‘Whenever I sit with a bowl of soup before me, listening to the murmur that penetrates like the far-off shrill of an insect, lost in contemplation of flavours to come, I feel as if I were being drawn into a trance’ (Junichiro Tanizaki)
Sitting here, in what the English like to call ‘summer’, it is hard not to look forward, in a trance-like state, to the soup season (which, in my house at least, starts four days after the third leaf falls from the oak tree on Becklington Avenue). Roll out the turnips, dust off the squash: lick the grime off your moon-faced spoons. It’s soup-slurping time.
Ever the inventor, my wife moved with typical efficiency last year into the arena of ‘author-themed soups’. O’Droningham soup was a rich and creamy concoction, with a spicy kick. Wodehouse was clear and crisp: lacking a little substance, perhaps, but highly satisfying all the same. Proust soup was also good, if a little thick (there’s some still in the freezer in fact: we never ate our way through it all).
Then there was Kafka soup. I’m not so sure what I made of that one. It was a murky dish, combining a range of impenetrable flavours – with a strange, moderately beguiling aftertaste. Perhaps this writer might have had a better hold on it – as she does on the author himself. Forgive me if I seem churlish, however, when I say that the idea of reading yet another young writer on the subject of Kafka does not send an army of thrills through my ageing frame. Writing on Kafka seems to be a rite of passage for many writers today: the ultimate test of one’s critical mettle perhaps (a little like an actor taking on Hamlet). These tests can be tedious for readers, though, few of whom may feel the need to read yet another illuminating new essay on the paranoid Czech writer. Still, I would say that – after all, I’ve always been a bit of a Fritz Kakfa man myself..