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This article is taken from PN Review 70, Volume 16 Number 2, November - December 1989.

'...And Gifted with Hearing' Adolf Muschg
 
I Dialogue with a text by Kafka


"Proof that inadequate, even childish means can serve to rescue one from peril:
  To protect himself from the Sirens, Ulysses stopped his ears with wax and had himself bound to the mast of his ship."


No, resourceful Dr K, it was not like that. The Homeric epic tells a different story: that wax in the ears was reserved for his fellow oarsmen, who must not hear the song of the bird women if they were to steer clear alive of the cannibalistic isle. But he, Ulysses, to hear that incomparable song - for there was nothing he desired more, but he did not wish to succumb to it - had to be chained to the mast. And his companions swore that they must not hear him either if he implored them to unchain him, if he ordered them to. His resourcefulness, his cunning, consisted in succumbing to the song of the Sirens and surviving it.

But you, Dr K, evidently had a different stratagem in mind: one in whose execution he had no companions. A man who travels to the Sirens alone must do both things: fetter himself and stop his own ears -


"Naturally any and every traveller before him could have done the same, except those whom the Sirens allured even from a great distance; but it was known to all the world that such ...


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