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Some Franz Kafka For Father’s Day

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. It is estimated that Kafka destroyed 70% – 80% of everything he wrote. 

On this day, Kafka spent the afternoon with his father – an unusual event. And he even had a beer – he was not much of a drinker. But his estranged sister, Ottla, was coming to visit. Her parting with her father months before had been vicious. Kafka hopes to make her visit passable.

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

25 June 2017

We are rarely alone with each other, and the strain was palpable. I wanted to act as normally as possible, but since my usual conversation is what generally infuriates him, that seemed unwise. We read the newspapers, and I managed enough comments about the articles, and elicited his tiresome opinions about the war, and didn’t argue with him too much, that the afternoon – although slow – passed with little rancour. I even had a beer with him, and he showed his surprise. And, I even enjoyed it – but then, I had earned it.

In fact, it may have been the unaccustomed alcohol which lessened the shock of seeing Ottla enter the apartment with mother. Father stood from his chair, the newspapers falling at his feet. “Ottla has an hour before she must catch her train,” said Mother. “I have asked her in for some tea.” Father glared at her an excessively long minute without speaking, managing however to give me an occasional menacing glance. He then abruptly sat again, gathering his papers and holding them in front of his face. “Don’t give her too much,” came his voice from behind the pages. “Too much tea can make a long journey uncomfortable.” I knew that he had already read the pages he held, and I wondered what he was thinking.

About ten minutes passed, and then mother came back and asked if we would like any tea. “Yes,” my father answered, but instead of waiting for it to be brought to him, as is his usual practise, he followed mother into the dining room. And I followed him. Ottla didn’t look up, but he did manage to ask some questions about the farm, and she delivered some cautious replies. She stayed another twenty minutes, then I walked her to the station. It had been mother’s idea to come home, and Ottla had not strongly resisted. I know that she and father will never apologize to each other, but at least they now speak. Once we were out of sight of the house, she gripped my hand and held it until we reached the train. “How can I love that monster?” she asked from the train as it pulled away. “How can you not?” I replied. I hope the noise from the wheels drowned out my words.

26 June 1917

Fight and you die. Surrender and you die.

27 June 1917

Live and you die.

For World Oceans Day: She Had God In Her Feet And Angels In Her Summer Hair

I visit wharves and gaze out to sea.

It is a pleasure that took hold some ten years ago. I don’t know why, for I certainly had experience with oceans and coast long before that. For some things it seems its time just comes.

I prefer small working ports, gritty and smelling of fish and lobster and ocean. The scurry and comings and goings (though I also like them in the evening when most work is done). I walk the docking between the boats and peer from the end of the wharf. I ponder distant shores or endless sea and screaming gulls with sometimes seals and whales and archaic Blue Herons.

Last night, when I thought the wharf was my own, a man, woman, toddler and dog arrived. They seemed to do much as I was doing, though they knew the owner of one of the fishing boats. The man was gruffly talkative, the dog was rambunctious, the woman apologized for the toddler’s dirty face and the little girl didn’t quite know what to make of me. Friendly and chatty but she wouldn’t take my hand as I offered to walk her up a gangplank.

I left them on the docking between the moored boats and started to walk on the wharf itself.  The fishing boats and the docking were parallel to the wharf.  I was half way along when I heard a shout. I heard the dog. I looked over and this is where life becomes art becomes life. It was a Kodak moment. It was a Motorola moment. It was a ‘freeze frame/real time/fast forward’ moment. It was a composition/edited moment. It was all these things which came to my visual mind. All this and the knowledge that there was no way I could get there if I was needed.

The little girl was going for the gold. She had God in her feet and Angels in her streaming hair as she raced between the moored boats. Her dirty face was wide with excitement and it is probably the happiest she has been in her life. The man was restraining the dog and the woman was in athletic pursuit. They raced between the boats and the mooring lines and the tools of the fishing trade. The dock swayed in the movement of the waves.  I could not believe the swiftness of the child. The woman finally took what seemed to me a runner’s stance and eventually grabbed the exuberant child. I heard, over the water, admonishments of what could happen if she had “gone under a boat.” All – of course – true.

