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Kafka Greets February, The Shortest Month Of The 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.

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

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.

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Going Up And Down In Montréal

 

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(Place Ville Marie)

At one time I shared a whole house with four other people. Two were in the process of becoming lawyers. I noted that most of their stories did not contain much whimsy. The following is a story one of the fellows told us. I, of course, make up the dialogue but, though fiction, it is based on his facts.

*********************

“I don’t mean to stare – I apologise. I’m not in the habit of doing this, but you remind me of someone. That has to sound like a line – the look on your face. But I’m not after ….

“Have you ever been in the train station at Place Ville Marie in Montréal? The escalators that come up by the Queen Elizabeth Hotel.  I had a lot of travel to get to work when I lived in Montréal, and made train and bus connection.

“No, thanks. I don’t want another.

“One morning – a Thursday – as I was going up the escalator, I saw a girl coming down from the street. She had short red hair – that’s the main reason I’ve been staring – and a green skirt with a white blouse. Coming down that escalator, with that wide space between us. She was looking at me the way I was looking at her – interest and excitement and whatever potential that leads to. We stared into each others eyes as we came level, and craned to look back as we passed.

“I guess I’ll have another of the same, after all.

“That was stupid enough. I should have jumped that barrier, or at least gone down after her. But I had a job, and was young, and things like that just don’t happen.

“Next morning, even though I was looking for her, and hoping so much, I couldn’t have been more shocked by a ghost when I saw that red hair. She had that same look – of shock.

“God, to be so unsure of what to do, and stupid to the ways of the world, and even to have that stabbing thought that it can happen again tomorrow. We stared and stared, you could almost feel electricity between us. At the top I waited as long as I dared, hoping she would come up. I had to get my bus, and just jumped it as it was pulling away.

“That was a Friday. I sweated through the weekend, full of grand plans about telling her to wait, or to come up to me, or yelling my phone number. She wasn’t there, of course, on Monday or any other day. I looked the rest of the summer, then it was back to university.

“I mean, to be given one chance like that and waste it. But two. I’ve never forgotten, even now with a wife and kids, I wonder what might have been. It can make my hands shake, seeing someone like you, and with too much drink in me.”

The Baby Jesus Worked Overtime

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I am not, and have not been for decades, a great fan of Christmas. It is more of a chore than a snore. But I don’t blame Jesus.
However, as I wended my way westward for the season, I was given a Christmas gift I would never have expressed that I wanted. It was a rustic blend of the old times and the old ways, which I’m led to believe is – in great part – what Christmas is all about.
For part of the trip, the bus took the *old* route. I imagine I had not been along that stretch of rural road for a quarter of a century. I later queried the driver about this change in the usual way. I was told that, at this holiday time of year and night, traffic on the major highway in and out of the city was massive. The roads avoiding the main highway were a time-saver.
It was a back, country road, after dark, single lane in both directions. Many of the country, rural, and village houses were alight  with Christmas decorations. Poor and rich alike. External and internal Christmas trees, with multi-coloured lights, or of a solid hue. Flashing, twinkling, changing colour, or one solid block of light.
The outside lights were festooned on everything. In addition to trees, they outlined windows, eves and chimneys. They were strung on shrubs, bushes and hedges. They adorned mailboxes, carts, rows of chopped wood, outbuildings and barns. There were a couple of waggons and one vintage automobile with their own outline of Christmas lights.
In addition to the festive additions, just being on the back roads was a memory adventure. There was no (admittedly efficient, but boring) straight highway with, across a grass verge, two streams of vehicles going in the other direction. No uniform band of trees across the uniform ditch to the side. No seemingly endless Endless.
No, this road had dips, and hills, and curves. You could see if a car was approaching by noting their lights shining on the telephone wires (I had forgotten that). There were wrought-iron bridges going over streams and small rivers, that rattled and rumbled as the heavy bus crossed them. There were pastures without their cows, vistas to darkened hills beyond, and actual forest where wild animals prepared for their sleep.
It took me back to my distant youth, it did. I do so enjoy driving at night (as long as I’m not the driver).
See – it’s already a Merry Christmas.

