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Franz Kafka

Franz Kafka – the Race Horse

stare_mesto_old_town_prague_czech_republic_capaet1183-horizontal

I doubt that Kafka would ever turn over in his grave about anything – considering  the accuracy he had in observing the world. Also, he wrote some very – peculiar – stories which puts normal reality to shame.

But this – I think – would give him pause.

He has had a race horse named after him.

I don’t think there are any reports, or diary entries, or letters, about him going to the races. It seems his interest in sports was minimal, except for those that one does on their own. He liked swimming, and long walks, and rowing around and about on the river. But that seems to be it. Plus, he was never much of a gambler – except in life.

So, I think that at best, he would be bemused about Franz Kafka, the Race Horse.

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

Franz Kafka

  • Age3 (Foaled 28th February 2016)
  • TrainerJ H M Gosden
  • SexColt
  • SireDubawi
  • DamKailani
  • OwnerHH Sheikha Al Jalila Racing
Date Pos BHA Type Race Details SP
14/08/19 6/8 87 FLAT Kempton, 7f, Standard / Slow, C4 4/1
28/05/19 1/5 86 FLAT Brighton, 7f 211y, Good to Firm (Watered), C5 8/15
07/05/19 3/11 86 FLAT Wetherby, 7f, Good to Soft, C5 1/2
18/04/19 2/14 82 FLAT Newmarket, 7f, Good to Firm (Good in Places), C4 13/8
31/03/19 2/10 FLAT Doncaster, 7f 6y, Good to Firm (Good in places), C5 11/4
26/10/18 6/15 FLAT Newbury, 1m, Good to Soft (Soft in Places), C4 8/11
06/10/18 3/12 FLAT Newmarket, 1m, Good, C4 33/1

(http://www.sportinglife.com/racing/profiles/horse/901864)

 

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“Kill Me, Or You Are A Murderer.”

prague20franz20kafka20-resizefranz-kafka-museum-prague

Franz Kafka was born in 1883, so he would probably be dead had he lived.

I wonder what Kafka would think about the worldwide communication and information of today. He was a rigid fixture of the staid (he hated using the telephone). He also was a keen observer of the world around him (he wrote the first newspaper report about aeroplanes, and he invented the safety helmet). It was more this deep divide in his personality which caused him his problems, about which he so famously wrote.

He did not fit into his personal world, yet he fit into the real world perfectly. He was adored by his friends and by many ladies. He was respected at his work and rose to a position of power. His stories were published to acclaim in his lifetime.

Kafka lived a Kafkaesque life. He died a Kafkaesque death (he caught tuberculosis because he drank “pure” unpasteurised cow’s milk). He was rigid in his personal beliefs (until proved wrong), yet he was a beacon of compassion to others.

Kafka was always on a tightrope. He looked at things with such accuracy that his comments can seem bizarre. Supposedly his last words were:  “Kill me, or you are a murderer.” They were to  his doctor, as Kafka beseeches for an overdose of morphine.

I have written much about Kafka. This is a diary entry I had him write in my novel Kafka In The Castle:

03 July 1917

The anniversary of my birth. In honour of the day, I do not make it my last.

Kafka Wants To Light A Fire – Well … Not Really

kafka-brod

Much is made – again and again – about Kafka’s famous request to his friend, Max Brod, that all his manuscripts be burned unread. That included all his fiction, all his letters, and all his diaries.  Consigned to the flames and removed from the earth.

Had this been done, most of the work for which Kafka is famous would never be known, for little was published during his life. His skewed yet realistic outlook on life, now famously known as Kafkaesque, would not be classed in every dictionary. A touchstone, known the world over, would have been lost. Kafka might, at best, been remembered as the man who wrote about the bug.

Brod gets a bum rap about defying Kafka’s direction to burn all his manuscripts. Yes, Kafka did indeed make this request of Brod. He apparently made it a few times, both verbally and in writing.  Each time, Bord told him outright he would not follow Kafka’s request. “It ain’t” – if I might slip into a vernacular the erudite Brod would ever use – “going to be me, chum.”

