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Franz Kafka Prepares For The End Of Civilization

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(Image drawn by Franz Kafka)

In my novel, Kafka In The Castle, I fill in his lost diaries.  Here, as the learned Doktor of Laws, he has been asked to speak to the citizens of the small village where he is living with his sister for a few months. He speaks the truth, and avoids the truth.

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15 January 1918

This war. They wanted my opinions about this endless war. These earnest, honest men, awaiting the words from the Herr Doktor of Prague.

I agreed only to answer questions – that way I could not be accused of fermenting treason. Even in these troubled times, the law allows a man to answer questions. Assuming that the law prevails.

The law was present in the form of the policeman, attending this questionable gathering while still in uniform. He doffed his hat as he shook my hand. I would rather have him in our midst, than lurking in the hall. We have nothing to fear from him.

“Will the empire last?” This was first from their lips. And they must have needed to hear the words, for even the Emperor must know that all is lost. The Old Order, having fallen into the hands of dull and witless men, must succumb. The complacency of the age must be purged – but that has not yet happened. That awaits the next generation – and the destruction will be furious. But I do not tell them this.

I am skilful in what I do not tell them, for the truth is beyond their power to persuade or control. (Their next questions would have been more difficult had I not curbed the truth further still.) “What will happen to Zurau? What will happen to us?” And they have every right to worry. To suspect. When a society crumbles, it is those at the bottom who get crushed. But I told them that Amerika seemed a just power – not bent on retribution.

I did not tell them that a victor can do as he wants.

And I told them that we live in a secondary part of a secondary empire – the powers of destruction will be concentrated on Vienna and Berlin. I did not tell them that during the death of a snake, the spasms of the tail can be lethal.

And I told them something which could really be of help. I told them, in this coming year, to grow more food: fatten more beasts: prepare, preserve and put away. Fill their cellars and barns to bursting with food and fuel. Buy some things now, which they can use for barter later if the currency becomes worthless. Look after their families and lands. Look after each other.

 

16 January 1918

I did not tell them that war is the end result of injustice and arrogance, and that it is oftentimes necessary. I did not tell them that when the natural balance is upset by human action, the cost of righting it must be made in human payment. I did not tell them that a country where neighbour is cruel to neighbour is a country mean for war.

 

17 January 1918

I did not tell them how the Jews will always suffer in time of war. How we will be searched out, then driven as far as the east is from the west, and then be persecuted. How there will never be safety for us. Yea, even unto the land of Israel.

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Gas Leak And Evacuation Give Alison Alexandra Much To Ponder

 

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I have been evacuated once before because of an explosion, and put up in a hotel by the Red Cross another time because of a house fire.

Monday last, both were able to be combined when a gas leak of Butane forced us to be evacuated just after supper, and the Red Cross found us fine hotel accommodations for (so far) two nights. Not only is there a pool with a water slide attached, but I’ve had the best waffles for breakfast that I’ve had for years. Now, if the neighbourhood doesn’t blow up (which looks less and less like happening) it will be quite the adventure.

Oddly, two days of unexpected hotel life seems like a week. I’m not sure why, because although the actual evacuation occurred in the relative haste of ten minutes, it is not as if we had not been forewarned and thus prepared. With bags and backpacks of provisions and clothes (and computers) we followed the instructions of three burly firemen and left. We did stand in lines in the hotel, and filled in forms and such, but it was not very arduous. Comfy beds awaited. If we have such stress in this situation, I might get some distant glimpse of what folk in dire straits must feel.

The Emergency Situation first began around 11:00 Monday morning. when I noticed hosts of emergency vehicles by their flashing lights, closing the major highways to our area. I actually got better views of our neighbourhood from news outlets and twitter accounts. I watched film crews at their work, and stand up reporters giving their reports across the street. Then, over the course of the afternoon, men in bulky uniforms and helmets started wandering along the street and across the fields. I went out to query them, and they were using their magic wands to sniff out Butane on the air. All seemed well for hours.

But then – as was fully explained in the next-day briefing – the wind shifted and the Butane (though apparently not dangerously concentrated) began in earnest to move toward the residential area, and away we all went.

The next briefing is in an hour.

And although two days of writing have been disturbed, today I returned to my current endeavours, where I follow Alison Alexandra through sundry places. It appears she will  find that she (in her own way) will have to deal with a somewhat similar situation.

But she can take care of herself.

DE

Kafka *Welcomes* In The New Year From My Novel “Kafka In The Castle”.

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In my novel, Kafka In The Castle, I fill in his missing diaries. Perhaps , tellingly, he made no entries in either of these years.

