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The World Celebrates (And Rightfully So) The Birthday Of Franz Kafka

kafkafranz_02a
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.
I have written him a letter (as yet, unanswered).
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My Present / Your Future

Still in this World

A Life Away

Dear F:

You would find it perverse to be wished a “Happy” birthday, but your response would be gracious. Such is the reality you understand, and how you deal with it. I have found that your reality is actually real.

Although it will give you no pleasure – well, ‘little’ pleasure – you are correct in all your observations.

Governments become the tools of the bureaucracies which run them. It doesn’t matter what type of Government, from the monarchy under which you lived, to the right wing horror of fascists that called themselves socialists, to the inept socialism pretending to be ‘for the people’. All three governments held their sway over the city where you spent your life. All three oppressed the people they ruled. All three looked after themselves first.

Writers are either writers or they aren’t. The urge to write encircles one like a snake around its prey. Feed it and it won’t quite squeeze you to death. You can not ignore it – even at your peril. It is with you every hour of every day, ever inquisitive and (sadly) always looking for something better.

Love is a see-saw of extremes. Every high guarantees a low. Every low reaches for a high. Every high reaches for a high. When these hills and valleys are eventually levelled, they are still desired.

Sex is highly over rated. The thing of it is, even rated fairly ’tis a consummation devoutly to be had. Yes – I know – you appreciate Shakespeare. On a par with Goethe, even if you can’t bring yourself to say the words.

People are just one damned thing after another. Of course, so many people have brought you blessings, you throw up you hands to ward off the snake. And sometimes – some few times – it loosens its grip.

There is no castle with walls thick enough to hide against the perils of being human. Which is why you never tried.

Except the grave, of course.

Except the grave.

