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Black Death and End Times

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Their world was ending.

They knew that from the toll of the church bells. They knew that from the stink of death. They knew that from the carts of seeping corpses being pushed through the streets. It was The Terrible Pox.

The Black Death.

Heat made the stink worse. The screams themselves became more terrible in the summer heat. Screams caused by the boils, and the black blood flowing through veins. The fetid vapours rose, and the drivers of the Death Carts puked from the stench.

There was nowhere to go, and no one to help. The monarch, the nobles, the bishops, and the wealthy, all fled to the country. They locked themselves into grand castles, yet they still died. The doctors, who knew no remedy, also died from their futile efforts.

Neither the poor nor the rich, the young nor the old, women nor men, were spared. They screamed and clawed to their death, and rats fed from their bloated bodies.

Towns and villages became armed camps. Strangers were turned back at the outer limits. Those suspected of the Plague were locked in their homes, sometimes to be burned. People were clubbed, a few were shot, many were buried before they were dead. There was no sorrow, and no mercy shown to any who were a threat.

The living were frantic to prove they still had life.

They ate and drank and danced and fucked as often as their bodies would allow. They were afraid to sleep, so terrified of that fake death with the real all around. They beat on drums, rang the bells frantically, shouted and sang and swore and cried. They rode horses wildly through the streets, until the beasts fell from exhaustion. They pillaged the vacant homes of the rich, looted stores and wine shops, and paraded in the jewels and fine clothes they had stolen. Women and girls and boys were raped and sodomised by strangers and kinfolk alike.

They did anything for action, anything to prove they were different from the rotting corpses in the carts, which trundled through the streets toward mass graves. They played all the more, and when some fell slavering in their midst, they were kicked into the gutters and forgotten.

It was a time for witches and charlatans. People would believe anything, take any quackish product, if it promised to save their lives. Ghosts walked the land while crops rotted from neglect. It was the end of the world for those who knew no better.

Nothing For Saint Patrick’s Day From “Kafka In The Castle”

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[Illustration by Kafka]

 

I have filled in the missing diaries of Franz Kafka in my novel Kafka In The Castle, but there was nothing for 17 March 1917. However, the days on either side of it were definitive.

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

16 March 1917

Dismal day. The earth fit only for vermin.

18 March 1917

To the country. To the dead.

As Kafka Tip Toes Past While You Sleep

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In my novel about Franz Kafka, where I fill in his “missing” diary entries, I create many dreams, because Kafka often recounted his dreams. For a recent blog, I searched the ether world for an image that included Kafka & Dreams. To my surprise, a quote came up, by Kafka, that I never came across before. Even with its doubtful provenance, I used it.
I later tried to track down the quote, and it seems this source is the only source. A monograph called Franz Kafka by Franz Baumer. But it is such a Kafka-like comment, I’ll take it.
Also, in hunting for this source, I came across a site called ‘Fuck Yeah Franz Kafka. Which is an attitude I much admire.
The Kafka story and quote:
“Once while visiting his friend Max Brod, young Kafka awakened Brod’s father, who was asleep on a couch. Instead of apologizing, Kafka gently motioned him to relax, advanced through the room on tiptoe, and said softly: “Please – consider me a dream.”’ from Franz Kafka by Franz Baumer
The unrelated site:
Jan 9, 2019 – Where people come together to celebrate the greatest author of the 20th century.

The Power Of Women

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In my novel, The Fifth Corner Of The Earth (which I class as a contemporary history) five people, decedents of five people through the centuries, must come together to decide whether it is time to end the Earth – the proverbial End Times. But this time, one of those chosen is a woman.  And women’s power is described.

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

She went along the hallway, turned down a longer, narrower corridor, and came to her brother’s room.

“Markos?”

She knocked on the door, but when there was no reply, she called again.

“Markos?”

“Please, Atropos. Come in.”

She lifted the latch and walked into the darkened room. She went down a few steps, and crossed the stone floor, until she came to the thick wool rug which covered the area beneath the bed. Her brother stretched his hand along the bedclothes.

“It is almost time for you to leave?”

“In the half hour.”

“You’ve been troubled.” He sat higher in the bed. “How are you feeling now?”

“That’s supposed to be my question.” She laughed nervously.

“I feel as I am – closer to death.” Markos pulled at the bedclothes. “We must not pretend anything different.”

“There’s always the chance – ”

“You’re talking to your brother – your younger brother to whom you have taught so much. Of course I know of `chance’.”

Markos started to cough, and doubled over as the sound filled the room.

“You see.” He forced a laugh. “As if on cue.” He held up his hand as she came closer. “They would have to give me new lungs, to do any good now. There is no place for `chance’.”

“Do you want a drink?” She reached for the pitcher of water.

“I want to talk.” As he again sat up, he pointed past the water on the table. “Get it for me, please.”

She stretched and took the black envelope in her hand. As she gave it to Markos, the sun insignia on the back glowed in the dimness of the room.

