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Kafka

Kafka Wants To Light A Fire – Well … Not Really

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Much is made – again and again – about Kafka’s famous request to his friend, Max Brod, that all his manuscripts be burned unread. That included all his fiction, all his letters, and all his diaries.  Consigned to the flames and removed from the earth.

Had this been done, most of the work for which Kafka is famous would never be known, for little was published during his life. His skewed yet realistic outlook on life, now famously known as Kafkaesque, would not be classed in every dictionary. A touchstone, known the world over, would have been lost. Kafka might, at best, been remembered as the man who wrote about the bug.

Brod gets a bum rap about defying Kafka’s direction to burn all his manuscripts. Yes, Kafka did indeed make this request of Brod. He apparently made it a few times, both verbally and in writing.  Each time, Bord told him outright he would not follow Kafka’s request. “It ain’t” – if I might slip into a vernacular the erudite Brod would ever use – “going to be me, chum.”

Another prominent time  Kafka refused to do something that he could have easily done himself, concerned his famous Letter To His Father. Instead of handing (or sending) the letter  to his father, he gave it to his mother to pass on, knowing full well his mother would not be part of causing such discord. And – in fact – his father never read the letter.

If Kafka really wanted all his manuscripts burned, he could have just as easily (indeed – more easily) done it himself. He certainly did burn much of what he wrote. Brod once found him doing it. It is estimated he burned 70-80% of his own work.

Kafka might have renewed his written request near the end of his life, but he made it to the one man whom he knew would not do it.

That was Kafka

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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.

New Year & Kafka Meet In Prague

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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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31 December 1917

The end of the year. The end of a love. The ebb of a life. Even the Empire can not last much longer.

 

01 January 1918

It is strange how we are expected to wake up on a Tuesday morning – just as any Tuesday morning – and be full of hope because it’s the first day of some arbitrarily appointed year.

I walk the streets and it is still Prague.

(image)https://cloud10.todocoleccion.online/coleccionismo/tc/2013/11/19/12/40061270.jpg

Kafka Writes On New Year’s Eve

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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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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.

(image)https://images.cdn1.stockunlimited.net/preview1300/happy-new-year-2018_2078851.jpg

Kafka Aims At The New 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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26 December 1916

The saints and the sinners can sometimes sing together.

 

27 December 1916

Ottla says I am staying here too late into the night. But she is implying more. I am certain she is soon to tell me that I should stay in her tiny house all night. Sleep here. Have things prepared and ready so I could go directly to the office in the morning. But the office must be more than just distance from this place.

 

28 December 1916

Another wretched letter to F. A response to anguish and accusation. Perhaps Ottla is only half right. Perhaps I should shut myself up into this hovel from morning to night and then night to morning. Let the snow pile to the rooftops, and become as hidden and secure as any mouse in its burrow. And if I dare push my snout through the snow to snuff at the air, they can all be standing with shovels at the ready to pile me in deeper. That would be best.

I can not take love, and I certainly can not give love. Not what is expected, and certainly not what is needed. To express what I feel is indeed like yelling through a mountain of snow. It is absorbed. It is deflected. It is diffused. By the time my love reaches the real world, it is a ghost which – although it can not be seen – can still cause a person to shiver. If I did not know that for a couple of times – especially with the Swiss girl in Italy – my love had possessed a body, I would bar the door forever.

(image)https://www.theneweuropean.co.uk/image/policy:1.5268806:1510056106/image/gettyimages-2662796.jpg?$p=692ce63

Kafka And A Husky Meet On Christmas Eve

cute dog hasky running in winter

Someone just walked a pure white husky through the snow storm on the other side of the street. Too far away to note blue eyes on the dog. In my novel,  Kafka In The Castle, I gave Kafka a dream about a husky. Kafka’s dream, however, was based on the very true event which happened to me as I took a country walk. Fitting for what I just saw, and the time of year.

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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24 December 1916

Dreamed I was in Amerika last night – playing with a Husky.

The dog was all white, and possessed an intelligent face. The shape of the muzzle made it look as if it were smiling – even laughing – and having a good time. It was free, and could do such things.

It did not speak, but that does not mean I thought it incapable of speech. I played with him, and because of his gentle persistence, we went running through the snow together. I chased him as he wanted, along a winding trail and through young woods.

I hid from him once, and he was much confused, his breath hard, and his feet scratching across the snow as he came back to look for me. I jumped out of my snow cover with a shout. He smiled at me, and he nearly spoke.

I looked for him, this morning, on the way to work. And then again, tonight, as I came up to the castle. Before I leave, I shall gaze into the Stag Moat from my darkened window. The snow there must be the purest in the city. If I see him, will I give chase?

(image)https://www.huskypuppiesinfo.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Siberian-Husky-Off-Lead-in-Snow.jpg

Kafka Settles Into December from “Kafka In The Castle”

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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.

In these entries, the chill of winter begins to settle over the chill of his life.

10 December 1916

My father is so suspicious, he rarely suspects what is really going on around him. He has no idea that Ottla has rented this house, or that I come here like a thief in the night. He would think that it is another plot against him. And, he is right about the plots – but he’ll never realize they are done solely for defensive purposes. Which is a shame, for he fully appreciates self-preservation.

