allowed what became that three page story to happen.
[referring to the three page early version of Maus in Funny Animals]
(40.10)

From David Suchoff,  Kafka's Jewish Languages: The Hidden Openness of Tradition.

The “singing” (Gesang) that Kafka’s land surveyor hears on the castle telephone line evokes a similar openness to the eternal childhood of Hebrew, recalling “Josephine the Singer, or the Mouse Folk” of Kafka’s final tale, whose voice has been compared to the Hebrew that Kafka learned from Puah Ben-Tovim.60 The puzzle of Josephine’s voice – sounding like normal mice piping and the | elevated songs of her nation – becomes a comic parable of the multiple origins of the same modern Hebrew that both Kafka and Gershom Scholem knew. While the sound of Josephine’s singing seems to be nothing other than the vernacular “piping,” as if it were a version of Yiddish, the ritual flourishes and public significance of her performances come “almost like a message from the whole people to each individual” (fast wie eine Botschaft des Vokes zu dem Einzelnen) and thus evoke the claims of Hebrew as a national language, and a spirit they wish to defend.61 Josephine’s people, however, as the narrator states, “are not only childish, we are in a sense prematurely old” (unser Volk ist nicht nur kindlich, es ist gewissermaßen auch vorzeitig alt); while worshiping the dignity of their national singer, the mice-folks’ “struggle for existence” (Existenzkampf) prevents them from recognizing the unruly openness of their own, everyday language as the secret power of Josephine’s song.62

[…]

The “prematurely old” mice people of Kafka’s “Josefine” could thus be said to be “childish” in a comic sense; thanks to their “struggle for existence” and fervent desire for a national song, they refuse to admit that the poetic singing that gives them national stature has been shaped by many sources that, like their singer, are indeed quite young.
(183-184)

The beach as the “threshold of happiness” defines “Gesang” and looks forward to “Josephine the Singer” (1924) by figuring as a portal, not as the essence of “happiness” (Glück) or a healthy nation but as the sound of an exchange between East and West where Zionism is figured in the form of an open and traveling voice. In terms of the schoolrooms of Palestine, Josephine’s singing also resembles Hebrew as the childhood of language, recovering its ancient sources and entering its new and formative stage. “In the olden days of our people there was singing [Gesang],” as Kafka’s mouse-narrator puts it, “as our legends and sayings [Sagen] relate [erzähln], which of course none of us can sing.”1 The childish singer in this way performs the childhood of language, reviving the ancient traditions of the people while drawing her strength from a language in formation, acquiring new sources from boundary-crossing sources that nut gathering suggests. The mouse people thus have “no schools” in Kafka’s story, as if they had not yet acquired the national teachers in Palestine of Ahad Ha-Am.2 Yiddish is therefore a strong symbolic presence in the narrative. The “Gesang” and “national assembly” where the singer performs expose both the connections between the “piping” vernacular of the mouse people and the more exalted form of the singer’s voice. “Can it even be considered singing? Or isn’t it perhaps nothing more than piping,” the narrator therefore asks, evoking her singing as a shifting entity in its most authentic and lively forms.3 |
(206, following continues immediately)
Here “animal” speech ahs two aspects, just as human language often does, though perceiving either “Hebrew” or “Yiddish” in Josephine’s singing occludes the simultaneous presence of the other form. Ludwig Wittgenstein produced a parable of this phenomenon albeit in a parallel form without the dimension of Jewish languages. The “Duck-Rabbit” of his Philosophical Investigations can appear as either a duck or a rabbit, depending on the aspect the viewer grasps. Wittgenstein’s animal parable thus raises the question of the secret overlap between radically different aspects of language. “I must distinguish,” as he writes, “between the ‘continuous seeing’ of an aspect and the ‘dawning’ of an aspect,” with the animal offering us a “picture” of the mutually exclusive but simultaneous presence of different linguistic forms of life.4 In similar fashion Josephine’s singing is alternately discussed in Kafka’s story as a nut-cracking that resembles Yiddish or as a completely different, more Hebrew sound to her voice. Each language makes a different “duck” or “rabbit” appearance at different parts of the tale. Rather than offering us a choice between these alternatives, Kafka’s technique emphasizes the multiple aspects that comically inhabit our picture of any language, even when we imagine ourselves discussing a singular beast.

Both recent and more traditional Kafka criticisms have therefore identified the importance of both Hebrew and Yiddish to “Josephine’s” duck-rabbit form. Marek Nekula thus extends Hartmut Binder’s earlier notion that Josephine’s singing reflects Kafka’s Modern Hebrew lessons with Puah Ben-Tovim, with “piping” suggestive of the Yiddish-speaking masses while missing the interacting between high and low language that this parable of the Jewish artist as human animal so powerfully suggests.5 As the practical voice of the people models Yiddish – unlike the loftiness of Josephine’s quest to represent the nation in her song – nut-cracking suggests the humble, vernacular “opening” to other languages that modern Hebrew had to practice to create its new-old form of the national voice. This relation of high art to nut-cracking, in turn, comes as only a partial revelation to the mice-people [the following paragraph is block quotation]:

