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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

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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. 

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

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

Fall Harvest from “Kafka In The Castle”

kafka_franz_ottla_sirem

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.

When The Government And Country Fell, from “Kafka In The Castle”

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Excerpt from Kafka In The Castle

I agreed only to answer questions – that way I could not be accused of fermenting treason.

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.

Happy Birthday, Franz Kafka!

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Yes, 03 July is Kafka’s birthday.
Imagine all the celebrations running rampant in the world.
No doubt a hearty rendition of “Hip hip hooray” and the occasional exuberant “Huzzah!”, echo through each major city and every quiet hamlet.
In my novel about him, Kafka In The Castle, I gave him this diary entry.
03 July 1918
 
The anniversary of my birth.

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

Franz Kafka Asks An Age-Old Question (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.

11 June 1918

“What if?”

That was a game I used to play with my sisters when we were little: What if we were children of the Emperor? What if we dug a hole in the ground all the way to China? What if we had our own house? What if we lived by the ocean? What if we went to church (those mysterious churches)? What if we lived on the moon, would we be able to yell down our greetings? Ottla had the least interest in the game, yet she made up the best questions.

I find today that when I `what if’, I don’t think so much of the future, but wonder about those things I might have done in my past, which I ignored or refused.

Felice, of course, with two engagements never fulfilled.

Other work – I’m a good enough lawyer, I could get other work.

Prague – this ornate tomb – to have lived a life elsewhere. Berlin, Palestine, Amerika. Zurau.

What if I had fled with the Swiss girl? Her youth, her zest – I might have learned to sing.

What if I were less exact – less austere?

What I might have written.

What I might have lived.

What if I had asked far fewer questions – and taken more time to better understand the answers.

(image)https://pbs.twimg.com/profile_images/1757693365/if-book_thumbnail.jpg

In Honour Of The Queen’s 92nd Birthday

<> on June 24, 2015 in Berlin, Germany.

 

In my novels where HM The Queen occasionally appears, one of those instances is after her own mother’s death at 101 years. Here is a meeting between my protagonist, ST, facilitated by the Royal Steward, Howard.

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

 

“Howard?”

“Sir.”

As it is the most of formal protocol days ST must accept that Howard is first and foremost a Steward of the Queen. He will be guided, he will be ushered, he will be tended to with the utmost of discretion.

“A sad occasion, Howard.”

“Leavened a touch this time around, Sir.”

This is Howard’s way of informing him that all – more or less – is as it should be.

“Please convey to Her Majesty my deepest condolences.”

“You may do so yourself, Sir.” Howard indicates for another member of the staff to continue greeting the flow of arriving vehicles. “If you’ll follow me.”

This is unexpected. ST had been surprized enough to be invited back to what he assumed would be a somber buffet in one of the State reception rooms. There would be small talk and a hurried atmosphere as most of the Royal family would soon be on their way to the internment at Windsor Castle.

“Whose idea is this?” ST asks the question to Howard’s retreating back as he follows the other man along the front of the palace.

“Whilst on duty, Sir, I have no ideas of my own.”

They enter a section of the palace unknown by ST. They come to a door that Howard has to unlock. He uses no swipe card nor keypad but a substantial metal key upon an equally impressive key ring. When they are through the door Howard locks it behind them.

The corridor is far shorter than the length they have just walked. ST guesses they are near the back lawns and gardens. He wonders if he is going to be taken to the pond he stood beside so many years ago, and if he will have the chance to skip stones again. However, in less than a minute, Howard turns sharply along an unexpected hallway and shortly stops in front of a set of double doors.

“Our destination, Sir.”

ST makes a quick appraisal of his person, tugging a coat tail and smoothing his hair. He questions the steward with a glance and Howard nods his head before he knocks on the door. ST can’t tell if Howard actually hears a response or if there is a designated seven seconds before he swings the doors open.

“Your Majesty.”

“Come in, Howard.”

ST notes that Howard unusually precedes him into the room instead of standing aside and then following. He is also surprized that when he himself enters the room Howard does not close the door behind him.

“Your Majesty.”

“Thank you for attending.”

“Your mother made a profound passage through Time. You’re welcome.”

The Queen is mid-room, standing beside an ornate floor lamp. The room is not a large audience chamber but a smaller sitting room or den. There are comfortable chairs and books on shelves and a writing table. In one corner is a television and a discreet bar.

“Yes, she did.” The Queen finally approaches ST with hand outstretched. “She put every year to use.”

