Search

kafkaestblog

It is a whirlwind in here

Category

time

Is My Past Tying Up Loose Ends?

passing-time-2-51854c91a8333
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.
Advertisements

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

1491593780482

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)

if-book_thumbnail

 

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)

viernes-131

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

6-3endoflife-470x260

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

Kafka And Harvest On The Farm 100 Years Ago

img_1683-1024x768

My novel, Kafka In The Castle, set in 1917, mimics the year I wrote it (two years in a row, actually). For instance, 10 October 1917 was a Tuesday. It was a Tuesday in the year I wrote it. So I share some of my fictional Kafka 100 years after the fact.

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

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.

(image) https://cdn5.tenthacrefarm.com/wp-content/uploads/IMG_1683-1024×768.jpg

A Birthday Day l00 Years Ago Via Kafka And Me

kafka_main1
When I wrote my novel, Kafka In The Castle, filling in all of Kafka’s missing diary entries, I found something very interesting a few months into it. The day/month/year I was writing about, mirrored the day/month/year in which I was 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.
However, 19 September 1917 was already filled in by Kafka, and I had nothing to do.
Here is Kafka’s actual entry, abridged.
DE
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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.

History Follows The Footsteps Of Franz Kafka 100 Years Later

kafka

(Franz Kafka, and his sister, Ottla, in Zürau)

A hundred years ago, in the Autumn of 1917, Kafka started his stay in the small village of Zürau (as it was then known) a few hours train ride from Prague. He was there from September 1917 to April 1918, living with his sister Ottla, who was managing a farm. It was in this time he wrote the book which became known as The Zürau Aphorisms.

The Village is now called Sirem, and this month a permanent photographic exhibition has opened in a local house.

Here is a news article about the event, followed by the first of my fictional diary entries about Kafka’s stay in the village. Time certainly marches on

DE

New Kafka exhibition opens in Czech village where he stayed

ČTK |

21 August 2017

Sirem, North Bohemia, Aug 19 (CTK) – A new exhibition on Prague-born Jewish German writer Franz Kafka (1883-1924) focused on his travelling has opened in Sirem village, where he stayed 100 years ago.

The permanent photographic exhibition shows less known sides of the writer. It presents him as a man in a good shape who liked rowing and preferred vegetarian diet.

Kafka arrived in Sirem in the summer of 1917 after he was diagnosed with tuberculosis.

“His relatives thought that he would choose some sanatorium, but he went to see his beloved sister Ottla who was running a farmstead in Sirem,” journalist Judita Matyasova, one of the display authors, told CTK.

She and photographer Jan Jindra were travelling to follow in the footsteps of Kafka for 14 years.

Kafka liked Sirem, the then German village, so much that he stayed there for eight months, which was the longest time he ever spent in the countryside.

Some literary historians are of the view that Sirem inspired Kafka’s novel The Castle (1926).

Kafka’s fans started visiting Sirem in the 1990s.

The new display is installed in a former oast of a farmstead. The first floor houses photographs taken during the trips of Matyasova and Jindra to the places where the writer stayed.

“This was a detective’s work. We were searching for how the sites looked like when Kafka visited them… and what he was doing there,” Matyasova said.

Works by young photography students inspired by Kafka’s short story The Burrow are displayed on another floor.

People can also visit the information centre near the church in Sirem to see old photographs of the village from the time when Kafka stayed there.

“(Former Czech president) Vaclav Havel also visited the village. He wanted to shoot a film inspired by Kafka’s novel The Castle together with Milos Forman,” Matyasova said.

The new exhibition is opened from 13:00 to 17:00 on weekends only.

A mini-brewery to make beer from a local hops sort might be opened nearby in the future, said David Herblich, whose parents own the farmstead where the Kafka display is situated

http://praguemonitor.com/2017/08/21/new-kafka-exhibition-opens-czech-village-where-he-stayed

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

Excerpt From: Kafka In The Castle

QUARTO XII

 

16 September 1917

Sunday dinner is certainly different here. The food – of course. More staple perhaps, but also fresher and richer. But the atmosphere is free. No etched pattern to follow; no dullness of similar fare and similar talk; no tension bubbling underneath because of what father was going to say. Ottla laughs because something is funny, not because she’s prodded by family expectation. I have often thought that our dread of the Sunday dinner started sometime on the Monday morning.