To crack a nut is truly no feat, so no one would ever dare to collect an audience in order to entertain it with nut-cracking. But if all the same one does do that and succeeds in entertaining the public, then it cannot be a matter of simple nut-cracking. Or it is a matter of nut-cracking, but it turns out we have overlooked the art [diese Kunst] of cracking nuts because we were too skilled in it, and that this new nutcracker [neue Nußknacker] was the first to show us its real nature [eigentliches Wesen].6

| The mouse-narrator praises the singer for taking a common habit of the mouth and discovering its potential for artistic form. The artist who solves this difficult problem is the one who can take the nut-cracking of the people and then use it to portray the “actual essence” (eigentliches Wesen) of the nation. The borderline satiric tone here looks forward to the second half of the story and the “battle on behalf of her singing” that Josephine will mount. There the national singer becomes too big for her britches, as it were, by rejecting her mousy habits and her sources in the vernacular of her people – that is, the duck-rabbit past that this admiring and insouciant narrator will not let her forget.
(206-207)

[…] the Hebrew suggested by Josephine’s singing in Kafka’s story thus is accompanied by an overweening sense of pride, calling for a suspension of the folk’s mousy sense of comedy. “We admire in her,” as the narrator says of her performances, “what we do not admire in ourselves.” The dignity of national identity thus means a loss of vernacular humor in this respect. “The sight of Josephine,” the text tells us, quoting a sarcastic adage from the folk tradition, “is enough to make one stop laughing,” making it clear that their respect for the singer might come at the expense of their nut-cracking ways. The song required to “awaken the masses,” in this parable of Hebrew, will end up “teaching them not perhaps | understanding” but “awed respect,” suggesting that the national literature of the mice-people might exact a certain cost. Artistic dignity runs the risk of losing the nut-cracking wit and humor that reflect the people’s dispersion and resourcefulness, potentially depriving the noble singer of the sources of her national art.10

“Glück,” or “happiness,” is in this sense a matter of both chance and skill, with “Kunst,” or skill, demonstrated by the singer of this small nation tracing the line between high and low culture that every truly national singer must walk.11 In this respect the “nut” that must be cracked in “Josephine the Singer” is a matter of both modern Hebrew – in its exchanges with Yiddish and other languages – and the relations between different religious, literary, and national traditions that create the most lasting art. As the struggle over his “last” manuscripts suggests, Kafka’s notion of tradition asks us to keep our sense of humor precisely during such “trials” – that is, whenever the question of national literature demands that we take sides. Taking Josephine’s singing too seriously becomes deadly reverence: the cult of adulation that surrounds her as the national singer also cuts her off from the oral pleasures that suggest the Yiddish vernacular, and its nut-cracking humor that keeps her alive. In “Josephine the Singer, or the Mice Folk,” defining her national significance is therefore not the either-or question its title might suggest, for the more we read “Josephine” as a parable of Hebrew and Yiddish – those “mutually necessary” elements of her “Gesang” – the more Kafka tells us that artistic traditions remain vibrant only when our mouths and ears remain open to the most antithetical sounds.12 Nut-cracking as a form of fictional activity in this way also represents the continuing pleasure of Kafka’s art. By calling our attention to this “Nußkern” of identity, “Josephine” points us to linguistic difference as the nourishing kernel of the human animal – the secret source of the singer’s most beautiful song.
(208-209)

From Andrea Baer, ‘Performative Emotion in Kafka’s “Josephine, the Singer; or, the Mouse Folk” and Freud’s “The Creative Writer and Daydreaming” ’

[Footnote 5] 5. Mathew Olshan (“Franz Kafka: The Unsinging Singer,” in Modern Jewish Mythologies, eds. Glenda Abramson and Eli Yassif [Cincinnati, OH: Hebrew Union college, 1999], 174-90), and Jürgen Egyptin and Dietrich Hoffman (“Ostjüdische Anklänge in Kafkas Erzählung Josefine, die Sängerin oder Das Volk der Mäuse,” in Ide: Informationen zur Deutschdidaktic, 2 [2001], 49-65) have made connections between the mouse folk and the Jewish people. Both cultures may be described by lost traditions, histories, and cultures and by collective persecution.
(155)

Franz Kafka

“Josephine the Singer, or The Mouse Folk”

Willa and Edwin Muir translation

[the following is quoted from the webpage]

Our singer is called Josephine. Anyone who has not heard her does not know the power of song. There is no one but is carried away by her singing, a tribute all the greater as we are not in general a music-loving race. Tranquil peace is the music we love best; our life is hard, we are no longer able, even on occasions when we have tried to shake off the cares of daily life, to rise to anything so high and remote from our usual routine as music. But we do not much lament that; we do not get even so far; a certain practical cunning, which admittedly we stand greatly in need of, we hold to be our greatest distinction, and with a smile born of such cunning we are wont to console ourselves for all shortcomings, even supposing—only it does not happen that we were to yearn once in a way for the kind of bliss which music may provide. Josephine is the sole exception; she has a love for music and knows too how to transmit it; she is the only one; when she dies, music—who knows for how long—will vanish from our lives.

