Vol. 8 No. 2 1941 - page 98

In The Penal Colony
Franz Kafka
said the officer
the explorer, and
despite the fact that he was well acquainted with the apparatus, he
nevertheless looked at it with a certain admiration, as it were. It
was apparently merely out of courtesy that the explorer had
accepted the invitation of the commanding officer to attend the
execution of a private soldier condemned for disobedience and
insulting a superior officer. Nor did there appear to be great inter·
est in this execution in the penal colony. At any rate, here in the
deep, sandy little valley shut in on every side by naked slopes,
there were present, beside the officer and the explorer, only the
condemned man-an obtuse, wide-mouthed fellow, with neglected
face and hair-and a soldier acting as guard. The latter held the
heavy chain to which were attached the little chains that fettered
the offender's ankles and wrists as well as his neck, and which
were themselves linked together by connecting chains. As a matter
of fact, however, the condemned man looked so dog-like and sub·
missive, one had the impression that he might be allowed to run
freely about the slopes, and that, when the execution was about
begin, one would have only to whistle for him to come right back.
The explorer had little thought for the apparatus and started
walking up and down behind the condemned man with almost vis–
ible indifference. Meanwhile, the
began the final prepara·
tions, now crawling beneath the machine, which was built deep
the ground, now climbing a ladder in order to inspect the upper
parts. These were tasks which could easily have been left to a
mechanic, but the officer performed them with great zeal, either
because he was a special advocate of this apparatus, or because
for other reasons the work could not be entrusted to anyone else.
"Now everything's ready," he finally called out and climbed down
the ladder. He was exceedingly fatigued, breathing with his mouth
wide open, and had stuck two dainty lady's handkerchiefs under
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