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Kafka And His Hot Summer Night Of The Dead

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Kafka’s House: Number 22

 

In my novel, Kafka In The Castle, I fill in Franz Kafka’s missing diary entries. Every day chosen is a day where he either left no record, or destroyed the pages.

On this night, he meets the woman who was the girlfriend of Kafka’s neighbour on The Alchemist’s Lane, who had killed himself. Kafka found the body. He also found a note addressed to her, which he kindly burned.

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25 July 1917

I had not been here long – the newspaper only partially read – when I thought I heard a noise at the door. A woman was framed in the open doorway, her hand still hesitant upon the wood. I rose from my chair, and she stepped back into the lane.

“Yes?” I asked.

“You knew him?” she asked in turn.

She was a slender woman, sallow complexion, and younger in age than Ottla. I walked toward the door, for it seemed apparent she was not about to enter.

“You were his neighbour – the Herr Doktor?”

She did not retreat any further, and I was now standing in the doorway.

“Oh,” I said. “You mean … ” But I had to stop, for I could not remember his name. I finally had to point to the house next door.

“Yes,” she said. “He killed himself.”

“Yes.” I had to agree.

“Did he …” she began, and I could sense her difficulty in having this discussion. “Did he say anything about me. I’m Julie.”

“We can go in, if you like. I do have a key.” I am an expert at stalling for time. “No one has moved in.”

She looked at me in disbelief, her face seeming to age as various expressions moved across it.

“No – that isn’t …” she began, staring at the other door. “I was never here. We didn’t have that type of friendship. But I have not been able to remove him from my mind. If he ever spoke of me, I care to know about it.”

My hope was that she would never ask about an envelope addressed to her.

“So you don’t wish to go in?”

“No. That means nothing to me.” She took a step closer. “Just if he talked.”

“You were his girlfriend?”

“He thought me so – though I told him differently, and offered no encouragement. But perhaps he drank too much to pay attention.”

“You were with another man?”

“He told you that? So – he did speak of me.”

“Yes.”

“What else did he say?”

There are times to tell the truth; times to expand the truth for clarification; and times to compress.

“He said that he saw you together with a man. And that he missed you.”

“Did he say anything the night he killed … the night he died?”

I didn’t pause, because I had stalled just so I could answer this question.

“He asked me if I was going to be in my house over the evening.” Here I did pause, as if in thought. “And he said he didn’t like the other people on the lane.”

“Nothing else?”

“Pleasantries – good evening, etc. He said he liked our talks.”

“He talked a lot?”

“No, not really.”

“Was there a note?”

“You should ask the police about that.” I was very calm. “They searched his house.”

“Yes, perhaps I will. He said nothing further?”

“We did not really have conversations.” I shrugged my shoulders. “He was always drunk.”

“Even that night?”

“Oh yes. The night he hanged himself – most certainly.”

“And you were the one who found…”

“Yes, Miss. And, I contacted the police.”

“He was … was dead when you found him?”

“Yes.” I looked directly into her eyes. “He did a very effective job.”

She was quiet for a moment, staring at his door. She looked along the Lane, then finally at me.

“You have been most kind, Herr Doktor. I’m sorry to have troubled you.” She did not wait for a response, and was turning away when I spoke.

“If I may ask, Miss. This happened three months ago.”

“To the night,” she said.

“Three months. Why have you waited until now?”

“It does not seem long.”  She was conscious of others on the Lane looking in our direction. “His attention – though I never asked for it – was so total and persistent, that I have felt it deserved my interest.”  She shook her head slightly. “But not any more. I wish to put an end to it.” She unexpectedly stepped toward me. “That’s all right, isn’t it, Herr Doktor?”

The question was so intense that I touched her shoulder.

“Yes. Without any doubt – yes. You’ve spent enough time on a ghost within a memory.”

I smiled, and she walked away, quickly down the Lane. Death’s hand released its grip.

 

Circles Are The Answer

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“Circles are the answer.

“Just look at any circle and you’ll see what I mean. Of course, no one else is to know about the circles. They must be very stupid if they can’t see something so obvious.

“Yet, you get hints, don’t you? All the time out there. And in your own life – the way things happen so you never get anywhere. Never change.

“The earth, of course, and the sun – well, that’s something you can see. Either way you look at it, the one goes around the other in a big circle that takes in the whole sky.

“And the earth and the sun and the moon are all round – all circles in their own right. So you have circles that are going around in circles, if you get my meaning.

“And if you look out further – reach out into the universe as far as you can go – they tell us that everything is going around everything else. Smaller circles and elongated circles which take in such large distances that numbers become forgotten.

“Now, this means that everything, eventually, comes back upon itself.

“The beginning is really the end.

“That’s what most people would think – and that’s where they make their mistake.

“You see, things don’t start by beginning – they start by ending. It’s the end that comes first in a circle, so, instead of going back to where it started, it comes back to its end.

“That explains it.”

(image)clipart-library.com/images/6ip5XjgXT.jpg

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

Moses And The Chicken (Check Your Bible If You Must)

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So it has come to this.

A mindless voice with mindless tune singing softly in the dark.

My friend, I promise you that on such a night even the sages are locked babbling in their rooms.

