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Kafka As A Jew At Work

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. 

23 January 1917

The Director talked to me today. About not having sufficient people to run the Institute, and the other shortages caused by the war. And he asked my advice.

And I gave him good ideas – pointed the way. I do know my strengths – although far more familiar with my weaknesses.

And as the Director talked to me, he looked at me. In the eyes – as he so often does.

But he did not see me.

Not the I which I carry around inside myself. Not the K.

He saw an adequately dressed government official, Herr Doktor of Law, a Jew (I think he really does not mind), who knows well the operations of the Worker’s Accident Insurance Institute for the Kingdom of Bohemia in Prague. Has, indeed, risen to the rank of Deputy-Secretary.

And that is who responded to the conversation. Made comments  Smiled at the Director’s dry humour.

I watched this Jew with interest, and his act was flawless.

 

A Happy New Year As Seen By Kafka From “Kafka In The Castle”

Franz Kafka

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.

 

Excerpt from : Kafka In The Castle

31 December 1916

The festivities down in the city are certainly subdued, which makes me one with the coming of the year.

There were a few shots fired into the air – which is a mockery, considering what is happening in the world. And some dismal fireworks.

Max wanted me at his party, but even he saw little point in celebration, and his entreaties were totally for form.

I understand form quite well – most of my life consists of doing the expected. Mouthing the proper words.

My letters to Felice have turned to such vehicles of propriety.

In such a way do all our days, and then our lives, acquire the necessary postmarks.

Kafka Travels In His Dreams

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Franz Kafka recorded many dreams in his diaries. Thus, I gave him many dreams in my novel, Kafka In The Castle. The novel ‘fills in’ all the days where there are no entries in his actual diaries.

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04 April 1917

Dreamed I was to take a train journey.

I tried to find my travel papers, but all the drawers were jammed shut. The cupboard doors refused to open. My wallet was stuffed with money – colourful bills worth thousands of marks – yet no passport, no police clearance.

I could find no proof of who I was, and no permission to cross borders. I feared I was going to be late, so I put on an overcoat, grabbed a small bag off the bed, and hurried from the room.

The door led directly to the station platform, and I was quickly caught in lines of people. A man in uniform  harshly requested to see our tickets, but when I explained I had been unable to find any of my documents, he pointed to my case.

Inside were passports and papers from every country in Europe. I handed him one, but over my name was a photo of hog. Another had a picture of a donkey. A third showed sheep. Rodents, insects, and finally an ape, all appearing over my name and signature.

“You are Doktor Kafka?” he demanded.

“Yes,” I answered. I was terrified – what face did I have now?

“You are the veterinarian,” he said, finally satisfied. “Down to the end of the train.” He pointed the way, and I hurried along.

I walked and walked, but the train just became longer. Box cars and cattle cars were filled with the most terrible animal clamour, and reeking of filth. And I wondered, as I searched in vain for the end of this endless train, where would my destination finally be?

[Image] https://farm1.staticflickr.com/145/424520905_d05592a972_z.jpg

November Starts “Kafka In The Castle” – How Bad Can It Get?

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[Franz & Felice]

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.

My first entry was for 26 November 1916. Close enough for me.

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26 November 1916

What I desire, and what I expect, are horrible opposites. But my desires still exist, which makes me a fool.

The reading in Munich two weeks ago was a disaster. But we learn from disaster. My work was called “repulsive” – which, of course, it is. Am I to learn from that?

And then the meeting with  Felice. The fight in the pastry shop. Am I also to learn from that?

I’ll continue to write letters. I’ll continue to hunt for our apartment. I’ll continue to have my hopes. For a while longer – hope.

But still, my eyes wince at every mirror.

It Always Ends In Kafka

Statue of Franz Kafka

A short story:

The old Rabbi moved slightly on his bed, and the young man raced over.

     “Yes, Rebbe?”

     The old Rabbi opened his eyes, showing the cast of death which had almost consumed him. “Ka … ” he groaned.

    The young man had been told the dying Rabbi would never regain his senses, and he did not know what to do. He was scared, almost horrified, but he leaned closer.

     “What is it? What do you want?”

