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Kafka

Kafka Plans An Escape From His Life

In my novel, Kafka In The Castle, I fill in **missing** diary entries from Kafka’s real diary. He either did not fill in these days himself, or he destroyed them. It is estimated Kafka destroyed 70% – 80% of everything he wrote. 

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19 June 1917

           I arrived here tonight far later than usual. I had been on a day trip for the Institute, dealing with a court case for a few hours. I was in the station at the furthest reaches of Prague, waiting for the last train to bring me downtown. A taxi would have been more efficient, but I found myself in no hurry. I walked around the station, and found myself staring at the Departures List. All those places, with many trains still passing into the night. Bern. Copenhagen. Florence.

     I had a large amount of the Institute’s money with me (I had won our case), and all my travel documents in order – the war can be circumvented by bureaucrats. I think it was just having all that money which gave rise to such ideas. I realized that, with the right explanations, even London was possible. If I so desired. I had it all arranged in my head. The official letter I would send to Max, before I left the empire, authorizing him to pay back the Institute from my bank account. I had even figured – accurately – the interest to add for each day up until next Monday. And I knew I could trust him to tidy up my other business matters – my apartment, and this tiny house.

     I would tell him to destroy all my manuscripts – he could use this stove. Other letters I could write from other places – to Ottla, to F., to my parents. I thought that I might even be able to eventually make my way to Palestine. That would meet with Max’s approval.

And the trains kept departing before my eyes, one, and another, and another. They were not even crowded, the hour was so late.

And then, there was my train. Back into Prague.

I was the last one on.

For Franz Kafka On His Death Day – Does It Ever End?

Franz Kafka inches toward being dead for 100 years.He died on this day, 03 June, in 1924. he did not go gently into that good night, though he probably was just as happy to be gone. It was difficult to satisfy Kafka,

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.

Kafka And His Mother Understood Each Other

Franz Kafka is famous for many things.

He wrote a story where the central character  “. . . awoke one morning from uneasy dreams [and] found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.”

He wrote “The Trial”, where a man was arrested one morning while (again) still in bed. He was accused of a crime, but was never told what the crime was. Throughout the novel, the man tries to find out his crime. but never does. His quest does not end well.

In the real world, Kafka invented the first safety helmet for workers.

And then, there is arguably his most famous written work, his “Letter To My Father”, detailing his father’s rough and uncaring treatment toward him.

Franz gave the letter to his mother to give to his father.

She never did.

Which is why Franz gave it to her. He knew she never would.

DE

Although I Judge, I Never Pass Sentence

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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02 February 1917

Their faces – sometimes.

I am not a man to cry (am barely capable of it) but those times when I see their faces. The social cast gone, and they think themselves unobserved.

They have such a revelation that they do not care – or, more accurately, they are beyond caring. A bewildering revelation. A truth, which once known, they can never escape.

They now know they can never escape.

Perhaps, because I observe more, I see more.

Or, perhaps the less resilient come through the doors of the Institute, with their injuries and their needs. Perhaps it is this war.

Perhaps they somehow know that although I judge, I never pass sentence.

When I see this look upon their faces – the fear of life itself.

What The Tyranny Of An Occupying Government Really Means To Freedom

In my novel, Kafka In The Castle, I fill in his lost diaries.  Here, as the learned Doktor of Laws from the big city, he has been asked to speak to the citizens of the small village of Zurau, where he is living with his sister.

He is talking about the end of the Empire that the townsfolk have been living under all their lives. The Empire, the Emperor, and the civilization they know, is soon to be swept away. Will their lives go with it?

Kafka speaks the truth, and Kafka avoids the truth.

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15 January 1918

This war. They wanted my opinions about this endless war. These earnest, honest men, awaiting the words from the Herr Doktor of Prague.

I agreed only to answer questions – that way I could not be accused of fermenting treason. Even in these troubled times, the law allows a man to answer questions. Assuming that the law prevails.

The law was present in the form of the policeman, attending this questionable gathering while still in uniform. He doffed his hat as he shook my hand. I would rather have him in our midst, than lurking in the hall, taking notes. We have nothing to fear from him.

“Will the empire last?”

This was first from their lips. And they must have needed to hear the words, for even the Emperor must know that all is lost. The Old Order, having fallen into the hands of dull and witless men, must succumb. The complacency of the age must be purged – but that has not yet happened. That awaits the next generation – and the destruction will be furious. But I do not tell them this.

I am skillful in what I do not tell them, for the truth is beyond their power to persuade or control. (Their next questions would have been more difficult had I not curbed the truth further still.)

“What will happen to Zurau? What will happen to us?”

And they have every right to worry. To suspect. When a society crumbles, it is those at the bottom who get crushed. But I told them that Amerika seemed a just power – not bent on retribution.

I did not tell them that a victor can do as he wants.

And I told them that we live in a secondary part of a secondary empire – the powers of destruction will be concentrated on Vienna and Berlin.

I did not tell them that during the death of a snake, the spasms of the tail can be lethal.

