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Kafka In The Castle

If Kafka Welcomes Spring, Can Summer Be Far Behind?

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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.

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08 April 1917

I seem to end in the most absurd situations. This afternoon, before Sunday dinner, Ottla took me away for some gardening. Rooting around in the earth, with the frost barely gone. Only Ottla could find such a plot of ground in Prague, or expect me to grub about in it like some hungry animal.

It was obviously some sort of communal land – such places are popular during this war. There were even families at work. Children also. One small boy was caught between his interest in the garden, and his desire to be a small boy. And what a dilemma it was. He’d work in the ground for awhile, following the example of his mother, then suddenly race around, exploring like a small boy. He came over to Ottla and me, and hunkered down beside us. He shook his head with a sigh of exasperation, and reached over to put his hands on mine. “Mummy says that’s wrong,” and with great patience and determination, began to show me how to prepare the earth. I thought there could be no better proof to Ottla of how inept I was.

I followed the movements of his hands, and between us, we dug quite a hole. At last the little fellow stood, obviously satisfied. “I go now,” he said, and ran away to see some other entertaining oddity. Ottla hadn’t laughed for fear of offending the boy, but she didn’t show such restraint when we were finally alone.

It fell to me to find the flowers.

Such things prove God’s sense of humour, for I have no interest or understanding for flowers. There was a fellow at university who could talk about flowers for hours. Otherwise, he was quite pleasant to be with. So it seems a joke that I would find them, between a pile of rubble and the wall of a house.

I had been exploring, much as the little fellow had done. In fact, he was running past when I found them, so I showed him also. They were white, with frail leaves close to the ground. Quite nondescript. But the boy was fascinated. He put his face close, although he didn’t touch them.

“Can I tell Mummy?” He obviously thought they were my flowers. “Yes,” I said, and he ran to get her. She followed him as he chattered all the way, and then she too hesitated, looking at me cautiously. “Perhaps your wife would like to see them,” she suggested. It took a moment to realize she was referring to Ottla. The flowers had become my possession. “Yes,” I said, “And tell anyone you like.”  “The first flowers of Spring,” she said, and she went to tell the others, taking care to stop at Ottla first.

Tiny white flowers.

I can still not believe the looks upon their faces, as they crowded around. Even the children were silent.

The relief they showed.

 

(Image)https:/farm5.staticflickr.com/4122/4807642892_042ac4d5f9_z.jpg

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Kafka Saves A Worker And His Job

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Franz Kafka  (in the daytime) was a government employee who looked after the welfare of workers for the Imperial government. He was on the side of the workers – among other things, he is credited with inventing the hard hat.

In my novel about him, Kafka In The Castle, he has an encounter with a worker who needs assistance. This is how he would react.

Excerpt from Kafka In The Castle

 

16 February 1917

There was a commotion at the office today. It was late morning, and from far below, coming up the stairwell, I could hear a voice bellowing: “Doktor Kafka. Doktor Kafka.” It was a terrible voice, full of blood and darkness. I got from my desk and went to the door. There were other voices, trying to calm, saying: “He can’t be disturbed.” But the voice was louder, more horrible, close in the corridor.  “Doktor Kafka – for the love of God.”   My secretary wanted me to stay inside, hoped the man would just move along the corridor until the police were summoned. But – I was curious; the man had my name, and his voice was … terrified.

I opened the door and stood in front of it.  “I’m Kafka,” I said. The man lunged at me, and went to his knees.  “Doktor Kafka?” he said.  “Yes, I’m Kafka.” He reached out, grabbing for my hand.  “Jesus, Jesus, for the love of Jesus – they say that you’ll help me.”  He was a heavy man, and looked as if he had the strength to pull off doors, yet the tears burst from his eyes.  “I can get no work. I fell from a bridge, and my back is twisted and in pain.” He slumped against the wall, looking at my eyes.  “I have a family, Doktor Kafka. A baby not a year old.”  “You were working on this bridge?” I asked.  “Yes.” His voice slid down his throat. “I was helping repair the surface.”  “Then you deserve your insurance. Why can’t you get it?” He straightened up, and tried to stand. “I have to fill in papers; the doctor can see no wounds; the foreman said I drank; because my brother is a thief, I am not to be trusted.” I held out my hand, and he slowly stood. “I’m telling you the truth, Doktor Kafka.”  “If that is so,” I said, “you’ll get the money due you.”  “I’m so tired,” he said.

I gave instructions to those standing around – no other work was to be done until this man’s case was decided. I took him to my office, where he sat. He sat – practically without a word – for five hours. I summoned a prominent doctor to look at him. The doctor prodded, and the man screamed. Officials from his village were telephoned. I helped him with the details on the forms. His truth was in his pain. He left our stony building with money in his hand, and his worth restored. The people who assisted me had smiles on their faces. A man had needed their help.

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Kafka Has A Dream About The Dead And Decay

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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. 

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21 March 1917

Dreamed I was standing in a galleria with him. In a town in Northern Italy. We could see across the rooftops, to a plain slipping gently toward the foothills of the mountains. The day was clear – a cool spring morning – and the touch of sun was welcome on our skin.

He pointed to a laden waggon passing beneath us. A curtain of dust rose from its wheels as it squeezed through a narrow lane. We watched it for awhile, then he turned to me, his body a silhouette against the vivid sky.

“I enjoyed my funeral. I wish we could have talked about it after – it was one of those things to share.”

“We did share it,” I pointed out. “I was there.”

“But I was not,” he said.

Then he eased himself over the balcony, and without effort, we were sitting in the back of the waggon, perched upon boxes and equipment. We rattled out of the village toward the countryside.

“I loved the outdoors,” he said. “I still remember my last walk in the fields.”