I have often thought about what this music of hers really means. For we are quite unmusical; how is it that we understand Josephine's singing or, since Josephine denies that, at least think we can understand it. The simplest answer would be that the beauty of her singing is so great that even the most insensitive cannot be deaf to it, but this answer is not satisfactory. If it were really so, her singing would have to give one an immediate and lasting feeling of being something out of the ordinary, a feeling that from her throat something is sounding which we have never heard before and which we are not even capable of hearing, something that Josephine alone and no one else can enable us to hear. But in my opinion that is just what does not happen, I do not feel this and have never observed that others feel anything of the kind. Among intimates we admit freely to one another that Josephine's singing, as singing, is nothing out of the ordinary.

Is it in fact singing at all? Although we are unmusical we have a tradition of singing; in the old days our people did sing; this is mentioned in legends and some songs have actually survived, which, it is true, no one can now sing. Thus we have an inkling of what singing is, and Josephine’s art does not really correspond to it. So is it singing at all? Is it not perhaps just a piping? And piping is something we all know about, it is the real artistic accomplishment of our people, or rather no mere accomplishment but a characteristic expression of our life. We all pipe, but of course no one dreams of making out that our piping is an art, we pipe without thinking of it, indeed without noticing it, and there are even many among us who are quite unaware that piping is one of our characteristics. So if it were true that Josephine does not sing but only pipes and perhaps, as it seems to me at least, hardly rises above the level of our usual piping—yet, perhaps her strength is not even quite equal to our usual piping, whereas an ordinary farmhand can keep it up effortlessly all day long, besides doing his work—if that were all true, then indeed Josephine's alleged vocal skill might be disproved, but that would merely clear the ground for the real riddle which needs solving, the enormous influence she has.

After all, it is only a kind of piping that she produces. If you post yourself quite far away from her and listen, or, still better, put your judgment to the test, whenever she happens to be singing along with others, by trying to identify her voice, you will undoubtedly distinguish nothing but a quite ordinary piping tone, which at most differs a little from the others through being delicate or weak. Yet if you sit down before her, it is not merely a piping; to comprehend her art it is necessary not only to hear but to see her. Even if hers were only our usual workaday piping, there is first of all this peculiarity to consider, that here is someone making a ceremonial performance out of doing the usual thing. To crack a nut is truly no feat, so no one would ever dare to collect an audience in order to entertain it with nut-cracking. But if all the same one does do that and succeeds in entertaining the public, then it cannot be a matter of simple nut-cracking. Or it is a matter of nut-cracking, but it turns out that we have overlooked the art of cracking nuts because we were too skilled in it and that this newcomer to it first shows us its real nature, even finding it useful in making his effects to be rather less expert in nut-cracking than most of us.

Perhaps it is much the same with Josephine's singing; we admire in her what we do not at all admire in ourselves; in this respect, I may say, she is of one mind with us. I was once present when someone, as of course often happens, drew her attention to the folk piping everywhere going on, making only a modest reference to it, yet for Josephine that was more than enough. A smile so sarcastic and arrogant as she then assumed I have never seen; she, who in appearance is delicacy itself, conspicuously so even among our people who are prolific in such feminine types, seemed at that moment actually vulgar; she was at once aware of it herself, by the way, with her extreme sensibility, and controlled herself. At any rate she denies any connection between her art and ordinary piping. For those who are of the contrary opinion she has only contempt and probably unacknowledged hatred. This is not simple vanity, for the opposition, with which I too am half in sympathy, certainly admires her no less than the crowd does, but Josephine does not want mere admiration, she wants to be admired exactly in the way she prescribes, mere admiration leaves her cold. And when you take a seat before her, you understand her; opposition is possible only at a distance, when you sit before her, you know: this piping of hers is no piping.

Since piping is one of our thoughtless habits, one might think that people would pipe up in Josephine's audience too; her art makes us feel happy and when we are happy we pipe; but her audience never pipes, it sits in mouselike stillness; as if we had become partakers in the peace we long for, from which our own piping at the very least holds us back, we make no sound. Is it her singing that enchants us or is it not rather the solemn stillness enclosing her frail little voice? Once it happened while Josephine was singing that some silly little thing in all innocence began to pipe up too. Now it was just the same as what we were hearing from Josephine; in front of us the piping sound that despite all rehearsal was still tentative and here in the audience the unself-conscious piping of a child; it would have been impossible to define the difference; but yet at once we hissed and whistled the interrupter down, although it would not really have been necessary, for in any case she would certainly have crawled away in fear and shame, whereas Josephine struck up her most triumphal notes and was quite beyond herself, spreading her arms wide and stretching her throat as high as it could reach.

That is what she is like always, every trifle, every casual incident, every nuisance, a creaking in the parquet, a grinding of teeth, a failure in the lighting incites her to heighten the effectiveness of her song; she believes anyhow that she is singing to deaf ears; there is no lack of enthusiasm and applause, but she has long learned not to expect real understanding, as she conceives it. So all disturbance is very welcome to her; whatever intervenes from outside to hinder the purity of her song, to be overcome with a slight effort, even with no effort at all, merely by confronting it, can help to awaken the masses, to teach them not perhaps understanding but awed respect.