Is My Past Tying Up Loose Ends?

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I was in the City Market, looking at produce. From the corner of my eye, with my back turned, something familiar twigged about a person passing. It was a woman with long, shock-white hair.
In this day-and-age it is unwise to start trailing a woman shouting “Hey, you.” Plus, this lady did not look the type to appreciate any unusual approach. As she was moving at quite a clip, I also wondered how wise it might be to give any sort of obvious chase.
However, she popped into a craft shop. With this delay, I thought I could take at least a further look. As it was, I was staring through a window just as she was staring out. Her brow did indeed furrow, and her facial expression was more of annoyance than curiosity. But, then, her face did change, and I saw recognition at about the same time I confirmed to myself who it was.
I believe it has to be twenty years since I last saw her.  As we were saying the usual “I thought you looked familiar” type of thing, a young woman appeared at her side. I – who never remembers names – recognised her daughter, and even called her by her name.
They were in town for a family funeral. In fact, the interment had been that very morning. They were heading to the airport in an hour or so. The last she knew of my whereabouts was when I lived in a different city. We only had a few minutes of chat – nothing about writing, other than that she asked if I was still writing. I admitted I was now down to five days a week, and not daily. Then they were away.
It has been a strange year for the old times popping up.
One friend (whom I haven’t seen for six years) was in town for a family reunion. Another friend, (whom I hadn’t seen for three years) drove in for an afternoon.
I went to a Memorial for a colleague with whom I had no dealings for nearly thirty years. And I went to a cousin’s Funeral Parlour visitation (whom I had not seen for eighteen years).
However, from the Funeral Parlour experience, emerged a more-than-unusual episode for my latest novel, where I am following the exploits of Alison Alexandra.
It almost seems as if my past is tying up some loose ends.

The Druids Prepare For All Hallows As The Dead Approach

 slide_336017_3406844_freeThe Celts knew every celebration has its risks.

The Druids taught them this, and the Druids are correct. Samhain is a festival of the harvest; the end of summer; the preparation for the winter to come. Samhain is a juncture. 

As they all know, junctures lead to sundry places. There is both the leaving and the coming. A time of disquiet. A time of danger for those unprepared.

It holds the magic and the power of midnight. Midnight is a powerful time because it is the juncture of two days. Midnight of Samhain thus holds double the power. It can not be avoided. It must be met with all the power mortal man can muster. It must not be met alone.

On the Eve of Samhain, the border between Life and the OtherWorld is breached. A door swings invitingly open, but it is not inviting those who live. It is inviting  those who have died. The Dead who still miss their lives. The long Dead who still are curious.The distant Dead who get a whiff of fresh air, and have their memories stirred.

So the Dead approach.

The Dead approach. The living must prepare to meet them, just as they prepare for the vicissitudes of winter. The same threatened cold holds sway over both. The living assemble the treats and threats that will assuage the longings of the Dead.

Because the living have a healthy fear of death, they equally wish to avoid the Dead. The Dead can prove to be envious, and attempt to relieve the living of their lives. Lanterns from the earth are hollowed out of turnips. Their light will guide the dead to safer places (safer for the living). Candles will shine through carved faces. Some faces are friendly and welcoming. Some are ugly and fierce, to give aggressive Dead a pause.

There will also be treats to entice the Dead – apples and pastries and savouries and some roasted game fresh from the bonfires. There will be ale and other spirits to keep the Spirits at bay. The living will wear costumes and masks to disguise themselves from those Dead who might wish their company to be more permanent.

They will remove the masks if the Spirits are friendly.

They will dance and sing and raise a right ruckus to entertain the Dead.