Another prominent time  Kafka refused to do something that he could have easily done himself, concerned his famous Letter To His Father. Instead of handing (or sending) the letter  to his father, he gave it to his mother to pass on, knowing full well his mother would not be part of causing such discord. And – in fact – his father never read the letter.

If Kafka really wanted all his manuscripts burned, he could have just as easily (indeed – more easily) done it himself. He certainly did burn much of what he wrote. Brod once found him doing it. It is estimated he burned 70-80% of his own work.

Kafka might have renewed his written request near the end of his life, but he made it to the one man whom he knew would not do it.

That was Kafka

Happy Birthday, Franz Kafka!

kafka5jahre

Yes, 03 July is Kafka’s birthday.
Imagine all the celebrations running rampant in the world.
No doubt a hearty rendition of “Hip hip hooray” and the occasional exuberant “Huzzah!”, echo through each major city and every quiet hamlet.
In my novel about him, Kafka In The Castle, I gave him this diary entry.
03 July 1918
 
The anniversary of my birth.

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

Franz Kafka Ponders Death from “Kafka In The Castle”

2014-05-18-06-55-42

(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?

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 In Love – From Letters To The Grave

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(Franz Kafka and Felice Bauer)

Franz Kafka had many lovers in his life. They ranged from Dora Diamant to Felice Bauer.

Dora was his lover at the end of his life. She was twelve years his junior, and had to be restrained from leaping into his open grave.

Felice was engaged to him twice. And, as this excellent article from The Guardian points out, most of their relationship occurred through letters. And those few times they were together were not always filled with bliss.

After The Guardian article are some excerpts from my Kafka in The Castle, also dealing with his relationship with Felice. Poor Felice.

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

Franz Kafka’s virtual romance: a love affair by letters as unreal as online dating

His love letters were sent by post rather than email, but Kafka’s affair with Felice Bauer recoiled from reality in a way that has become familiar in the internet age

Looking ahead to modern romance … the statue of a giant rotating head of Franz Kafka by Czech artist David Cerny. Photograph: Michal Cizek/AFP/Getty Images

Rafia Zakaria

@rafiazakaria

Friday 12 August 2016 12.30 BST Last modified on Friday 12 August 2016 17.23 BST

On 13 August 1912, a summer evening in Prague, a young Franz Kafka was gathering up his manuscripts to take to the house of his friend, Max Brod. His excursion to the Brods’ home late in the evening was not unusual, but this was an unusual night, for two momentous reasons: Kafka was about to send off what would be one of his first works to be published, and that evening he would meet the woman who would dominate his romantic imagination for the next five years.

Felice Bauer, a cousin of the Brod family who lived in Berlin, was travelling through Prague on her way to a wedding. That night, she would meet the intense author at the Brods’ dining table. According to Kafka’s version of the events (and it is the only one we have, since Felice’s letters were destroyed), she did not eat much and seemed reticent when he “offered her his hand across the table”. The few words they exchanged, her demeanour, her slippers, where she sat, where he sat, his invitation that she join him on a trip to Jerusalem, his aching self-consciousness as he (along with Max Brod’s father) walked her home: all of this would form the flimsy foundation on which their relationship was built – one they would conduct almost entirely without seeing each other in person, one that Kafka scholar Elias Canetti dubbed “Kafka’s Other Trial.”.

Despite the relatively short distance between Prague and Berlin, Kafka and Bauer would meet only a handful of times, become engaged twice and never marry. But their correspondence of hundreds of letters – which finished when Kafka wrote the last letter in 1917 and only came to the world’s attention in 1955, when Bauer sold his letters to her – is one of the most poignant chronicles of the human urge to share ourselves, while foregoing the vulnerability that such intimacy creates.

Nothing unites two people so completely, especially if, like you and me, all they have is words

Kafka, in a 1912 letter to Bauer

These days, our world is dominated by the written word more than ever before. While letter-writing declines, in 2015 the average office worker received 121 emails every day, their very own share of the 205bn total sent and received in total. In the second decade of the 20th century, Franz and Felice, toiling in offices in Prague and Berlin, were similarly able to count on correspondence, work and otherwise, delivered several times a day. More urgent messages came via telegram and all of it was routine enough by 1912 to be taken for granted.

