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

 

106933578_o

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

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Berlin A City After A War

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[Site of Hitler’s bunker today]newnormative.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/germany_berlin_fuhrerbunker_2.jpg

I first visited Europe years before the Euro was the accepted coin of the realm. In fact, there were many coins of many realms, and all that money caused a fuss.

I kept a daily diary of this trip, and plan to make it a part of any memoirs I might write. So I’ve hauled it out and will make some blogs from it. But they will be greatly abridged.

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

May 29

Our guide took us to an Observation Tower which overlooked the old section of Berlin (now, of course, in the East), and where the government buildings once stood. I saw a part of the Kaiser’s Palace in the distance (you must remember that these buildings are restored or being restored) plus other buildings from that era.

What was most interesting for me, however, were the structures that were so prominent in Hitler’s Thousand Years – the War Ministry, Gobble’s Propaganda Office, the Air Ministry and, the place where Hitler’s Chancellery stood., from which he unleashed so much destruction, and now no more than a grassy mound in a field. A mound remains because Hitler’s Bunker is still there. It can not be destroyed because it would do too much damage to the surrounding area to blow it up. I wonder how long this symbol of Hitler, this place so close to him, will remain – perhaps a thousand years? [2019 – it is still there]

We left the Wall (though the Wall never left us) and continued on our way. We went to a stone building and stopped before it. We got out of the bus and walked into a pleasant court yard. It was a memorial – a place called Plötzensee. It was here that many of the people in the unsuccessful revolt against Hitler on June 20, 1944, were executed.

How strange it was to be standing in this grisly place of history. It was a stark, bare, small room, like a clean little room you would find in somebody’s cellar. The hooks sticking from the ceiling from which people were hung were very real. Here people died, here members of the Gestapo stood and smirked, hands on hips. I had heard of places like this, and read books, and now I saw what it was like.

Going Up And Down In Montréal

 

fountain-titled-female

(Place Ville Marie)

At one time I shared a whole house with four other people. Two were in the process of becoming lawyers. I noted that most of their stories did not contain much whimsy. The following is a story one of the fellows told us. I, of course, make up the dialogue but, though fiction, it is based on his facts.

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

“I don’t mean to stare – I apologise. I’m not in the habit of doing this, but you remind me of someone. That has to sound like a line – the look on your face. But I’m not after ….

“Have you ever been in the train station at Place Ville Marie in Montréal? The escalators that come up by the Queen Elizabeth Hotel.  I had a lot of travel to get to work when I lived in Montréal, and made train and bus connection.

“No, thanks. I don’t want another.

“One morning – a Thursday – as I was going up the escalator, I saw a girl coming down from the street. She had short red hair – that’s the main reason I’ve been staring – and a green skirt with a white blouse. Coming down that escalator, with that wide space between us. She was looking at me the way I was looking at her – interest and excitement and whatever potential that leads to. We stared into each others eyes as we came level, and craned to look back as we passed.

“I guess I’ll have another of the same, after all.

“That was stupid enough. I should have jumped that barrier, or at least gone down after her. But I had a job, and was young, and things like that just don’t happen.

“Next morning, even though I was looking for her, and hoping so much, I couldn’t have been more shocked by a ghost when I saw that red hair. She had that same look – of shock.

“God, to be so unsure of what to do, and stupid to the ways of the world, and even to have that stabbing thought that it can happen again tomorrow. We stared and stared, you could almost feel electricity between us. At the top I waited as long as I dared, hoping she would come up. I had to get my bus, and just jumped it as it was pulling away.

“That was a Friday. I sweated through the weekend, full of grand plans about telling her to wait, or to come up to me, or yelling my phone number. She wasn’t there, of course, on Monday or any other day. I looked the rest of the summer, then it was back to university.

“I mean, to be given one chance like that and waste it. But two. I’ve never forgotten, even now with a wife and kids, I wonder what might have been. It can make my hands shake, seeing someone like you, and with too much drink in me.”

Franz Kafka Asks An Age-Old Question (from Kafka In The Castle)

if-book_thumbnail

 

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.

11 June 1918

“What if?”

