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Diana As The Dead Princess

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In my novel, More Famous Than The Queen, my famous character – known only by his initials, ST – is invited to attend the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales. This is from his arrival at Heathrow Airport.

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“Did you ever meet Dodi?”

“Should it be a State funeral?”

“They say she telephoned you. Any comment?”

“Were the Princess and Dodi getting married?

“BBC International. Any possibility of an interview?”

“How long will you be in London?”

“Do you think the Queen has treated her shabby?”

“Do you think the photogs killed her?”

“They say the Royals welcome her back into their world only as a corpse. Do you agree?”

“Welcome to my world.” ST sighs the words, but not loudly enough to be picked up by the forest of microphones.

Less than a day ago, his world consisted of the back yard of his Nova Scotia hideaway, and a running debate with himself about the merits of hour-old coffee. Wife Number Two (he realizes this term is a bit cruel, for her name is Miriam, and they parted amiably enough) swore coffee should be thrown away if it became an hour old. ST can’t notice a difference, and wonders if it is a deficiency in him.

This was the height of his concern when his email, and his fax, dropped the invitation/summons into his lap. He had reacted as if the questionable hot coffee was dumped on him instead.

His stirred-up memories of Diana are also bittersweet.

Particularly his recollections of her troubled phone calls. At first she would be full of apology for disturbing him, but this quickly gave way to a jumble of questions and gossip. She seemed to be forever asking advice, yet she had her decisions already made. Which never irritated him, and obviously never bothered her, for within a few months she would be on the phone again, and the cycle would commence.

ST wishes he could have had the chance to give her one last piece of advice.

And that she would have taken it.

Stay in the hotel for the night.

DE  

(image)cdn.images.express.co.uk/img/dynamic/106/590x/secondary/diana-elvis-638167.jpg

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My Kafka Ponders Iceland, One Hundred Years Ago

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In my novel, Kafka In The Castle, I fill in all the lost diary entries he either ignored or destroyed. This is what he pondered 100 years ago.

Excerpt From Kafka in The Castle

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29 August 1917

I strolled the Charles Bridge a long time tonight, before coming on to the castle. I have the feeling that the river air helps my lungs.

I also like the city lights reflecting from the racing water. And the occasional boat, lanterns stern and bow.

I have once or twice steered my own boat through the dark, the flickering light dripping through the gloom before me. If I could have reached the sea while it was still dark, I would have tried to do so. But I was younger then. And could breathe deeply.

Fantasy fuelled this escape, from my Moldau island and then along the Elbe, through Dresden, Magdeburg and Hamburg, to the freedom of Helgoland Bay. Further into the North Sea, if I wanted. Perhaps to Iceland, where I could become lost in the snow and white.

All this, from my perch upon the Charles Bridge, as I strolled from side to side, and one end to the other. My last smile reserved for the statues staring down on me.

Their stony expressions etched upon their faces, as are mine to me.

DE

(image)https://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/originaltravel.assets.d3r.com/images/gallery/270120-iceland-5.jpg

History Follows The Footsteps Of Franz Kafka 100 Years Later

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(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

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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.

Trump And Bannon Walk Into A Bar

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~ Now whose the dirty Nazi?

~ Lots of mud. Lots of mud to throw, believe me.

~ So you’re going to throw it on me?

~ If the shoe fits.

~ And throw me under the bus?

~ Tire marks in the mud. It’s where you live.

~ You come from here, too.

~ Mud doesn’t stick to me.

~ I helped make you.

~ I’m a self-made man. Proof everywhere.

~ Don’t believe your own Press.

~ I don’t believe the Fake News.

~ I know about the Press.

~ I know about the people.

~ They’ll turn on you.

~ No – they want to be me.

~ That’s kinda crazy.

~ If they were in my position – if they had my power – they’d do what I’m doing.

~ That might be true.

~ They’d love to stick it to their betters. They love having a scapegoat.

~ It’s a mob that can turn.

~ Nah! Believe me. They have nowhere else to go.

DE

(image)i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2017/07/22/06/429285D700000578-4720054-image-a-74_150070035

When The Army Wanted Kafka As A Soldier

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Kafka recorded the beginning of the First World War in his diary this way:

August 2, 1914: Germany has declared war on Russia. Went swimming in the afternoon.

That was it.

But, regardless of his lack of enthusiasm, Kafka believed in the duties of the citizen. He tried to join the army to fight. In fact, he tried to join a number of times. He was always refused because the government deemed his civil/government job was too important for him to relinquish.

But, near the end of the war, when Kafka was so sick he had lengthy periods of leave from his job to recuperate, the army came calling.  Kafka had to appear before authorities with medical proof of his illness.

