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Franz Kafka

A Birthday Present For Kafka – Party On!

kafka_mimi
(sweet baby Kafka)
03 July is Kafka’s birthday and –  I forgot.
I could say (without any honesty) that I am distracted by COVID-19 and all the changes (some of them fundamental) which are happening around me. {I had my own two week self-isolation to deal with}. BUT Kafka not only lived through the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918, he contracted the disease. And he survived, even though he already had the tuberculosis that would eventually kill him six years later.

But, this morning, a Twitter respondent from across the Atlantic reminded me. I have already thanked her. So, I will repost my Kafka Birthday blog.

First, is the letter I have written to him (as yet, unanswered).
Second, is the diary entry I gave him for his birthday, from my novel, Kafka In The Castle.

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

My Present / Your Future

Still in this World

A Life Away

Dear F:

You would find it perverse to be wished a “Happy” birthday, but your response would be gracious. Such is the reality you understand, and how you deal with it. I have found that your reality is actually real.

Although it will give you no pleasure – well, ‘little’ pleasure – you are correct in all your observations.

Governments become the tools of the bureaucracies which run them. It doesn’t matter what type of Government, from the monarchy under which you lived, to the right wing horror of fascists that called themselves socialists, to the inept socialism pretending to be ‘for the people’. All three governments held their sway over the city where you spent your life. All three oppressed the people they ruled. All three looked after themselves first.

Writers are either writers or they aren’t. The urge to write encircles one like a snake around its prey. Feed it and it won’t quite squeeze you to death. You can not ignore it – even at your peril. It is with you every hour of every day, ever inquisitive and (sadly) always looking for something better.

Love is a see-saw of extremes. Every high guarantees a low. Every low reaches for a high. Every high reaches for a high. When these hills and valleys are eventually levelled, they are still desired.

Sex is highly over rated. The thing of it is, even rated fairly ’tis a consummation devoutly to be had. Yes – I know – you appreciate Shakespeare. On a par with Goethe, even if you can’t bring yourself to say the words.

People are just one damned thing after another. Of course, so many people have brought you blessings, you throw up you hands to ward off the snake. And sometimes – some few times – it loosens its grip.

There is no castle with walls thick enough to hide against the perils of being human. Which is why you never tried.

Except the grave, of course.

Except the grave.

Yours,

D

 

~~~~~~~~~~~

03 July 1918
 
The anniversary of my birth.
 
In celebration of the day, I did not make it my last.

Kafka Sees A Ghost’s Shadow From The Window

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An Excerpt from my Kafka In The Castle, where I fill in all of his missing diary entries. Kafka never avoided life – if anything, he perhaps plunged too deeply into it. But I think he never felt he was a part of what went on around him. He understood reality too well.

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01 June 1917

I have been on the outside, looking in – the darkness of the night behind me, the fog resting close upon the harbour.

I’ve watched diners at their ease, the fire colourful through the grate, the rich hue of the glass raised to the lips. And my own face, peering back at me as I look in, reflecting like a ghost’s shadow from the window.

And the very next night, I have been on the inside, looking out – seated at the very table I had previously observed.

The fireplace at my back, its warmth more than welcome. And I glanced out at the harbour, its fog higher than the previous evening, but not yet obscuring the lights of the ships. Their portholes wavering.

And, as I brought the red liquid to my lips, I saw my own face dimly doing the same in the window, imposed and distant between me and the fog. And I felt as alone as I did the night before.

Whether I was sitting or standing; whether in the warmth, or in the fog – I was still me.

Always K.

Always observing.

Kafka’s Secure Burrow For World Book Day

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{Books by Franz Kafka]

 

A burrow offers security and comfort, and Kafka found both in his sister’s tiny house on the Golden Lane.

Ottla – his sister – had rented it so she could spend time with her lover and not be bothered by parents and comments. Her lover was a Christian and ready to go to war. Time was precious.

However, she rarely had opportunities other than the weekends, so she offered Franz the use of the tiny house for most of that time. And use it he did, though he never stayed the night.

Through fall, winter and spring Kafka wrote a whole book of short stories. For one single block of time, it was one of his most creative periods.

When I visited, even under Communist rule, it had been converted to a book store. Of course (which he would have appreciated) there were no books by Kafka for sale. Today he is displayed in the windows.

It was only when I went thorough the small rooms, and looked out the window into The Stag Moat, that I realized how important the house would become in my novel about Kafka. It was cozy – even with the space cramped by tourists. It had been little altered and I easily imagined Kafka looking through the same glass and walking through the same doorways. No doubt stooping because he was tall. Research met reality.

One of the last stories Kafka wrote, during his final year in Berlin, was called The Burrow. A version exists and is published, though a longer version is supposed to be among his ‘missing’ papers.

In it, a tiny animal keeps incessantly burrowing to keep away from an enemy. A vague noise convinces the animal to burrow deeper, and deeper, and deeper.

Something Kafka himself attempted to do.

(Image) https:/cdn.myfonts.net/s/ec/cc-201503/kafka-books.png

Kafka Braves An Ice Storm

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I follow Franz Kafka in my Kafka In The Castle, filling in his lost diary entries. I have him only where he really was, imagining his days. For a number of months he lived, with his sister, Ottla, in the village of Zürau, a couple of hours by train (in those days) outside of Prague. So, if I could actually see out my ice-covered window, past my ice-drooping fir tree, I might see him passing by.

Excerpt from Kafka In The Castle:

05 March 1918

Ice storms the last two days.

It clatters into the chimney, which is quite a startling noise if one happens to be up the stairs, and going about ones usual business. The rattle and ruckus of the ice is an abrasive encounter. More so even than when it beats upon your face as you go along the road. At least there it is expected, and you can be muffled against its intrusion.

Ottla saw to my protective gear, although she did not want me to go out.

Procured, from somewhere, a wide-brimmed hat. Swathed me in scarves up to the eyes. Insisted I put on an outer leather jacket, from which the ice drops merrily bounced. But, she had nothing to offer to assist in the walking. It was, as far as I can compare, like walking through a field of fine salt.

It is not even accurate to say that I slide, for it was actually the ice underfoot which did the sliding. I would find my foot being grabbed and held. I’m sure it was what walking through purgatory would be like.

Franz Kafka – the Race Horse

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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.

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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)

 

“Kill Me, Or You Are A Murderer.”

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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

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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!

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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”

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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?

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