That was a game I used to play with my sisters when we were little: What if we were children of the Emperor? What if we dug a hole in the ground all the way to China? What if we had our own house? What if we lived by the ocean? What if we went to church (those mysterious churches)? What if we lived on the moon, would we be able to yell down our greetings? Ottla had the least interest in the game, yet she made up the best questions.

I find today that when I `what if’, I don’t think so much of the future, but wonder about those things I might have done in my past, which I ignored or refused.

Felice, of course, with two engagements never fulfilled.

Other work – I’m a good enough lawyer, I could get other work.

Prague – this ornate tomb – to have lived a life elsewhere. Berlin, Palestine, Amerika. Zurau.

What if I had fled with the Swiss girl? Her youth, her zest – I might have learned to sing.

What if I were less exact – less austere?

What I might have written.

What I might have lived.

What if I had asked far fewer questions – and taken more time to better understand the answers.

(image)https://pbs.twimg.com/profile_images/1757693365/if-book_thumbnail.jpg

In Honour Of The Queen’s 92nd Birthday

<> on June 24, 2015 in Berlin, Germany.

 

In my novels where HM The Queen occasionally appears, one of those instances is after her own mother’s death at 101 years. Here is a meeting between my protagonist, ST, facilitated by the Royal Steward, Howard.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

“Howard?”

“Sir.”

As it is the most of formal protocol days ST must accept that Howard is first and foremost a Steward of the Queen. He will be guided, he will be ushered, he will be tended to with the utmost of discretion.

“A sad occasion, Howard.”

“Leavened a touch this time around, Sir.”

This is Howard’s way of informing him that all – more or less – is as it should be.

“Please convey to Her Majesty my deepest condolences.”

“You may do so yourself, Sir.” Howard indicates for another member of the staff to continue greeting the flow of arriving vehicles. “If you’ll follow me.”

This is unexpected. ST had been surprized enough to be invited back to what he assumed would be a somber buffet in one of the State reception rooms. There would be small talk and a hurried atmosphere as most of the Royal family would soon be on their way to the internment at Windsor Castle.

“Whose idea is this?” ST asks the question to Howard’s retreating back as he follows the other man along the front of the palace.

“Whilst on duty, Sir, I have no ideas of my own.”

They enter a section of the palace unknown by ST. They come to a door that Howard has to unlock. He uses no swipe card nor keypad but a substantial metal key upon an equally impressive key ring. When they are through the door Howard locks it behind them.

The corridor is far shorter than the length they have just walked. ST guesses they are near the back lawns and gardens. He wonders if he is going to be taken to the pond he stood beside so many years ago, and if he will have the chance to skip stones again. However, in less than a minute, Howard turns sharply along an unexpected hallway and shortly stops in front of a set of double doors.

“Our destination, Sir.”

ST makes a quick appraisal of his person, tugging a coat tail and smoothing his hair. He questions the steward with a glance and Howard nods his head before he knocks on the door. ST can’t tell if Howard actually hears a response or if there is a designated seven seconds before he swings the doors open.

“Your Majesty.”

“Come in, Howard.”

ST notes that Howard unusually precedes him into the room instead of standing aside and then following. He is also surprized that when he himself enters the room Howard does not close the door behind him.

“Your Majesty.”

“Thank you for attending.”

“Your mother made a profound passage through Time. You’re welcome.”

The Queen is mid-room, standing beside an ornate floor lamp. The room is not a large audience chamber but a smaller sitting room or den. There are comfortable chairs and books on shelves and a writing table. In one corner is a television and a discreet bar.

“Yes, she did.” The Queen finally approaches ST with hand outstretched. “She put every year to use.”

“Yes, Ma’am.” ST takes the Queen’s hand, ungloved and barely adorned, and shakes it gently. He looks her in the eye as she does to him and finds a calmness he did not expect.

“Come to the window.”

“Ma’am.”

He follows her across the room and notes that Howard, although unbidden, does the same. They stand in a line before the broad panes of glass.

“My mother did not often reside in this palace as she believed it rightfully belonged to the current monarch.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“Appearances.”

“Ma’am.”

“Howard tells me you are finding out about appearances.”

“Yes.” ST does not hide his glance toward the steward. “I am discovering that it is others who do not permit me to be on an equal footing.”

“Exactly so.” The Queen smiles. “And does Howard instruct?”

“I suspect so, Ma’am.” ST also smiles. “But with Howard, who can ever know?”

