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Kafka In The Castle

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

xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxxo

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

leap_year_2020_key_ring-r6cfe132053c147549096695345d285ae_fupu3_8byvr_307

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.

 

A Happy New Year As Seen By Kafka From “Kafka In The Castle”

Franz Kafka

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.

 

Excerpt from : Kafka In The Castle

31 December 1916

The festivities down in the city are certainly subdued, which makes me one with the coming of the year.

There were a few shots fired into the air – which is a mockery, considering what is happening in the world. And some dismal fireworks.

Max wanted me at his party, but even he saw little point in celebration, and his entreaties were totally for form.

I understand form quite well – most of my life consists of doing the expected. Mouthing the proper words.

My letters to Felice have turned to such vehicles of propriety.

In such a way do all our days, and then our lives, acquire the necessary postmarks.

Kafka Travels In His Dreams

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Franz Kafka recorded many dreams in his diaries. Thus, I gave him many dreams in my novel, Kafka In The Castle. The novel ‘fills in’ all the days where there are no entries in his actual diaries.

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04 April 1917

Dreamed I was to take a train journey.

I tried to find my travel papers, but all the drawers were jammed shut. The cupboard doors refused to open. My wallet was stuffed with money – colourful bills worth thousands of marks – yet no passport, no police clearance.

I could find no proof of who I was, and no permission to cross borders. I feared I was going to be late, so I put on an overcoat, grabbed a small bag off the bed, and hurried from the room.

The door led directly to the station platform, and I was quickly caught in lines of people. A man in uniform  harshly requested to see our tickets, but when I explained I had been unable to find any of my documents, he pointed to my case.

Inside were passports and papers from every country in Europe. I handed him one, but over my name was a photo of hog. Another had a picture of a donkey. A third showed sheep. Rodents, insects, and finally an ape, all appearing over my name and signature.

“You are Doktor Kafka?” he demanded.

“Yes,” I answered. I was terrified – what face did I have now?

“You are the veterinarian,” he said, finally satisfied. “Down to the end of the train.” He pointed the way, and I hurried along.

I walked and walked, but the train just became longer. Box cars and cattle cars were filled with the most terrible animal clamour, and reeking of filth. And I wondered, as I searched in vain for the end of this endless train, where would my destination finally be?

[Image] https://farm1.staticflickr.com/145/424520905_d05592a972_z.jpg

November Starts “Kafka In The Castle” – How Bad Can It Get?

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[Franz & Felice]

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.

My first entry was for 26 November 1916. Close enough for me.

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26 November 1916

What I desire, and what I expect, are horrible opposites. But my desires still exist, which makes me a fool.

The reading in Munich two weeks ago was a disaster. But we learn from disaster. My work was called “repulsive” – which, of course, it is. Am I to learn from that?

And then the meeting with  Felice. The fight in the pastry shop. Am I also to learn from that?

I’ll continue to write letters. I’ll continue to hunt for our apartment. I’ll continue to have my hopes. For a while longer – hope.

But still, my eyes wince at every mirror.

Kafka And A Hungry Bird Give Thanks

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[Franz Kafka and his sister, Ottla.]

In my novel, Kafka In The Castle, I fill in the many diary entries Franz Kafka either did not make, or destroyed after the fact. He would have made no references to an actual ‘Thanksgiving Day’, but I feel this is close enough.

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30 September 1917

There was a knocking at the window this morning. A polite and concise rap rap rap. It awoke me while the room was barely light.

Who could want me so early? And then again, an insistent rap rap rap. I was confused, wondering where I was. The panic of Prague weighted down the covers, and I was sorry I had opened my eyes. The room, the smells – even the bed – was not familiar, so I was both bothered and assured by the strangeness.

When I realized I was not in Prague – for who could knock on my third floor window – I remembered I was in Zurau, where things were different. Here my window looked onto a yard, and anyone could  be at it. Was there something wrong? Was Ottla after my help? I even wondered, as I searched for my slippers, if her young man had somehow arranged leave from the army, and after much travail had managed to reach the wrong room. I could understand that very well.

I walked hesitantly over to the window, and cautiously pulled back the curtain. Such a commotion ensued that I stepped back in some fright. A bird flew immediately past the glass, its wings frantic as it screeched in agitation. It had been perched on my window ledge, pecking away at the frame. Ottla says it may have been after insects or grubs settled in for the winter.

“Insects in the walls of the house?” I asked.  “Yes.” She was quite matter-of-fact.  “It is a warm place for them during the cold months.”  I was not inclined to argue with the logic, but neither had I thought I would be existing in such close proximity with the tenants of nature.

Houses for warmth and bugs for food. It is a blend of the base and the subtle which I can appreciate. Much – I like to think – as does the annoyed bird.

Kafka Ponders Friday 13th And The Love Of A Good Woman

 

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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.

Kafka did have occasion to ponder Friday 13th. The date was connected to “The Swiss Girl”, whom he met at a resort.  She was eighteen and he was thirty-four. It is unclear how intimate their relationship became.

Twice, I give him a brief recognition of Friday 13th. In reality, The Swiss Girl haunted him (pleasantly) all his life.

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13 April 1917

I almost wrote down the year as 1913. That was the year I met the Swiss girl. And I remember her joking about, and how we had missed it by just a day. She was superstitious – Christians seem to be. I wonder what precautions she is taking today. It will be three years and seven months since I saw her. Yet some of the things we did could have happened last week. I think that memory must be made of rubber.  You can sometimes pull it toward yourself – and sometimes it snaps away like a shot. Causing as much pain.

13 July 1917

Friday the 13th again. What better time to think of the Swiss girl, than with F. I don’t know if such memories help sustain me, or if they revel how intolerable the future can sometimes be. I can not imagine the Swiss girl’s face across the table from me, nor her voice singing one of her quiet songs. If I must be trapped, then why can’t I be trapped in the past?

[The Swiss Girl ~ Gerti Wasner] p8.storage.canalblog.com/89/52/207513/106933578_o.gif

Kafka Never Slept In This Prague Hotel

hotel-century-old-town

When I visited Prague to research my novel, Kafka In The Castle, I went to many of the places that were part of  Kafka’s life. One such place – the small house where he wrote a whole book of short stories – became a setting for a third of my novel.

However,the building where he was employed, The Workers’ Accident Insurance Institute for the Kingdom of Bohemia in Prague, I only saw at a distance across a Square. It was not a happy place for Kafka, though he was very successful at his employ, and rose to an administrative position of importance. It was not really much of a setting for my novel.

 

That building is now a fancy hotel, and Kafka’s office is a room for rent. It is even designated The Franz Kafka room, and contains mementos. It is where I plan to stay when next I visit. I hope there is not a long list of folk wishing to spend the night there, too. It even includes a restaurant named after his fiancée, Felice.

 

Following is some information about the hotel, and some photos of the room.

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The hotel is situated in the heart of Prague, next to the Old Town Square, where the famous medieval astronomical clock is mounted on the southern wall of the Old Town City Hall. The Neo-Baroque building was built in the 19th century by Alfonse Wertmuller, a famous architect in Prague. It was formerly the office of the Workers’ Accident Insurance of Kingdom of Bohemia, where Franz Kafka worked as an insurance clerk from 1908 to 1922. His spirit can still be felt in the hotel, as his bronze bust welcomes guests in the lobby in front of the majestic stairs.
hotel-century-old-town
room
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In addition, this is one of the few diary entries I wrote, set in his office building,

 
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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