Of course, even I do not fully know Ottla’s reasons for renting this tiny house. I suspect a young man is involved, but I will keep my queries to myself. It is not the place to bring Felice – but is nice enough to set out on new adventures. I’ve had adventures in less suitable surroundings. The shop girls. The hotels with their chilly rooms.

12 December 1916

Max wants me to publish more. He may even wish upon me the horror of his own proliferation. His novels, and stories, and all his comments and reviews about the “arts”. I do not tell him this, for I think he would be greatly offended, but much of the time my opinions do not even interest me.

 

14 December 1916

Overheard a woman talking to Max today – complained of being lonely. But what it sounded like to me was that she was only tired. She had children at home, family in the neighbourhood, and friends (obviously) whom she could talk to. Yet, she chooses to feel lonely. Yes, her husband is in the war, but a partial loss does not make one lonely. Perhaps alone – but that is entirely different. Being lonely is waking from a nightmare, and realizing there is no one to wake you.

Fall Harvest from “Kafka In The Castle”

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In my novel, Kafka In The Castle, where I fill in the diary entries that Kafka left blank, I have him visit (as he, in real life, did) his sister Ottla. She had moved to a small village to manage her brother-in-law’s farm.

(In the photo, Kafka is at the far right, while Ottla is in the middle.)

10 October 1917

A rainy day which halted most of the harvest. I thought there would be grumbling, and the kitchen filled with men drinking tea. But if I’m here long enough, I’ll learn. I discovered that during harvest, most regular chores are put aside, so when some time appears, there is as much activity as ever. Plus, there is the additional anxiety over how long the produce will be delayed in the field. I’m certain that Ottla looks out the window every ten minutes, and asks my opinion of the rain every half hour. I have learned to look with my knowing farmer’s eye, and nod, and grunt. So far Ottla never fails to laugh.

11 October 1917

Another day of rain. Apparently, it isn’t just the delay the rain is causing as it falls, but if the fields become too wet, the farmers will still have to wait for the earth to dry out enough so they can work in it. Even Ottla had not been aware of this. She assumed – as did I – that when the rain ceased, she could resume in the fields. Also, some of the produce will rot if left too long. So, a decision must soon be made whether or not to go into the fields in the rain.

It will be difficult and awkward work, and will also mean much damaged and lost produce. There will be a meeting tomorrow of all the farmers, for they will help each other. Ottla surprised me when, after the supper dishes were done, she told me she wished father were present, so she could ask his advice. Wouldn’t that startle him? Sometimes one must give credit even to father – he was never afraid to make decisions.

A Birthday Day A Century Apart Via Kafka And Me

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When I wrote my novel, Kafka In The Castle, filling in all of Kafka’s missing diary entries, I discovered something  interesting a few months into it. The day/month/year I was writing about, mirrored the day/month/year in which I was actually doing the writing.

For example, if the third of July was a Friday in my year, it was also Friday, 03 July in 1917. It was quite an exciting surprise, and made (I think) for more immediate writing.

Alas, my own birthday of 19 September was already filled in by Kafka, and I had nothing to do.

The following is Kafka’s actual entry for 19 September, 1917.

Following it, is the entry I gave him for  his own birthday, 03 July 1917.

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19 (September 1917)

Instead of telegram: “Very welcome station Michelob is excellent Franz Ottla” I wrote a farewell letter, and once again strongly oppressed agonies.

 

Farewell letter however, is ambiguous, as my opinion.

 

It is the age of the wound, more than its depth and proliferation, which constitutes its painfulness.

 

To be torn up again and again in the same wound canal, the countless wound operated again treated.

 

The fragile moody void essence – a telegram swaying, a letter directs it, animated it, the silence after the letter makes it dull.

 

The game of the cat with the goats. The goats are similar: Polish Jews, Uncle Siegfried, Ernst Weiß, Irma

 

Various but similar strict inaccessibility of the creator Hermann (who has now gone away without a supper and salutation, the question is whether he will come tomorrow), of Fraulein, the Marenka.

 

Basically, they are oppressed on the other side, as in front of the animals in the stable, when they are asked for something and they follow astonishingly.

 

The case is only more difficult here, because they seem so often accessible and quite understandable.

 

It is always inconceivable to me that almost anyone who can write is able to objectify the pain in pain.

 

For example, in misfortune, perhaps with the burning misfortune, and to tell someone in writing: I am unhappy.

 

Yes, I can go beyond it, and in various pranks, depending on the gift, which seems to have nothing to do with the misfortune, simply or antithetically, or with whole orchestras of associations.

 

And it is not a lie at all, and does not nurture the pain; it is simply a graceful excess of the forces at a moment when the pain has visibly exhausted all my powers to the ground of my being, which he scrapes. What is the surplus?

 

Letter to Max. Liar, vain, comedic.

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

From: Kafka In The Castle

03 July 1917

The date of my birth. Thirty-four years ago in a month I now dread because of the heat. I’m not much for stock-taking (thus certainly not much my father’s son.) What has been done can’t be changed, so thoughts about it are wasted effort. Lessons to be learned – that’s all. But the dreaded “future” – this is the battlefield. I’m convinced the bulk of my life is over, and any work to be done should not be delayed. Perhaps this is why I abandon things, so anxious am I to get on to the new.

In celebration of today, I did not make it my last.

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