“Oh, we live and learn from that one.”

The Queen looks away from the men and stares out the window. Since ST is here by request and no polite dismissal has occurred, he realizes the audience is not over. He also realizes, standing and looking onto a burgeoning garden, that this may be one of the quietest rooms he has ever been in. There is not a sound reaching them from the great city of London, nor from the bustle of the palace.

“When my mother did come here, this was her favourite room with her favourite view.” The Queen points out the window. “She would often spend an afternoon here after some public or family function – the two often intertwined.”

“As she would often point out, Ma’am.”

ST almost snorts in surprize for Howard has just given the Queen a verbal nudge. He assumes this is part of a steward’s job, but ST has never seen it done.

“Yes, Howard.” The Queen glances at him. “My mother was a ‘public’ person over sixty years. She both resented and appreciated the fact that she had forty years without.”

“Both, Ma’am?” ST is struck by the notion for not only does it sound contradictory but he is startled to realize he has similar feelings.

“Yes.” The Queen turns and looks directly at ST. “She appreciated the fact she did experience the younger portion of her life where she lived almost normally. She resented the fact that by having that experience she lived the rest of her life knowing what she was missing.”

“And you, Ma’am?”

“I was not born to be a Queen but as long as Uncle David had no issue I was always reminded I was Heir Presumptive. My youth had some normality but I was never allowed to go my own way. “She pauses to look out the window. “I have never known what I am missing but I am aware I am always missing something.”

“Do you think that is worse?”

“How can I compare?”

ST has no answer for this and hopes it is rhetorical. That you can’t really know one thing without experiencing its opposite is a nugget found in the core of Space/Time – and Space/Time rules the world.

“Howard’s body language is urging me on.”

“Is it, Majesty?” It is Howard himself who asks the question. “Uncharted waters, Ma’am. I apologize.”

“You’re being protective, Howard.” The Queen nods. “It’s appreciated.”

What Happens After You Die

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Some day she will not wake – she prays for this every night as she lays waiting for sleep.

To-night is not bad, there will be no need to use a pill. In fact, she is very good about the pills. Dr. Morgan has told her – almost encouraged her, she feels – to use a pill a night, and not fight for sleep as she sometimes does. But she can not bring herself to believe that that is right – she is certain Ned would never have agreed to it.

Ned was never one to take the easy way out. Not, she would hasten to add, that he was some sort of doomsayer, or a fanatic of any sort. But he did believe it was up to each person to solve their own problems. Where he may have expected too much was believing that all problems had a solution, He would keep at something with a relentless persistence.

She would sometimes stand near him as he was trying to replace some tiny piece of a machine, or climb yet again on the shed roof with some tar, and she would say, “Leave it be, Ned. Let it alone.” But he would just pause, settle back on his heels and perhaps light a cigarette, and say that he may as well be putting in the time on this as on anything else.

And back he would go at it. As far as she knew, he never gave up on anything until it was done. He was not the type to gloat, or even show much sense of satisfaction, and she had been married to him for years before she recognised his small mannerisms that meant he was pleased.

She turns over, being careful not to lay an arm on his side of the bed. Or let a foot stray over the line she has refused to cross for eight years. Ever since she reached out one morning and touched cold flesh.

No, she will not need a pill tonight. Her work has tired her enough to bring on sleep. It is, of course, the memories weaving through her mind that she would really like to stop with the pills.

Those memories she can barely stand, and without which she could not live.

DE

(image) bioethicalinquiry.com/wp-content/uploads/6-3EndofLife-470×260.jpg

100 Years Ago: Kafka On The Move from “Kafka In The Castle”

cgwaytuxiaasez_

[The Swiss Girl]

12 September 1917

Max came to the station with me this morning, which was kind of him.

He was not in as good spirits as was I, for he does not have the joy of escaping Prague to assuage our parting.

I obviously did not help matters when I pointed to the two men carrying my things, and said that they could be carrying my coffin.

He did not even attempt a forced smile.

Or force an attempted smile.

My possessions were bundled into the baggage car, and I was prepared to be folded away there too.

But they allowed me a compartment, and as we parted, I shook the empty hand of Max.

 

13 September 1917

This might even be the type of place for the Swiss girl. Unfettered – perhaps singing.

