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It is a whirlwind in here

A Novel That Took Five Years To Write

THERE WAS A TIME, OH PILGRIM, WHEN THE STONES WERE NOT SO SMOOTH

                                   THE END

                                 07 01 2022

595 pp. 174,838 words

Featured post

The Ghost Of Kafka Walks

The Ghost of Kafka walks

(not stalks)


The streets

Of Prague.


 Prague,

(The place he would/could

Never leave
Until the last

Half year of his life)

He described as:
“The little Mother has claws.”

Which she did.

For him.


He managed

(In the last half year of his life)
To escape to Berlin

During one of

The
Worst times

Anyone could live

In Berlin


Until the end of the

Second World War.

But

That was years

Away.


But he escaped

With a young

Lover,

Which made things

So much

Better.


But his Ghost only

Walks
The streets of

Prague


Whereas

Kafka’s Ghost

Stalks

The rest of

The World.


~ D. E. BA  U.E.

Featured post

Margaret Atwood Travels Further Than Ever – Blessed Be!

the-testaments_margaret-atwood_3

I have noted some folk looking at this post from a couple of years ago. I had put it up because of the success of the television series, A Handmaid’s Tale.

Now, Ms. Atwood has produced a new novel, The Testaments, [which, by the way, has a brilliant front and back cover] with an international launch from London, England. I can humbly state that my part in her literary life remains the same.

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

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.

Featured post

Halifax Explosion Anniversary 9:04:35 AM

I just stood out on the steps in front of my home, waiting for the ship horns in the harbour to sound in memory of the explosion. A beautiful, clear, crisp morning. The explosion happened 06 December 1917.

I live a fifteen minute walk from the exact spot where the ship the Mont-Blanc exploded, causing the biggest man-made explosion ever created, other than the Atomic bombs dropped during the Second World War

1782 people were killed, a few of them at the bottom of my street. 9000 were injured. A large portion of the city of Halifax was destroyed.

At 9:04, as I stood in the sun, the ships in the harbour sounded their horns. There was a cascade of sound,. Most were deep and booming, some more abrupt, a few – by comparison – made me think of piping voices. I was most startled by the ship directly across the water at the bottom of my street. There are rarely any ships berthed this far along the harbour, but it was delivering fuel to a Power plant. It does not do this often in a year. So I was startled. A modest touch of fear.

And then I came in and wrote this.

DE

Kafka Warms Himself With His Own Manuscripts

My novel. Kafka In The Castle, fills in Kafka’s missing diary entries. This is how I imagine Kafka’s best friend, Max Brod, reacts to one of the many times Kafka burned his own manuscripts.

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

19 April 1917

Max was horrified when I told him about last night.

“You burned your stories? Are you crazy?”

“I wrote them, so I must be.”

He smiled at that. Max’s anger can be easily deflected, for it is never deep. Max is a very good man, and cares for me more than I do myself.

“And the novel? The Amerika novel?”

I told him that many chapters of that must have been burned. Probably right from the start – they were no doubt the first things I grabbed from the chair.  “Anything else?”

“There were a couple of plays. I remember pages of dialogue.”

Max’s voice became hollow. He might no longer be angry, but neither was he happy. “I didn’t know you had written any plays. You have secrets even from me.”

“I keep secrets from myself. Don’t be offended.”

“What else?”

I could picture him writing down an inventory.

“Some diary entries – those were deliberate.”

“And was that the end of your pyromaniac obsession?”

“Of my own work – yes.”

He looked at me questioningly – he didn’t need another secret.

“There were a couple of bundles of letters from Felice. Neatly tied with string. They burned slowly. I have not had such warmth from her for a long time.”

I See As Far As The Eye Can See Out To Sea

It’s a rare, balmy day

Near the end of November.

I’m sitting on a bench with a back.

I made it myself,

Because a bench with a back

Is a thing of luxury.

I can lean

And not perch.

It is situated safely

Up from the shoreline,

Looking out to sea.

It will not get washed away

Regardless of the fierceness

Of the ocean and its storms.

The Lighthouse is behind me,

And Paw, my cat/kitten.

Black as black can be

With one white mitten,

Is snoozing in the sun

Beside me.

I ponder whether to wake him,

To see a half dozen ducks

Paddling their way around the island.

Paw has his whims,

And might try to catch one.

He won’t, of course,

And I have no desire to scoop

Him out of the cold, November water.

I’ll let him snooze.

I’ll let the ducks go upon their way.

I’ll just sit and enjoy the sun.

I’m The Lighthouse Poet Laureate of Partridge Island /1821 – 2022 / A lot of stuff have I seen / A lot of stuff to report

DE BA. UEL

One Small Step For . . .

