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Franz Kafka Remembers A Young Love In The New Year

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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03 January 1917

I still have fantasies about the Swiss girl – although not the type one might suppose.

(My father says I already have too many fantasies, and that I deal with them “too long, and too often” – he is certainly right.)

I make a mixture of what I shared with the Swiss girl, and what I imagine we would be like today. This is certainly more fantasy than not, for what would being together have done to us?

Done to her?

But in this tiny house – could she not join me? Be here by the window, as I write this?

But she was so young, and such a girl, where I fear that I was never such a boy.

Kafka Starts The New Year With His Father And A Cloud

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 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?

Franz Kafka [Again] Faces The New Year During His Own Pandemic

I posted this last New Year, little thinking it would be appropriate for this New Year. However, it already has many viewers today, so why not give it another run?

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Not only did Franz Kafka go through ‘The Spanish Flu’, he contracted it and survived.

In my novel, Kafka In The Castle, I fill in his missing diary entries.  Two such are New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day.

I will point out that Kafka was often abrupt in his real diaries. There are just two sentences for Sunday, 02 August 1914, the day the First World War began: “Germany has declared war on Russia. Swimming in the afternoon.”

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From Kafka in The Castle

31 December 1917

The end of the year. The end of a love. The ebb of a life. Even the Empire can not last much longer.

01 January 1918

It is strange how we are expected to wake up on a Tuesday morning – just as any Tuesday morning – and be full of hope because it’s the first day of some arbitrarily appointed year. I walk the streets and it is still Prague.

Kafka Walks The Charles Bridge In Prague And Ponders The World

In my novel, Kafka In The Castle, I fill in all the lost diary entries that he either ignored or destroyed.

Today, on Facebook, there is a wonderful video from Prague Morning, showing a lamp lighter walking the length of Charles Bridge (in the direction of ‘Kafka’s Castle’), lighting all the lamps. Kafka made this walk hundreds of times (and I managed a few, myself).

The following is the entry I made of Kafka crossing the Bridge, and what he pondered.

Excerpt From Kafka in The Castle

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29 August 1917

I strolled the Charles Bridge a long time tonight, before coming on to the castle. I have the feeling that the river air helps my lungs.

I also like the city lights reflecting from the racing water. And the occasional boat, lanterns stern and bow.

I have once or twice steered my own boat through the dark, the flickering light dripping through the gloom before me. If I could have reached the sea while it was still dark, I would have tried to do so. But I was younger then. And could breathe deeply.

Fantasy fuelled this escape, from my Moldau island and then along the Elbe, through Dresden, Magdeburg and Hamburg, to the freedom of Helgoland Bay. Further into the North Sea, if I wanted. Perhaps to Iceland, where I could become lost in the snow and white.

All this, from my perch upon the Charles Bridge, as I strolled from side to side, and one end to the other. My last smile reserved for the statues staring down on me.

Their stony expressions etched upon their faces, as are mine to me.

Link to Lamp Lighting story:

https://praguemorning.cz/lamp-lighter-on-the-charles-bridge-to-come-back-after-two-years/

A Tale Of Franz Kafka For Labor Day

Franz Kafka  (in the daytime) was a government employee who looked after the welfare of workers for the Imperial Government. He was on the side of the workers. Among other things, he is credited with inventing the hard hat. And, in once case where he had to oppose a worker in a dispute, he hired – out of his own pocket – a lawyer who was better than Kafka to defend the man. The man got his money.

In my novel about him, Kafka In The Castle, he has an encounter with a worker who needs assistance. This is how he would react.



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, hoping 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.

Kafka Leaves A Home He Never Owned

In my Kafka In The Castle I fill in all the diary entries that Kafka leaves bare (or destroyed),. For about a year, he used the tiny house his sister rented up in the Prague Castle on The Golden Lane. She rented it solely to have trysts with her lover. Kafka never actually stayed the night, but he went there often, and wrote a whole book of short stories while he was there. But, on this late summer night, I imagine how he left it for the last time

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30 August 1917

I’ll just leave the newspapers. They will no doubt be appreciated as fuel for the next winter. My manuscripts though – regardless of the temptation – I’ll take. The pile on the table, looming behind the lamp, I’ll take tonight. The rest tomorrow. Max has offered to carry things – no doubt thinking that what he carries, I can not burn – and has arranged to be here shortly.

What I most want to take away with me, I can’t. The comfort. The view of the Stag Moat. The Castle walls. The world held suspended beyond the massive gates. The silence. Perhaps peace – which can be many things – can also be nothing more than silence. And here is Max at my open door. His worried smile precedes him into my peaceful room.

31 August 1917

The last night of the month. My last night in this tiny house. My last trek along the Alchemist’s Lane as someone who belongs. And soon, my last walk down the Castle steps. Which Max so dutifully counted. And after Max conveys me to the specialist, I imagine I’ll embark on the last part of my life. The power of the Alchemist’s Lane is far from spent, if one truly sees what I have turned into. There could have been no substance so base as myself to put beneath the test of smoking acid. Burning with precision into my lungs.

Since Max helped last night, there is not much for me to carry away. I might indeed be taking as little as I brought that first day. Technically, I must leave by mid-night, and I plan to walk out the door at that precise minute, turning the key in the lock at the last strokes of the cathedral bell. Of course, I don’t have to do this – no one will appear to check on me. But, I enjoy technicalities. I skirt through life on both the vaguest, and the most precise, of technicalities. After all, I am a well-trained lawyer. Like a weasel well-versed in the ways of the earth.

But sadly, this burrow must be vacated. And by its exposed front entrance, for I never had the luxury of a back escape route. But then – is that what is now being offered me? Opened for me? Not the Alchemist’s Lane, which will lead me to the city. Between the walls, through the courtyards, down the steps, and beyond the many gates. But the Tuberculous Lane, which may meander in many directions, stop at many doors, but finally – eventually – lead to the deep decent into a darkened pit. The only thing of me remaining above to be my name, carved in stone. The Herr Doktor. Not an unexpected fate. But not a fate I wish to happen too soon.

Not, at any rate, as soon as my fate to walk out that door, my few parcels and papers in hand. A lingering look upon the table, the lamp, the stove. I think I will say good bye. I think I may even say thank-you. And then, I will take a great deal of time to find my key. It will be in the last pocket I search. And I’ll close the door slowly. With care. And the key in the lock will make a noise I shall never forget.

Franz Kafka Ponders Friday 13th

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.

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

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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 Friday the thirteenth, 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.

Missed By A Day (slap my wrist) Happy Birthday Franz Kafka

kafkafranz_02a

03 July was Kafka’s birthday.   Imagine all the celebrations running rampant in the world that I missed.   No doubt a hearty rendition of “Hip hip hooray” and the occasional exuberant “Huzzah!”, echo through each major city and every quiet hamlet.  

I have written him a letter (as yet, unanswered).  

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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 enerally find 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 quite 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

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And, in my novel; 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.

Does Kafka Dream A Dream In Place of A Dream?

A dream of dreams

Is a dream confused.


Do you wake up

Into another?

Do you blend

Into reality?


Do you pick up

Where you left off?


Or leave off

Where you joined?


If it’s not making sense,

Is there sense to be made?


Did Kafka have the answer.

Or was Kafka the question?

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