Kafka relied on the single medium of his letters to mythologise his romance with Bauer, making it, and consequently himself, far more attractive. (“Nothing unites two people so completely, especially if, like you and me, all they have is words,” he wrote in one letter.) He used the distance between the real and virtual worlds to his advantage, in a way that is familiar today – who of us hasn’t crafted a more perfect version of ourselves, in that separate online world?

Kafka resisted putting their epistolary relationship to the real-life test. After finally agreeing to meet Bauer, he sent a telegram in the morning saying he would not be coming, but went anyway – and remained sullen and withdrawn, later complaining that he had been hugely disappointed with the real Felice.

This was predictable: a month before the visit, Kafka wrote that “if one bolts the doors and windows against the world, one can from time to time create the semblance and almost the beginning of the reality of a beautiful life”. In these words, one could argue, lies a premonition of online romance. What Kafka did in lyrical prose, the rest of us bumble through on social media and dating apps today – enjoying a similar disconnect from reality.

And make no mistake, the virtual nature of their relationship was a deliberate effort on Kafka’s part: his allegiance was to writing, and the love he felt for Bauer was constructed entirely in writing, the content and frequency of which he could control. It was entirely untranslatable into an actual marriage. He’d veer between contradictions on that point, too, at one point gushing that “we belong together unconditionally” only to declare “marriage a scaffold” weeks later.

Reticent or eager, the internet age has made writers of us all, and even if most of us are bad ones, we gather up the small prizes of making ourselves and our virtual crushes look better than we are. Yes, our lusty, emotive missives likely lack the incandescence of Kafka’s prose, but his indulgence of a romance restricted to writing gives email love a useful literary genealogy. Kafka’s fiction has bestowed us with the adjective “Kafkaesque”, pointing to the intersection of the perverse and the grotesque woven into the banalities of modern life. Kafka’s love letters suggest another dimension for the term: that incongruity between who we are and who we want to be, between our desire to share our inner worlds and the fear of experiencing the consequent vulnerability that such exposure would bring into our “real” lives. Connection and isolation each have a cost. Virtual worlds, like letters of old, provide a partition between the two; enabled then by the postal service, and now by digital technology.

Partition, however, is not intersection. In his romance with Felice at least, Kafka found no possibility of merging the two. The intimacy that existed on the page did not translate into attraction in reality. By the time the first engagement was broken, too much had been shared, even if only by letter, so their writing to each other continued regardless.

But by the second engagement, Kafka and Bauer were conclusively forced apart – Kafka’s diagnosis with tuberculosis in 1917 had dashed any prospect of marriage. In his final letter to Felice, he wrote: “If we value our lives, let us abandon it all … I am forever fettered to myself, that’s what I am, and that’s what I must try to live with.”

This was not the end, however, to his penchant for the virtual affair: Kafka wrote his first letter to Milena Jesenska, his subsequent love, in 1920.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2016/aug/12/franz-kafkas-virtual-world-romance-felice-bauer

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Excerpt from Kafka In The Castle

27 February 1917

A letter from F. I am beginning to think that we do not really see the people in front of us. F. has changed from a vibrant companion to a banal drudge. But, of course, she has not really changed. She is neither of these things, but rather a combination. She is a person living through her life, and what I see reflected are my wants and fears. I want F. to share my tiny house, but I am ever fearful she might say yes.

28 March 1917

I have many letters I should write, the principle one being to F. A chore offering little satisfaction, and less pleasure. Except for the relief of knowing it is done. I am an expert in this, since I spend most of my life dealing with chores. The sins of the office will follow me into the third and fourth decade. But what is to be done about Felice? If anything, she is enjoying our correspondence more now, than she ever has. Rarely do we go below the surface of furniture and work. Will this be this, or that be that? If we ever approach the stairway of heaven together, she will be most concerned that the carpeting upon it is expensive and durable.

04 June 1917

Sometimes – with F – a kiss could make me feel I was becoming part of her. And she into me. I retreated.