And I told them something which could really be of help. I told them, in this coming year, to grow more food: fatten more beasts: prepare, preserve and put away. Fill their cellars and barns to bursting with food and fuel. Buy some things now, which they can use for barter later if the currency becomes worthless. Look after their families and lands. Look after each other.

16 January 1918

I did not tell them that war is the end result of injustice and arrogance, and that it is oftentimes necessary. I did not tell them that when the natural balance is upset by human action, the cost of righting it must be made in human payment. I did not tell them that a country where neighbour is cruel to neighbour is a country mean for war.

Franz Kafka Wants The Best Of No World For Valentine’s Day

Franz Kafka had many lovers in his life.  For someone supposedly distant and difficult, he was rarely without a woman more than willing to be his companion. Of course, being his companion was difficult because he was – well – Franz Kafka. Not that, as far as I know, any of them actually used the phrase .“It’s complicated.”  But it was.

Felice Bauer was, arguably, the most important love in his life. She was engaged to him twice. And, considering the relationship they had, I’m guessing she was relieved each time they broke it off.  They were ‘together’ from September 1912 to October 1917, and most of their relationship occurred through letters. Those few times they were together were not always filled with bliss.

In Kafka In The Castle, where I fill in his missing diary entries, I have him make comments about the end of their relationship.

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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.

In February, Kafka Ponders The Role And Duties Of The Citizen

In real life, Kafka recorded the beginning of the First World War in his diary this way:

August 2, 1914: Germany has declared war on Russia. Went swimming in the afternoon.

That was it.

But, regardless of his lack of enthusiasm, Kafka believed in the duties of the citizen. He tried to join the army to fight. In fact, he tried to join a number of times. He was always refused because the government deemed his civil/government job was too important for him to relinquish.

But, near the end of the war, when Kafka was so sick he had lengthy periods of leave from his job to recuperate, the army came calling.  Kafka had to appear before authorities with medical proof of his illness.

In my novel, Kafka In The Castle, I ‘fill in’ one of his diary entries describing such a situation.

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07 February 1918

              I find I must go to Prague at the end of next week. Such knowledge is proof that one should not open one’s mail. The Military yet again wishes to snare me, and I must once again prove that my hide is not worth the effort.

     There were time (very rare) when my father would despair. Not his usual anger at the general incompetence and perfidy of the world around him, but a resignation to the belief that things would never get any better.

     “If they want to drag me down,” he would say, “Then I may as well join them. I’ll go out into the street and let myself be swept away by the mob. I’ll become part of their common, grubby life, and let them wipe their boots on me.”

     That is much as I feel right now. Let the army take me, dress me in their uniform, point me toward the Americans, and have some cowboy shoot me. Going into battle could be no worse than going into Prague.

Franz Kafka Greets February, The Shortest Month Of The Year, With No Enthusiasm

I post this again because folk are looking it up again. Always try to keep your readers happy.

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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01 February 1917February,year,month,Kafka,Kafka In The Castle,novel,diary,writer,author.history,

A particularly tedious day at the office, which stretched like a bridge over an abyss.

Perhaps to mock yesterday’s comments – the month so short and the day so long.

I am sometimes afraid of the white, and sometimes of the black, but my deepest horror is for the destroying grey of life.

When it is grey and senseless, it starves your feelings of oxygen, and then you really and truly die.

It is said that Jesus raised the dead (though I never understood why), and our own Prague rabbi created the Golem to help out in this world.

All I can do is scratch ink upon the page.

Kafka Finds The Answer To The Question Of Dreams In A Dream

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. He mentioned is dreams often, but they were rarely as coherent as those I give him.

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03 May 1918

Dreamed I had found out the reason for dreams.

I was not to reveal the secret, so I was being pursued. I imagined they were the dream police, and I wondered which was the worst punishment they could give. From their point of view, would it be worse to make me wake up, or worse to keep me asleep. At times, even I would not like to choose.

As I attempted to elude them, I wondered how I threatened anything by revealing the secret of dreams. It was indeed very simple, for the truth I discovered was that we are all having the same dream. When we went to sleep, we all entered the same place. The same land. The confusion arose because we were only in a small part of this dream world at any given time. And it was so vast, that we could never see it all, even if we slept straight through fifty lifetimes.

When I was having my dream in my little section, no one else could use it. The people in my dreams – if they were sleeping – were dreaming of somewhere else. In my own dream, they were awake, and so didn’t remember any of the things they were doing as a dream. When I awoke, someone else could use the place I had just left. It was all concise and simple, and gave me a great feeling of comfort. And – so I thought – would please any one who found out. So I was anxious to wake up and tell everyone, particularly – for some reason – my uncle in Madrid.

I had underestimated how cunning the dream police could really be. I had expected that all the obstacles, all the signs which said `stop’, all the attempts to grab at my coattails, would occur within the dream itself. But, after awhile, I realized their pursuit was not an attempt to apprehend me. It was the very contrary. They had no intention of laying hands upon me. Instead, they were chasing me away. I was being forced to flee, and it was only as I was at the entrance of wakefulness that I realized what was happening. My eyes were about to open when I managed to ask `why’. And the voice – if voice it was, nestled somewhere firmly inside my ear – replied too late for me to hear.

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