And if small events do her such service, how much more do great ones. Our life is very uneasy, every day brings surprises, apprehensions, hopes, and terrors, so that it would be impossible for a single individual to bear it all did he not always have by day and night the support of his fellows; but even so it often becomes very difficult; frequently as many as a thousand shoulders are trembling under a burden that was really meant only for one pair. Then Josephine holds that her time has come. So there she stands, the delicate creature, shaken by vibrations especially below the breastbone, so that one feels anxious for her, it is as if she has concentrated all her strength on her song, as if from everything in her that does not directly subserve her singing all strength has been withdrawn, almost all power of life, as if she were laid bare, abandoned, committed merely to the care of good angels, as if while she is so wholly withdrawn and living only in her song a cold breath blowing upon her might kill her.

But just when she makes such an appearance, we who are supposed to be her opponents are in the habit of saying: "She can’t even pipe; she has to put such a terrible strain on herself to force out not a song—we can't call it song—but some approximation to our usual customary piping." So it seems to us, but this impression although, as I said, inevitable is yet fleeting and transient. We too are soon sunk in the feeling of the mass, which, warmly pressed body to body, listens with indrawn breath.

And to gather around her this mass of our people who are almost always on the run and scurrying hither and thither for reasons that are often not very clear, Josephine mostly needs to do nothing else than take up her stand, head thrown back, mouth half-open, eyes turned upwards, in the position that indicates her intention to sing. She can do this where she likes, it need not be a place visible a long way off, any secluded corner pitched on in a moment's caprice will serve as well. The news that she is going to sing flies around at once and soon whole processions are on the way there. Now, sometimes, all the same, obstacles intervene, Josephine likes best to sing just when things are most upset, many worries and dangers force us then to take devious ways, with the best will in the world we cannot assemble ourselves as quickly as Josephine wants, and on occasion she stands there in ceremonial state for quite a time without a sufficient audience—then indeed she turns furious, then she stamps her feet, swearing in most unmaidenly fashion; she actually bites. But even such behavior does no harm to her reputation; instead of curbing a little her excessive demands, people exert themselves to meet them; messengers are sent out to summon fresh hearers; she is kept in ignorance of the fact that this is being done; on the roads all around sentries can be seen posted who wave on newcomers and urge them to hurry; this goes on until at last a tolerably large audience is gathered.

What drives the people to make such exertions for Josephine’s sake? This is no easier to answer than the first question about Josephine's singing, with which it is closely connected. One could eliminate that and combine them both in the second question, if it were possible to assert that because of her singing our people are unconditionally devoted to Josephine. But this is simply not the case; unconditional devotion is hardly known among us; ours are people who love slyness beyond everything, without any malice, to be sure, and childish whispering and chatter, innocent, superficial chatter, to be sure, but people of such a kind cannot go in for unconditional devotion, and that Josephine herself certainly feels, that is what she is fighting against with all the force of her feeble throat.

In making such generalized pronouncements, of course, one should not go too far, our people are all the same devoted to Josephine, only not unconditionally. For instance, they would not be capable of laughing at Josephine. It can be admitted: in Josephine there is much to make one laugh; and laughter for its own sake is never far away from us; in spite of all the misery of our lives quiet laughter is always, so to speak, at our elbows; but we do not laugh at Josephine. Many a time I have had the impression that our people interpret their relationship to Josephine in this way, that she, this frail creature, needing protection and in some way remarkable, in her own opinion remarkable for her gift of song, is entrusted to their care and they must look after her; the reason for this is not clear to anyone, only the fact seems to be established. But what is entrusted to one’s care one does not laugh at; to laugh would be a breach of duty; the utmost malice which the most malicious of us wreak on Josephine is to say now and then: "The sight of Josephine is enough to make one stop laughing.”

So the people look after Josephine much as a father takes into his care a child whose little hand—one cannot tell whether in appeal or command—is stretched out to him. One might think that our people are not fitted to exercise such paternal duties, but in reality they discharge them, at least in this case, admirably; no single individual could do what in this respect the people as a whole are capable of doing. To be sure, the difference in strength between the people and the individual is so enormous that it is enough for the nursling to be drawn into the warmth of their nearness and he is sufficiently protected. To Josephine, certainly, one does not dare mention such ideas. "Your protection isn't worth an old song," she says then. Sure, sure, old song, we think. And besides her protest is no real contradiction, it is rather a thoroughly childish way of doing, and childish gratitude, while a father's way of doing is to pay no attention to it.

