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Dale Estey

A Birthday Day A Century Apart Via Kafka And Me

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When I wrote my novel, Kafka In The Castle, filling in all of Kafka’s missing diary entries, I discovered something  interesting a few months into it. The day/month/year I was writing about, mirrored the day/month/year in which I was actually doing the 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.

Alas, my own birthday of 19 September was already filled in by Kafka, and I had nothing to do.

The following is Kafka’s actual entry for 19 September, 1917.

Following it, is the entry I gave him for  his own birthday, 03 July 1917.

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

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.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

From: Kafka In The Castle

03 July 1917

The date of my birth. Thirty-four years ago in a month I now dread because of the heat. I’m not much for stock-taking (thus certainly not much my father’s son.) What has been done can’t be changed, so thoughts about it are wasted effort. Lessons to be learned – that’s all. But the dreaded “future” – this is the battlefield. I’m convinced the bulk of my life is over, and any work to be done should not be delayed. Perhaps this is why I abandon things, so anxious am I to get on to the new.

In celebration of today, I did not make it my last.

Author Interview And Reading

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Tracked down to my own apartment, I give a sample reading from my book of short stories, “The Elephant Talks To God”. And I explain the genesis of the book. Gotta say, it might have been more entertaining to emote some of the Elephant’s poetry.

http://www.authorsaloud.com/prose/estey.html

The book:

From The Elephant Talks To God:

The elephant was a curious pachyderm, and followed his persistent quest with a guileless intensity.

“More lucky than smart,” said some of the other elephants, as he blundered his way toward another piece of knowledge. They nodded their heads in his direction with the heavy weight of caution, and warned their small ones that too much thought would make them strange.

“An elephant wades in water,” they would sagely say, “only if the mud hole is wide enough.”

And the little ones would watch him, as they stood between the legs of their parents, and wish that they could follow.

Author Audio Interview

41nf2b8xn1pl-_sy346_

Tracked down to my own apartment, I give a sample reading from my book of short stories, “The Elephant Talks To God”. And I explain the genesis of the book. Gotta say, it might have been more entertaining to emote some of the Elephant’s poetry.

http://www.authorsaloud.com/prose/estey.html

The book:

From The Elephant Talks To God:

The elephant was a curious pachyderm, and followed his persistent quest with a guileless intensity.

“More lucky than smart,” said some of the other elephants, as he blundered his way toward another piece of knowledge. They nodded their heads in his direction with the heavy weight of caution, and warned their small ones that too much thought would make them strange.

“An elephant wades in water,” they would sagely say, “only if the mud hole is wide enough.”

And the little ones would watch him, as they stood between the legs of their parents, and wish that they could follow.

Franz Kafka Ponders Death from “Kafka In The Castle”

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(Statue from the Kafka Museum, Prague)

07 June 1917

I wonder what my final thought will be – just before I die. I was moments away from death this afternoon, as I stepped unheeding onto the tram tracks. The motorman’s frantic bell made me leap. Had I been too slow, my last thoughts would have concerned where and when to take my vacation. Not very glorious last thoughts to possess.

But, had I the time granted to me, what would I chose to think about? Perhaps F. Perhaps the writing – I’d like to finish the novel. Would I torture myself thinking about father? Would I accept that my past – now that it was ending – was finally settled. Or would I instead – and this is what I really expect – be wondering what I was going to miss tomorrow?

Amazing Elephant Stories Please The Nun

THE ELEPHANT TALKS TO GOD

 

A number of years ago I received a phone call from a rather panicked Government Administrator. There was a huge weekend Arts Conference being held, for all disciplines in the province. A reader who was to present – well, entertainment – at lunch was unable to attend. Could I fill in for him. It was two days away.

Yes, said I.

My Elephant stories are all under five minutes, and they are all amusing. They read themselves. Why not.

What I did not realize was the extent of this conference. Nor did I fully appreciate that the readings were to be held during the luncheon. Something like an after dinner speech. In the middle of the day.

There was one other English reader, the late Bill Bauer. Bill is a genius, a wit, a funny fellow, and an excellent reader. A tough act to follow so I was glad to be a co-participant. The other two readers were reading in French (New Brunswick is a bi-lingual province). They were to go first, Bill and I second.

