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A Meal With Kafka And His Family

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[Ottla ~ Kafka’s little sister]

I have filled in the missing diaries of Franz Kafka in my novel Kafka In The Castle. Speculation on my part, of course, but based on actual incidents.

~~~~~

15 April 1917

I’ve just come from the train station. Seeing Ottla off to Zurau. She didn’t take much with her – I had little to carry. Very little help to give. She had not planned to go for another couple of weeks, but father took her to task at today’s dinner. He was vile even by his standards. I like to think he was really trying to stop her. You can stop someone by destroying them. Perhaps that is always his strategy.

She didn’t get to finish her meal – although, I suppose, throwing it across the table is one way of finishing it. A plate of soup which splattered against his chest, turning the shirt dark. “There you see it.”  He bellowed as he stood up from the table.  “Yes, yes. There it is.”  His voice growled, and spittle was on his lips. The rest of us were immobile. Even mother did not bustle forward to try to clean the mess, or make her usual noises to calm him down. His face flushed red, and his hands trembled in front of him, but for once he made no reference to his heart, or the other ailments he claims. Ottla did not look in his direction, but glanced at her sisters. and then at me.

I had the greatest desire to continue eating my soup. I wished some words of reason could come out of my mouth; that things could be made right, and we would go on to the next course of this ghastly meal. I wished these things all the while I looked up to father – and smiled.  “There! There!”  This time he did step back from the table. “There is the Herr Son. At last the true villain bares his teeth. The old cur teaching the bitch her new tricks. This educated misfit who knows nothing of children and families. Who never even knew how to be a proper child.”

I am sure the only reason father did not throw his food at me was because he did not think of it.  “The Herr Doktor who does not have a wife – who can not please a woman enough to make her stay. This has turned my family against me. I should rip him apart like a fish.” He made tearing motions with his hands. “The head just so – snapping it back to carry out the spine.”  And then he smiled at me – a mocking grin.  “If there is a spine in this particular minnow.”

He made motions as if to wipe his fingers on his shirt, and looked down with genuine surprise when they brushed against the dampness of the soup. Mother was standing by this time, and father looked at her with his mouth open. His hands fell to his side, and he finally looked at Ottla. “You disgrace your parents. The whores of Russia act better than you.”  “Then it is a shame I can’t get to Russia.”  Ottla stood carefully, though she shoved her chair back with enough deliberation to hit the wall. “I would truly be rid of you.”

She looked right at him, her face without expression.  “But I can go to Zurau. That I can do this evening. I’ll not have to stay another night under this roof. Within the reach of your contamination.” She walked from the room without looking back.  “You’ll think differently, after a few days on the farm. When your hands are blistered, and your body aching. Then you will be glad to return here, to the comforts of your home.”  I rose to follow Ottla, to be with her, and to help if I could.  “If you leave this table to go to her, then you are no son of mine.”  I looked father in the face as I passed, and smiled again. “How I pray you could accomplish that.”

(image)img2.ct24.cz/cache/900×700/article/11/1097/109616.jpg

 

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The Mad Man In The Bakery On Friday 13th

praktik-bakery-barcelona-hotel-13

“Out, out – out of my way!

Don’t touch me at all,

But do as I say.

A brush on the arm

Can cause me harm

When it’s the Brush of Death

I’m awaiting.

Don’t breathe.

Your air – from inside you

– coming out at me.

How very horrible.

It now has pieces of you,

And it will corrupt.

No, don’t listen to me.

Stop up your ears and turn away.

They’re my words

And my thought

Not to be sold

And not to be bought.

Out of my mouth

From between my teeth.

Don’t you know how personal that is?

Allow me.

Allow me!

I’ll open the door, and I’ll let you enter.

Demand what you want – don’t be afraid to ask.

Make them fill your request.

I come here for bread,

And I come here for cake.

You can trust me.

Would I lie?

They don’t mind me,

They’re used to my song.