Yet there is something else behind it which is not so easy to explain by this relationship between the people and Josephine. Josephine, that is to say, thinks just the opposite, she believes it is she who protects the people. When we are in a bad way politically or economically, her singing is supposed to save us, nothing less than that, and if it does not drive away the evil, at least gives us the strength to bear it. She does not put it in these words or in any other, she says very little anyhow, she is silent among the chatterers, but it flashes from her eyes, on her closed lips—few among us can keep their lips closed, but she can—it is plainly legible. Whenever we get bad news—and on many days bad news comes thick and fast at once, lies and half-truths included—she rises up at once, whereas usually she sits listlessly on the ground, she rises up and stretches her neck and tries to see over the heads of her flock like a shepherd before a thunderstorm. It is certainly a habit of children, in their wild, impulsive fashion, to make such claims, but Josephine's are not quite so unfounded as children's. True, she does not save us and she gives us no strength; it is easy to stage oneself as a savior of our people, inured as they are to suffering, not sparing themselves, swift in decision, well acquainted with death, timorous only to the eye in the atmosphere of reckless daring which they constantly breathe, and as prolific besides as they are bold—it is easy, I say, to stage oneself after the event as the savior of our people, who have always somehow managed to save themselves, although at the cost of sacrifices which make historians—generally speaking we ignore historical research entirely—quite horror-struck. And yet it is true that just in emergencies we hearken better than at other times to Josephine's voice. The menaces that loom over us make us quieter, more humble, more submissive to Josephine’s domination; we like to come together, we like to huddle close to each other, especially on an occasion set apart from the troubles preoccupying us; it is as if we were drinking in all haste—yes, haste is necessary, Josephine too often forgets that—from a cup of peace in common before the battle. It is not so much a performance of songs as an assembly of the people, and an assembly where except for the small piping voice in front there is complete stillness; the hour is much too grave for us to waste it in chatter.

A relationship of this kind, of course, would never content Josephine. Despite all the nervous uneasiness that fills Josephine because her position has never been quite defined, there is still much that she does not see, blinded by her self-conceit, and she can be brought fairly easily to overlook much more, a swarm of flatterers is always busy about her to this end, thus really doing a public service—and yet to be only an incidental, unnoticed performer in a corner of an assembly of the people, for that, although in itself it would be no small thing, she would certainly not make us the sacrifice of her singing.

Nor does she need to, for her art does not go unnoticed. Although we are at bottom preoccupied with quite other things and it is by no means only for the sake of her singing that stillness prevails and many a listener does not even look up but buries his face in his neighbor's fur, so that Josephine up in front seems to be exerting herself to no purpose, there is yet something—it cannot be denied—that irresistibly makes its way into us from Josephine's piping. This piping, which rises up where everyone else is pledged to silence, comes almost like a message from the whole people to each individual; Josephine's thin piping amidst grave decisions is almost like our people's precarious existence amidst the tumult of a hostile world. Josephine exerts herself, a mere nothing in voice, a mere nothing in execution, she asserts herself and gets across to us; it does us good to think of that. A really trained singer, if ever such a one should be found among us, we could certainly not endure at such a time and we should unanimously turn away from the senselessness of any such performance. May Josephine be spared from perceiving that the mere fact of our listening to her is proof that she is no singer. An intuition of it she must have, else why does she so passionately deny that we do listen, only she keeps on singing and piping her intuition away.

But there are other things she could take comfort from: we do really listen to her in a sense, probably much as one listens to a trained singer; she gets effects which a trained singer would try in vain to achieve among us and which are only produced precisely because her means are so inadequate. For this, doubtless, our way of life is mainly responsible.

Among our people there is no age of youth, scarcely the briefest childhood. Regularly, it is true, demands are put forward that the children should be granted a special freedom, a special protection, that their right to be a little carefree, to have a little senseless giddiness, a little play, that this right should be respected and the exercise of it encouraged; such demands are put forward and nearly everyone approves them, there is nothing one could approve more, but there is also nothing, in the reality of our daily life, that is less likely to be granted, one approves these demands, one makes attempts to meet them, but soon all the old ways are back again. Our life happens to be such that a child, as soon as it can run about a little and a little distinguish one thing from another, must look after itself just like an adult; the areas on which, for economic reasons, we have to live in dispersion are too wide, our enemies too numerous, the dangers lying everywhere in wait for us too incalculable—we cannot shelter our children from the struggle for existence, if we did so, it would bring them to an early grave. These depressing considerations are reinforced by another, which is not depressing: the fertility of our race. One generation—and each is numerous—treads on the heels of another, the children have no time to be children. Other races may foster their children carefully, schools may be erected for their little ones, out of these schools the children may come pouring daily, the future of the race, yet among them it is always the same children that come out day after day for a long time. We have no schools, but from our race come pouring at the briefest intervals the innumerable swarms of our children, merrily lisping or chirping so long as they cannot yet pipe, rolling or tumbling along by sheer impetus so long as they cannot yet run, clumsily carrying everything before them by mass weight so long as they cannot yet see, our children! And not the same children, as in those schools, no, always new children again and again, without end, without a break, hardly does a child appear than it is no more a child, while behind it new childish faces are already crowding so fast and so thick that they are indistinguishable, rosy with happiness. Truly, however delightful this may be and however much others may envy us for it, and rightly, we simply cannot give a real childhood to our children. And that has its consequences. A kind of unexpended, ineradicable childishness pervades our people; in direct opposition to what is best in us, our infallible practical common sense, we often behave with the utmost foolishness, with exactly the same foolishness as children, senselessly, wastefully, grandiosely, irresponsibly, and all that often for the sake of some trivial amusement. And although our enjoyment of it cannot of course be so wholehearted as a child's enjoyment, something of this survives in it without a doubt. From this childishness of our people Josephine too has profited since the beginning.

