[L. 69 | 76] 6 November 1963

I am glad to hear that all the copies for the listed addresses have gone off. We can now sit back and wait to see what effect the book has. (I read in the papers[1] that there was an earth tremor felt in Ceylon during the past day or two, but perhaps we are not entitled to assume that we have been responsible for it.) If I have one reader only who benefits from it I shall be satisfied. Some may find some of the things in the Notes rather unpalatable—but then they were not written to pander to people's tastes.

What I said in my last letter about K.'s reason for recruiting, in particular, women to help his case—namely, that he perhaps regarded them as the 'Gateway to the Divine'—is excessive. It is true enough of The Castle, where K. is seeking God's grace; but in The Trial K. is simply attempting to justify his own existence, and his relations with women do not go beyond this. Here is an illuminating passage from Sartre:

Whereas before being loved we were uneasy about that unjustified, unjustifiable protuberance which was our existence, whereas we felt ourselves "de trop," we now feel that our existence is taken up and willed even in its tiniest details by an absolute freedom [i.e. that of the one who loves us][a] which at the same time our existence conditions [since it is our existence that fascinates our lover][a] and which we ourselves will with our freedom. This is the basis for the joy of love when there is joy: we feel that our existence is justified. (B&N, p. 371)
In The Trial, then, K. is seeking to use women to influence the susceptible Court ('Let the Examining Magistrate see a woman in the distance and he almost knocks down his desk and the defendant in his eagerness to get at her.'—p. 233). In other words, K. is trying to silence his self-accusations of guilt by helping himself to women (which does indeed have the effect—temporarily—of suppressing his guilt-feelings by making his existence seem justified). But K. is told—or rather, he tells himself—that this sort of defence is radically unsound (in Dr. Axel Munthe's opinion, a man's love comes to an end when he marries the girl). And, in fact, Sartre's detailed analysis of the love-relationship shows only too clearly its precarious and self-contradictory structure.


[69.a] My brackets. [Back to text]

Editorial note:

[69.1] the papers: This letter as well as the previous one were written from the Island Hermitage, where a daily newspaper would have been available. [Back to text]