The boneyard is on the outskirts of town. Revellers approach with noise and caution. A bonfire is set. The moon hangs from the trees. The gated fence stands closed and latched. The living pause and watch. And listen.

Is it the wind, or do the hinges scrape the stone?

(image)i.huffpost.com/gadgets/slideshows/336017/slide_336017_3406844_free.jpg

Summer Heat And Lost Love In Montréal

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A story told to me which I have (it must be admitted) embellished.

“I don’t mean to stare – I apologize. I’m not in the habit of doing this, but you remind me of someone. That has to sound like a line – the look on your face. But I’m not after ….

 

“Have you ever been in the train station at Place Ville Marie in Montreal? The escalators that come up by the Queen Elizabeth Hotel.  I had a lot of travel to get to work when I lived in Montreal, and made train and bus connection.

 

“No, thanks. I don’t want another.

 

“One morning – a Thursday – as I was going up the escalator, I saw a girl coming down from the street. She had short red hair – that’s the main reason I’ve been staring – and a green skirt with a white blouse. Coming down that escalator, with that wide space between us. She was looking at me the way I was looking at her – interest and excitement and whatever potential that leads to. We stared into each others eyes as we came level, and craned to look back as we passed.

 

“I guess I’ll have another of the same, after all.

 

“That was stupid enough. I should have jumped that barrier, or at least gone down after her. But I had a job, and was young, and things like that just don’t happen.

 

“Next morning, even though I was looking for her, and hoping so much, I couldn’t have been more shocked by a ghost when I saw that red hair. She had that same look – of shock.

 

“God, to be so unsure of what to do, and stupid to the ways of the world, and even to have that stabbing thought that it can happen again tomorrow. We stared and stared, you could almost feel electricity between us. At the top I waited as long as I dared, hoping she would come up. I had to get my bus. I just jumped it as it was pulling away.

 

“That was a Friday. I sweated through the weekend, full of grand plans about telling her to wait, or to come up to me, or yelling my phone number. She wasn’t there, of course – on Monday or any other day. I looked the rest of the summer, then it was back to university.

 

“I mean, to be given one chance like that and waste it. But two. I’ve never forgotten, even now with a wife and kids, I wonder what might have been. It can make my hands shake, seeing someone like you, and with too much drink in me.”

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

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.

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

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.

What Happens After You Die

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Some day she will not wake – she prays for this every night as she lays waiting for sleep.

To-night is not bad, there will be no need to use a pill. In fact, she is very good about the pills. Dr. Morgan has told her – almost encouraged her, she feels – to use a pill a night, and not fight for sleep as she sometimes does. But she can not bring herself to believe that that is right – she is certain Ned would never have agreed to it.

Ned was never one to take the easy way out. Not, she would hasten to add, that he was some sort of doomsayer, or a fanatic of any sort. But he did believe it was up to each person to solve their own problems. Where he may have expected too much was believing that all problems had a solution, He would keep at something with a relentless persistence.

She would sometimes stand near him as he was trying to replace some tiny piece of a machine, or climb yet again on the shed roof with some tar, and she would say, “Leave it be, Ned. Let it alone.” But he would just pause, settle back on his heels and perhaps light a cigarette, and say that he may as well be putting in the time on this as on anything else.

And back he would go at it. As far as she knew, he never gave up on anything until it was done. He was not the type to gloat, or even show much sense of satisfaction, and she had been married to him for years before she recognised his small mannerisms that meant he was pleased.

She turns over, being careful not to lay an arm on his side of the bed. Or let a foot stray over the line she has refused to cross for eight years. Ever since she reached out one morning and touched cold flesh.

No, she will not need a pill tonight. Her work has tired her enough to bring on sleep. It is, of course, the memories weaving through her mind that she would really like to stop with the pills.

Those memories she can barely stand, and without which she could not live.

DE

(image) bioethicalinquiry.com/wp-content/uploads/6-3EndofLife-470×260.jpg

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