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Franz Kafka

Kafka Lights His World On Fire

libo-quemandose1

 

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.”

 

[image] https://quelibroleer.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/libo-quemandose1.jpg

A Birthday Present For Kafka – Party On!

kafka_mimi
(sweet baby Kafka)
03 July is Kafka’s birthday and –  I forgot.
I could say (without any honesty) that I am distracted by COVID-19 and all the changes (some of them fundamental) which are happening around me. {I had my own two week self-isolation to deal with}. BUT Kafka not only lived through the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918, he contracted the disease. And he survived, even though he already had the tuberculosis that would eventually kill him six years later.

But, this morning, a Twitter respondent from across the Atlantic reminded me. I have already thanked her. So, I will repost my Kafka Birthday blog.

First, is the letter I have written to him (as yet, unanswered).
Second, is the diary entry I gave him for his birthday, from my novel, Kafka In The Castle.

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

My Present / Your Future

Still in this World

A Life Away

Dear F:

You would find it perverse to be wished a “Happy” birthday, but your response would be gracious. Such is the reality you understand, and how you deal with it. I have found that your reality is actually real.

Although it will give you no pleasure – well, ‘little’ pleasure – you are correct in all your observations.

Governments become the tools of the bureaucracies which run them. It doesn’t matter what type of Government, from the monarchy under which you lived, to the right wing horror of fascists that called themselves socialists, to the inept socialism pretending to be ‘for the people’. All three governments held their sway over the city where you spent your life. All three oppressed the people they ruled. All three looked after themselves first.

Writers are either writers or they aren’t. The urge to write encircles one like a snake around its prey. Feed it and it won’t quite squeeze you to death. You can not ignore it – even at your peril. It is with you every hour of every day, ever inquisitive and (sadly) always looking for something better.

Love is a see-saw of extremes. Every high guarantees a low. Every low reaches for a high. Every high reaches for a high. When these hills and valleys are eventually levelled, they are still desired.

Sex is highly over rated. The thing of it is, even rated fairly ’tis a consummation devoutly to be had. Yes – I know – you appreciate Shakespeare. On a par with Goethe, even if you can’t bring yourself to say the words.

People are just one damned thing after another. Of course, so many people have brought you blessings, you throw up you hands to ward off the snake. And sometimes – some few times – it loosens its grip.

There is no castle with walls thick enough to hide against the perils of being human. Which is why you never tried.

Except the grave, of course.

Except the grave.