 

05 June 1917

Had I not retreated, I would have given up myself. This is what is expected from love. My thoughts and emotions would be continually extracted. I have no way to replenish them, so I would eventually be hollowed out. And I would collapse.

 

29 June 1917

Felice is insistent. The heat is intolerable. The Institute drags me in like a bad novel, and smothers me in verbiage. Max threatens to walk out on his wife. Of course, it is to me he gives this threat – I doubt he would ever tell her. Father, with time to think about it, has declared Ottla is too thin and weakened. He was right, he says, the farm work is too much for her. We must all band together to get her back into Prague. “Isn’t that right, Franz?” No `Herr Son’ when he wants something. Bring her back to Prague? After she has escaped? No and never. I would attempt to free the vilest creature crawling in the sewers of Prague.

05 July 1917

I will meet Felice – it is what she wants. It is what must be done. She is coming to Prague, and will no doubt fit in perfectly. My parents approve of her – more, I suspect, than they approve of me. She’ll be insulted by this tiny house – it will be found wanting and crude. Some of those annoying qualities she hints about me.

09 July 1917

We have become engaged for the second time. Joy from my parents. My beaming father. How glad I was that Ottla wasn’t there. I looked around the room and saw what awaited me – overstuffed furniture and mouths full of banality. F. had tea with us, and nibbled on the dainty cakes. And I knew she was taking in each chip of the porcelain to relay to her mother. Weighing and judging.

My father is crude, my mother gushes, but there is obviously money. And, I am a Herr Doktor of Laws, and well advanced up the ladder of bureaucracy. Yes, there are some elements of the brooding author, but that can be restricted to conversations with my friends after dinner on Sunday. Or, a couple of evenings at the coffee house a month. Those should be avenues enough to tend to my funny, little needs. A few hours in the dark, twitching like a timid rodent.

Then, each week could begin anew. We even did our social duties, Felice and I. Visiting friends and relations with the joyous news. In a stiff, high collar which I had to borrow from my father. Much to his delight. We last called upon Max and his wife, as afternoon dragged into evening. Plates of food and platters of words. Max could not take his eyes from my chafing collar, and I knew he wanted to ask about it. But he dared not. Not in front of wife and fiancee. His and mine. He could not contain his smile however. Horror and humour. Mine and his. At least the social niceties were over once we left his house – except, of course, for my walk with F. back to her hotel. She debated whether or not to return to my parents, but I dissuaded her. She might have allowed an embrace on the outside steps, had I but tried. Had I only tried.

But I scuttled away, ascended some other steps, and here I am within this tiny house. The door is open because of the heat, but even had I locked and bared it after me, I fear they all would still enter. Would walk through the walls if necessary. Would scale the castle with ladders, if necessary. They are never going to let me rest. Even as I sleep, they will be lurking in my dreams.

DE

 

Kafka And His Father Have An Understanding [from: Kafka In The Castle]

kafkafather

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?

DE

Franz Kafka And His Kafkaesque Life

Franz Kafka

Franz Kafka was born in 1883, so he would probably be dead had he lived.

I wonder what Kafka would think about the worldwide communication and information of today. He was a rigid fixture of the staid (he hated using the telephone). He also was a keen observer of the world around him (he wrote the first newspaper report about aeroplanes, and he invented the safety helmet). It was more this deep divide in his personality which caused him his problems, about which he so famously wrote.

He did not fit into his personal world, yet he fit into the real world perfectly. He was adored by his friends and by many ladies. He was respected at his work and rose to a position of power. His stories were published to acclaim in his lifetime.

Kafka lived a Kafkaesque life. He died a Kafkaesque death (he caught tuberculosis because he drank “pure” unpasteurised cow’s milk). He was rigid in his personal beliefs (until proved wrong), yet he was a beacon of compassion to others.

Kafka was always on a tightrope. He looked at things with such accuracy that his comments can seem bizarre. Supposedly his last words were:  “Kill me, or you are a murderer.” They were to  his doctor, as Kafka beseeches for an overdose of morphine.

I have written much about Kafka. This is a diary entry I had him write in my novel “Kafka In The Castle”:

03 July 1917

The anniversary of my birth. In honour of the day, I do not make it my last.

DE

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