 

31 December 1916

The festivities down in the city are certainly subdued, which makes me one with the coming of the year. There were a few shots fired into the air – which is a mockery, considering what is happening in the world. And some dismal fireworks. Max wanted me at his party, but even he saw little point in celebration, and his entreaties were totally for form. I understand form quite well – most of my life consists of doing the expected. Mouthing the proper words. My letters to Felice have turned to such vehicles of propriety. In such a way do all our days, and then our lives, acquire the necessary postmarks.

 

01 January 1917

There was a cloud caught in the branches of a tree today, outside my parents home. Or so it appeared. I got up from the cot and went to tell Ottla, but she was clearing the kitchen, tending to the dishes. So I was radical, unthinking – driven by haste – and told the only one not consumed by labour. I told my father. “In the trees?” he asked. I propelled him from his chair, thrusting the papers aside. He followed me, and I could see the surprise on his face. “Where?” he asked; and I pointed out the window. “But I see nothing.”  “Oh, you have to lie on the cot.”  “On the cot?”  “And with your head just so.” I pushed him onto it, and he lay, looking sideways. “But you are right,” he said. I thought because of the holiday he might be humouring me, but then I saw that his jaw hung open, and his face was astonished. Does the boy never grow, that he can feel so good to be vindicated by his father?

 

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31 December 1917

The end of the year. The end of a love. The ebb of a life. Even the Empire can not last much longer.

 

01 January 1918

It is strange how we are expected to wake up on a Tuesday morning – just as any Tuesday morning – and be full of hope because it’s the first day of some arbitrarily appointed year. I walk the streets and it is still Prague.

A Christmas Elephant Tale

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From: The Elephant Talks To God
The Elephant was not oblivious to the Christmas season, and wanted to pay his respects.

He travelled to the special clearing where a cloud waited for him.

“It’s your Son’s birthday. I want to congratulate him.”

“Thank you.” The cloud descended. “It is a grand time.”

“I’d like to …” the elephant hesitated.

“Yes.”

“You sent your Son for us to see, so we would believe.”

“Yes.”

“Well, I want to …”

“Spit it out,” said God. “You’re fired up.”

“I want to see you.” The elephant spoke quickly. “I don’t have to see you, you know that.  I believed even before you talked to me. But I want to see you; it would mean so much. I wasn’t around for the Baby, but cows and sheep and things got to see Him. I can’t explain, but …”

“Go home,” said the cloud.

“You’re not angry with me?” said the elephant.

“No.” The cloud started moving away. “It’s an honest request.”

“Thank you for coming to see me,” said the elephant.

“Sing some carols.” The voice was distant. “I like them.”

The elephant turned and started through the woods. He ignored the tasty leaves within easy reach and the rich grass near the brook. He wanted to get home as quickly as possible so he could join the singing at the Mission he knew was happening later in the evening.

He trotted along the trail, snapping a branch here and there in his haste, when he noted the stillness, the hush which had overtaken the forest. He slowed down and then stopped in his tracks. He turned his head, his small eyes squinting into the brush.
There was movement coming toward him, and when the trees parted, he went to his knees with a gasp.
Tears rolled from his eyes, and the golden trunk touched his own, and gently
wiped them away.

Santa & Me / Me & Santa

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Although I am no fan of having the Santa Claus story take such a bite out of Christmas, I’m not against Santa Claus. In fact, we’ve had quite the relationship.

As a child, I had two ‘encounters’ with Santa. I can’t place the years, but I remember them from the houses I lived in.

The first time I would have been no older than five. I was going to the outhouse on a dark Christmas Eve. The outhouse was a couple of minutes walk from the house. On my way, I heard the bells on Santa’s sleigh. Don’t try to dissuade me, I know what I heard. I even remember the direction I had to turn to see if I could see anything. I was right quick about doing my business.

The second time would have been a couple of years later. On Christmas Day I saw the marks from Santa’s sleigh runners on the snow beside the house.  Never mind your smiles, I know what I saw.

And, a few years after that, I was with some younger friends who questioned me about the reality of Santa Claus. Now, by then I did not believe that Santa existed. But, I didn’t want to tell the “children” that. Neither did I want to lie. I don’t know how long it took me to think of a way out, but long enough (obviously) for it to remain strong in my memory. My answer was: “Well, there must be a Santa Claus. How could your parents afford all those gifts?”

In the years when I did a fair amount of house-sitting, I did so for one couple where the husband had a perfect resemblance to Santa Claus. Thus, for many a Christmas, he was the hit of local gatherings. And he had a beautiful suit and hat and – of course – a real beard.

I also know a poet whose first book was about Mrs. Claus. She is also known to dress up the part (even with a Christmas bonnet) and read at Christmas gatherings.

As for myself, one day I entered my financial institution around Christmas and got into line. As we snaked forward, I came opposite a mother and father with a young child. He looked at me and screamed (literally) “Santa Claus!” Then he burst into tears. I don’t know what troubled him (maybe I was out of uniform).