Yours,

D

 

~~~~~~~~~~~

And, 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.
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Proof of Life as Time Does What Time Does

zytglogge-bern-astronomical-clock-2

What sights indeed are these, that cause the racing clocks to pant their minutes in counterpoint to a life still learning the difference between wretchedness and love?

The swing goes up and the swing goes down, and then goes up again. If you are on that race, with childish yells, and up-down-mess-it-around feelings in the pit of your stomach, they haven’t lowered that coffin lid yet.

No, not yet.

****

What sights indeed are these, that make a heart argue the worth of dying, and ring the bells across the hill when there is no hand upon the rope?

There are happy tunes on the breeze and, yes, even the unicorn lifts its head with twitching ears and mouth agape.

And even (so it has been recorded, in long-ago books) our Lord Jesus God would pause in His ministrations at the wonder of it all.

****

What sights indeed are these, that ease the night’s passage and sow the fields full of restful dawn?

A race against the end is run by all of us; when the kitten kicks and purrs through her ball of string, or when the ancient’s cane tap-taps across the room. Eyes, whether young; or dim; or blind; can still open in amazement, and still marvel at the ever-changing newness.

Marvel and rejoice.

****

What sights indeed are these, that turn all tunes into rhapsodies of joy, and make the moon do gypsy dances through the night sky?

A sky of stars that shower and shake and stream across the galaxies to cram unto the ends of the distant universe. Grains of sand upon the shore would take sensitive fingers, and a lifetime of counting, yet still could never fill this distant space where even numbers stand in awe.

Zeros with mouths agape.

 

(Image) https://wornandwound.com/library/uploads/2017/06/Zytglogge-Bern-Astronomical-Clock-2.jpg

Going Through Checkpoint Charlie Where East Meets West (Berlin)

berlin_-_checkpoint_charlie_1963

[Checkpoint Charlie]

30 May

I first visited Europe years before the Euro was the accepted coin of the realm. In fact, there were many coins of many realms, and all that money caused a fuss.

I kept a daily diary of this trip, and plan to make it a part of any memoirs I might write. So I’ve hauled it out and will make some blogs from it. But they will be greatly abridged.

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

30 May

Around ten o’clock I set out for Checkpoint Charlie. I say that I set out for Checkpoint Charlie, but i would be less than truthful if I stated I got there easily. In fact, I threw my destiny into the hands of Fate to get there at all. For the first time I did what I understand is a favourite pass time of tourists, I executed a complete circle and returned to the Hostel. At least I wasn’t lost.

I set out again, knowing I was to go past a particular building, and also go through a large field. Surprisingly enough,  after a ten minute walk, I unexpectedly came to Checkpoint Charlie. And there were the people from the group I was travelling with, who shuffled me into their midst and thus near the front of the line.

Going past the British soldiers was a matter of seconds. You gave your name and the time you expected to return and that was it. Then told you were not allowed to take any photos, you headed to the East German barrier. Here they took your passport; you filled in forms; you had to exchange some of your money for East German money (which you had to spend in the East); got little slips of paper stuck into your passport; walked to a further barrier where you again showed your passport, and then the next thing you were doing was walking in East Berlin.

We had been told to walk along the street until we came to Unter den Linden and then stay on it. We could go down side street, but always return to Unter den Linden. And that is what we did – more or less.

What I had expected of East Berlin was a dark, grey, dirty city, with haggard, suspicious-looking people in 1950’s clothing slinking along the streets with large bundles in their hands. I actually saw little difference in the people, or the place, than what I had seen in West Berlin.

Yes, it was more run-down looking, and there were more ruined buildings, and even buildings that were war-scarred, but it was clean and neat, and the people were like anyone else, though there were far fewer on the streets.

[More to come another day]

 

 

 

Gap Year Sets You Loose Upon The World

shutterstock_1104332271

I was pleased as punch when I realised the other day that I had taken a Gap Year many years ago. And I was surprised to find that ‘Gap Year’ is a term which started in the 1960s. I rather thought it was from Academia in England from centuries ago.

I was correct to associate Gap Year with travel to new places, or a time to do good deeds. But also – happily – it was also a year between high school and university for students to take a turn in the real world through gainful employment.

The latter was me – admittedly edged forward by the fact that my Algebra marks were deplorable. I got an almost immediate job as an Apprentice Plate Maker in a printing shop. I doubt such a job exists anymore.

My job was two-fold. I placed negatives of photos and text on a metal plate, that had a mixture of chemicals hardened to its surface. Then I placed the metal plate, with negatives, in front of two burning pieces of a substance I no longer remember. They looked like two large and thick pencils. I believe an electrical current set the pencils alight, and the resulting, concentrated fire, burned all the chemical surface off the metal plate, except for the part covered by the negatives. The end result was a metal plate with nothing but the required image upon it.

The metal plate was then coated in ink, which only adhered to the raised image. The image was then transferred to paper and cardboard, making logos (we did many spice labels) plus photos and text. There would be a separate metal plate created for each different colour.

Thus went my Gap Year, which lasted fourteen months. No travels of the world, and no altruistic attempts to make the world a better place.

But I did help sell spice.

(image)https://capricornreview.co.za/wp-content/uploads/sites/71/2015/12/shutterstock_1104332271.jpg

A Bird Digs The Earth For Earth Day

american-robin

I saw a sight that I believe I have actually never seen, though it is fabled the world over.

Standing on the front stoop to test the air I saw a robin on the grass. Robins are rather skittish and usually, when a human presence is so close, it will make them hop (and they truly do *hop*) away. But this one stayed put.

My understanding is that birds ‘hear’ the worms under the earth – that is how they detect them. I assume that is why they so often have their head in a cocked position. However, for this robin, the listening part of the chase was over.

As I watched the robin made a strike into the earth with its beak. It was then that an almost cartoon-like image occurred. The bird had a portion of the worm in its beak and began to pull. It pulled and pulled and the worm stretched and stretched. It made me think of someone pulling a threaded needle from the fabric they were sewing. The length of the worm became even longer than the robin’s body. With this constant and slow tug, the worm finally popped out of the earth.

Then the robin had a go at it.

The bird took at the long, brown earthworm and began to snip off pieces with its beak. It could not have been more effective if it had a pair of scissors. Substantial, beak-sized pieces which it swallowed quickly. The long earthworm became shorter and shorter, giving the robin less to hold on to. In under two minutes the worm became one remaining morsel hanging from the robin’s beak. It was only then that the robin began to hop across the grass. The last piece of worm disappeared inside the robin and the robin quickly took off.