We moved slowly through the country side, the waggon rarely being jostled along the rutted road. The teamster must have been an expert, but he never turned his face to us. Intent upon his business, I suppose.

“You forget that I am dead; for which I thank you.”

“Sometimes I do,” I replied.

“It is at those times, I sometimes think I’m still alive.”

He occasionally pointed to things behind me. Once there was a rabbit. The countryside spread endlessly, without another person in sight. I mentioned this, and he nodded.

“It will be crowded at our destination. But I’ll want to meet my wife.” He then leaned toward me, across the waggon. “You helped me, you know – in our final dance.” He smiled, then sighed, then pointed beneath me.   “My destination is close, I must return.”

I looked down, and saw I was sitting on a coffin – the polished brown one of his funeral. I moved, then bent over, prepared to open it. His fingers touched the wood beneath my hand.

“No. Do not look. You would not like what you found.” His smile seemed forced, there were more teeth showing than usual. “I embrace my new world. But for you, I am well and truly dead.”

Kafka Dreams Of God & Fate from “Kafka In The Castle”

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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. 

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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.

A Gypsy Instructs Kafka About The World And Truth

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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. 

08 June 1917

A Gypsy confronted me today, and I was in the mood for a bit of sport. Her age was difficult to tell – certainly a decade older than me. In her swirl of shawls and dangling jewellery, heavy make-up on her face, she could almost have been in disguise. She peered at me with an intense sigh, attempting – I am sure – to penetrate my own disguise.

“You are a Jew,” she said.

“And you a Gypsy,” I replied.

She seemed pleased with my response, for her professional smile became real.

“You state the obvious,” she said. “As becomes a Doktor of Laws,”

I replied. “But to your eyes, do you not state the obvious?”

“Are you going to banter with a poor old Gypsy woman, instead of barter? That would make you suspiciously like one of us.” She said this with a growl in her throat.

“The Gypsy and the Jew,” I said, feeling the challenge which I so miss. “Perhaps an opera – but I think it’s been done to death.”

“They will try to do us all unto death,” she said harshly, and turned away.

I had the fear she was going to leave me without another word, but what she did was to spit fulsomely onto the street.

“They can’t kill us all,” I said, but I knew she heard the doubt in my voice.

She slowly faced me again.

“So. Even a Doktor of Laws can have hope. That is refreshing – but foolish.” She took my hand and felt my palm roughly with her thumb, although all the while her eyes never left my face. “You are going to travel.”

“Travel is a vague word. One can go on many types of voyage.”

“And reach many destinations,” she added, still holding my hand. “If you take away my vagueness, you take away my trade.”

“Then let me pay you for your services right now.”

This transaction would make her loose my hand, which is what I wanted most of all. She had frightened me, for her eyes and face were full of truth. I know the truth. I know it when it presents itself, stark and unobscured. I search out truth endlessly, yet still can flee at its approach. As in her eyes. But she gripped me more fiercely, and pulled my hand up.

“The coin, Herr Doktor.” Her voice was now soft. “The coin can wait.”

She at last lowered her eyes and looked closely at my palm. She rubbed the lines and whorls of my skin. She touched her finger to her lips, and spread the moisture along my hand.

“Your lifeline, Herr Doktor,” she took a quick look in my eyes, “of Laws. You deceive with the youth upon your face. Is that not so?”

“If your eyes stop at the mask, then no, the years have not etched themselves deeply.”

“Not on your face, Herr Doktor of Laws.” Her grip was intense. “But on your palm…” She hissed. “You will soon embark upon that final voyage.”

She released my hand, rubbed her fingers across her sleeve.

“But you will not go in haste. There will be many stops along the way.”

Suddenly her face was full of the most beautiful smile, and her laughter was genuine.

“I see you do not complain of vagueness now.” She held out her hand. “The coin, Herr Doktor of Laws. This time I have truly earned it.”

I dug deeply into my pocket, and feared that I may have overpaid her. But, perhaps, that is not possible.

(image) https://thegraphicsfairy.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Gyspy-Lady-Bird-Hat-Image-GraphicsFairy.jpg

Valentine’s Day And Kafka And Love

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(Kafka and his fiancée, Felice)

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.

This is a part of a letter he wrote to Felice, the woman he was engaged to – twice. I think it fair to say that she was long-suffering. I would think that 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 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, and 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 who she is, and Google search even provides photos. Her name is Gerti Wastner.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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And in the spirit of Valentine’s Day and Kafka, I’ll add a bit from my 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, The Shortest Month Of The Year

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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.

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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.

Kafka Walks In A Winter Storm

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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. 

 

04 December 1917

I imagine the weather experts will howl about today’s storm the way it still howls around our ears.

Their complaints will ring with vindication. Racing unchecked across field and pasture, it strikes with a force I am unaccustomed to in Prague. Ottla was hesitant to let me out into it, but she bundled me into my winter gear, with a scarf just below my eyes.

It was too violent for me to venture far, so I just wandered around the village. I’m sure that if anyone did see me, fingers made circles as they pointed to their heads.

“The Herr Doktor,” they would warn their children. “Do not go after an education like that.”

In The New Year, Kafka Ponders His Teen-age Lover

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[Kafka’s teen-age lover, Gerti Wasner – The Swiss Girl]

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.

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03 January 1917

I still have fantasies about the Swiss girl – although not the type one might suppose.

(My father says I already have too many fantasies, and that I deal with them “too long, and too often” – he is certainly right.)

I make a mixture of what I shared with the Swiss girl, and what I imagine we would be like today.

This is certainly more fantasy than not, for what would being together have done to us?

Done to her?

But in this tiny house – could she not join me? Be here by the window, as I write this?

She was so young, and such a girl.

But I fear that I was never such a boy.

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