It’s entertainment, you see,

And it’s free.

Chew them up.

Enjoy them!

Those muffins look so good.

I’m only a madman in a bakery,

But I know how to eat.”

DE

(image)www.suitcaseandheels.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Praktik-Bakery-Barcelona-Hotel-13.jpg

Kafka And Harvest On The Farm 100 Years Ago

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My novel, Kafka In The Castle, set in 1917, mimics the year I wrote it (two years in a row, actually). For instance, 10 October 1917 was a Tuesday. It was a Tuesday in the year I wrote it. So I share some of my fictional Kafka 100 years after the fact.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

10 October 1917

A rainy day which halted most of the harvest.

I thought there would be grumbling, and the kitchen filled with men drinking tea. But if I’m here long enough, I’ll learn.

I discovered that during harvest, most regular chores are put aside, so when some time appears, there is as much activity as ever. Plus, there is the additional anxiety over how long the produce will be delayed in the field.

I’m certain that Ottla looks out the window every ten minutes, and asks my opinion of the rain every half hour.

I have learned to look with my knowing farmer’s eye, and nod, and grunt.

So far Ottla never fails to laugh.

(image) https://cdn5.tenthacrefarm.com/wp-content/uploads/IMG_1683-1024×768.jpg

Harvest Moon Harvest Leads To Thanksgiving

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The ground has been kissed by the harvest moon.

They put their hands into the rich earth – dark, moist loam, which clung to the vegetables while it caked under their fingernails – and dug at the hills of firm potatoes. They pulled the limp stalks – were satisfied when the bulky vegetables came out of the ground and rolled to a stop by their feet.

They shook the roots, loosening clods of earth and any remaining potatoes, then threw the dead plants onto a pile at the end of the row.

They scraped the excess dirt from the vegetables, placing the large ones into a barrel, and the smaller – even tiny – ones into a basket.

They wasted nothing.

They dug further with a hoe to make sure none were missed.

 

They paused by the remaining tomato plants, and picked the full fruit. Perhaps over-ripe, yet the sun warmed skin was firm

enough, and they ate the red flesh with pleasure, letting seeds and juice gush to the ground.

They smiled at each other as they ate, wiped the back of their hands across their reddened lips at the same time, and dried their damp, muddy fingers on the legs of their pants.

They stood and pondered by the onions, which they had been taking from the field for months. They plant and replant, but there are few left with tops that have not fallen over. They pull about half, but leave the rest for a couple of weeks and the whims of the gods.

They loosened the earth and marvelled in the strong, healthy smell which each carrot released from the good ground. They left the green leaves on the crown to feather from the tops of their baskets.

Occasionally, one of the orange vegetables would branch into a pair of walking legs. Or even form a strange, running monster which clung fast to the earth.

Some were so thick, that forefinger and thumb could not encircle them. Each was carefully drawn from the nourishing land, so slender tips would not break and mar the beauty of the perfect whole.

 

They brushed against the brittle leaves as they checked upon the pumpkins growing among the corn stalks. They tapped the largest of the full, orange fruit, and were pleased at the hefty girth. They saw some could ripen further, and plotted when the time would be best to gather them.

They broke one medium-sized pumpkin free from its dying vines, and put it aside to have with their evening meal.

As they walked through the withered corn stalks, they were surprised to find an occasional ear that – although small – was ripe and full enough to eat. Overlooked when the others were plucked, they had struggled to a humble maturity.

These were also gratefully gathered, and together would afford them one last taste of sweet corn. As they husked their unexpected bonus, they listened to the wind rustle through the dry corn plants.

DE

(image)https://media.treehugger.com/assets/images/2016/09/Harvest_moon.jpg.662x0_q70_crop-scale.jpg

By Request – Poems From The Elephant On National Poetry Day

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Although National Poetry Day began in Britain, it seems to have taken over the world. Well, the Twitter world at any rate. And who better that The Elephant to decant a few choice verses?

