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Kafka Had A Father For Life

hermann-kafka1

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. 

Kafka’s father gets a bad (and unwarranted) rap from Kafka and history. Hermann Kafka was emotionally distant, and devoted his life to his business (at which he was very successful). But he did this as much for his family, as for any other reason. He had come from hardship, poverty and want, and he wished different for his children. As long as they didn’t get in his way.

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

01 January 1917

              There was a cloud caught in the branches of a tree today, outside my parents home. Or so it appeared. I got up from the cot and went to tell Ottla, but she was clearing the kitchen, tending to the dishes.

So I was radical, unthinking – driven by haste – and told the only one not consumed by labour. I told my father.

“In the trees?” he asked.

I propelled him from his chair, thrusting the papers aside. He followed me, and I could see the surprise on his face.

“Where?” he asked; and I pointed out the window. “But I see nothing.”  

“Oh, you have to lie on the cot.”  

“On the cot?”  

“And with your head just so.”

I pushed him onto it, and he lay, looking sideways.

“But you are right,” he said.

I thought, because of the holiday, he might be humouring me, but then I saw that his jaw hung open, and his face was astonished.

Does the boy never grow, that he can feel so good to be vindicated by his father?

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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.

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

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

Train Station Saved By Becoming House of Booze

 

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I was first at this train station in the late 1950s, to greet my Mother’s mother, who travelled by ship from England.
She first went to Saint John’s, and then (I guess) Halifax. She stayed with us two months or more, with one trip (I bet by train) to Ontario to see a sister (Great Aunt Lizzie, who sent me a toy where you squeezed a rubber ball attached to a hose that pushed air into a small box which made it pop open and a snake coiled out. I called the snake Lizzie, which caused some consternation).

Also, my brother’s first memory of my father was seeing a pair of legs waiting at the bottom of a rail car as he and Mom disembarked. I assume this was also the York St. Station. He would have been three. Dad was away on the continent fighting a war when he was born and, at war’s end, had been shipped directly back to Canada.

And – of course – I lived ten minutes away from this station for thirty-four years. Many and many are the times I walked the tracks to go to UNB, both as a student, and for work at the University Library. Many was the Sunday walk I took from the Station to the Princess Margaret Bridge, which was two kilometres away. Then I walked back beside the river.

I also took a number of train trips to and from this station. And during those times the train finally did not physically come into this station, one took a bus from here, to and fro the Fredericton Junction station.

This  unexpected walk down memory lane is caused by my current character, Alison Alexandra. For the last three days I have been describing Alison Alexandra sitting beside a disused train station (now a museum), waiting for a train to pass so she can wave at the engineer. Which she did.

Here is the link that describes how this station – eventually – was revived from its years of abandonment, and its derelict situation, to become a modern place of commerce.

Kafka *Welcomes* In The New Year From My Novel “Kafka In The Castle”.

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In my novel, Kafka In The Castle, I fill in his missing diaries. Perhaps , tellingly, he made no entries in either of these years.

 

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.

 

01 January 1917

There was a cloud caught in the branches of a tree today, outside my parents home. Or so it appeared. I got up from the cot and went to tell Ottla, but she was clearing the kitchen, tending to the dishes. So I was radical, unthinking – driven by haste – and told the only one not consumed by labour. I told my father. “In the trees?” he asked. I propelled him from his chair, thrusting the papers aside. He followed me, and I could see the surprise on his face. “Where?” he asked; and I pointed out the window. “But I see nothing.”  “Oh, you have to lie on the cot.”  “On the cot?”  “And with your head just so.” I pushed him onto it, and he lay, looking sideways. “But you are right,” he said. I thought because of the holiday he might be humouring me, but then I saw that his jaw hung open, and his face was astonished. Does the boy never grow, that he can feel so good to be vindicated by his father?

 

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

 

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.

