El Castillo, also called The Impact of the Book, is a work by Mexican artist Jorge Méndez Blake. It was first exhibited in the José Cornejo Franco Library in Guadalajara and later also in Venice, Paris and Istanbul.
The installation consists of a wall, at the base of which is placed a book that produces a ripple along the wall itself, undermining the stability of the brick structure. The book in question is the unfinished novel by Franz Kafka, the famous German-speaking Bohemian author, entitled The Castle. This complex and literary work, subject to multiple interpretations, tells the story of K., who is unable to exercise his profession of land surveyor in a town overlooked by a looming and mysterious castle, from which alienating and destructive laws are issued.
The wall, made of exposed bricks, due to its consistency and impenetrability is no longer a protective structure, like that of a house, but it becomes a symbol – as in Kafka’s work – of separation, alienation and deadly threat, evoking the many walls that have arisen in recent times, from the one on the border between the United States and Mexico to the one between Ceuta and Melilla, or the one separating parts of Israel from Palestinians.
In the work of the Mexican artist, the book – which is incomplete, and whose protagonist seems to fail while being overwhelmed by a multiplicity of laws that control his own existence – manages to compromise the wall’s solid structure. Today, when culture and art are under threat and whose existence is more and more often called into question, the apparent insubstantiality of a paper book now takes on all the gravity of the weight of an apparently impenetrable wall: even though crushed by its bulk, the words it contains become narrative and thought, and are able to cause it to crack, making it unsafe, letting rays of light pass through the crack created at its base.
Through this work Jorge Méndez Blake seems to ask himself if we will be able to recognize the importance of culture, which allows us to bear the weight of events and, at the same time, to change those evil, unjust systems that dominate and loom over humanity.
DOI: La Civiltà Cattolica, En. Ed. Vol. 5, no. 2 art. 13, 1020: 10.32009/22072446.0221.13