Who better, indeed?

DE

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“The monkeys, in the trees,

“Cause a breeze, when they sneeze.”

*****

“I nudged the boulder with my shoulder.

“It was older, and much colder.”

****

“It is a thrill, to have free will,

“That is until, others say `nil’.”

****

“That’s not my last, don’t be so fast,

“My muse to cast, into the past.”

****

“It’s just a guess, I do confess,

“That more is less, in the wilderness.”

 

 

 

100 Years Ago Love Goes Terribly Wrong For Franz Kafka

dopis_felice

When I wrote my novel, Kafka In The Castle, where I was filling in all of Kafka’s missing diary entries,  after a few months of writing, I found something very interesting. The day/month/year I was writing about, mirrored the day/month/year in which I was writing.

 

For example, if the 03 of July was a Friday in my writing year, it was also Friday, 03 July in 1917.

 

It was an exciting surprise, and made (I think) for more immediate writing.

When Kafka became so ill he he took leave from his employment, he stayed with his sister Ottla in a village, hours from Prague. The following recounts the visit of his fiance,Felice.

 

Here is 23 &24  September from Kafka In The Castle.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

23 September 1917

The trials of Felice. The trials of Franz. As they are put together in this obscure little village – with animals and harvest and the clatter of waggons without.

Because of the war, her train journey an ordeal of thirty hours. Only to reach this destination. This lover who doesn’t …even have the grace to love another.”

That is something F. can understand.

 

24 September 1917

The two days Felice spent here a trial of misery. A trail of misery. Even – I suspect – when she slept.

It is fortunate that I am ill, for it lets her see me in life, the way I am in spirit. The`me’ she would have to fight against. The `me’ which is always opposed to her.

We shared quiet meals, grateful and annoyed by Ottla’s constant chatter. As good a hostess as possible to this strange, sullen couple.

Ottla must have been thankful that her chores took her away as often as they did. I had no such excuses, yet could offer nothing in their place.

F. and I were truly left to each other, and any thoughts she might still have about us getting married must surely be removed.

When we did talk, it was about the change in seasons, the harvest (she took an interest), her work in Berlin. About my health when I seemed to tire (my weariness not all caused by being sick).

We rarely held hands on our walks – just briefly, in the minutes as we returned.

The few kisses were perfunctory.

Not even for memories of things past.

100 Years Ago Love Goes So Terribly Wrong For Kafka

dopis_felice

When I wrote my novel, Kafka In The Castle, filling in all of Kafka’s missing diary entries,  after a few months of writing, I found something very interesting. The day/month/year I was writing about, mirrored the day/month/year in which I was writing.

 

For example, if the 03 of July was a Friday in my writing year, it was also Friday, 03 July in 1917.

 

It was an exciting surprise, and made (I think) for more immediate writing.

When Kafka became so ill he he took leave from his employment, he stayed with his sister Ottla in a village, hours from Prague. The following recounts the visit of his fiance,Felice.

 

Here is 23 &24  September from Kafka In The Castle.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

23 September 1917

The trials of Felice. The trials of Franz. As they are put together in this obscure little village – with animals and harvest and the clatter of waggons without.

Because of the war, her train journey an ordeal of thirty hours. Only to reach this destination. This lover who doesn’t …even have the grace to love another.”

That is something F. can understand.

 

24 September 1917

The two days Felice spent here a trial of misery. A trail of misery. Even – I suspect – when she slept.

It is fortunate that I am ill, for it lets her see me in life, the way I am in spirit. The`me’ she would have to fight against. The `me’ which is always opposed to her.

We shared quiet meals, grateful and annoyed by Ottla’s constant chatter. As good a hostess as possible to this strange, sullen couple.

Ottla must have been thankful that her chores took her away as often as they did. I had no such excuses, yet could offer nothing in their place.

