Franz Kafka has just had an updated version of his Diaries translated and released in English.
Of course, he is being touted as a rather naughty fellow, with various sexual observations (and perhaps desires) revealed. Comments about gentlemen’s private members seem to lead the reviews (much as reviews of Prince Harry’s Spare were quick to point out his frostbitten, er, Willie).
It really took a more free-wheeling translation to show Kafka was a very sexual (and sexy) fellow. He liked the ladies, had numerous lovers, and enjoyed the paid ministrations of – as he referred to them – ‘shop girls’. His last lover had to be restrained from leaping into his open grave.
None of this is really new. I have read all of his diaries published before this edition. Most of it was already there.
The editor of his diaries was his best friend, Max Brod. Brod also removed references to Kafka’s real opinions about his contemporaries. And other socially doubtful observations.
I have written a book, Kafka In The Castle, where I fill in all of the diary entries missing from his diaries, imagining what he might have been doing on those days. As it is assumed that Kafka, himself, destroyed about 80% of all his own writings, it is assumed he destroyed these entries himself.
I don’t know what this new addition might do for my Kafka manuscript. But, as they say, any publicity is good publicity – it’s publicity.
Here is a link to an interview with the translator of the new diaries:
And below are entries from my manuscript.
07 December 1916
Max takes the fact I always tell the truth as a virtue. He takes my protestations as a virtue. But I am capable of nothing else. Max even says he is envious of me, and I actually laughed in his face. Me, so envious of everyone living their real lives. He was much taken by surprise.
08 December 1916
I have not admitted something to Max. It is the closest I come to lying – not saying everything I think. So I have not told him I see envy on the faces of many people. Even my father. It is a power which I do not want. A power which frightens me.
17 May 1917
Dreamed I was in Florence, after a long train journey. I was supposed to meet M. upon the bridge with all the goldsmith shops. I had the feeling we had chosen the place as an equivalent to the Alchemist’s Lane. And as I walked along the river, it was indeed Prague I saw on the other shore. I wondered if I might be in this tiny house, scratching out these words upon the page – this page. But I continued toward the bridge, and tried to ignore the Prague of my dreams. Much as in real life.
The bridge was in a precarious state, the abutments pocked and stained. Mortar fell away in handfuls. I looked up to see M. standing at the top of the steps. There were double handrails made of gold, and the steps themselves seemed burnished with use. “Hurry,” she implored, leaning toward me and pointing to the river. This movement deepened the cleavage between her generous breasts, and I was distracted. I imagined my hand slipping beneath the confines of her blouse, and my fingers retrieving a heated nugget of gold. But finally I turned to where she was pointing, and saw that the river was nearly at my heels. I moved adroitly, and was soon standing beside her. “Must you meet me in such a place?” I asked. “It’s your dream. And, you weren’t so concerned a minute ago.” “But we’re here for the gold?” I asked. “No.” She took my hand. “We’re here for the view.”
She led me into one of the shops where the goldsmiths were shaping sheets of gold around molds, tiny hammers going tap tap tap across the rich, dull surface. I could smell the scent of warm gold from between her breasts. I wanted to taste it, going flick flick flick with the tip of my tongue. Yet another button had unhooked from the strain, and I could glimpse the gold piece, damp with sweat. “Are you after my treasure?” asked M. “Even if we are in Florence,” I said, feeling very clever with myself, “that doesn’t mean all the treasures are ones of art.” M. was kind enough to smile. She then gestured. “Look – to left and right.”
As I looked from one bank of the river to the other, I saw that the cities were vying for my attention. Florence was bowing on my left, while Prague was undulating from the right. The buildings shook, the towers nodded, and the river tore between. At my side, M. was joining in with a dance of her own, her nearly exposed breasts swaying with little restraint. “You’re not helping,” I said. “You watch what you want,” she replied. The river was now so turbulent that music escaped from the waves, and the two cities attempted to outdo each other. Florence beckoned with the raised steps of a gavotte, while Prague hipswung with the new American jazz. “Which city?” asked M., her hair in a swirl, and the last button defeated. “Which city is to be your partner?” And my eyes left her wild hair and the flashing nugget of gold, and I stepped onto the river, its music around my knees. And I held out my hands toward Prague.
20 May 1917
But of course, it was just a dream.