Finally, a few years ago, (and this was not around Christmas, though it was Fall) I was walking in a park. A family approached, two parents and three children. One of the boys (and he looked five or six) dashed ahead and stood in front of me. “Santa Claus,” he said. I thought it was some sort of joke, but he turned excitedly to his siblings. “It’s Santa Clause.” He was quite happy. The father said “Maybe not.” but did not really try to dissuade him.

And neither did I.

DE

(image) http://www.abc.net.au/news/image/8129170-3×2-940×627.jpg

The Queen’s staff gifted with 1500 Christmas puddings — Royal Central

Earlier this week, The Queen hosted senior members of her staff at the Goring Hotel where she was seen leaving the luncheon. The Palace also revealed that Her Majesty had gifted all of her 1,500 strong staff with Christmas puddings. This tradition was started by her grandfather, King George V. Specifically, these are puddings from…

via The Queen’s staff gifted with 1500 Christmas puddings — Royal Central

A Royal Introduction To The Queen’s Staff At Windsor Castle

The Queen held her annual staff Christmas party at Windsor Castle earlier this week, although this year it turned out to be extra exciting as the newest soon-to-be addition to the Royal Family surprised guests. Hosted by the Lord Chamberlain at Windsor Castle this past Monday, The Queen’s Royal Household Christmas party broke with tradition…

via Meghan Markle makes surprise apperance at The Queen’s staff Christmas party — Royal Central

Be Of Christmas Travel Cheer

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As it is always double the chore to travel on holidays, I departed on my Christmas retreat earlier than usual. Before the dozens turned into hundreds.

It was clear weather (easier to choose when one can take the time), and I was waiting for the bus a good hour before departure. I wait outside so I can walk around. There are always a few others who do this, and one fellow approached to ask if I would watch his luggage for a few minutes. I agreed, and said perhaps he could do the same for me. “Sure,” he said. “We gotta look out for each other.” I took that as some Seasonal good will.

While I pondered in the sunshine (the last sunshine, it turns out, that I was to see for four days), I heard a sound that I interpreted as either a roaring bus engine or a plane flying overhead. When neither was revealed, I went looking. On the far side of the bus station is the large parking lot of a large grocery store. In one corner of the parking lot was a forest of cut and bundled Christmas trees. One of the tree vendors was removing the bindings of the trees. He then placed the cut base of the tree on a circular metal platform. He turned on an engine (the sound I had heard), held the tree, and the metal base shook violently. It shook so much that it shook all the loose needles off the tree. The fellow then removed the shaken tree, stood it aside, and did another one. Tools for everything.

As I was watching this performance, an elderly gentleman approached me. Perhaps because I was immersed in a woodland of felled trees, his clothing reminded me of someone from the back woods. His work boots were unlaced, his heavy coat was well worn, and his face was both creased and had the stubble of three days growth. He had a guitar of similar vintage slung over his back.

“Nice day,” said he.

I agreed.

“I’m a Busker,” said he. “I’ll give you a Christmas carol for two bucks. I don’t have enough for smokes.”

“That’s OK,” said I. “I’ll gladly give you two dollars.”

“No – I’m going to sing for it.”

“OK.”

I could not judge if his voice was more rough than the guitar. The guitar was out of tune. Some strings were loose. ‘Hollow’ and ‘twang’ come to mind. I got a hoarse rendition of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. He included three verses.

Then he took my two dollars and wended his way to the large grocery store.

“Let nothing you dismay.”

DE
(image) https://secure.img1-ag.wfcdn.com/im/29181556/resize-h800^compr-r85/4366/43669485/VW+Inspired+Christmas+Tree+Bus.jpg

Kafka Leaves One Month And Enters Another

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In my manuscript, Kafka In The Castle, I fill in his missing diary entries. One hundred years ago, he started (in his way) to prepare for Christmas.

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30 November 1917

The girl, Fraulein G., wants to better herself by spending some time in Prague. She is the daughter of the most wealthy peasant in the area, and is barred from the common society around her.

It amazes me how a Christian can sometimes be treated like a Jew.

She is twenty years old, very pleasant, and has approached me in the hope I can find her a family to stay with, where she can improve her Czech, and also (I suspect) her position in life.

Her knowledge and abilities are obviously superior to most of her age and station – she mentioned a convent education – and perhaps there is a finishing school which might do her good. Max and his wife will know much more about this than me. Or my parents. I’ll ask his advice.

The girl is too timid with me – perhaps Ottla can invite her for a meal.

 

02 December 1917

The last month of the year, and it seems to race to its conclusion. It will certainly gallop toward Christmas, and the threat of Felice. To think that I now dread a meeting which I once would have relished with equal intent.

DE

(image) iperceptive.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Franz-Kafka-Quote-People-are-sewn-into-their-skins-for-life…-e1497702939327.png

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