 

17 September 1917

A whole week away from the office. F. will soon pay a visit.

 

20 September 1917

Dreamed a mixture. I walked – a desolate figure trudging the vast Steppes. Yet I rode wildly – a madman with my forehead pressed against the compartment window. And I saw myself as the train raced by, outlined by the yellow light of the coach; and then a slender body turning to stare at the racing train. We both hollered, but noise and distance obscured our voice. The vast Steppes turned into a castle, but the castle was displayed in the photos of a magazine, which I held on my lap in the flickering light of the compartment, as the train became engulfed  by the large buildings on either side of the tracks. In the magazine there was a railway at the base of the castle, and as I looked out the window the stone walls filled the frame, each giant block wedged securely to the others, their facing protruding and rough. It was as if the train had entered a tunnel, except there was still light from the distant sky.

I turned a page, and had to squint to see the pictures. Along the whole bottom of the magazine pages, a train obscured part of the castle wall, almost becoming a part of the stones. Black and white, light and shade, blending into a sepia which smudged all the details. Was there a figure in the window?

 

23 September 1917

The trials of Felice. The trials of Franz. As they are put together in this obscure little village – with animals and harvest and the clatter of waggons without. Because of the war, her train journey an ordeal of thirty hours. Only to reach this destination. This lover who doesn’t “even have the grace to love another.” That is something F. can understand.

 

24 September 1917

The two days Felice spent here a trial of misery. A trail of misery. Even – I suspect – when she slept. It is fortunate that I am ill, for it lets her see me in life, the way I am in spirit. The`me’ she would have to fight against. The `me’ which is always opposed to her. We shared quiet meals, grateful and annoyed by Ottla’s constant chatter. As good a hostess as possible to this strange, sullen couple. She must have been thankful that her chores took her away as often as they did. I had no such excuses, yet could offer nothing in their place. F and I were truly left to each other, and any thoughts she might still have about us getting married must surely be removed.

When we did talk, it was about the change in seasons, the harvest (she took an interest), her work in Berlin. About my health when I seemed to tire (my weariness not all caused by being sick). We rarely held hands on our walks – just briefly, in the minutes as we returned. The few kisses were perfunctory. Not even for memories of things past.

 

26 September 1917

Two weeks away from the Institute. I should – for would not a normal man? – miss something. I’ve taken to feeding the animals.

 

 

 

27 September 1917

In Prague, I often wondered what to do with many of the empty hours. I would lie on the cot, or sit at the table, or walk the streets, but the boredom and despair clung to me like a tattered garment. There were many such days – many long afternoons with the dread of the torpid Sunday dinner damning the course of the day. But here in Zurau, though I spend hours just reclining in the fresh air (as I am supposed to do), often not even looking at the books which I have at my side, I feel comfortable and content. I suppose that I can not go without thought, but I find I can not even tell Ottla (for she asks me) what it is my mind has been doing over the course of the hours. Of its own volition, it must go to those places unknown to me.

 

30 September 1917

There was a knocking at the window this morning. A polite and concise rap rap rap. It awoke me while the room was barely light. Who could want me so early? And then again, an insistent rap rap rap. I was confused, wondering where I was. The panic of Prague weighted down the covers, and I was sorry I had opened my eyes. The room, the smells – even the bed – was not familiar, so I was both bothered and assured by the strangeness. When I realized I was not in Prague – for who could knock on my third floor window – I remembered I was in Zurau, where things were different. Here my window looked onto a yard, and anyone could  be at it. Was there something wrong? Was Ottla after my help? I even wondered, as I searched for my slippers, if her young man had somehow arranged leave from the army, and after much travail had managed to reach the wrong room. I could understand that very well.

I walked hesitantly over to the window, and cautiously pulled back the curtain. Such a commotion ensued that I stepped back in some fright. A bird flew immediately past the glass, its wings frantic as it screeched in agitation. It had been perched on my window ledge, pecking away at the frame. Ottla says it may have been after insects or grubs settled in for the winter.  “Insects in the walls of the house?” I asked.  “Yes.” She was quite matter-of-fact.  “It is a warm place for them during the cold months.”  I was not inclined to argue with the logic, but neither had I thought I would be existing in such close proximity with the tenants of nature. Houses for warmth and bugs for food. It is a blend of the base and the subtle which I can appreciate. Much – I like to think – as does the annoyed bird.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