In my novel, Kafka In The Castle, I fill in **missing** diary entries from Kafka’s real diary. He either did not fill in these days himself, or he destroyed them. It is estimated Kafka destroyed 70% – 80% of everything he wrote

March 1917

               A trail of wet footprints across one of the court yards. Tiny footprints. A child’s. Perhaps a woman’s. Starting and stopping as if out of nothing and into nowhere. She must have walked through a puddle, or some melting snow. This little waltz by an invisible dancer. I held out my arms, a partner at last.

Is it Putin, Is It Trump, Is It Musk Knock Knock Knocking On The Door?

he first claw was so faint upon the door he barely raised an eye from the page.

It could have been the wind – it sounded almost like the wind.

Wind at other times. and in other places, might blow such a sound – but not this night.

As his thoughts returned to what lay before him, the tiny scrabble, hesitant at floor level, moved slightly to the right, aligning itself more closely to the doorknob.

The noise skittered up the wood, making a metallic sound. His head swivelled toward the door.  The first thought he had was for the paint.

He could sense, by the sound alone, the movement was groping in the dark  It was unsure where it was. He closed the book on his lap, still keeping his place with a finger.

His eyes remained fixed on the door. He thought he saw the light of his lamp glint off something through the keyhole.

The doorknob twitched – a slight movement counterclockwise.  Then a brief turn clockwise. He let the book slide down the side of his chair as he put his hand into a pocket. He felt the key between his fingers. He held it tightly.

There was fumbling with the knob, muffled sounds as if a grip was hard to get. The knob turned once more, and then the pressure on the outside was released. He could hear shuffling against the wood. Then he saw, through the keyhole, light reflecting off a muddy iris.

He stared back through the keyhole, only to see the eye blink and move slowly away. He started to rise from his chair, but was stopped by a thump near the floor, as if a clumsy foot had bumped the wood by mistake.

He realised all the sounds he  heard seemed uncoordinated. The doorknob was once again twisted, but the motion seemed to lack an ability to grasp.

He was wondering whether to turn out the lamp, when a hesitant, hollow knock came upon the door.

~ DE

Is it Putin, Is It Trump, Is It Musk, Knock Knock Knocking On The Door?

The first claw was so faint upon the door he barely raised an eye from the page.

It could have been the wind – it sounded almost like the wind.

Wind at other times. and in other places, might blow such a sound – but not this night.

As his thoughts returned to what lay before him, the tiny scrabble, hesitant at floor level, moved slightly to the right, aligning itself more closely to the doorknob.

The noise skittered up the wood, making a metallic sound. His head swivelled toward the door.  The first thought he had was for the paint.

He could sense, by the sound alone, the movement was groping in the dark  It was unsure where it was. He closed the book on his lap, still keeping his place with a finger.

His eyes remained fixed on the door. He thought he saw the light of his lamp glint off something through the keyhole.

The doorknob twitched – a slight movement counterclockwise.  Then a brief turn clockwise. He let the book slide down the side of his chair as he put his hand into a pocket. He felt the key between his fingers. He held it tightly.

There was fumbling with the knob, muffled sounds as if a grip was hard to get. The knob turned once more, and then the pressure on the outside was released. He could hear shuffling against the wood. Then he saw, through the keyhole, light reflecting off a muddy iris.

He stared back through the keyhole, only to see the eye blink and move slowly away. He started to rise from his chair, but was stopped by a thump near the floor, as if a clumsy foot had bumped the wood by mistake.

He realised all the sounds he  heard seemed uncoordinated. The doorknob was once again twisted, but the motion seemed to lack an ability to grasp.

He was wondering whether to turn out the lamp, when a hesitant, hollow knock came upon the door.

~ Dale Estey

History As It’s Known In The Writing World

While reading some literary site about Amazon,, I came across the fact that “Harriet Klausner, an esteemed Amazon reviewer who wrote more than 31,000 book reviews, died”. All power to her – that is quite a feat. However, I took more note of her last name, one I had not thought of for a long time.

In my tenure as an author in the world, I have had four or five agents. And I am currently looking anew. At the far beginning of my time, before I was published, I had the New York agent Bertha Klausner – at the start of my career and near the end of hers. She started her agency before I was born and was working two months before she died in 1998 at the age of 96.

Back in those over the transom days, one stuffed typed pages into an envelope, sent them off with return postage on another envelope, and waited up to three months for a reply. And when it came back, you sent it out again. One of my envelopes went to the Bertha Klausner Agency.

However, when it came back, it had other people’s manuscripts in it, and (to my memory)  little handwritten notes politely saying no. Mistakes happen even at revered agencies, so I sent it all back explaining what had happened. She replied, with neither apology or thanks, annoyed that mistakes do happen and adding, “Say, you must have something. Do you want to send it to me?” Which I did.