“Yes, Ma’am.” ST takes the Queen’s hand, ungloved and barely adorned, and shakes it gently. He looks her in the eye as she does to him and finds a calmness he did not expect.

“Come to the window.”

“Ma’am.”

He follows her across the room and notes that Howard, although unbidden, does the same. They stand in a line before the broad panes of glass.

“My mother did not often reside in this palace as she believed it rightfully belonged to the current monarch.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“Appearances.”

“Ma’am.”

“Howard tells me you are finding out about appearances.”

“Yes.” ST does not hide his glance toward the steward. “I am discovering that it is others who do not permit me to be on an equal footing.”

“Exactly so.” The Queen smiles. “And does Howard instruct?”

“I suspect so, Ma’am.” ST also smiles. “But with Howard, who can ever know?”

“Oh, we live and learn from that one.”

The Queen looks away from the men and stares out the window. Since ST is here by request and no polite dismissal has occurred, he realizes the audience is not over. He also realizes, standing and looking onto a burgeoning garden, that this may be one of the quietest rooms he has ever been in. There is not a sound reaching them from the great city of London, nor from the bustle of the palace.

“When my mother did come here, this was her favourite room with her favourite view.” The Queen points out the window. “She would often spend an afternoon here after some public or family function – the two often intertwined.”

“As she would often point out, Ma’am.”

ST almost snorts in surprize for Howard has just given the Queen a verbal nudge. He assumes this is part of a steward’s job, but ST has never seen it done.

“Yes, Howard.” The Queen glances at him. “My mother was a ‘public’ person over sixty years. She both resented and appreciated the fact that she had forty years without.”

“Both, Ma’am?” ST is struck by the notion for not only does it sound contradictory but he is startled to realize he has similar feelings.

“Yes.” The Queen turns and looks directly at ST. “She appreciated the fact she did experience the younger portion of her life where she lived almost normally. She resented the fact that by having that experience she lived the rest of her life knowing what she was missing.”

“And you, Ma’am?”

“I was not born to be a Queen but as long as Uncle David had no issue I was always reminded I was Heir Presumptive. My youth had some normality but I was never allowed to go my own way. “She pauses to look out the window. “I have never known what I am missing but I am aware I am always missing something.”

“Do you think that is worse?”

“How can I compare?”

ST has no answer for this and hopes it is rhetorical. That you can’t really know one thing without experiencing its opposite is a nugget found in the core of Space/Time – and Space/Time rules the world.

“Howard’s body language is urging me on.”

“Is it, Majesty?” It is Howard himself who asks the question. “Uncharted waters, Ma’am. I apologize.”

“You’re being protective, Howard.” The Queen nods. “It’s appreciated.”

Kafka And Friday the Thirteenth (13th)

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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.

I do 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 Friday the thirteenth, 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.

Kafka Encounters The Storm And Weather Of Spring

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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. This is how I imagined he spent the beginning of Spring a hundred years ago. He was staying with his sister on a farm in a small village a train trip from Prague

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20 March 1918

Tomorrow is the first day of spring. But today it is cold, and raining in torrents. “Welcome to a Bohemian spring.” was the greeting – and the sympathy – of the hired hand. “You may wish you were back in Prague, Herr Doktor.” But then, he doesn’t know Prague.

As usual, Ottla saw to it that her ill and elderly brother was taken care of as much as possible. She encountered me in the shed with an armful of paraphernalia. The winds preclude the use of an umbrella (which sight might be too strange for Zurau anyway), so I was offered either a cape to put over my winter coat, or a long, seemingly oiled garment, to replace the coat. An odd, peaked cap was affixed to my head, which supposedly channelled the water to fall behind me. There was a walking stick (which I rather fancied) to help me probe the depth of puddles and streams. And finally a pair of thick and uncomfortable boots, which came to just below my knees. Into which I had to carefully tuck my trousers. After all this was accomplished, Ottla pointed to my person and said “But I’ve forgotten to get … ” However, I did not wait for further entanglement. Prepared, as even Noah was for his own deluge, I fled into the afternoon.

 

21 March 1918

Colder than it has been for the past couple of weeks. Around here called a “cold snap”. Enough to return ice to the puddles. Otherwise it is a glorious and sunny day. When it is said that someone can change their mind like the weather, this is what they must mean. It was joy to go into it (no hour of preparation from Ottla), and I went for a longer than usual walk. The warmth of the sun upon my face. The wind – fortunately – at my back when I returned. Content as the dumbest of animals.

(image)http://www.davidfirth.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/winter-to-spring2.jpg

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