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Kafka Had A Father For Life

hermann-kafka1

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. 

Kafka’s father gets a bad (and unwarranted) rap from Kafka and history. Hermann Kafka was emotionally distant, and devoted his life to his business (at which he was very successful). But he did this as much for his family, as for any other reason. He had come from hardship, poverty and want, and he wished different for his children. As long as they didn’t get in his way.

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

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?

Train Station Saved By Becoming House of Booze

 

a56681c5-c096-45a6-b044-71efa1c26ffc

I was first at this train station in the late 1950s, to greet my Mother’s mother, who travelled by ship from England.
She first went to Saint John’s, and then (I guess) Halifax. She stayed with us two months or more, with one trip (I bet by train) to Ontario to see a sister (Great Aunt Lizzie, who sent me a toy where you squeezed a rubber ball attached to a hose that pushed air into a small box which made it pop open and a snake coiled out. I called the snake Lizzie, which caused some consternation).

Also, my brother’s first memory of my father was seeing a pair of legs waiting at the bottom of a rail car as he and Mom disembarked. I assume this was also the York St. Station. He would have been three. Dad was away on the continent fighting a war when he was born and, at war’s end, had been shipped directly back to Canada.

And – of course – I lived ten minutes away from this station for thirty-four years. Many and many are the times I walked the tracks to go to UNB, both as a student, and for work at the University Library. Many was the Sunday walk I took from the Station to the Princess Margaret Bridge, which was two kilometres away. Then I walked back beside the river.

I also took a number of train trips to and from this station. And during those times the train finally did not physically come into this station, one took a bus from here, to and fro the Fredericton Junction station.

This  unexpected walk down memory lane is caused by my current character, Alison Alexandra. For the last three days I have been describing Alison Alexandra sitting beside a disused train station (now a museum), waiting for a train to pass so she can wave at the engineer. Which she did.

Here is the link that describes how this station – eventually – was revived from its years of abandonment, and its derelict situation, to become a modern place of commerce.

Escape From The House of Hell

alh5baf0f_ottla[Franz & Ottla]

Franz Kafka lived way too long with his parents (his discord with his father is famous), and stayed in the city of Prague (which he described as “The little mother with claws”) for most of his life. But his sister, Ottla, escaped both. In my rendition of Kafka’s missing diary entries, in Kafka In The Castle, I show his reaction to his sister’s escape.

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

20 April 1917

Fate laughed up its sleeve, and this morning’s post brought a letter from Felice. A letter of no consequence, except for its arrival.

And I, in fact, have answered it. Perhaps too hastily. Perhaps too truthfully.

I have praised Ottla so much previously that F. has, upon occasion, made comments about my admiration.

That was her word, and I think it was not used favourably.

But the truth is – I have great admiration for my youngest sister. She does not think and think and think.

She does not discuss things for weeks.

She acts.

My God – she got away from Prague!

Kafka With A Father’s Knife In His Back On The Ides of March

1eid_mar

 

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 wrote a book about it.   For The Ides of March,  I imagine how Kafka pictured the will and actions of his father.

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

15 March 1917

Had I been born into a different family  – with other parents – I would be a different person. I was doomed from my first breath to have the father I have. My life is shaped beyond the reach of my choice.

I have lived so much of my life defending myself, that I marvel I have advanced at all. It is difficult to have achievements while continually looking over your shoulder for a knife in the back. Harder still, when you have to stop periodically, reach awkwardly around, and pull out the blades embedded there from childhood.

Cut and bloodied fingers make it painful to pick up the life spread before you.

But, my father is not always content to stand behind. From any alley – indeed, from any room, across any table – my father can charge at me with an outstretched lance, or a sword held high to come chopping down across my neck, with the full intent of severing my head from my body.

That he often strikes blindly makes his attack no less destructive.

