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My Father’s War Encounter During The Summer Solstice

I don’t post this every first day of summer (tempting though it is), but I find it neat to have such a connection to the Celts, about whom I have written three novels

During World War Two, my father had the unique experience of guarding Stonehenge. Not by himself, of course, there were other members of the Canadian Army with him.

The vast plains around Stonehenge were utilised by the military in both world wars. During the First War, the area was a training ground for troops from various countries. There were many encampments for recruits, with both basic training and preparations to train for the trench warfare awaiting on the continent. There were thousands and thousands of men, and huge amounts of supplies.

During the Second War, the area was used as staging ground for the D-Day invasion. There was great security, and as much secrecy as possible. Soldiers were in place to guard the perimeter.

So, my father found himself not only guarding Stonehenge, but doing so on Midsummer Morn, when the sun rose over the monument. He was a learned man – a school teacher – and versed in the history of the place. He knew of the Celts and the Druids and some of the mythology. He knew this was sacred ground and that Midsummer Morn was especially important. He might have paused and tried to look into the past, and see more in the morning mist than was actually there. I do not know.

He did, however, when their shift was over and they got to eat, tell the other soldiers of the history of the place. He mentioned that, during such celebrations by the Celts, the Druids might have a virgin killed to appease the gods. The other soldiers were shocked.


“What a waste,” said one

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.

A Father’s Understanding

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[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 And His Fate On The Ides Of March

ides-of-march-calendar-300x225-1

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.   For The Ides of March,  I imagine how Kafka pictured the will, and the actions of his father.  Beware.

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

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.

Beware

[Image] https://earthsky.org/upl/2019/03/ides-of-march-calendar-300×225.jpg

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/

Kafka Has A Beer With His Father

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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. 

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 Kafka knew his estranged sister, Ottla, was coming to visit. Her parting of months before had been vicious.

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

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.

 

[Image] https:/ /s.inyourpocket.com/gallery/148184.jpg

 

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?

Kafka Ponders His Father (for Father’s Day from Kafka In The Castle)

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.

cloud-tree

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?

(image)http://www.wikilinks.fr/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/cloud-tree.jpg

Train Station Saved By Becoming House of Booze

 

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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.

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