A Meal With Kafka And His Family

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[Ottla ~ Kafka’s little sister]

I have filled in the missing diaries of Franz Kafka in my novel Kafka In The Castle. Speculation on my part, of course, but based on actual incidents.

~~~~~

15 April 1917

I’ve just come from the train station. Seeing Ottla off to Zurau. She didn’t take much with her – I had little to carry. Very little help to give. She had not planned to go for another couple of weeks, but father took her to task at today’s dinner. He was vile even by his standards. I like to think he was really trying to stop her. You can stop someone by destroying them. Perhaps that is always his strategy.

She didn’t get to finish her meal – although, I suppose, throwing it across the table is one way of finishing it. A plate of soup which splattered against his chest, turning the shirt dark. “There you see it.”  He bellowed as he stood up from the table.  “Yes, yes. There it is.”  His voice growled, and spittle was on his lips. The rest of us were immobile. Even mother did not bustle forward to try to clean the mess, or make her usual noises to calm him down. His face flushed red, and his hands trembled in front of him, but for once he made no reference to his heart, or the other ailments he claims. Ottla did not look in his direction, but glanced at her sisters. and then at me.

I had the greatest desire to continue eating my soup. I wished some words of reason could come out of my mouth; that things could be made right, and we would go on to the next course of this ghastly meal. I wished these things all the while I looked up to father – and smiled.  “There! There!”  This time he did step back from the table. “There is the Herr Son. At last the true villain bares his teeth. The old cur teaching the bitch her new tricks. This educated misfit who knows nothing of children and families. Who never even knew how to be a proper child.”

I am sure the only reason father did not throw his food at me was because he did not think of it.  “The Herr Doktor who does not have a wife – who can not please a woman enough to make her stay. This has turned my family against me. I should rip him apart like a fish.” He made tearing motions with his hands. “The head just so – snapping it back to carry out the spine.”  And then he smiled at me – a mocking grin.  “If there is a spine in this particular minnow.”

He made motions as if to wipe his fingers on his shirt, and looked down with genuine surprise when they brushed against the dampness of the soup. Mother was standing by this time, and father looked at her with his mouth open. His hands fell to his side, and he finally looked at Ottla. “You disgrace your parents. The whores of Russia act better than you.”  “Then it is a shame I can’t get to Russia.”  Ottla stood carefully, though she shoved her chair back with enough deliberation to hit the wall. “I would truly be rid of you.”

She looked right at him, her face without expression.  “But I can go to Zurau. That I can do this evening. I’ll not have to stay another night under this roof. Within the reach of your contamination.” She walked from the room without looking back.  “You’ll think differently, after a few days on the farm. When your hands are blistered, and your body aching. Then you will be glad to return here, to the comforts of your home.”  I rose to follow Ottla, to be with her, and to help if I could.  “If you leave this table to go to her, then you are no son of mine.”  I looked father in the face as I passed, and smiled again. “How I pray you could accomplish that.”

(image)img2.ct24.cz/cache/900×700/article/11/1097/109616.jpg

 

Mother And Son In Thirteenth Century Europe

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Exercpt from: China Lily

Matzerath’s mother rarely shared her thoughts with anyone. She is as elusive now as when he was a small boy being raised within the shadow of the religious buildings where she still works as a cook. Bishops and abbots come and go, and red-robed Princes of the Church make their visits, for which she must dress appropriately – but she remains. At least Matzerath assumes she is still there, though he has not been back for five years.

Matzerath is small in stature and taken to be younger than he is. At thirteen he is treated as seven. He allows this because he finds there are more advantages then penalties. He knows far more than is expected of him, and avoids many pitfalls through the guile no one expects he has. He also achieves more than is expected from him, and is given much leeway for a child. Had his real age been obvious, he would be perceived as dim-witted. Because he is thought of as a child, he is considered gifted.

Matzerath’s mother is aware of how her son is tolerated – she even encourages his guile. He is treated better than most children, whose father is absent months at a time sailing the North Sea.