F. and I were truly left to each other, and any thoughts she might still have about us getting married must surely be removed.

When we did talk, it was about the change in seasons, the harvest (she took an interest), her work in Berlin. About my health when I seemed to tire (my weariness not all caused by being sick).

We rarely held hands on our walks – just briefly, in the minutes as we returned.

The few kisses were perfunctory.

Not even for memories of things past.

A Birthday Day l00 Years Ago Via Kafka And Me

kafka_main1
When I wrote my novel, Kafka In The Castle, filling in all of Kafka’s missing diary entries, I found something very interesting a few months into it. The day/month/year I was writing about, mirrored the day/month/year in which I was writing.
For example, if the third of July was a Friday in my year, it was also Friday, 03 July in 1917. It was quite an exciting surprise, and made (I think) for more immediate writing.
However, 19 September 1917 was already filled in by Kafka, and I had nothing to do.
Here is Kafka’s actual entry, abridged.
DE
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
19. (September 1917) Instead of telegram: “Very welcome station Michelob is excellent Franz Ottla” I wrote a farewell letter, and once again strongly oppressed agonies.
Farewell letter however, is ambiguous, as my opinion.
 
It is the age of the wound, more than its depth and proliferation, which constitutes its painfulness.
To be torn up again and again in the same wound canal, the countless wound operated again treated.
 
The fragile moody void essence – a telegram swaying, a letter directs it, animated it, the silence after the letter makes it dull.
 
The game of the cat with the goats. The goats are similar: Polish Jews, Uncle Siegfried, Ernst Weiß, Irma
 
Various but similar strict inaccessibility of the creator Hermann (who has now gone away without a supper and salutation, the question is whether he will come tomorrow), of Fraulein, the Marenka.
Basically, they are oppressed on the other side, as in front of the animals in the stable, when they are asked for something and they follow astonishingly.
The case is only more difficult here, because they seem so often accessible and quite understandable.
 
It is always inconceivable to me that almost anyone who can write is able to objectify the pain in pain.
For example, in misfortune, perhaps with the burning misfortune, and to tell someone in writing: I am unhappy.
Yes, I can go beyond it, and in various pranks, depending on the gift, which seems to have nothing to do with the misfortune, simply or antithetically, or with whole orchestras of associations.
And it is not a lie at all, and does not nurture the pain; it is simply a graceful excess of the forces at a moment when the pain has visibly exhausted all my powers to the ground of my being, which he scrapes. What is the surplus?
 
Letter to Max. Liar, vain, comedic.

Margaret Atwood And I – Not A Handmaid’s Tale, But A Tale Nevertheless

Elisabeth Moss,Margaret Atwood

It was not my intent to piss off Margaret Atwood.

The opposite, in fact. I wanted her to know she was an inspiration.

She was giving a reading at the University of New Brunswick in my student days. I attended, but there was quite the gathering and she was whisked away at the end. However, I overheard there was a ‘gathering’ in her honour. Invitation only, of course. Academia and literati.

I crashed the party (that was the term used by the professor who clapped his sturdy hand upon my shoulder but – happily – did not thrust me into the night).

But Ms. Atwood was kept deep in many a learned conversation and I had no opportunity to converse. I did, however, overhear where she would be spending next afternoon – the historic University Observatory.

Next day I knocked upon the Observatory door.

It was not a cheerful Margaret Atwood who answered, and answered with alacrity.

She asked my name.

She asked my business.

And she asked how the hell I knew where she was. She had stolen the day to do some writing. Some ‘real’ writing, in this window-of-opportunity grudgingly offered on the book tour.

At least I was there to praise Atwood and not to bury her with some essay question.

Nor had I a manuscript to hand to her.

I might not have garnered a smile, but her curt thank you was reward enough.

For me, at least.

DE

(image) https://pmcvariety.files.wordpress.com/2017/09/elizabeth-moss-margaret-atwood-handmaids-tale-emmy-win.jpg?w=670&h=377&crop=1

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