Yours,

D

 

~~~~~~~~~~~

03 July 1918
 
The anniversary of my birth.
 
In celebration of the day, I did not make it my last.

Kafka And Trump Walk Into A Bar

kafka-for-president

 

{I wrote this after Donald Trump was elected President of The United States of America.  He is still in place.

Today an article popped into my news stream entitled : “Trump Has Franz Kafka Spinning His Grave”. You can find it here: https://www.laprogressive.com/trump-has-franz-kafka-spinning/

So, in honour of Kafka (and I have visited his grave), I’ll play it again, Donnie.}

““““““““““`

~ Frank. Welcome to your world.

~ Thanks, DT. I’ve been living it all my life.

~ I’ve taken some pages out of your books, Frank.

~ I did try to get them burned.

~ You didn’t try too hard.

~ Well – no.

~ You know – neither did I.

~ I know. They all ran to your tune.

~ They did.

~ You were the Pied Piper of Havoc.

~ Worked like a charm, Frank.

~ Yes, DT – yes, it did.

~ They thought I was a bug.

~ Yes.

~ But I turned them into bugs.

~That you did, DT. And turned them against each other.

~ Yes.

~ And stood back, and watched.

~ Pretty well.

~ To the victor goes the spoils.

~ I was astounded – believe me.

~ And they keep making the same mistakes.

~ I know, Frank. I’d laugh if it wasn’t so funny.

~ The one-eyed man is King in the land of the Blind.

~ Yes, Frank – yes. But you know what?

~ What?

~ I’ve got great vision in both eyes.

Kafka Sees A Ghost’s Shadow From The Window

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An Excerpt from my Kafka In The Castle, where I fill in all of his missing diary entries. Kafka never avoided life – if anything, he perhaps plunged too deeply into it. But I think he never felt he was a part of what went on around him. He understood reality too well.

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

01 June 1917

I have been on the outside, looking in – the darkness of the night behind me, the fog resting close upon the harbour.

I’ve watched diners at their ease, the fire colourful through the grate, the rich hue of the glass raised to the lips. And my own face, peering back at me as I look in, reflecting like a ghost’s shadow from the window.

And the very next night, I have been on the inside, looking out – seated at the very table I had previously observed.

The fireplace at my back, its warmth more than welcome. And I glanced out at the harbour, its fog higher than the previous evening, but not yet obscuring the lights of the ships. Their portholes wavering.

And, as I brought the red liquid to my lips, I saw my own face dimly doing the same in the window, imposed and distant between me and the fog. And I felt as alone as I did the night before.

Whether I was sitting or standing; whether in the warmth, or in the fog – I was still me.

Always K.

Always observing.

Does Hope In Life Cloud The Reality Of Death?

quote-plenty-of-hope-an-infinite-amount-of-hope-but-not-for-us-franz-kafka-242320

An Excerpt from my Kafka In The Castle, where I fill in all of his missing diary entries. Perhaps because the summer heat is getting to him, his patience is thin with those whose hope outstrip the realities of life and – particularly – death.

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

17 June 1917

I am told that you can’t lose people, that “…they will always be with you in memory.” Max is heavy with this type of comment – as if the hand of sentimentality brushed off his coat before he set out on each day.

Both the intelligent and the slow of wit seem to be struck dumb by this nonsense. Emotion, I suppose  – hope, I suppose – has no place for reason among its folds. But, if you can not touch, or have expectation of being touched, then the people and places are as gone as yesterday.

There is no way to travel back, and the future beckons with only an empty gesture and a hollow laugh. Bowing low at the open doorway to usher you in, but the room is empty. And will remain ever so.

When they are no longer there to hold their hand out to you – well, then they are no longer there.

 

(image) https://izquotes.com/quotes-pictures/quote-plenty-of-hope-an-infinite-amount-of-hope-but-not-for-us-franz-kafka-242320.jpg

Kafka Looks Into The Mirror Of God

franz-kafka-kresba-1

[Image of Kafka by Kafka]

 

In my novel, Kafka In The Castle, I fill in the lost (or destroyed) diary entries of Franz Kafka. He recorded many of his dreams. So do I.

**************

04 March 1917

I dreamed I was a prophet. The prophet Amshel, which is my Jewish name.

And, I could talk to God.

And I was looking at myself in the mirror.

And I was looking back at me. I mean, Franz was in the mirror, looking back at me – the me of Amshel – who was looking in the mirror. Except, I was as much me looking out, as I was me looking in.

The wall behind the prophet was painted red, while the one behind Franz was of brown wood. They both could raise their fists at each other, and sometimes did. In unison, of course. That was the law.

“Certainly, you may speak to God,” said Franz. “What is there in that? Everyone speaks to God – in sentences, in actions, with their lives. No one is more talked-to in the Universe than God. But what a prophet needs, is to have God speak back.”

And then God spoke, from somewhere behind the mirror, but He did not speak to Amshel. He spoke to Franz.

“You are on the wrong side,” said God.

