Yet while he lives among us without laying too much stress on his official position, he is something quite different from the ordinary citizen. When a delegation comes to him with a request, he stands there like the wall of the world. Behind him is nothingness, one imagines hearing voices whispering in the background, but this is probably a delusion; after all, he represents the end of all things, at least for us. At these receptions he really was worth seeing.

  • Hello, Lain! If this is from Franz Kafka, as I think it is, you should add that information to your question, and specify which word or construction you are in doubt over in this apparent description of a character. Welcome to EL&U; please do take the tour if you haven't yet. Cheers!
    – Conrado
    Aug 18, 2020 at 15:13
  • 1
    It's largely poetic/metaphorical, and impossible to interpret out of context.
    – Hot Licks
    Aug 18, 2020 at 17:03

1 Answer 1


Let us assume, like Conrado, that this is a translation of Kafka. It feels as if it could describe Herr Klamm, a featureless bureaucrat with great but undefined power. Klamm is the antihero of Kafka’s novel, “The Castle”. The word Klam means things such as deception or illusion, in Czech. In German, Klamm has connotations of feelingless, numbing. Kafka knew both German and Czech.

This leads us to the meaning, which may be that the man in the quotation was a powerful bureaucratic delusion, but one that absorbed all hope for the future, and denied all possibility of progress.

  • 1
    I like your interpretation, but I'm not sure that Klamm should be called the antihero, which is usually the main character of a novel. The antihero has few if none of the usual characteristics of heroes (perhaps lacking courage, honor, intelligence), but still functions as the protagonist of the story. Klamm would seem simply the antagonist.
    – Zan700
    Aug 18, 2020 at 23:39
  • 1
    I agree with you. I paused over the word antihero but just "went for it". You are justified in correcting me :)
    – Anton
    Aug 19, 2020 at 15:45

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