The village schoolmaster is a man of great importance. He is looked upon as a man of great learning. He is held in high esteem by one and all. He is very simple in his habits and dress. He leads an honest life and earns his bread with the sweat of his brow. He takes his classes in a big thatched hall, or under the shade of a tree. He has to face many difficulties in calling the boys from their houses. Many parents avoid sending their sons to school, because they are very helpful to them in their fields. He takes great pains in teaching them reading, writing, counting and doing sums. Besides teaching them all these things, he has to write letters for the villagers, and to read out to them the letters they receive from their friends and relations. They seek his advice, whenever they are in any difficulty. Sometimes, he works as the village postmaster as well. On the occasion of fairs, festivals and marriages, they offer him sweets, out of respect and regard for him.
"The Village Schoolmaster", or "The Giant Mole" ("Der Dorfschullehrer" or "Der Riesenmaulwurf") is an unfinished short story by Franz Kafka. The story, written in December 1914 and the beginning of 1915, was not published in Kafka's lifetime. It first appeared in Beim Bau der Chinesischen Mauer (Berlin, 1931). The first English translation by Willa and Edwin Muir was published by Martin Secker in London in 1933. It appeared in The Great Wall of China. Stories and Reflections (New York: Schocken Books, 1946).
The narrator discusses the phenomenon of a giant mole in a far village, and the attempt of the village schoolmaster to bring its existence to the public attention, only to become an object of derision to the scientific community. Without knowing the schoolmaster, the narrator tries to defend him and his honesty in a paper about the giant mole. The narrator's attempt is even more unsuccessful, and in a dialogue during Christmas he and the village schoolmaster discuss the motivations of each one and the different outcome each one was expecting, without being able to finish the conversation.
Process of writing
Kafka discusses the story in a diary entry from December 19, 1914:
Yesterday wrote "The village schoolmaster" almost without knowing it, but was afraid to go on writing later than a quarter to two; the fear was well founded, I slept hardly at all, merely suffered through perhaps three short dreams and was then in the office in the condition one would expect. Yesterday father's reproaches on account of the factory: 'you talked me into it.' Then went home and calmly wrote for three hours in the consciousness that my guilt is beyond question, though not so great as father pictures it.
In a January 6, 1915 entry Kafka mentions abandoning the story.
- ^The Great Wall of China: Stories and Reflections. Franz Kafka - 1946 - Schocken Books
- ^Kafka, Franz. The Diaries, 1910-1923. New York: Schocken Books, 1975. p. 322