(Image) cdn.history.com/sites/2/2017/03/1Eid_Mar.jpg

A Meal With Kafka And His Family

109616

[Ottla ~ Kafka’s little sister]

I have filled in the missing diaries of Franz Kafka in my novel Kafka In The Castle. Speculation on my part, of course, but based on actual incidents.

~~~~~

15 April 1917

I’ve just come from the train station. Seeing Ottla off to Zurau. She didn’t take much with her – I had little to carry. Very little help to give. She had not planned to go for another couple of weeks, but father took her to task at today’s dinner. He was vile even by his standards. I like to think he was really trying to stop her. You can stop someone by destroying them. Perhaps that is always his strategy.

She didn’t get to finish her meal – although, I suppose, throwing it across the table is one way of finishing it. A plate of soup which splattered against his chest, turning the shirt dark. “There you see it.”  He bellowed as he stood up from the table.  “Yes, yes. There it is.”  His voice growled, and spittle was on his lips. The rest of us were immobile. Even mother did not bustle forward to try to clean the mess, or make her usual noises to calm him down. His face flushed red, and his hands trembled in front of him, but for once he made no reference to his heart, or the other ailments he claims. Ottla did not look in his direction, but glanced at her sisters. and then at me.

I had the greatest desire to continue eating my soup. I wished some words of reason could come out of my mouth; that things could be made right, and we would go on to the next course of this ghastly meal. I wished these things all the while I looked up to father – and smiled.  “There! There!”  This time he did step back from the table. “There is the Herr Son. At last the true villain bares his teeth. The old cur teaching the bitch her new tricks. This educated misfit who knows nothing of children and families. Who never even knew how to be a proper child.”

I am sure the only reason father did not throw his food at me was because he did not think of it.  “The Herr Doktor who does not have a wife – who can not please a woman enough to make her stay. This has turned my family against me. I should rip him apart like a fish.” He made tearing motions with his hands. “The head just so – snapping it back to carry out the spine.”  And then he smiled at me – a mocking grin.  “If there is a spine in this particular minnow.”

He made motions as if to wipe his fingers on his shirt, and looked down with genuine surprise when they brushed against the dampness of the soup. Mother was standing by this time, and father looked at her with his mouth open. His hands fell to his side, and he finally looked at Ottla. “You disgrace your parents. The whores of Russia act better than you.”  “Then it is a shame I can’t get to Russia.”  Ottla stood carefully, though she shoved her chair back with enough deliberation to hit the wall. “I would truly be rid of you.”

She looked right at him, her face without expression.  “But I can go to Zurau. That I can do this evening. I’ll not have to stay another night under this roof. Within the reach of your contamination.” She walked from the room without looking back.  “You’ll think differently, after a few days on the farm. When your hands are blistered, and your body aching. Then you will be glad to return here, to the comforts of your home.”  I rose to follow Ottla, to be with her, and to help if I could.  “If you leave this table to go to her, then you are no son of mine.”  I looked father in the face as I passed, and smiled again. “How I pray you could accomplish that.”

(image)img2.ct24.cz/cache/900×700/article/11/1097/109616.jpg

 

Mother And Son In Thirteenth Century Europe

episode-of-the-child-crusade

Exercpt from: China Lily

Matzerath’s mother rarely shared her thoughts with anyone. She is as elusive now as when he was a small boy being raised within the shadow of the religious buildings where she still works as a cook. Bishops and abbots come and go, and red-robed Princes of the Church make their visits, for which she must dress appropriately – but she remains. At least Matzerath assumes she is still there, though he has not been back for five years.

Matzerath is small in stature and taken to be younger than he is. At thirteen he is treated as seven. He allows this because he finds there are more advantages then penalties. He knows far more than is expected of him, and avoids many pitfalls through the guile no one expects he has. He also achieves more than is expected from him, and is given much leeway for a child. Had his real age been obvious, he would be perceived as dim-witted. Because he is thought of as a child, he is considered gifted.

Matzerath’s mother is aware of how her son is tolerated – she even encourages his guile. He is treated better than most children, whose father is absent months at a time sailing the North Sea.

Matzerath is also getting an education of sorts, which is generally restricted to the children of nobles and the wealthy. He has learned how to read and write, along with the rudiments of mathematics and geography. He also pokes his nose into the stables, and the smithy, and the carpenters, picking up their basic skills.

