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If Kafka Welcomes Spring, Can Summer Be Far Behind?

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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.

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08 April 1917

I seem to end in the most absurd situations. This afternoon, before Sunday dinner, Ottla took me away for some gardening. Rooting around in the earth, with the frost barely gone. Only Ottla could find such a plot of ground in Prague, or expect me to grub about in it like some hungry animal.

It was obviously some sort of communal land – such places are popular during this war. There were even families at work. Children also. One small boy was caught between his interest in the garden, and his desire to be a small boy. And what a dilemma it was. He’d work in the ground for awhile, following the example of his mother, then suddenly race around, exploring like a small boy. He came over to Ottla and me, and hunkered down beside us. He shook his head with a sigh of exasperation, and reached over to put his hands on mine. “Mummy says that’s wrong,” and with great patience and determination, began to show me how to prepare the earth. I thought there could be no better proof to Ottla of how inept I was.

I followed the movements of his hands, and between us, we dug quite a hole. At last the little fellow stood, obviously satisfied. “I go now,” he said, and ran away to see some other entertaining oddity. Ottla hadn’t laughed for fear of offending the boy, but she didn’t show such restraint when we were finally alone.

It fell to me to find the flowers.

Such things prove God’s sense of humour, for I have no interest or understanding for flowers. There was a fellow at university who could talk about flowers for hours. Otherwise, he was quite pleasant to be with. So it seems a joke that I would find them, between a pile of rubble and the wall of a house.

I had been exploring, much as the little fellow had done. In fact, he was running past when I found them, so I showed him also. They were white, with frail leaves close to the ground. Quite nondescript. But the boy was fascinated. He put his face close, although he didn’t touch them.

“Can I tell Mummy?” He obviously thought they were my flowers. “Yes,” I said, and he ran to get her. She followed him as he chattered all the way, and then she too hesitated, looking at me cautiously. “Perhaps your wife would like to see them,” she suggested. It took a moment to realize she was referring to Ottla. The flowers had become my possession. “Yes,” I said, “And tell anyone you like.”  “The first flowers of Spring,” she said, and she went to tell the others, taking care to stop at Ottla first.

Tiny white flowers.

I can still not believe the looks upon their faces, as they crowded around. Even the children were silent.

The relief they showed.

 

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Kites Fly Over Religion And History

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I was writing the last quarter of a novel. Lots of intensive work in the course of a day. I usually try for a couple hours of walking outside, but it doesn’t always happen. One day, in a later evening than usual for me, I set out for a wander in the immediate neighbourhood.

A reasonable walk away is a small park, run (it is obvious) by the Roman Catholic church. Three park benches, one picnic table, trees and flower beds. There is also a statue of the Virgin Mary in blue vestments. At the foot of the statue are two objects from the Halifax Explosion. One is part of one of the ships that collided and caused the conflagration, the other is part of a church destroyed in the explosion.

Now this is a pleasant place to sit regardless. However, it does hold two connections to my novels. In one novel, I have a significant and spectral occurrence happen at the foot of the statue of a Blue Angel. In another novel, the Halifax Explosion plays its part. I had written both these novels before I ever saw this small park.

So, I sat myself down. I imagine I go there four or five times a year. It is quiet and encourages contemplation. I contemplate. I doubt I have ever seen more than three other people there at any time. I was alone. I assumed that I would remain this way.

I was wrong.

In fifteen minutes or so a gaggle (or a giggle) of young girls appeared. Easily two dozen. None looked older than ten. They were accompanied by four adults. They all held a kite of identical construction. They were let loose to fly them.

A few of the girls were wearing a sash, and a couple more had badges on their shirts. I assumed they were some sort of Brownie troupe. Don’t Brownies fly up? At any rate they all started to run about, encouraged by the adults. If nothing else it was great exercise. It was a windy evening and they had some success with their kites. A handful got the hang of it and kept their kites more aloft than not. Of course, I got hit in the head by one of them. The child apologised. Otherwise I was ignored.

I bet with myself how long this activity would last. I won. Less than fifteen minutes. Then the girls banded in twos and threes and talked. As did the four adults. One girl started to do cartwheels – quite successfully. The girls walked around in groups, talking and giggling. A few sat on the grass. A few did try the kites again, but not for long. One girl somehow got the string leading to her kite caught in her hair. Two of the adults tried to untangle it, with limited success. I heard one of them say they would have to use scissors when they got back to the church. Then, being told to hold hands with their ‘partner’, they all left the park.

I followed soon after. I might not have got my usual bout of contemplation, but my mind was still occupied by other than my usual thoughts. A fair exchange.

DE

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