Matzerath is also getting an education of sorts, which is generally restricted to the children of nobles and the wealthy. He has learned how to read and write, along with the rudiments of mathematics and geography. He also pokes his nose into the stables, and the smithy, and the carpenters, picking up their basic skills.

He follows his own mother with interest, and can chose, prepare and present many of the dishes she serves at the Monastery. For the notables at the cathedral, and other clergy, she is expected to produce more sophisticated fare. Matzerath has even acquired some of these skills, but a puny child is forbidden to appear near the high table. He does get to nibble the leavings but notes – as he also does at the Monastery – that very little is ever left.

Matzerath would have been content to stay in this arduous life seasoned with episodes of interest and learning, but his elusive nature is discovered by a visiting bishop.

The Bishop is a militant with evangelical frenzy. He is intent upon forming a Children’s Crusade to march to the Holy Land. Matzerath is not sure what this means, though he gathers it will offer an opportunity to leave the confines of the town and local villages where he has spent his life. His mother is better informed.

Even though the last Children’s Crusade happened generations ago, and the Church proclaims it was a wondrous act for the Glory of God, she is fully aware that most of the children never came back. And that the Holy Land is still lost to the grip of heathens. The murmurs from the Monastery and the high table reveal this bishop to be a renegade and unsound in judgment. His ‘new’ crusade is predicted to be a disaster. His abilities to lead it are a joke. However, he does have the ear of the Pope, and his family has much wealth to give to the Church.

Matzerath does not possess an abundant affection for his mother – not for anyone – but he realizes that regardless of the amount of work she extracts from him, she generally does what is best for him. He pays attention to her instructions and her observations and her warnings. She also encourages him to tell her what he sees and hears. As he becomes older, she also wants to know what he thinks about the things he sees. Matzerath realizes she is using him as a spy, but he does not mind. He knows his mother sometimes manipulates the information he brings for her own well-being, but these rewards also come to him.

Matzerath heeds the warnings his mother gives about some of the priests and monks and their interest in boys. He discovers this himself upon a couple of occasions, and even satisfies one priest just to see what it is like. He shares this with his mother because he knows she sometimes does the same.

DE

(image)http://www.ancient-origins.net/sites/default/files/Episode-of-the-Child-Crusade.jpg

Classical Music Shakes The Child

Fortissimo

As a child, sometime before Grade One, I encountered a radio/gramophone combination that frightened the music right out of me.

I assume I must have heard the radio before. And I would think I had heard music before. But maybe not to this degree. And certainly not in such volume.

My visual memory is of the odd configuration to the house. We lived in a flat over a commercial garage. There had to be a number of rooms, but I only remember two large connected rooms, going the length of the house. They were each elongated as it was, and were the stuff of apprehension at the best of times. At dusk, or in the evening, there was the feeling of entering some other world. Not a forest perhaps, but a place of shadows where animals and other assorted unpleasant surprises could stalk my passage. And then – presumably – they could leap out, regardless of how carefully one manoeuvred through the gloom. I don’t know if I ever told my parents of this gauntlet I had to face at certain times of the day. But it certainly gave me pause at the best of times. And dusk was not the best of times. Or a weekend family get together after supper. Which is what I believe this was.

I know I was part way through one of the rooms, and getting ready to enter the other. There was still a distance to walk when a loud noise filled the air. I was frightened, but did not run or duck. I froze. It was music. It would not have been an unknown sound, so that is probably why I did not flee.

However, it was music as I had never heard it. I peered the length of the second room, but saw nothing different. I saw my parents seated – as they often were – beside the radio. They were obviously happy and not frightened by the ‘noise’. I was both stock-still and confused. Since they were not troubled I decided to run to them.

I don’t know if the music was in some manner explained to me (I presume it would have been). What they were listening to was an LP of orchestral classical music. My knowledge now makes me imagine it was something wonderfully bombastic by Tchaikovsky. I presume they might have been playing it louder than their usual radio programs. But it made a stirring impression on me, lasting decades.

DE

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Budapest Classical Music Concerts

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