But the dog understood.

Kafka And His Mother Understood Each Other

Franz Kafka is famous for many things.

He wrote a story where the central character  “. . . awoke one morning from uneasy dreams [and] found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.”

He wrote “The Trial”, where a man was arrested one morning while (again) still in bed. He was accused of a crime, but was never told what the crime was. Throughout the novel, the man tries to find out his crime. but never does. His quest does not end well.

In the real world, Kafka invented the first safety helmet for workers.

And then, there is arguably his most famous written work, his “Letter To My Father”, detailing his father’s rough and uncaring treatment toward him.

Franz gave the letter to his mother to give to his father.

She never did.

Which is why Franz gave it to her. He knew she never would.

DE

A House of Dreams Becomes a House of Ghosts

A photo which floated past on the internet this morning, also made this segment of one of my novels float past.

From “He Lives In The City / He Drives To The Country”

It had been a house of dreams, it was now a house of ghosts.

   Ghosts tranquil and benign peered through the dusty upper windows, stood in wait behind the boarded doors. The dreams of long ago, which had tumbled down the stairs, and frolicked through the rooms, were now memories in the minds of ghosts.     

   The ghosts were themselves memories, destined to further fade with each new birth. But there would be no births in this house, as it slid inexorably toward decay. The lackluster brown shingles would be more smudged, the remaining panes of old glass would break, the floors would warp and collapse, the unkept roof would succumb to the years of harsh weather. 

     Even the `No Trespass’ sign was barely legible. Then where would the ghosts go?

     Blaine left his car and walked toward the house. 

     If he had eyes to see, who would be there to greet him?  Would children’s dreams, fair-haired and boisterous, burst through the front door and surround him in games of tag and laughter?  Would he get caught by their enthusiasm (would he become a child himself), and race behind the trees, burrow into the hay, hide between the bins of potato and turnip, intent not to be `it’. 

     Or would he meet the ghosts, quiet and tentative at the top of the steps, moving slowly with their uncertain smiles. Would they greet him with a wave, invite him into their warm-smelling kitchens, offer him fresh tea, and squares right out of the pan?  Would he sit in the stream of fall sunlight flowing across the well-oiled floor, and talk about childhood?

     Blaine walked part way up the drive before he stopped.

     He knew what lay beyond the boarded windows, and the sagging door upon its rusty hinges. Wallpaper would be water-stained, and curling off the plaster walls. There would be lumps of refuse in the corners of the rooms, with one inevitable rusty bedframe lying on its side. There would be gaps in the ceiling, where beams of sunlight shimmered through motes of dust. There would be holes in the baseboards, where earnest rodents made comfortable homes.

     There would be musty smells offering a hint of long-ago meals, and something gone bad in the pantry. There would be one upper window (at the back) which still had a tattered lace  curtain, half obscuring what had once been totally private. At night he would hear bats.

     It was not this house he had come to see, of course. Of course, not this derelict house, which he knew could never be restored, and which was so beyond help even death slept while visiting. 

Kafka Starts The New Year With His Father And A Cloud

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 January 1917

There was a cloud caught in the branches of a tree today, outside my parents home.

Or so it appeared.

I got up from the cot and went to tell Ottla, but she was clearing the kitchen, tending to the dishes. So I was radical, unthinking – driven by haste – and told the only one not consumed by labour. I told my father.

“In the trees?” he asked.

I propelled him from his chair, thrusting the papers aside. He followed me, and I could see the surprise on his face.

“Where?” he asked; and I pointed out the window. “But I see nothing.”

“Oh, you have to lie on the cot.”

“On the cot?”

“And with your head just so.” I pushed him onto it, and he lay, looking sideways.

“But you are right,” he said.

I thought because of the holiday he might be humouring me, but then I saw that his jaw hung open, and his face was astonished.

Does the boy never grow, that he can feel so good to be vindicated by his father?

