It is a whirlwind in here



“Kill Me, Or You Are A Murderer.”


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.


Some Minutes In Kafka’s World


A couple of days ago, I wrote about finding a particular (and peculiar) edition of Kafka’s book, The Metamorphosis, in a bookstore. I went back yesterday to have another look. This is what happened.

Having seen this plain cover, hardback “The Metamorphosis”, I wanted to take another look, and track down the publisher. There had been ten or so copies left, and I assumed there would be no trouble in doing this.

However, when I started to search on the SALE table where I had seen it, there were none present. Odd enough in itself, but now, on the same table, there were a dozen different copies of ‘“The Metamorphosis”, still hardback but with a dust jacket. There was an image of Kafka (or, at least, a form all in black) modeled on one of the extant photos of him. There was also text: “What on earth has happened to me?” Across the top was the word METAMORPHOSIS and across the bottom was FRANZ KAFKA. The colour of the dust jacket was a blue/green.

I might – on the very outside of possibilities – had thought that all the copies I had seen previously would have been gone … but, I never envisioned a new set of different copies of the book.

I queries a clerk (who had not been present the previous day) about those other copies of Kafka.  All he could say was that the displays in the store had been changed the day before.

Yes, I even did go to look on the shelves (in addition to the display tables), to see if the plain Metamorphoses might be there. It was not. Nor any other books by Kafka, neither.

So, I wandered in my own version of Kafkaland for a few minutes, before I departed. And – of course – I was left thinking: had the original, plain books have their own metamorphosis into the new.





(Original cover of The Metamorphoses)

Well … perhaps not the book. Most of what Kafka wrote was not published in his lifetime. Of course, most of what Kafka wrote did not survive his lifetime. It is estimated that be burned 60%-75% of all that he actually wrote.

But, one of the books he did have published was The Metamorphosis. He took such an interest in it that he made special requests about the cover art. He wished that the vermin into which Gregor Samsa turned, not be depicted on the cover. He was adamant about it.  His wish has not been kept over the decades, but there isn’t much you can do once you are dead.

This came to mind when, yesterday, I passed a book store offering various discounts and bargains. Three books for $16 – that sort of thing. And, a vast array of books, from Tom Sawyer to contemporary thrillers to scientific non-fiction.

But, on a prominent corner shelf, was a stack of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. Hardback. Published last year in Britain. Going for $15. A plain, brown cover with no book jacket. Author and Title. That was it.

And, the thing is, I was tempted to buy it.

I imagine I have read the story ten to a dozen times. Over the years I have had three or four copies.  I am slowly divesting myself of more and more possessions. Yet, I gave it a good look-over. Clean pages. Easy to read. No cramped text. No illustrations.

It would have made Kafka proud.


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