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Globus, G.G. Pillard, R.C. (1966). Tausk's Influencing Machine and Kafka's In the Penal Colony. Am. Imago, 23(3):191-207.

(1966). American Imago, 23(3):191-207

Tausk's Influencing Machine and Kafka's In the Penal Colony

Gordon G. Globus, M.D. and Richard C. Pillard, M.D.

This paper presents a remarkable parallel between Victor Tausk's brilliant work On the Origin of the Influencing Machine in Schizophrenia (9) and Franz Kafka's intriguing story In the Penal Colony (5). This short story describes a torture apparatus in so many respects similar to Tausk's “influencing machine” that we felt both authors were referring to the same phenomenon. It is not our intention to examine biographical or cultural factors in relation to either Kafka or Tausk in discussing their work, nor do we wish to discuss issues relating to the psychological aspects of the creative process. Our goal is simply to describe similarities between two independently conceived works expressed through scientific and artistic media.

In the Penal Colony is written with stark simplicity of language and economy of style, yet nearly every paragraph contains irrational, baffling or contradictory events. Odd bits of phraseology prick the reader's atention; clearly described details rise through a haze of dreamlike uncertainties. It would seem that works of art subjected to psychological analysis often have this puzzling quality—that is, either the internal motivations of the story or its effect on the reader are not amenable to secondary process “explanations.” We have come to expect that psychoanalytic theory will provide the Rosetta Stone by which to translate the puzzling works of art.

We want to emphasize again that we have no intention of analyzing Kafka or to use what is known of his personality to illuminate the story as is sometimes the case in analytic studies of artistic works.

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