Kafka: for a Minor Literature (1975) is Deleuze and Guattari’s most detailed and extended application of schizoanalysis to literature. In form and style, the book is somewhat more conventional than their other works, a brief repose between the synthetic mania of Anti-Oedipus and the explosive divagations of Thousand Plateaus. Their focus is that of the traditional æuvre of a single author, yet their treatment of this subject is far from conventional. The corpus of Kafka’s writing, they argue, is ‘a rhizome, a burrow’ (K 7) – an uncentred and meandering growth like crab grass, a complex, aleatory network of pathways like a rabbit warren. A rhizome, as Deleuze and Guattari explain in Rhizome: an Introduction (1976), is the antithesis of a root-tree structure, or ‘arborescence’, the structural model which has dominated Western thought from Porphyrian trees, to Linnaean taxonomies, to Chomskyan sentence diagrams. Arborescences are hierarchical, stratified totalities which impose limited and regulated connections between their components. Rhizomes, by contrast, are non-hierarchical, horizontal multiplicities which cannot be subsumed within a unified structure, whose components form random, unregulated networks in which any element may be connected with any other element. The Kafka corpus, as a rhizome, therefore, has no privileged point of entry, no discrete chef-d’æuvre, no extra-literary texts and no intrinsic hierarchy of fragments and completed works. In Kafka, Deleuze and Guattari map the disseminating rhizome of Kafka’s diaries, letters, short stories, and novels, asking not what that rhizome means or whether it is great or unified art, but how it functions and where it goes. When examining the corpus in terms of its
active functioning, i.e. in terms of desiring-production, they treat it as Kafka’s writing machine (hence a rhizomic machine – a typically Deleuzoguattarian conjunction of the natural and the artificial), whose parts come equally and indifferently from art and life, and whose operation consists of a perpetual construction of ‘machinic arrangements’ (agencements machiniques), collections
of heterogeneous elements that somehow function together.1 That writing machine, as we shall see, is an anti-Oedipal machine, a revolutionary political machine, and an a-signifying linguistic machine.