“Speak to me,” said Amshel.

“Wrong side of what?” asked Franz.

“Of the mirror,” answered God.

“Don’t speak to him,” shouted Amshel. “He is from the world of vipers.” And Amshel raised his fist, but Franz had to hold up his fist in turn.

“I am not the prophet you seek,” said Franz, and pointed his finger at the mirror. “There is your prophet.” And Amshel was also pointing toward the glass.

“Not him – you don’t want him.” He then turned his hand toward himself. “I’m the one you want.”

But Franz was just as vehement, as his thumb arched toward his own chest. “Not me.” For emphasis, he placed his hand over his heart. “In this, God, you have erred.”

And his words echoed those of Amshel, who also had his hand upon his heart. “In this, God, you have erred.”

And the two faces stared at one another, their fingers clutching at the garments they wore.

But God was silent.

Kafka Sprints Through May Day Full Of Many Thoughts

kafka_hard_hat

Excerpt from my Kafka In The Castle, where I fill in all of his missing diary entries. Here he is dealing with a time twenty-eight years after the first May Day was declared. Kafka dealt with workers every day of his work life. But he didn’t take their problems home.

By the way – in real life – Kafka is credited with inventing the the hard hat.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++

27 April 1917

Life seems to offer a handful of solutions which solve nothing. If I could get out of Prague, then I wouldn’t have to get out of Prague.

 

29 April 1917

Ottla managed to get away, and I’ll be able to visit. The dead man next door (I have since found his name was Adolf) also managed to get out of Prague. Him, I can not visit, but I can follow.

 

03 May 1917

The thoughts of the living discourage the dead. I spend so much time watching over myself, that there is no one left to watch over me.

 

06 May 1917

I write to Ottla. I make no mention of her terminated neighbour. I do say “hello” from father. Not an uneven balance.

 

08 May 1917

If Shakespeare were alive today, and people pestered him about Hamlet, would he wonder what all the fuss was about?

 

(image) 2.bp.blogspot.com/-atmC5fHIQp0/UhqBTCq06LI/AAAAAAAAAkA/S47fPCQHuww/w1200-h630-p-k-no-nu/kafka_hard_hat.jpg

Kafka’s Secure Burrow For World Book Day

kafka-books

{Books by Franz Kafka]

 

A burrow offers security and comfort, and Kafka found both in his sister’s tiny house on the Golden Lane.

Ottla – his sister – had rented it so she could spend time with her lover and not be bothered by parents and comments. Her lover was a Christian and ready to go to war. Time was precious.

However, she rarely had opportunities other than the weekends, so she offered Franz the use of the tiny house for most of that time. And use it he did, though he never stayed the night.

Through fall, winter and spring Kafka wrote a whole book of short stories. For one single block of time, it was one of his most creative periods.

When I visited, even under Communist rule, it had been converted to a book store. Of course (which he would have appreciated) there were no books by Kafka for sale. Today he is displayed in the windows.

It was only when I went thorough the small rooms, and looked out the window into The Stag Moat, that I realized how important the house would become in my novel about Kafka. It was cozy – even with the space cramped by tourists. It had been little altered and I easily imagined Kafka looking through the same glass and walking through the same doorways. No doubt stooping because he was tall. Research met reality.

One of the last stories Kafka wrote, during his final year in Berlin, was called The Burrow. A version exists and is published, though a longer version is supposed to be among his ‘missing’ papers.

In it, a tiny animal keeps incessantly burrowing to keep away from an enemy. A vague noise convinces the animal to burrow deeper, and deeper, and deeper.

Something Kafka himself attempted to do.

(Image) https:/cdn.myfonts.net/s/ec/cc-201503/kafka-books.png

A Father’s Understanding

18_hermannkafka.2

[Hermann Kafka]

In my novel, Kafka In The Castle, I fill in the missing entries of his actual diaries.  There are many days to fill, as he either did not write during these days, or he destroyed the record.

Franz Kafka had his famous conflict with his father. He even wrote a book about it. In reality, his father was almost as harsh and disdainful to Franz’s sister, Ottla. She eventually left the Prague family home, and moved to a small village. But, also in reality, her father never seemed to understand his part in it.

Here I have their father, Hermann, talk about his daughter to his son.

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

 

17 April 1917

Father greeted me at the supper table today, and even – over the course of the meal – asked if I had heard from Ottla.

If it were anyone else, I would have admiration for his guile. But I honestly don’t believe that father has the cunning for such a thing.

Because his belief in his narrow opinions is so absolute, I think that our words slide off him like melting snow.

And because this happens, he does not realize the destruction his own words cause.”They are just words,” he would say. “You can’t eat them, and they don’t keep you warm.”

Just words.

He asked me to say hello from him when I next write to her.

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