kath wrote:the reason to respect a beluvved person's wishes is becuz you respect and love the person, in life and death. we are not *really* talking about that dying person asking you to do something you might find morally reprehensible. we are talking about that person's dying wish to keep something private, in this case, written words.
i see absolutely no reason not to respect that.
I do, although I would like to change the verb here from "respect" to "execute" or "carry out".
On the first page of this thread I posted a quote that's meant to illustrate why. That quote is "A Message from the Emperor" and is part of a set of short stories and parables that Kafka wrote, many of which were not published during his lifetime. It turns out, I just found that that particular parable was, but there were a significant number of others that weren't so to make my point, I'll go with another excerpt:
"I have lain here ever since the time when, as the hunter Gracchus living in the Black Forest, I followed a chamois and fell from a precipice. Everything happened in good order. I pursued, I fell, bled to death in a ravine, died, and this ship should have conveyed me to the next world. I can still remember how gladly I stretched myself out on this pallet for the first time. Never did the mountains listen to such songs from me as these shadowy walls did then.
"I had been glad to live and I was glad to die. Before I stepped aboard, I joyfully flung away my wretched load of ammunition, my knapsack, my hunting rifle that I had always been proud to carry, and I slipped into my winding sheet like a girl into her marriage dress. I lay and waited. Then came the mishap."
"A terrible fate," said the Burgomaster, raising his hand defensively. "And you bear no blame for it?"
"None," said the hunter. "I was a hunter; was there any sin in that? I followed my calling as a hunter in the Black Forest, where there were still wolves in those days. I lay in ambush, shot, hit my mark, flayed the skins from my victims: was there any sin in that? My labors were blessed. The great hunter of the Black Forest' was the name I was given. Was there any sin in that?"
"I am not called upon to decide that," said the Burgomaster, "but to me also there seems to be no sin in such things. But, then whose is the guilt?"
"The boatman's," said the hunter. "Nobody will read what I say here, no one will come to help me; even if all the people were commanded to help me, every door and window would remain shut, everybody would take to bed and draw the bedclothes over his head the whole earth would become an inn for the night. And there is sense in that, for nobody knows of me, and if anyone knew he would not know where I could be found, and if he knew where I could be found, he would not know how to deal with me, he would not know how to help me. The thought of helping me is an illness that has to be cured by taking to one's bed. "I know that, and so I do not shout to summon help, even though at moments--when I lose control over myself, as I have done just now, for instance--I think seriously of it. But to drive out such thoughts I need only look round me and verify where I am, and--I can safely assert--have been for hundreds of years." "Extraordinary," said the Burgomaster, "extraordinary. --And now do you think of staying here in Riva with us?"
"I think not," said the hunter with a smile, and, to excuse himself, he laid his hand on the Burgomaster's knee. "I am here, more than that I do not know, further than that I cannot go. My ship has no rudder, and it is driven by the wind that blows in the undermost regions of death."
--The Hunter Gracchus, http://zork.net/~patty/pattyland/kafka/ ... acchus.htm
It's possible that Walter Benjamin could have written his Theses on the Philosophy of History
without Kafka's last paragraph, but I kinda of doubt it.
A Klee painting named Angelus Novus shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.
Clearly, Kafka does not owe us or Benjamin anything. This argument has nothing to do with ownership. We have no legal right to read "The Hunter Gracchus" and in fact if Max Brod had carried out Kafka's wish, it would have been destroyed. I fully expect that Kafka mulled over these issues as he commanded Brod (who told him supposedly that he wouldn't obey) to destroy the writings. Surely, you can see Brod thinking over whether he is a stand-in for the Burgomeister or the Burgomeister is a stand-in for him. You can Kafka turning over his legal directive in the short story.
"Nobody will read what I say here
which, because of Brod, is untrue, but the rest of the it is not.
no one will come to help me; even if all the people were commanded to help me, every door and window would remain shut, everybody would take to bed and draw the bedclothes over his head the whole earth would become an inn for the night.
These are all obvious sentiments, namely that the dead are beyond our ability to help, but you can't deny how powerful his language is and how it persists (see the influence on Benjamin). All of this would have been lost without Brod's disobedience.
I acknowledge, probably like the Burgomeister secretly does in the story, that some sort of sin was committed, and I don't make light of that. However, I also don't make light of what was preserved as a result.
This kind of writing, probably also this kind of thought, is a on a qualitatively different level than what any of us here are able to produce. We can deny that we ever wanted to write something like this; we can say that BCB is some transient vehicle hardly more dignified that Twitter for stuff that's meant to be disposable. But we should also acknowledge that there are things that it really should pain us to dispose of, things that are so well-written that they seem more real than the thought they express.