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Franz Kafka

Kafka Advises How To Deal With The End Of The World

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[Illustration by 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 of Zurau, where he is living with his sister. He is talking about the end of the Empire the townsfolk have been living under all their lives. It, and the civilization they know, is soon to be swept away. Will their lives go with it?

He speaks the truth, and he 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 skillful 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.

Nothing For Saint Patrick’s Day From “Kafka In The Castle”

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[Illustration by Kafka]

 

I have filled in the missing diaries of Franz Kafka in my novel Kafka In The Castle, but there was nothing for 17 March 1917. However, the days on either side of it were definitive.

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16 March 1917

Dismal day. The earth fit only for vermin.

18 March 1917

To the country. To the dead.

Kafka And His Fate On The Ides Of March

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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.   For The Ides of March,  I imagine how Kafka pictured the will, and the actions of his father.  Beware.

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15 March 1917

Had I been born into a different family  – with other parents – I would be a different person. I was doomed from my first breath to have the father I have. My life is shaped beyond the reach of my choice.

I have lived so much of my life defending myself, that I marvel I have advanced at all. It is difficult to have achievements while continually looking over your shoulder for a knife in the back. Harder still, when you have to stop periodically, reach awkwardly around, and pull out the blades embedded there from childhood.

Cut and bloodied fingers make it painful to pick up the life spread before you.

But, my father is not always content to stand behind. From any alley – indeed, from any room, across any table – my father can charge at me with an outstretched lance, or a sword held high to come chopping down across my neck, with the full intent of severing my head from my body.

That he often strikes blindly makes his attack no less destructive.

Beware

[Image] https://earthsky.org/upl/2019/03/ides-of-march-calendar-300×225.jpg

As Kafka Tip Toes Past While You Sleep

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In my novel about Franz Kafka, where I fill in his “missing” diary entries, I create many dreams, because Kafka often recounted his dreams. For a recent blog, I searched the ether world for an image that included Kafka & Dreams. To my surprise, a quote came up, by Kafka, that I never came across before. Even with its doubtful provenance, I used it.
I later tried to track down the quote, and it seems this source is the only source. A monograph called Franz Kafka by Franz Baumer. But it is such a Kafka-like comment, I’ll take it.
Also, in hunting for this source, I came across a site called ‘Fuck Yeah Franz Kafka. Which is an attitude I much admire.
The Kafka story and quote:
“Once while visiting his friend Max Brod, young Kafka awakened Brod’s father, who was asleep on a couch. Instead of apologizing, Kafka gently motioned him to relax, advanced through the room on tiptoe, and said softly: “Please – consider me a dream.”’ from Franz Kafka by Franz Baumer
The unrelated site:
Jan 9, 2019 – Where people come together to celebrate the greatest author of the 20th century.

Kafka Dreams of His Father and Gets Revenge

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In Kafka In The Castle, I fill in the ‘missing’ diary entries from Kafka’s real diary. He either did not fill in these days himself, or he destroyed them. There are some estimates that Kafka destroyed 70% – 80% of everything he wrote.

Of the people described in this entry: Max is Kafka’s best friend; F. is his fiancee; The Swiss Girl was a first love; Ottla is his sister.

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07 March 1918

Dreamed I had another life. At the same time I had this one.

My additional life may not have always been what I chose, but it was always better than what I have.

At the Sunday dinner, Max was my father, and Ottla was my mother – although our ages remained the same. Sometimes my wife was the Swiss girl, sometimes it was F’s best friend. And sometimes it was Ottla.

I would still see my father in this other life, but only when I went into his store to make some purchase. He was as mean and gruff as ever.

I always shortchanged him.

 

[IMAGE} https://byronsmuse.wordpress.com/2018/12/20/fashion-inspiration-please-consider-me-a-dream/

Kafka Braves An Ice Storm

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I follow Franz Kafka in my Kafka In The Castle, filling in his lost diary entries. I have him only where he really was, imagining his days. For a number of months he lived, with his sister, Ottla, in the village of Zürau, a couple of hours by train (in those days) outside of Prague. So, if I could actually see out my ice-covered window, past my ice-drooping fir tree, I might see him passing by.

Excerpt from Kafka In The Castle:

05 March 1918

Ice storms the last two days.

It clatters into the chimney, which is quite a startling noise if one happens to be up the stairs, and going about ones usual business. The rattle and ruckus of the ice is an abrasive encounter. More so even than when it beats upon your face as you go along the road. At least there it is expected, and you can be muffled against its intrusion.

Ottla saw to my protective gear, although she did not want me to go out.

Procured, from somewhere, a wide-brimmed hat. Swathed me in scarves up to the eyes. Insisted I put on an outer leather jacket, from which the ice drops merrily bounced. But, she had nothing to offer to assist in the walking. It was, as far as I can compare, like walking through a field of fine salt.

It is not even accurate to say that I slide, for it was actually the ice underfoot which did the sliding. I would find my foot being grabbed and held. I’m sure it was what walking through purgatory would be like.

Sweet Love W/ Kafka For Valentine’s Day

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(Gerti Wasner)

Contrary to popular belief, Kafka had a very full love life. He was rarely without a lady friend during any part of his life. When one left, another soon took her place.