     The old Rabbi struggled for breath. “Ka … Kaf …”

     The young man gazed at the face, saw its pallid features and the clouded eyes. He touched a shrunken cheek, raised his voice to a shout. “What is it? What can I do?” He could hear wheezing, the struggle for air. He put his ear directly over the gaping mouth.

    “Ka … Ka …” One last ragged breath, a low hollow whisper. “Kafka died for your sins.”

Kafka And A Hungry Bird Give Thanks

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[Franz Kafka and his sister, Ottla.]

In my novel, Kafka In The Castle, I fill in the many diary entries Franz Kafka either did not make, or destroyed after the fact. He would have made no references to an actual ‘Thanksgiving Day’, but I feel this is close enough.

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30 September 1917

There was a knocking at the window this morning. A polite and concise rap rap rap. It awoke me while the room was barely light.

Who could want me so early? And then again, an insistent rap rap rap. I was confused, wondering where I was. The panic of Prague weighted down the covers, and I was sorry I had opened my eyes. The room, the smells – even the bed – was not familiar, so I was both bothered and assured by the strangeness.

When I realized I was not in Prague – for who could knock on my third floor window – I remembered I was in Zurau, where things were different. Here my window looked onto a yard, and anyone could  be at it. Was there something wrong? Was Ottla after my help? I even wondered, as I searched for my slippers, if her young man had somehow arranged leave from the army, and after much travail had managed to reach the wrong room. I could understand that very well.

I walked hesitantly over to the window, and cautiously pulled back the curtain. Such a commotion ensued that I stepped back in some fright. A bird flew immediately past the glass, its wings frantic as it screeched in agitation. It had been perched on my window ledge, pecking away at the frame. Ottla says it may have been after insects or grubs settled in for the winter.

“Insects in the walls of the house?” I asked.  “Yes.” She was quite matter-of-fact.  “It is a warm place for them during the cold months.”  I was not inclined to argue with the logic, but neither had I thought I would be existing in such close proximity with the tenants of nature.

Houses for warmth and bugs for food. It is a blend of the base and the subtle which I can appreciate. Much – I like to think – as does the annoyed bird.

Trump And Kafka (and the silent President of Finland)Walk Into A Bar

franz-kafka-for-president
{I wrote this after Donald Trump was elected President of The United States of America. Many folk also looked at it after the glorious meeting in  Helsinki with Putin, Tzar of ALL The Russias. Now, the benighted President of Finland is in Washington, and shares a bizarre Press Conference with President Trump. A Kafkaesque Press Conference, one might say. So – play it again, Franz.} 
~ Frank. Welcome to your world.

~ Thanks, DT. I’ve been living it all my life.

~ I’ve taken some pages out of your books, Frank.

~ I did try to get them burned.

~ You didn’t try too hard.

~ Well – no.

~ You know – neither did I.

~ I know. They all ran to your tune.

~ They did.

~ You were the Pied Piper of Havoc.

~  Worked like a charm, Frank.

~ Yes, DT – yes, it did.

~ They thought I was a bug.

~ Yes.

~ But I turned them into bugs.

~That you did, DT. And turned them against each other.

~ Yes.

~ And stood back, and watched.

~ Pretty well.

~ To the victor goes the spoils.

~ I was astounded – believe me.

~ And they keep making the same mistakes.

~ I know, Frank.  I’d laugh if it wasn’t so funny.

~ The one-eyed man is King in the land of the Blind.

~ Yes, Frank – yes. But you know what?

~  What?

~ I’ve got great vision in both eyes.

[Image] https://sanatkaravani.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/franz-kafka-for-president.png

Kafka Ponders Friday 13th And The Love Of A Good Woman

 

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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.

Kafka did have occasion to ponder Friday 13th. The date was connected to “The Swiss Girl”, whom he met at a resort.  She was eighteen and he was thirty-four. It is unclear how intimate their relationship became.

Twice, I give him a brief recognition of Friday 13th. In reality, The Swiss Girl haunted him (pleasantly) all his life.

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

13 April 1917

I almost wrote down the year as 1913. That was the year I met the Swiss girl. And I remember her joking about, and how we had missed it by just a day. She was superstitious – Christians seem to be. I wonder what precautions she is taking today. It will be three years and seven months since I saw her. Yet some of the things we did could have happened last week. I think that memory must be made of rubber.  You can sometimes pull it toward yourself – and sometimes it snaps away like a shot. Causing as much pain.