The venue – for a reader – was a hell-hole (if I may be blunt). Two large rooms filled with tables and post-meal listeners. There was no way to face them all at the same time. Bill seemed fazed by nothing but I was uncomfortable. I was glad enough the French readers went first.

They were both poets (as was Bill). My French is far from the best but, by their reading method and the reaction of the audience, it appeared that they read the most dour and angst-filled poems imaginable. Sadness and despair crept through the room(s). At least Bill and I would be a contrast.

Bill is an excellent reader – a performer, in fact. He knows when to show them and knows when to hold them. He is insightful, philosophical, inovative and just damned funny. I will laugh at a poem of his which I have read a dozen times. Few can successfully end a poem with the main character screaming the immortal words: “Aphids, aphids, aphids.” Bill does.

It may be that we were both assisted by the dour poets, for Bill’s applause was enthusiastic. I was admittedly disconcerted by attempting to read to these hundreds of people scatted upon two sides of me. But – let’s face it – ya gotta laugh at The Elephant as he takes his concerns to God. And (I hope) appreciate God’s thoughtful and kindly replies. If Bill left them laughing (and he did) then The Elephant left them laughing more.

At the end it was time for all the participants to bustle back to their conferences. But some did come up to make comments to the readers. And then occurred an event which I will cherish to my grave. An elderly French nun (in real nun garb) came up to me. She was assisted by a younger nun. The old sister put her hand on my arm. She looked up at me, and in a conspiratorial voice, thick with her French accent, said: “Ah, that Elephant.” And she smiled.

Finalist In International Flash Fiction Literary Contest

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I am extremely pleased to announce my Flash Fiction was chosen as one of the 250 finalists, from the 35,609 stories from 149 countries, entered in the International IV Edition of the Flash Fiction Competition Museum of Words.

 

This is the story, found on page 208 of the Contest Winners Booklet:

Dale Estey
 

Canadá

The old rabbi moved on his bed.

The young man raced over.
«Yes, Rebbe?»
The old rabbi opened his eyes, showing the
cast of death that has almost consumed him.
«Ka…» he groaned.
The young man had been told the dying
rabbi would never regain his senses. He leaned closer.
«What do you want?»
The old rabbi struggled for breath.
The young man gazed at pallid features and clouded eyes.
« What can I do?» He put his ear over the gaping mouth.

«Ka… Ka…»

One last ragged breath, a hollow whisper.
«Kafka died for your sins.»
This is the Prologue from the Winners Booklet:

Prologue

After four Flash Fiction Competitions, from the Museum of Words organized by the César Egidose-Serrano Foundation, we can proudly say that the competition has had an undoubted effect internationally.In this year ́s edition we have received 35.609 story entries

from 149 countries.These figures prove an undoubted success of which

we feel genuinely satisfied. And not only for the number of participants or because the prize awarded is per word the highest in the world, but because the huge participation from almost the totality of all countries of our planet supposes also that we have reached the most remote corners in which to entrust the message of the César Egido Serrano Foundation that is none other than to spread the word as a tool to encourage coexistence between cultures, religions, ideologies … our aspiration is not an ingenuous fantasy.

We are aware, very aware, that we live in some potentially tragic times; one only has to view the media from day to day. Violence is a part of human nature, wars have been –and still are- a constant in the world since the beginning of humankind, in today ́s world the deadly power of technology multiplies the threat to the extent of making it a true possibility that the species could become extinct.This is a fact, we do not want to

mislead ourselves, but it is also true that people have the ability to use dialogue and with it, the power of words, so conflicts can be resolved in an effective way.Words solve problems without leaving glimmers of resentment or rancour.

An idea is not a fact, it is a desire, and by means drives it, grows, and expands. That is why our idea (utopian yes, but not ingenuous) are always linked to the contest so ideas as are spread to more people in more countries. Because if history has been rife with violent coflicts, it has also left evidence and clear examples of what we are saying is also possible. We should remember Gandhi or Mandela (leading figure of who we have dedicated this contest) who managed to prioritize dialogue and understanding and the use of words in violent times.

We will continue with eagerness, we know that if it was already a reality we would not be necessary.That is why we are here with these finalists as proof that projects like ours expand with unstoppable strength.

– César Egido Cerrano
The booklet is available here:
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