As I said, communications were through slow mails (slow on her side, as with literary agents to this day).  I assume she was initially, both being polite though seeing some promise in what I wrote.

But after a year or so she said – in effect – ‘thanks but no thanks’, and I sent things to other agents and eventually sold my first novel by, indeed, sending it directly to an editor in New York over the transom,.

I don’t think I knew that Bertha Klausner had such a stellar career until I looked her up. An agent for decades, she had famous names like Upton Sinclair, Israel J Singer, Eleanor Roosevelt and Fidel Castro. She even represented actor Basil Rathbone.

I imagine I would have become a lost tale.

Dale Estey

Once A Soldier, Always … My Father And Remembrance Day

My father, Bombardier Byron C Estey, Service Number G4094: Units: 1st Anti Tank Regiment: 90th Anti-Tank Battery, served in the Canadian Army for the entirety of the Second World War.

He was 31 when he signed up, and was a decade or more older than most of the soldiers he served with. At the end of the war, he was offered an instant promotion from Corporal to Sergeant Major. He declined. He had had enough.

He was with the 90th Anti-Tank Battery. He was the member of the crew who calculated the coordinates to aim the gun and destroy targets. He did this up through Sicily and Italy, except for those times when he grabbed his rifle to shoot at soldiers shooting at him.

I imagine I could write pages repeating the anecdotes he told – and maybe, some day, I will. He didn’t talk  much about the war and, when he did, I’d guess 80% of his stories were humorous. The other 20% were not.

I regret not discussing his war experiences more with him, but he did not encourage it. I once asked how close he got to the German soldiers. He said, close enough to kill them.

He hated Germans and Japanese all of his life. I understand that this is not the way of most soldiers. They mellow. They come to understand that soldiers on the other side were doing a job, just as they were. My father was not one of these. Those 20% of his stories explained his attitude to me.

He fought in – arguably – the most horrific and bloodiest battle in the war, the Battle of Ortona over Christmas week of 1943. He marched over piles of bodies, and crawled over piles of bodies. Such were the details he would tell. He didn’t speak of his feelings, or use words like “horror”.

On Remembrance Day he would march in the community parade. He rarely lingered for a meal or beer or camaraderie at The Legion. He did not seem affected by the memorial event, and did not talk any more or less about his experiences just because it was 11 November.

Because his tales were more funny than not, I’ll close on what might have been his last funny story.

At his death, the Royal Canadian Legion wanted to conduct a small ceremony at the funeral parlour. They requested that his medals be pinned to his chest. But, the medals could not be found. This was odd, because they were important to him, and he always wore them for the Remembrance Day parade.

It is excessive to say that the whole house was searched – but not by much. Drawers, shelves, boxes, closets, clothes, were repeatedly searched. Nothing. The Last Post was played over a Veteran with no medals.

Months later, when the house was being sold and possessions were being removed, his clothes were searched before being given away. In the side pocket of a jacket he never wore were the medals, all spiff and shiny.

He would have smiled at that.

Kafka Changes His Life By Leaving His Old Life Behind

Kafka did not really live in this tiny house on this narrow lane – his sister did.

And she did not really live in this tiny house on this narrow lane – she rented it so she could have a place to meet her lover in secret.

The secret was necessary because her lover was a Christian.

So the house was vacant most of the time.

Enter Kafka. He  started to go there (at the suggestion of his sister) so he could have a place to be alone. Otherwise he would be with his parents, which was not conducive to either his (or his sister’s) desires.

He never stayed the night, but was there most evenings for months. He wrote a whole book of short stories in his book The Country Doctor  while there.

I set a third of my novel about Kafka in this tiny house.
I’ve visited it.
Peered from the windows.
Looked up the stairs.
Ducked in the doorway.
When I was there while the country was still under Communist control, it was a book store.
But – Kafka being Kafkaesque long after death – none of his books were displayed.From Kafka In The Castle

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

02 November 1917

               I walked to Alchemist Lane this afternoon. It is not really a part of Prague – high and removed by its ninety-eight steps. A cold, clear day – much like the day a year ago when I accompanied Ottla on her mad little quest to see it. But not (as I had thought) for the first time. In fact, she had already rented it – something I’ve only learned these past few weeks. She had wished my approval, but she didn’t need my approval. I am glad of that.

     It was strange entering the courtyards, and passing beneath the spires of the cathedral. But stranger still was to stand at the mouth of the Lane itself, and look along its length. I could have been away for years, or returning to resume yesterday’s thoughts. I felt both. It was if I were at the station, but not knowing if I were arriving on one train, or departing upon another.

     The narrow lane was deserted, so I walked along its length slowly. There were new curtains on the windows of my little house. When I returned, I did pause before my old door, and glanced between the curtains to see that all of my furniture had been removed. Much as their owner.

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