Austin Sarat


Chris Goodrich, Anarchy and Elegance: Confessions of a Journalist at Yale Law School. Boston: Little, Brown, 1991. Pp. 285. $19.95.

Richard D. Kahlenberg, Broken Contract: A Memoir of Harvard Law School. New York: Hill and Wang, 1992. Pp. xiv, 238. $22.95.

In his famous parable, "Before the Law," Franz Kafka describes a man from the country who innocently seeks "admittance to the Law." "Law, he thinks, should be accessible to every man and at all times." As generations of fascinated readers know, in this parable admission is deferred although never denied, and law turns out to be rather more inaccessible than accessible, more absent than present. The story of the man from the country is, however, not a story of lost innocence or of frustrated aspiration; it is, instead, a story of innocence deepened and aspiration undiminished in the quest for meaning and understanding. In Kafka's parable, the man from the country grows more innocent as time goes by and as his desire for admittance to law increases. He remains unsophisticated and uncorrected even as he sits transfixed with his life moving inexorably toward its end.

This man dies "before the law" without ever gaining the admission which he naively expected and to which he felt entitled. Yet law, in Kafka's parable, is always present as an immortal "radiance" that holds the man from the country (and us) transfixed by its elusive promise and aspiration. It is precisely in the elusiveness of that promise and aspiration, as much as in the promise or the aspiration themselves, that the power of law is to be found.