Yet our people are not only childish, we are also in a sense prematurely old. Childhood and old age come upon us not as upon others. We have no youth, we are all at once grown-up, and then we stay grown-up too long, a certain weariness and hopelessness spreading from that leaves a broad trail through our people's nature, tough and strong in hope that it is in general. Our lack of musical gifts has surely some connection with this; we are too old for music, its excitement, its rapture do not suit our heaviness, wearily we wave it away; we content ourselves with piping; a little piping here and there, that is enough for us. Who knows, there may be talents for music among us; but if there were, the character of our people would suppress them before they could unfold. Josephine on the other hand can pipe as much as she will, or sing or whatever she likes to call it, that does not disturb us, that suits us, that we can well put up with; any music there may be in it is reduced to the least possible trace; a certain tradition of music is preserved, yet without making the slightest demand upon us.

But our people, being what they are, get still more than this from Josephine. At her concerts, especially in times of stress, it is only the very young who are interested in her singing as singing, they alone gaze in astonishment as she purses her lips, expels the air between her pretty front teeth, half dies in sheer wonderment at the sounds she herself is producing and after such a swooning swells her performance to new and more incredible heights, whereas the real mass of the people—this is plain to see—are quite withdrawn into themselves. Here in the brief intervals between their struggles our people dream, it is as if the limbs of each were loosened, as if the harried individual once in a while could relax and stretch himself at ease in the great, warm bed of the community. And into these dreams Josephine's piping drops note by note; she calls it pearl-like, we call it staccato; but at any rate here it is in its right place, as nowhere else, finding the moment—wait for it—as music scarcely ever does. Something of our poor brief childhood is in it, something of lost happiness that can never be found again, but also something of active daily life, of its small gaieties, unaccountable and yet springing up and not to be obliterated. And indeed this is all expressed not in full round tones but softly, in whispers, confidentially, sometimes a little hoarsely. Of course it is a kind of piping. Why not? Piping is our people's daily speech, only many a one pipes his whole life long and does not know it, where here piping is set free from the fetters of daily life and it sets us free too for a little while. We certainly should not want to do without these performances.

But from that point it is a long, long way to Josephine's claim that she gives us new strength and so on and so forth. For ordinary people, at least, not for her train of flatterers. "What other explanation could there be?"—they say with quite shameless sauciness—"how else could you explain the great audiences especially when danger is most imminent, which have even often enough hindered proper precautions being taken in time to avert danger." Now, this last statement is unfortunately true, but can hardly be counted as one of Josephine’s titles to fame, especially considering that when such large gatherings have been unexpectedly flushed by the enemy and many of our people left lying for dead, Josephine, who was responsible for it all, and indeed perhaps attracted the enemy by her piping, has always occupied the safest place and was always the first to whisk away quietly and speedily under cover of her escort. Still, everyone really knows that, and yet people keep running to whatever place Josephine decides on next, at whatever time she rises up to sing. One could argue from this that Josephine stands almost beyond the law, that she can do what she pleases, at the risk of actually endangering the community, and will be forgiven for everything. If this were so, even Josephine's claims would be entirely comprehensible, yes, in this freedom to be allowed her, this extraordinary gift granted to her and to no one else in direct contravention of the laws, one could see an admission of the fact that the people do not understand Josephine, just as she alleges, that they marvel helplessly at her art, feel themselves unworthy of it, try to assuage the pity she rouses in them by making really desperate sacrifices for her and, to the same extent that her art is beyond their comprehension, consider her personality and her wishes to lie beyond their jurisdiction. Well, that is simply not true at all, perhaps as individuals the people may surrender too easily to Josephine, but as a whole they surrender unconditionally to no one, and not to her either.

For a long time back, perhaps since the very beginning of her artistic career, Josephine has been fighting for exemption from all daily work on account of her singing; she should be relieved of all responsibility for earning her daily bread and being involved in the general struggle for existence, which—apparently—should be transferred on her behalf to the people as a whole. A facile enthusiast—and there have been such—might argue from the mere unusualness of this demand, from the spiritual attitude needed to frame such a demand, that it has an inner justification. But our people draw other conclusions and quietly refuse it. Nor do they trouble much about disproving the assumptions on which it is based. Josephine argues, for instance, that the strain of working is bad for her voice, that the strain of working is of course nothing to the strain of singing, but it prevents her from being able to rest sufficiently after singing and to recuperate for more singing, she has to exhaust her strength completely and yet, in these circumstances, can never rise to the peak of her abilities. The people listen to her arguments and pay no attention. Our people, so easily moved, sometimes cannot be moved at all. Their refusal is sometimes so decided that even Josephine is taken aback, she appears to submit, does her proper share of work, sings as best she can, but all only for a time, then with renewed strength—for this purpose her strength seems inexhaustible—she takes up the fight again.