You think me mad?

“Well, my boyze.”  (I talk in my best W.C. Fields voice).

“Well, my boyze. I had a hen who could lay a Golden Calf.

“And this weird guy – Moses was his name – yass, this Mozaz threw these stone tablets – threw, I say – these stone tablets on my hen, and killed her.

“Feathers everywhere.

“And I asked him – I said to him –  Mozaz, why did you flatten my hen and make the feathers fly?

“And he said to me  (can you believe this) – he said to me: `W. C., I was damn hungry.’

“And then I knew,

“My little chickadee,

“My little bottom-soft dumpling,

“I knew from that moment,

“The man was not sincere.”

DE

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Taking A Vacation – But Not So Much

In a discussion about vacations today, I made the comment that I don’t consider I have had a vacation for forty years.  I doubt I was believed and, I’ll accept, it probably isn’t even true. But, when is a writer ever off? Ideas appear at will (not my will) and characters demand that attention must be paid. This can happen any day, and usually every day. This ain’t no complaint, as writer’s block is far worse.

Still, I think I’ll slip some blogs in that I have already done before. There may be no rhyme nor reason for my choices, but, this one came to mind because I think a character somewhat like The Gypsy Lady might have just appeared in my current manuscript. A totally different story and situation, but …

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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.

DE

(image)thegraphicsfairy.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/GypsyViolin-GraphicsFairy1.jpg

When The Government Changes 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.

DE

Fame And Suicide – A One Way Voyage

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(image) http://www.merkel-die-jagd.de/uploads/tx_templavoila/doppelflinten-feinstes-doppel-aus-suhl_21.jpg

Fame And Suicide/Suicide and fame. The two flirt and then consummate often enough to make one take note.

If someone gets everything they hoped for … or wanted … or expected  … then there is not much left to live for.  Boredom aims the gun or ties the rope.

There are other factors, of course. We can never know another person well enough to tell how they think or feel. The majority of famous people do not remove themselves from this earth. A number of them indeed relish the attention.

More than mere success sent Virginia Woolf walking into the River Ouse.  Ernest Hemingway had personal demons aplenty when he reached for the shotgun.

However, these days Fame stalks those who are famous. Although a famous author does not attract the attention of a famous entertainer, or sports figure, or politician, an author’s fame spreads beyond the usual world of books and readings and tours.

Fame guarantees that attention must be paid. The media makes Fame supersede the reason for the fame. Fame is the elephant in the room, always poised to turn rogue.

Creating is difficult enough.

Creating is time-consuming enough.

Creating is isolating enough.

Fame magnifies all these things and sometimes ignites an unrelenting blaze.

DE

The Amazing Grace Of Old Time Religion

tablets

So it has come to this.

A mindless voice with mindless tune singing softly in the dark.

My friend, I promise you,  on such a night even the sages are locked babbling in their rooms.

You think me mad?

“Well, my boyze.” (I talk in my best W.C. Fields voice).

“Well, my boyze. I had a hen who could lay a Golden Calf. And this weird guy – Moses was his name – yass. This Mo-zaz threw these stone tablets – threw, I say – these stone tablets on my hen, and killed her.

Feathers everywhere.

And I asked him – I said to him – hey, Mo-zaz, why did you flatten my hen and make the feathers fly?

And he said to me – can you believe this – he said to me:

‘W. C., I was damn hungry.’

And I knew –  my little chickadee, my little bottom-soft dumpling –   I knew from that moment, that the man was not sincere.”

DE

(image) http://www.barcelonafootballblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/tablets.jpg

God And Death Keep Me From Poetry

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Admittedly,  I had set out later than I should, but the poetry readings were to go from 7-9. Enough time to attend some of them.
However, when I was a few blocks away from the harbour ( I was also going to stop by the harbour first) I heard Latin chanting. I greatly enjoy Latin chanting, so imagine my surprise.
 It turned out there was a large tent set up in a parking lot beside the Roman Catholic cathedral. Six men were chanting a service for a small group. It seemed related (in some way) to the jazz festival happening in the city. They had mics and lights. I lingered by the  fence and listened. Evocative and effective.
I did feel I should go to the poetry readings, so off I went. But I gave in to my temptation of visiting the harbour.
As I sat looking out to sea,  an elderly, white haired man struck up a conversation. A visitor who had arrived by train for a week of vacation. The first vacation without his wife, dead these fourteen months. She was eighty-four. When he said this, he saw the look of surprise on my face.
“Bet you can’t guess my age,” said he.
I answered, with some truth, that I never answer that question.
“Eighty-one,” he said.
I granted I would have shaved a dozen years off his age.
“Married sixty years,” he said. Always had travelled with her. Always went by car. “But it wouldn’t be the same,” he said. So he took the train.
So – yes – I stayed to talk to him.
“Get up every morning to fill the day is my motto,” he said.
I answered his questions about the islands, and if the helicopters flying overhead were military, and if all the ships needed the use of the tugboats we were standing beside, and was there somewhere close he could buy magazines, and how he got this real good travel deal through CAA, and how he talks to everyone.
“Is that really the ocean out there?”
He pointed.
I nodded.
It was.
DE

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