1

This post is on certain verb forms (as marked) in this passage from chapter 'Ein Asyl' of Amerika (Der Verschollene) by Frankz Kafka.

Karl Roßmann has lost his job as a liftboy at a hotel and is now being questioned by a policeman in a street corner.

»In welchem Hotel warst du denn angestellt?«
  Er [Karl Roßmann] senkte den Kopf und antwortete nicht, auf diese Frage wollte er unbedingt nicht antworten. Es durfte nicht geschehen, daß er, von einem Polizeimann eskortiert, wieder ins Hotel Occidental zurückkäme, daß dort Verhöre stattfanden, zu denen seine Freunde und Feinde beigezogen würden, daß die Oberköchin ihre schon sehr schwach gewordene gute Meinung über Karl gänzlich aufgab, da sie ihn, den sie in der Pension Brenner vermutete, von einem Polizeimann aufgegriffen, in Hemdärmeln, ohne ihre Visitenkarte, zurückgekehrt fand, während der Oberkellner vielleicht nur voll Verständnis nicken und der Oberportier dagegen von der Hand Gottes sprechen würde, die den Lumpen endlich gefunden habe.

BACKGROUND

I am trying to account for the choice of verb form Kafka made in the passage.

I can only think of two principles: Treat the propositions in the daß-contexts as (1) a case of reported speech (to include reported opinion, belief etc.) or (2) counterfactual statements.

Treatment as a case of reported speech would mean using Konjunktiv I subject to replacement by Konjunctiv II where KI is identical with the Indikativ. This would give me:

(1) zurückkomme (KI), stattfänden (KII), würden (KII), aufgebe (KI), finde (KI), werde (KI)

Treatment as counterfactuals means that I use KII, which gives me:

(2) zurückkäme, stattfänden, würden, aufgäbe, fände, würde (all KII).

But Kafka's choices are:

zurückkäme (KII), stattfanden (Indikativ), würden (KII), aufgab (Ind), fand (Ind), würde (KII).

QUESTION

  1. Would it be grammatical to replace Kafka's verbs with those in line (1) above? In other words, would it be grammatical to treat the passage as giving reported speech (extended to cover belief, proposition, etc.)? Please never mind whether such replacement would ruin the beauty of the passage. I am only interested in grammar in this question 1.

  2. Would it be grammatical to replace Kafka's verbs with those in line (2)? In other words, would it be grammatical to treat the passage as giving counterfactuals?

  3. I don't know how to ask this question more precisely, but can you explain Kafka's choices? Why the mix of KII and the Indikativ? What are the underlying principles or motivations?

2

Es durfte nicht geschehen, …

That's an introduction for counterfacts. But it's a mix of undeniable counterfacts and expectable counterfacts what follows and that makes it tricky.

…, daß er zurückkäme.

He has to avoid that, at all cost.

…, daß dort Verhöre stattfanden, …

The Indikativ creates a stark emphasis. This would become an undeniable fact should he go back. The police officer would insist on it.

…, zu denen seine Freunde und Feinde beigezogen würden.

Again, counterfactual because it's all in Karl's thoughts only.

…, daß die Oberköchin ihre schwach gewordene gute Meinung über Karl gänzlich aufgab.

Karl thinks it's a fact the Oberköchin lost a lot of trust in him already.

…, da sie ihn zurückgekehrt fand.

Again, this would become an undeniable fact should he go back.

… und der Oberportier dagegen von der Hand Gottes sprechen würde.

Again, counterfactual because it's all in Karl's thoughts only.

Your first row has Konjunktiv I in it which doesn't match here. It's not indirect speech. People would find it odd. The Konjunktiv II instead of Indikativ is possible, but removes the contrast between undeniable and expectable counterfacts.

  • Thank you. Would you say this shift from K2 to the indicative is (a) an unusual rhetorical flourish that someone like Kafka can pull off or (b) a fairly standard device often seen in this type of writing? – Catomic Jun 2 '18 at 14:17
  • It's nonstandard but anyone can pull that off. Mixing up mood and time of verbs is soooooo common among German speakers no one really cares about that. In contrary, a seasoned writer as Kafka may face serious critique if he does something "wrong". And he loves it. – Janka Jun 2 '18 at 18:15

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