13 July 1917

Friday the 13th again. What better time to think of the Swiss girl, than with F. I don’t know if such memories help sustain me, or if they revel how intolerable the future can sometimes be. I can not imagine the Swiss girl’s face across the table from me, nor her voice singing one of her quiet songs. If I must be trapped, then why can’t I be trapped in the past?

[The Swiss Girl ~ Gerti Wasner] p8.storage.canalblog.com/89/52/207513/106933578_o.gif

Kafka Never Slept In This Prague Hotel

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When I visited Prague to research my novel, Kafka In The Castle, I went to many of the places that were part of  Kafka’s life. One such place – the small house where he wrote a whole book of short stories – became a setting for a third of my novel.

However,the building where he was employed, The Workers’ Accident Insurance Institute for the Kingdom of Bohemia in Prague, I only saw at a distance across a Square. It was not a happy place for Kafka, though he was very successful at his employ, and rose to an administrative position of importance. It was not really much of a setting for my novel.

 

That building is now a fancy hotel, and Kafka’s office is a room for rent. It is even designated The Franz Kafka room, and contains mementos. It is where I plan to stay when next I visit. I hope there is not a long list of folk wishing to spend the night there, too. It even includes a restaurant named after his fiancée, Felice.

 

Following is some information about the hotel, and some photos of the room.

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The hotel is situated in the heart of Prague, next to the Old Town Square, where the famous medieval astronomical clock is mounted on the southern wall of the Old Town City Hall. The Neo-Baroque building was built in the 19th century by Alfonse Wertmuller, a famous architect in Prague. It was formerly the office of the Workers’ Accident Insurance of Kingdom of Bohemia, where Franz Kafka worked as an insurance clerk from 1908 to 1922. His spirit can still be felt in the hotel, as his bronze bust welcomes guests in the lobby in front of the majestic stairs.
hotel-century-old-town
room
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In addition, this is one of the few diary entries I wrote, set in his office building,

 
Excerpt from Kafka In The Castle

16 February 1917

There was a commotion at the office today. It was late morning, and from far below, coming up the stairwell, I could hear a voice bellowing: “Doktor Kafka. Doktor Kafka.” It was a terrible voice, full of blood and darkness.

I got from my desk and went to the door. There were other voices, trying to calm, saying: “He can’t be disturbed.” But the voice was louder, more horrible, close in the corridor.  “Doktor Kafka – for the love of God.”   My secretary wanted me to stay inside, hoped the man would just move along the corridor until the police were summoned.

But – I was curious; the man had my name, and his voice was … terrified.

I opened the door and stood in front of it.  “I’m Kafka,” I said. The man lunged at me, and went to his knees.  “Doktor Kafka?” he said.  “Yes, I’m Kafka.” He reached out, grabbing for my hand.  “Jesus, Jesus, for the love of Jesus – they say that you’ll help me.”

He was a heavy man, and looked as if he had the strength to pull off doors, yet the tears burst from his eyes.  “I can get no work. I fell from a bridge, and my back is twisted and in pain.” He slumped against the wall, looking at my eyes.  “I have a family, Doktor Kafka. A baby not a year old.”  “You were working on this bridge?” I asked.  “Yes.” His voice slid down his throat. “I was helping repair the surface.”  “Then you deserve your insurance. Why can’t you get it?”

He straightened up, and tried to stand. “I have to fill in papers; the doctor can see no wounds; the foreman said I drank; because my brother is a thief, I am not to be trusted.” I held out my hand, and he slowly stood. “I’m telling you the truth, Doktor Kafka.”

“If that is so,” I said, “you’ll get the money due you.”  “I’m so tired,” he said.

I gave instructions to those standing around – no other work was to be done until this man’s case was decided. I took him to my office, where he sat.

He sat – practically without a word – for five hours. I summoned a prominent doctor to look at him. The doctor prodded, and the man screamed. Officials from his village were telephoned. I helped him with the details on the forms. His truth was in his pain. He left our stony building with money in his hand, and his worth restored.

The people who assisted me had smiles on their faces.

A man had needed their help.

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