Franz Kafka Thinks About His Father – Perhaps NOT Suitable For Father’s Day

In my novel, Kafka In The Castle, (and I more and more want to spell Castle with a ‘K’) I have Franz ponder his father in many of the diary entries I create. There was no ‘Father’s Day’ then, but my Kafka might easily have thought this if there was. I do not have as harsh an opinion about Kafka’s father as he, and contemporary scholars, have.

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

10 May 1917

Father says that I will see him into his grave, and “… you’ll be throwing the dirt with gusto.” I was tempted to tell him what I was really thinking – a situation which arises more and more. But I merely mumbled and nodded. Had my mind escaped my mouth however, I would have tried to describe the images which raced in my head. Those immediate and dangerous thoughts.

I saw my sisters and myself, numerous of our relatives, and all of father’s employees. We were impatiently standing in line with shovels upraised, awaiting the order to commence. But the voice I hear yelling to “start, start – don’t waste my time,” is my father’s. Then, with precise movements – and in unison – we dig our shovels into the heap of dirt, and the air is soon full of dust from our vigorous activities. The only way we can muffle his voice is to pile the dirt deep. And, he is right – we do so with gusto.

Summer Ends For Kafka

(Kafka & Ottla in Zürau)

In Kafka In The Castle I fill in the missing diaries of Franz Kafka. Here, Kafka learns of the tuberculosis that will eventually kill him. He gets to have ‘time off’ from his job at The WorkersAccident Insurance Institute for the Kingdom of Bohemia in Prague, and also to escape his day-to-day life. He plans a vacation with his sister Ottla in a village some distance from Prague.

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

06 September 1917
Even though I wait for the summer to be over, I am always surprised by the abrupt transition.

One Wednesday it can be uncomfortable to walk the streets in the afternoon, but on the weekend it seems I should put the windows down at night. Now, I have these other desired passages thrust suddenly upon me, but for all my longing I am woefully unprepared.

I am back in my parent’s apartment, but it is only for another week. Then, I am going to Zureau to be with Ottla.
I have been granted three months leave from the Institute. The Director is most concerned about my state, and speaks of my invaluable contributions. He seems to mean it. Would not hear talk of my resignation.
So, I get to follow Ottla out of Prague – almost with carte blanche.

And there is nothing more to be done with Felice. I may have written her my last letter. What good is a tubercular for a husband? But – to be with Ottla.

To be out of Prague.

To get away from Prague!

[Image] https://i.redd.it/b5admh9jpag11.jpg

A Father’s Understanding

18_hermannkafka.2

[Hermann Kafka]

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.

Franz Kafka had his famous conflict with his father. He even wrote a book about it. In reality, his father was almost as harsh and disdainful to Franz’s sister, Ottla. She eventually left the Prague family home, and moved to a small village. But, also in reality, her father never seemed to understand his part in it.

Here I have their father, Hermann, talk about his daughter to his son.

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

 

17 April 1917

Father greeted me at the supper table today, and even – over the course of the meal – asked if I had heard from Ottla.

If it were anyone else, I would have admiration for his guile. But I honestly don’t believe that father has the cunning for such a thing.

Because his belief in his narrow opinions is so absolute, I think that our words slide off him like melting snow.

And because this happens, he does not realize the destruction his own words cause.”They are just words,” he would say. “You can’t eat them, and they don’t keep you warm.”

Just words.

He asked me to say hello from him when I next write to her.

Kafka Dreams of His Father and Gets Revenge

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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.

Of the people described in this entry: Max is Kafka’s best friend; F. is his fiancee; The Swiss Girl was a first love; Ottla is his sister.

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

07 March 1918

Dreamed I had another life. At the same time I had this one.

My additional life may not have always been what I chose, but it was always better than what I have.

At the Sunday dinner, Max was my father, and Ottla was my mother – although our ages remained the same. Sometimes my wife was the Swiss girl, sometimes it was F’s best friend. And sometimes it was Ottla.

I would still see my father in this other life, but only when I went into his store to make some purchase. He was as mean and gruff as ever.

I always shortchanged him.

 

[IMAGE} https://byronsmuse.wordpress.com/2018/12/20/fashion-inspiration-please-consider-me-a-dream/

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