Now it is clear that what Josephine really wants is not what she puts into words. She is honorable, she is not work-shy, shirking in any case is quite unknown among us, if her petition were granted she should certainly live the same life as before, her work would not at all get in the way of her singing nor would her singing grow any better—what she wants is public, unambiguous, permanent recognition of her art, going far beyond any precedent so far known. But while almost everything else seems within her reach, this eludes her persistently. Perhaps she should have taken a different line of attack from the beginning, perhaps she herself sees that her approach was wrong, but now she cannot draw back, retreat would be self-betrayal, now she must stand or fall by her petition.

If she really had enemies, as she avers, they could get much amusement from watching this struggle, without having to lift a finger. But she has no enemies, and even though she is often criticized here and there, no one finds this struggle of hers amusing. Just because of the fact that the people show themselves here in their cold, judicial aspect, which is otherwise rarely seen among us. And however one may approve it in this case, the very idea that such an aspect might be turned upon oneself some day prevents amusement from breaking in. The important thing, both in the people's refusal and in Josephine's petition, is not the action itself, but the fact that the people are capable of presenting a stony, impenetrable front to one of their own, and that it is all the more impenetrable because in other respects they show an anxious paternal care, and more than paternal care, for this very member of the people.

Suppose that instead of the people one had an individual to deal with: one might imagine that this man had been giving in to Josephine all the time while nursing a wild desire to put an end to his submissiveness one fine day; that he had made superhuman sacrifices for Josephine in the firm belief that there was a natural limit to his capacity for sacrifice; yes, that he had sacrificed more than was needful merely to hasten the process, merely to spoil Josephine and encourage her to ask for more and more until she did indeed reach the limit with this last petition of hers; and that he then cut her off with a final refusal which was curt because long held in reserve. Now, this is certainly not how the matter stands, the people have no need of such guile, besides, their respect for Josephine is well tried and genuine, and Josephine's demands are after all so far-reaching that any simple child could have told her what the outcome would be; yet it may be that such considerations enter into Josephine's way of taking the clatter and so add a certain bitterness to the pain of being refused.

But whatever her ideas on the subject, she does not let them deter her from pursuing the campaign. Recently she has even intensified her attack; hitherto she has used only words as her weapons but now she is beginning to have recourse to other means, which she thinks will prose more efficacious but which we think will run her into greater dangers.

Many believe that Josephine is becoming so insistent because she feels herself growing old and her voice falling off, and so she thinks it high time to wage the last battle for recognition. I do not believe it. Josephine would not be Josephine if that were true. For her there is no growing old and no falling off in her voice. If she makes demands it is not because of outward circumstances but because of an inner logic. Sloe reaches for the highest garland not because it is momentarily hanging a little lower but because it is the highest; if she had any say in the matter she would have it still higher.

This contempt for external difficulties, to be sure, does not hinder her from using the most unworthy methods. Her rights seem beyond question to her; so what does it matter how she secures them; especially since in this world, as she sees it, honest methods are bound to fail. Perhaps that is why she has transferred the battle for her rights from the field of song to another which she cares little about. Her supporters have let it be known that, according to herself, she feels quite capable of singing in such a way that all levels of the populace, even to the remotest corners of the opposition, would find it a real delight, a real delight not by popular standards, for the people affirm that they have always delighted in her singing, but a delight by her own standards. However, she adds, since she cannot falsify the highest standards nor pander to the lowest, her singing will have to stay as it is. But when it comes to her campaign for exemption from work, we get a different story; it is of course also a campaign on behalf of her singing, yet she is not fighting directly with the priceless weapon of her song, so any instrument she uses is good enough. Thus, for instance, the rumor went around that Josephine meant to cut short her grace notes if her petition were not granted. I know nothing about grace notes, and have never noticed any in Josephine's singing. But Josephine is going to cut short her grace notes, not, for the present, to cut them out entirely, only to cut them short. Presumably she has carried out her threat, although I for one have observed no difference in her performance. The people as a whole listened in the usual way without making any pronouncement on the grace notes, nor did their response to her petition vary by a jot. It must be admitted that Josephine's way of thinking, like her figure, is often very charming. And so, for instance, after that performance, just as if her decision about the grace notes had been too severe or too sudden a move against the people, she announced that next time she would put in all the grace notes again. Yet after the next concert she changed her mind once more, there was to be definitely an end of these great arias with the grace notes, and until her petition was favorably regarded they would never recur. Well, the people let all these announcements, decisions and counterdecisions go in at one ear and out at the other, like a grown-up person deep in thought turning a deaf ear to a child’s babble, fundamentally well disposed but not accessible.