One satisfied predator.

One less worm.

(image)1.bp.blogspot.com/-da07hMgESEs/VT1Y9cNgOCI/AAAAAAAAMIs/DVG3oaeFGME/s1600/American-Robin.jpg

The World Is More Than Terror

sandinhand

What sights indeed are these, that cause the racing clocks to pant their minutes in counterpoint to a life still learning the difference between wretchedness and love?

The swing goes up and the swing goes down, and then goes up again. If you are on that race, with childish yells, and up-down-mess-it-around feelings in the pit of your stomach, they haven’t lowered that coffin lid yet.

No, not yet.

****

What sights indeed are these, that make a heart argue the worth of dying, and ring the bells across the hill when there is no hand upon the rope?

There are happy tunes on the breeze and, yes, even the unicorn lifts its head with twitching ears and mouth agape.

And even (so it has been recorded, in long-ago books) our Lord Jesus God would pause in His ministrations at the wonder of it all.

****

What sights indeed are these, that ease the night’s passage and sow the fields full of restful dawn?

A race against the end is run by all of us; when the kitten kicks and purrs through her ball of string, or when the ancient’s cane tap-taps across the room. Eyes, whether young; or dim; or blind; can still open in amazement, and still marvel at the ever-changing newness.

Marvel and rejoice.

****

What sights indeed are these, that turn all tunes into rhapsodies of joy, and make the moon do gypsy dances through the night sky?

A sky of stars that shower and shake and stream across the galaxies to cram unto the ends of the distant universe. Grains of sand upon the shore would take sensitive fingers, and a lifetime of counting, yet still could never fill this distant space where even numbers stand in awe.

Zeros with mouths agape.

(image) http://www.chemistryland.com/CHM130S/07-Mole/SandInHand.jpg

Alison Alexandra Ponders The Future On International Women’s Day

woman-with-a-wreath-of-oak-leavesMartin Schomgauer (1450-1491) Woman With A Wreath Of Oak Leaves

Alison Alexandra sometimes thinks of turning over a new leaf.

Sometimes at the most traditional of times, like at New Year or her birthday or under a full moon or when the tide is at its highest.

But then she remembers that well into her pre-teen years she thought the expression to turn over a new leaf meant reaching into the branches of a tree and flipping her wrist (somewhat like Amanda does when cutting cards) and when she found out the flip flip flipping concerned paper pages she was so bored she never did it. No, not once.

And anyway, why would she overturn anything in some sort of orderly fashion when she pell-mell turns things over at the very time they seem that they need to be overturned and not a minute or an hour or a full moon or one leaf later.

That now is indeed now is, indeed, now. And, as she daily finds out from her windows or cliffs overlooking the ocean; tide and time await no Alison Alexandra. So she will not wait for them.

Alison Alexandra has often thought – and she also often thinks – that she could happily turn over all her leaves just from her prow-of-a-ship room jutting into the sea or the cliffs that, as yet, do not erode under her feet as she walks them looking out to sea. But that would be unwise and probably as stagnant as a rotting fish that sometimes lodges itself at the base of her cliff and, though she has not travelled as often as those sailors and their spyglasses, she has travelled as far as many of them just to keep those leaves flip flip flipping.

So, today she is going to walk to town.

(image)https: //uploads3.wikiart.org/images/martin-schongauer/woman-with-a-wreath-of-oak-leaves.jpg

Kafka In His Writer’s Burrow For World Book Day

87348a86cd918068ad4e09c1b813c3cf

A burrow offers security and comfort, and Kafka found both in his sister’s tiny house on the Golden Lane.

Ottla – his sister – had rented it so she could spend time with her lover and not be bothered by parents and comments. Her lover was a Christian and ready to go to war. Time was precious.

However, she rarely had opportunities other than the weekends, so she offered Franz the use of the tiny house for most of that time. And use it he did, though he never stayed the night.

Through fall, winter and spring Kafka wrote a whole book of short stories. For one single block of time, it was one of his most creative periods.

When I visited, even under Communist rule, it had been converted to a book store. Of course (which he would have appreciated) there were no books by Kafka for sale. Today he is displayed in the windows.

It was only when I went thorough the small rooms, and looked out the window into The Stag Moat, that I realized how important the house would become in my novel about Kafka. It was cozy – even with the space cramped by tourists. It had been little altered and I easily imagined Kafka looking through the same glass and walking through the same doorways. No doubt stooping because he was tall. Research met reality.

One of the last stories Kafka wrote, during his final year in Berlin, was called The Burrow. A version exists and is published, though a longer version is supposed to be among his ‘missing’ papers.

In it, a tiny animal keeps incessantly burrowing to keep away from an enemy. A vague noise convinces the animal to burrow deeper, and deeper, and deeper.

Something Kafka himself attempted to do.

(image)https://i.pinimg.com/736x/87/34/8a/87348a86cd918068ad4e09c1b813c3cf.jpg

The Commander-In-Chief Wants A Military Parade

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The Commander-In-Chief decided  it would be a grand day to become Admiral of the Fleet – Lord High Admiral if he chose the hat with cockade and plume. Nodding jauntily in the air, the plume put on an impressive display, as he either agreed, or disapproved, with a toss, or a shake, of his head. The dancing ostrich feathers would add a dashing air as he boarded his flagship and, with just the right mixture of stringent authority and well- tempered geniality, moved in imperious sweeps among the ranks of ratings on the aft deck. He would, of course, be extra careful about the pitfalls awaiting a man with ornate dress sword and scabbard, among the steep steps and narrow companionways.

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

Wednesday would be khaki day for the Commander-In-Chief. It was the day set aside to remind him of the loyalty he must always retain from his men, for what was a leader without his troops? As a treat – for really, the dull brown did not make for a very striking appearance – he would chose the tank commander’s uniform. With its wide web belt and shiny black holster on the hip, flap unsnapped to reveal the butt of a wicked forty-five. And, of course, the black leather gloves, as befits a man at the controls of so much power, and the steel helmet polished to a mirror-shine. The riding crop? Ah, the riding crop was debatable.

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

There would be a parade today, massed men at attention with stiffly held rifles and fixed bayonets. The Commander-In-Chief would have to chose carefully to represent his awesome power and responsibility. Cavalry boots would be a must, raising half-way up the calf and resounding with silver spurs, steel-tipped toes and heels. Then would come crisp black trousers, billowing majestically around the thighs, and kept up with a wide leather belt. He took care that each red stripe reaching the length of each leg was as straight as an arrow. His blue tunic, he decided, would have only muted decorations and the minimum of gold braid entwined about his shoulders. He was – after all – a Commander-In-Chief of the people.

DE

(image) https://i.pinimg.com/originals/8f/88/a9/8f88a9161d5401a644d9bb70f3c041f3.jpg

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