I’ve had the strongest desire to be with her this morning.

Maybe I had a dream.

The strongest desire to contact her – regardless of what we promised.

But – after all these years – I probably could not find her, even if I tried.

And I have no idea who I might find if I succeeded. Not the girl of memories.

And who, anyway, would she find?

What look would cross her face and still her song?

Because – I have become me.

DE

Memoir Of The Chickens And The Nazi

racist-grafitti
An Oldie Rock station just played Spinning Wheel by Blood, Sweat And Tears. This always – always – brings back my memories of working on a farm in Germany during my university days. It was a hit of the time.

And, since I am currently well into reading Alan Bennett’s new Memoirs, Keeping On, Keeping On, I did what I have not done for years. I excavated my Journals about my three month summer in Europe, and turned to the day which mirrors this.  And, since it proved to be a notable day, I’ll transpose it verbatim (well, except I’ll clean up the spelling).

18 June

An interesting day, in a rather strange way. I got to work some of the morning with the hired hand, Herr Steiner, alone. He could speak no English and I was surprised that I could converse with him as well as i could (we had lots of time and I could speak slowly and I could think things out. We were, as a point of interest, filling wool sacks.


He told me that he  did not care for the place very much and was planning to leave soon. I can not say that he gave me ideas. I already had them.

And then the other interesting queer occurrence. I am tempted to drag all the dramatic interest I can out of this episode, but I may as well tell it in a simple manner, for it happened in a simple way.

I was going into one of the egg houses to collect the noon-time eggs, and as i stepped through the door, I saw it. Now, I had been collecting eggs there twice a day for two weeks, and had never once noticed what i now saw.

There was a swastika scrawled on one of the walls. It was covered in dust (like everything else) and something beside it has been scratched over. I suppose one can not think of Germany without thinking of the Hitler era, and I had wondered what I would do or think if I came across something like this. I had made jokes about the Bunker on the back forty, or the tattered painting of Hitler in the attic.

I put the thing down to its most logical explanation, the imitative scrawl of a six or seven year old child. Even so, rather bigger thoughts went through my head every time I saw someone use a whip rather forcefully.

DE

(image) https://i.cbc.ca/1.3995470.1487856081!/fileImage/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/16x9_620/racist-grafitti.jpg

The Time He Could Have Been King Of Montréal

underground-city

“I don’t mean to stare – I apologize. I’m not in the habit of doing this, but you remind me of someone. That has to sound like a line – the look on your face. But I’m not after ….

 

“Have you ever been in the train station at Place Ville Marie in Montreal? The escalators that come up by the Queen Elizabeth Hotel.  I had a lot of travel to get to work when I lived in Montreal, and made train and bus connection.

 

“No, thanks. I don’t want another.

 

“One morning – a Thursday – as I was going up the escalator, I saw a girl coming down from the street. She had short red hair – that’s the main reason I’ve been staring – and a green skirt with a white blouse. Coming down that escalator, with that wide space between us. She was looking at me the way I was looking at her – interest and excitement and whatever potential that leads to. We stared into each others eyes as we came level, and craned to look back as we passed.

 

“I guess I’ll have another of the same, after all.

 

“That was stupid enough. I should have jumped that barrier, or at least gone down after her. But I had a job, and was young, and things like that just don’t happen.

 

“Next morning, even though I was looking for her, and hoping so much, I couldn’t have been more shocked by a ghost when I saw that red hair. She had that same look – of shock.

 

“God, to be so unsure of what to do, and stupid to the ways of the world, and even to have that stabbing thought that it can happen again tomorrow. We stared and stared, you could almost feel electricity between us. At the top I waited as long as I dared, hoping she would come up. I had to get my bus. I just jumped it as it was pulling away.

 

“That was a Friday. I sweated through the weekend, full of grand plans about telling her to wait, or to come up to me, or yelling my phone number. She wasn’t there, of course – on Monday or any other day. I looked the rest of the summer, then it was back to university.

 

“I mean, to be given one chance like that and waste it. But two. I’ve never forgotten, even now with a wife and kids, I wonder what might have been. It can make my hands shake, seeing someone like you, and with too much drink in me.”

DE

(image)https ://media-cdn.tripadvisor.com/media/photo-s/04/34/64/1f/underground-city.jpg

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