Josephine, however, does not give in. The other day, for instance, she claimed that she had hurt her foot at work, so that it was difficult for her to stand up to sing; but since she could not sing except standing up, her songs would now have to be cut short. Although she limps and leans on her supporters, no one believes that she is really hurt. Granted that her frail body is extra sensitive, she is yet one of us and we are a race of workers; if we were to start limping every time we got a scratch, the whole people would never be done limping. Yet though she lets herself be led about like a cripple, though she shows herself in this pathetic condition oftener than usual, the people all the same listen to her singing thankfully and appreciatively as before, but do not bother much about the shortening of her songs.

Since she cannot very well go on limping forever, she thinks of something else, she pleads that she is tired, not in the mood for singing, feeling faint. And so we get a theatrical performance as well as a concert. We see Josephine's supporters in the background begging and imploring her to sing. She would be glad to oblige, but she cannot. They comfort and caress her with flatteries, they almost carry her to the selected spot where she is supposed to sing. At last, bursting inexplicably into tears, she gives way, but when she stands up to sing, obviously at the end of her resources, weary, her arms not widespread as usual but hanging lifelessly down, so that one gets the impression that they are perhaps a little too short—just as she is about to strike up, there, she cannot do it after all, an unwilling shake of the head tells us so and she breaks down before our eyes. To be sure, she pulls herself together again and sings, I fancy, much as usual, perhaps, if one has an ear for the finer shades of expression, one can hear that she is singing with unusual feeling, which is, however, all to the good. And in the end she is actually less tired than before, with a firm tread, if one can use such a term for her tripping gait, she moves off, refusing all help from her supporters and measuring with cold eyes the crowd which respectfully makes way for her.

That happened a day or two ago; but the latest is that she has disappeared, just at a time when she was supposed to sing. It is not only her supporters who are looking for her, many are devoting themselves to the search, but all in vain; Josephine has vanished, she will not sing; she will not even be cajoled into singing, this time she has deserted us entirely.

Curious, how mistaken she is in her calculations, the clever creature, so mistaken that one might fancy she has made no calculations at all but is only being driven on by her destiny, which in our world cannot be anything but a sad one. Of her own accord she abandons her singing, of her own accord she destroys the power she has gained over people's hearts. How could she ever have gained that power, since she knows so little about these hearts of ours? She hides herself and does not sing, but our people, quietly, without visible disappointment, a self-confident mass in perfect equilibrium, so constituted, even though appearances are misleading, that they can only bestow gifts and not receive them, even from Josephine, our people continue on their way.

Josephine's road, however, must go downhill. The time will soon come when her last notes sound and die into silence. She is a small episode in the eternal history of our people, and the people will get over the loss of her. Not that it will be easy for us; how can our gatherings take place in utter silence? Still, were they not silent even when Josephine was present? Was her actual piping notably louder and more alive than the memory of it will be? Was it even in her lifetime more than a simple memory? Was it not rather because Josephine's singing was already past losing in this way that our people in their wisdom prized it so highly?

So perhaps we shall not miss so very much after all, while Josephine, redeemed from the earthly sorrows which to her thinking lay in wait for all chosen spirits, will happily lose herself in the numberless throng of the heroes of our people, and soon, since we are no historians, will rise to the heights of redemption and be forgotten like all her brothers.

Cited Works

Kafka, Franz. “Josephine the Singer, or the Mouse Folk.” In Franz Kafka: The Complete Stories. Edited by Nahum N. Glatzer. This story translated by Willa and Edwin Muir. New York: Schocken Books, 1946 [earliest listed copyright date] / 1971 [most recent listed one].

Reproduction from:

Urânia - José Galisi Filho. “Josephine the Singer, or the Mouse Folk by Franz Kafka.”
[http://urania-josegalisifilho.blogspot.com.tr/2013/04/josephine-singer-or-mouse-folk-by-franz.html]

Or if otherwise noted:

Baer, Andrea. “Performative Emotion in Kafka’s ‘Josephine, the Singer; or, the Mouse Folk’ and Freud’s ‘The Creative Writer and Daydreaming’.” In Kafka’s Creatures: Animals, Hybrids, and Other Fantastic Beings. Edited by  Marc Lucht and Donna Yarri. Lanham/boulder/New York/Toronto/Plymout, UK: Lexington/Rowman & Litterfield, 2010, pp.137-156.

Canetti, Elias. Crowds and Power. Transl. Carol Stewart. New York: Continuum, 1962 / 1973.

Deleuze, Gilles. Cinema 2: The Time-Image. Translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press/Athlone, 1989.

Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, 2. Translated by Brian Massumi. London/Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1987.

Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature. Translated by Dana Polan. London / Minneapolis: University of Minneapolis, 1986.

Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. What is Philosophy? Translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Graham Burchell. New York: Columbia University, 1994.

Spiegelman, Art and Neil Gaiman. “Neil Gaiman in Conversation with Art Spiegelman.” Bard College, Sosnoff Theater, New York. 4-April-2014. https://fishercentertickets.bard.edu/single/SelectSeating.aspx?p=230
Availabe on youtube:
https://youtu.be/wCG9XjqKkqI

Suchoff, David. Kafka's Jewish Languages: The Hidden Openness of Tradition. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 2012.