In my novel, Kafka In The Castle, I ‘fill in’ one of his diary entries describing such a situation.

DE

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07 February 1918

I find I must go to Prague at the end of next week. Such knowledge is proof that one should not open one’s mail. The Military yet again wishes to snare me, and I must once again prove that my hide is not worth the effort.

There were times (very rare) when my father would despair. Not his usual anger at the general incompetence and perfidy of the world around him, but a resignation to the belief that things would never get any better.

“If they want to drag me down,” he would say, “Then I may as well join them. I’ll go out into the street and let myself be swept away by the mob. I’ll become part of their common, grubby life, and let them wipe their boots on me.”

That is much as I feel right now. Let the army take me, dress me in their uniform, point me toward the Americans, and have some cowboy shoot me. Going into battle could be no worse than going into Prague.

 

Trump And A Nazi Walk Into A Bar

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~ Willkommen, Mein Führer.

~ Now cut that out.

~ But we are at your service.

~ You good old boys are giving me a bad name.

~ We support you in your Holy Crusade.

~ To make America great again?

~ If those are the code words you want to use.

~ The words are broad … and vague.

~ You should be more exact.

~ Like ‘living space’?

~ The Volk liked that phrase – they understood we needed land.

~  Old times. Today they understand ‘the wall’. Believe me.

~  We’ll help you build your wall.

~  By driving cars into people?

~  There’ll always be the crazies.

~ Don’t I know it.

~ We can’t keep tabs on everyone.

~ Don’t I know it.

~ We’ll sacrifice the schmuck.

~ Yeh – but. Tell me this one thing.

~ What?

~ Torches?

~ What?

~ Did you morons really have to use torches?

DE

(image)https://static.independent.co.uk/s3fs-public/styles/article_small/public/thumbnails/image/2017/08/12/09/virginia-torch-protest-salute.jpg

Cruise Ship Queen Mary 2 Heads Out To Sea

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The larger-than-life cruise ship, Queen Mary 2, was in Halifax for the day, and departed this evening. It probably gets special attention because of its grandeur. Also, the Cunard Shipping Line, nominal owner of the ship, was the creation of a Halifax chap, Samuel Cunard, back in 1839. The Cunard Line is now folded into the Carnival empire, but that’s business.

As The Queen Mary 2 left, it was escorted by a Canadian Navy Coastal Defence Vessel – the HMCS Summerside, a harbour fire boat spraying arcs of water, and even a helicopter flew overhead. It took its time leaving.

I have written about the the launch of Queen Mary 2 in my novel Fame’s Victim. The main character of my novel, known as ST, is good friends with the actual Queen Elizabeth the Second, who launched the ship. ST and his lady friend, a famous actress whom he always refers to as Garbo (though she be not the actual Garbo) are on the maiden voyage of the Queen Mary 2. That chapter is below.

DE

(image)https://www.ctvnews.ca/polopoly_fs/1.2462900.1436552018!/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_620/image.jpg

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Excerpt From Fame’s Victim:

“Your Majesty.”

ST extends his hand just as a volley of the extensive fireworks light up The Queen Mary 2 and the harbour side where she has just been launched. He flinches but the Queen does not.

“So much for the Queen’s weather.” The Queen points to the torrents pelting the dock. “It rains on my reign.”

“Yes, Ma’am.” ST hears Garbo’s barely repressed giggle behind him. “I believe you have not met – “

“This charming lady with the delightful sense of humour.” The Queen looks past ST. “No, I have not.”

ST takes a side step as Garbo extends her hand.

“Your Majesty.”

Garbo has been instructed that formal curtsies are not in fashion, but the actress in her makes her modified one very graceful. The Queen is obviously amused and pleased.

“We understand you both are on the maiden voyage to the United States.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“Is he attempting some sort of record, do you think?” The Queen points to ST.

“Ma’am?” Garbo is confused.

“The last flight of the Concorde and now the first voyage of QM2.” The Queen smiles. “It sounds to me like some type of Time muddle.”

“Ma’am.” Garbo giggles and ignores protocol by touching the Queen’s arm. “I don’t make theories about Time and he doesn’t try to act.”

“Very sensible.” The Queen looks from one to the other. “I don’t act either.”

There is another eruption of fireworks, and they look into the dark sky. The vibrant colours flash against the side of the ship and sparkle on the water’s surface.

“We had best go in.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

Even before ST has agreed, ship’s crew and members of the Queen’s entourage have opened doors and produced umbrellas for the twenty second walk.

“I’m not sure what my grandmother would think of her namesake.” The Queen indicates that ST and Garbo walk beside her, which causes some manoeuvring as the Queen is using a cane because of her hip operation. “Perhaps a ship which dwarfs the Titanic would be beyond her comprehension.”