The following is a part of a letter he wrote to Felice, the woman he was engaged to – twice. It is fair to say that she was long-suffering. The sentiments Kafka expresses might have given her second thoughts. Perhaps that is partly why there were two engagements.

Think what one will about Kafka’s romantic abilities, he was a chick magnet. Right to the end. After his funeral, his last lover had to be restrained from leaping into his grave to be with him.

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11 November, 1912

Fräulein Felice!

I am now going to ask you a favor which sounds quite crazy, and which I should regard as such, were I the one to receive the letter. It is also the very greatest test that even the kindest person could be put to. Well, this is it:

Write to me only once a week, so that your letter arrives on Sunday — for I cannot endure your daily letters, I am incapable of enduring them. For instance, I answer one of your letters, then lie in bed in apparent calm, but my heart beats through my entire body and is conscious only of you. I belong to you; there is really no other way of expressing it, and that is not strong enough. But for this very reason I don’t want to know what you are wearing; it confuses me so much that I cannot deal with life; and that’s why I don’t want to know that you are fond of me. If I did, how could I, fool that I am, go on sitting in my office, or here at home, instead of leaping onto a train with my eyes shut and opening them only when I am with you?  … Franz

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While Kafka was in the first year of his ‘love-of-a-lifetime’ affair with Felice Bauer,  he met “The Swiss Girl”. In his diaries, she was only referred to as W. or G. W. They were together for ten days in a spa on Lake Garda.

She was a Christian. He was thirty, she was eighteen. However, the relationship (apparently sexually consummated) made a great impression on him for the rest of his life.

Research over the years  finally revealed her name is Gerti Wasner. However, very little else (as far as I can find) is known about her.

Where did her life lead after an encounter with Kafka?

Here are some of Kafka’s actual diary entries about the incident.

 

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20 October 1913

I would gladly write fairy tales (why do I hate the word so?) that could please W. and that she might sometimes keep under  the table at meals, read between courses, and blush f

22 October 1913.

Too late. The sweetness of sorrow and of love. To be smiled at by her in the boat. That was most beautiful of all. Always only the desire to die and the not-yet-yielding; this alone is love.

Translated by Joseph Kresh

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In the spirit of Valentine’s Day and Kafka, I’ll add a bit from my novel, Kafka In The Castle

27 February 1917

A letter from F. I am beginning to think that we do not really see the people in front of us. F. has changed from a vibrant companion to a banal drudge. But, of course, she has not really changed. She is neither of these things, but rather a combination. She is a person living through her life, and what I see reflected are my wants and fears. I want F. to share my tiny house, but I am ever fearful she might say yes.

04 June 1917

Sometimes – with F – a kiss could make me feel I was becoming part of her. And she into me. I retreated.

05 June 1917

Had I not retreated, I would have given up myself. This is what is expected from love. My thoughts and emotions would be continually extracted. I have no way to replenish them, so I would eventually be hollowed out. And I would collapse.

05 July 1917

I will meet Felice – it is what she wants. It is what must be done. She is coming to Prague, and will no doubt fit in perfectly. My parents approve of her – more, I suspect, than they approve of me. She’ll be insulted by this tiny house – it will be found wanting and crude. Some of those annoying qualities she hints about me.

Kafka Greets February With No Good Cheer

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In my novel, Kafka In The Castle, I fill in the ‘missing’ diary entries from Kafka’s real diary. He either did not fill in these days himself, or he destroyed them. There are some estimates that Kafka destroyed 70% – 80% of everything he wrote.

And I must wonder, if he were writing right now, what he would write with the knowledge that February has an extra day.

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01 February 1917

A particularly tedious day at the office, which stretched like a bridge over an abyss. Perhaps to mock yesterday’s comments – the month so short and the day so long. I am sometimes afraid of the white, and sometimes of the black, but my deepest horror is for the destroying grey of life. When it is grey and senseless, it starves your feelings of oxygen, and then you really and truly die. It is said that Jesus raised the dead (though I never understood why), and our own Prague rabbi created the Golem to help out in this world. All I can do is scratch ink upon the page.

[image] https://rlv.zcache.co.uk/leap_year_2020_key_ring-r6cfe132053c147549096695345d285ae_fupu3_8byvr_307.jpg

Kafka As A Jew At Work

In Kafka In The Castle, I fill in the ‘missing’ diary entries from Kafka’s real diary. He either did not fill in these days himself, or he destroyed them. There are some estimates that Kafka destroyed 70% – 80% of everything he wrote. 

23 January 1917

The Director talked to me today. About not having sufficient people to run the Institute, and the other shortages caused by the war. And he asked my advice.

And I gave him good ideas – pointed the way. I do know my strengths – although far more familiar with my weaknesses.

And as the Director talked to me, he looked at me. In the eyes – as he so often does.

But he did not see me.

Not the I which I carry around inside myself. Not the K.

He saw an adequately dressed government official, Herr Doktor of Law, a Jew (I think he really does not mind), who knows well the operations of the Worker’s Accident Insurance Institute for the Kingdom of Bohemia in Prague. Has, indeed, risen to the rank of Deputy-Secretary.

And that is who responded to the conversation. Made comments  Smiled at the Director’s dry humour.

I watched this Jew with interest, and his act was flawless.

 

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