He follows his own mother with interest, and can chose, prepare and present many of the dishes she serves at the Monastery. For the notables at the cathedral, and other clergy, she is expected to produce more sophisticated fare. Matzerath has even acquired some of these skills, but a puny child is forbidden to appear near the high table. He does get to nibble the leavings but notes – as he also does at the Monastery – that very little is ever left.

Matzerath would have been content to stay in this arduous life seasoned with episodes of interest and learning, but his elusive nature is discovered by a visiting bishop.

The Bishop is a militant with evangelical frenzy. He is intent upon forming a Children’s Crusade to march to the Holy Land. Matzerath is not sure what this means, though he gathers it will offer an opportunity to leave the confines of the town and local villages where he has spent his life. His mother is better informed.

Even though the last Children’s Crusade happened generations ago, and the Church proclaims it was a wondrous act for the Glory of God, she is fully aware that most of the children never came back. And that the Holy Land is still lost to the grip of heathens. The murmurs from the Monastery and the high table reveal this bishop to be a renegade and unsound in judgment. His ‘new’ crusade is predicted to be a disaster. His abilities to lead it are a joke. However, he does have the ear of the Pope, and his family has much wealth to give to the Church.

Matzerath does not possess an abundant affection for his mother – not for anyone – but he realizes that regardless of the amount of work she extracts from him, she generally does what is best for him. He pays attention to her instructions and her observations and her warnings. She also encourages him to tell her what he sees and hears. As he becomes older, she also wants to know what he thinks about the things he sees. Matzerath realizes she is using him as a spy, but he does not mind. He knows his mother sometimes manipulates the information he brings for her own well-being, but these rewards also come to him.

Matzerath heeds the warnings his mother gives about some of the priests and monks and their interest in boys. He discovers this himself upon a couple of occasions, and even satisfies one priest just to see what it is like. He shares this with his mother because he knows she sometimes does the same.

DE

(image)http://www.ancient-origins.net/sites/default/files/Episode-of-the-Child-Crusade.jpg

History And Europe And Estey

0a Isabella d’Este, Giovanni Cristoforo Romano, 1500.

There is a tradition in “my” branch of the Estey family that we descend from the d’Este of Italy. The d’Este clan were rich and powerful and influential. They married well which – yes –  brought the infamous Lucrezia Borgia into the family when she wed Alfonso I d’Este, Duke of Ferrara.

My father had a reproduction of Alfonso’s sister, Isabella, readily at hand. Isabel was a name for at least one daughter in every generation of Esteys. Lucrezia attempted to befriend Isabella, but to no avail.

The town of Este is in Northern Italy, in the Veneto region, about a two hour car ride from Venice. It’s most recent population figure of two years ago was around 17,000. I have a special fondness for this part of Italy and have sprinkled references to it in some of my novels. Indeed, my whole historical onion trilogy is centred around a town in this area.

So, Este was certainly a destination when I travelled through Europe. And the surrounding area. Este was suitably medieval in tone, with its ruined Este castle and wonderful flower beds and bowers and stone bridge over river and walled town and as happily historic as all get out.

I looked to see how many Estes were in the phone book (a respectable number) but I didn’t phone anyone.  I would be more thorough and stay longer on another trip. I doubt there is any way to fix up that castle.

I enjoyed all of Italy that I visited (and the rest of Europe held no less enthusiasm from me). But to stick, as it were, around the old homestead, the most enjoyable places were Venice and Florence. I was most surprised to see cruise ships looming from the Venetian waterfront.

I sighed on The Bridge of Sighs – from such beauty to such terror those prisoners were lead. A stunning memory was boating on the Grand Canal at dusk and seeing rooms in a passing mansion ablaze with chandeliers.

Florence was my favourite. It is, of course, awash in museums and galleries and art art Art. To chose the one which stunned me most was  Botechelli’s Birth of Venus – and that’s saying a lot, considering. The Ponte Vecchio over the Arno lives up to all its billing. Alas, I bought no gold.

Also, a memory is walking along certain streets and assuming I was near riding stables because of the permeating smell. However, I was in the leather good quarter. There was also the ancient, wire mesh and gated elevator,the type I had only seen in movies, wheezing me aloft to my lodgings. And the lady who left her room key on my table after breakfast. And don’t get me started on the markets and the food. Don’t.

However, there is one golden memory which consists of neither history nor ancient art. This happened in Verona. I was walking along a busy street and looked into the interior of a news vendor. The building also had an array of paperback books. And there, looking back out at me, was my own novel, L’INGANNO BONNER, recently produced in an Italian translation. That was a most pleasant delight indeed.

DE

(image)http://www.isabelladeste.org/_/rsrc/1467897567813/isabella-deste/0a.PNG

 

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