Three abreast confuses those in attendance though the ranks quickly settle into place. As they approach the doorway ST executes a couple of half steps so the women go through the entrance without crowding. He then quickly returns to his place.

“Mind you, Queen Mary would certainly appreciate the opulence.” There is a quick royal chuckle. “And she could tally the worth of each item to within ten pound, if not sometimes to the shilling.”

ST assumes the Queen would know the powers of her own grandmother, but he wonders if anyone could rightly cost the grandeur that surrounds them. He and Garbo will shortly be taking a tour of the high points while the Royal party will be given a different tour of other high points. He has been told that a complete tour of all the high points would take ten hours. A leisurely inspection will take three days of their trip if he so desires. It is a far cry from the Concorde where twenty minutes served the same purpose.

“My walking stick shortens my own look around.” The Queen smiles up at the couple. “However there is a Wedgwood Panel I have insisted upon. Do try to see it on your own – it graces a wall in Kings Court.”

“Yes. Ma’am.” ST answers with less enthusiasm though he will give it a close examination, as he will no doubt be queried the next time they meet.

The three of them now cross a wide and carpeted expanse where ship’s crew and invited guests line both walls. The Queen notes a decidedly younger crowd mingling together and glances at Garbo.

“Let’s work either side of the room. I would guess that section is more for you than me.”

“Yes, Ma’am.” Garbo blushes. “I’m sure they would be happy to see you.”

“Not ‘as happy’.” The Queen nods in their direction. “One knows one’s time and place.”

As Garbo approaches the now-applauding group, the Queen slows her pace, making ST do likewise. Her voice is low enough to make him lean closer to her.

“”You’ve been in the news.”

“Ma’am?”

“Hollywood sightings and Paris auctions and the trailing of Google.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“Welcome back.”

Down To The Sea In Ships On National Lighthouse Day

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Cape George Lighthouse

Since it is National Lighhouse Day, let me celebrate.

I have enjoyed going to lighthouses, and have done so for years. If anything, I keep finding them more and more evocative. A number of years ago, from high cliffs over the Northumberland Straight, this is what I saw one afternoon from a lighthouse.

One old fishing boat:

One sleek new fishing boat:

One chubby fishing boat:

One fading green fishing boat:

One distant white sailboat under sail:

One close white sailboat under sail:

Two small outboard boats:

One tugboat pulling . . .

One rusting barge.

Happily, the Cape George Lighthouse is now listed as a Heritage Site by the government of Canada.

(photo)https://opto.ca/sites/default/files/pictures/featured_items/nova_scotia_-_cape_george_lighthouse.jpg

DE

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I have also written a couple of chapters in one of my novels that were set in a lighthouse. This is a section of one of them.

Let the light shine.

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Excerpt from: He Lives In The City / He Drives To The Country

“Well, Blaine, the place is as sturdy as the rock it’s on. Government inspected every spring. We even sat pretty through the Great Groundhog Day Gale in 1976, the worst storm in over a hundred years.”

Fred Gannet nudged Blaine to the huge windows. He pointed into the distance, although neither could see through the fog.

“Waves forty feet smashed up against us. We clocked winds at one hundred and thirty-seven miles an hour. We had the warning, so we got most of this battened down. Turned over my van, but I had it far from the cliff. Smashed out a window in the living room. I had a bitch of a time getting plywood over it. Lost power and phone of course, but everything here can run on emergency generator. And part of the roof lifted, but it didn’t do that much damage.” He jabbed his finger at the rain spattered windows. “This is a baby compared to that whore.”

He gave a whoop of a laugh, and took off his cap.

“Old George Crenshaw, he’s the keep on Goat Island, a mile square drop of nothing about eight miles further out to sea. Well, he took the brunt of that bitch, and we were all sure he was a goner. For hours after it passed, there was no boats could get through the waves, or helicopters through the wind. Even the radios were gone, and no one had talked to the old bugger for twelve hours.

“We kept trying and trying, and finally I heard his call letters, but real faint like. I turn my juice ’til the needle’s in the red, and I’m yelling, to find out how he is. You know the first thing any of us hear that old son of a bitch say?”     The large man’s body was actually shaking with laughter, something Blaine had rarely seen in anyone.

“Old George’s thin voice comes out of the radio, like a fart out of a ghost, and he says: `Well, boys, that was quite a breeze’.”

Ten ways to survive an Italian heatwave

Variations of these can be used in any Hot hot hot city. For those of us who start getting uncomfortable at anything above 25C, well, I’ll happily close my shutters and have iced coffee.

Source: Ten ways to survive an Italian heatwave

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