“Thank you, Atropos.” He lay it on the covers in front of him. “And thank you for the honour of asking my council.”

“Markos, I – ”

“It means a lot to me.” He held up her hand to stop her words. “You still have confidence in the advice I can give.”

“Of course I have – ”

“Ah, my sister.” He spoke slowly. “The dead and near dead have one thing in common. They no longer need to be humoured.” He touched her hand. “I don’t want to be a weight on your mind when you’re away.”

“How can I stop thinking about you?”

“I don’t ask that.” He smiled. “I hope I’m always in your thoughts. That’s how I’ll keep alive.”

“Oh, Markos.”

“You feel too much, sometimes, Atropos. Is that part of being a woman?”

“I don’t know.” She forced a smile.

“I think it is.” He pushed one of the pillows more firmly beneath him. “I think it’s because you can bring life into existence – you can actually feel a soul develop inside you. Women have a touch of God within them because of that.”

Markos hesitated, his breathing more laboured. He looked at his sister intently, his eyes hot from fever.

“Men will always envy you that power. We envy you the power to create life, and the feelings it must give.” He smiled abruptly. “Our duty done, we really become quite superfluous.”

“You surprise me.” Atropos spoke softly.

“What have I got to lose by letting you know of my primordial envy? My fears and inferiority mean nothing at death’s door.” He looked away. “I no longer dread you will turn them against me, and look upon me with contempt.”

“Markos. I would never have done that.”

“I am like all humans, Atropos. I have doubt of my own worth held within me like an insoluble capsule. Your words can’t dissolve it – even the knowledge of death leaves it untouched.” He stroked his chest. “Death just puts it in perspective.”

“I don’t feel that way.”

“No, you don’t.” His hand stopped moving. “And I suspect the others whom you are soon to meet are spared this most human failing.” He closed his eyes. “I want to make certain you understand. We humans are forced to carry this sense of worthlessness around like a curse. Remember that when you decide about us.”

“But where does it come from?”

“That question … ”

Markos turned his head. He opened his eyes, and looked out at the blue sky framed by the small window. Sunlight would soon be streaming through.

“I am not going to live long enough to answer that question.” He looked back at her. “Come closer.”

“What is it?” She leaned over the bed.”

“Don’t worry about me.” He clasped her hands in a strong grip. “I’m prepared for what it to happen to me – and accept it. Tell me you do the same.”

“I know you are going to die.” She searched for words. “I’m not sure I can accept it.”

“Then believe me, my honest sister, when I say I am content.” Markos stared at her face. “Tell me that my death will not cloud your mind on your journey.”

“I’ll keep you in my mind and heart.” She momentarily lost her breath. “Always. My sadness won’t distract me.”

Markos sighed, and his hands relaxed. He then picked up the envelope which had fallen beside him, and handed it to her.

“Here.”

She took it, then bent and kissed him.

“Good bye, Markos.”

“God guard you, Atropos.”

[Image} http://i.pinimg.com/originals/fb/48/ad/fb48adcbaf691feeb5b0c9484c44ff7f.jpg

Kafka Dreams of His Father and Gets Revenge

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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.

Of the people described in this entry: Max is Kafka’s best friend; F. is his fiancee; The Swiss Girl was a first love; Ottla is his sister.

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

07 March 1918

Dreamed I had another life. At the same time I had this one.

My additional life may not have always been what I chose, but it was always better than what I have.

At the Sunday dinner, Max was my father, and Ottla was my mother – although our ages remained the same. Sometimes my wife was the Swiss girl, sometimes it was F’s best friend. And sometimes it was Ottla.

I would still see my father in this other life, but only when I went into his store to make some purchase. He was as mean and gruff as ever.

I always shortchanged him.

 

[IMAGE} https://byronsmuse.wordpress.com/2018/12/20/fashion-inspiration-please-consider-me-a-dream/

Kafka Braves An Ice Storm

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I follow Franz Kafka in my Kafka In The Castle, filling in his lost diary entries. I have him only where he really was, imagining his days. For a number of months he lived, with his sister, Ottla, in the village of Zürau, a couple of hours by train (in those days) outside of Prague. So, if I could actually see out my ice-covered window, past my ice-drooping fir tree, I might see him passing by.

Excerpt from Kafka In The Castle:

05 March 1918

Ice storms the last two days.

It clatters into the chimney, which is quite a startling noise if one happens to be up the stairs, and going about ones usual business. The rattle and ruckus of the ice is an abrasive encounter. More so even than when it beats upon your face as you go along the road. At least there it is expected, and you can be muffled against its intrusion.

Ottla saw to my protective gear, although she did not want me to go out.

Procured, from somewhere, a wide-brimmed hat. Swathed me in scarves up to the eyes. Insisted I put on an outer leather jacket, from which the ice drops merrily bounced. But, she had nothing to offer to assist in the walking. It was, as far as I can compare, like walking through a field of fine salt.

It is not even accurate to say that I slide, for it was actually the ice underfoot which did the sliding. I would find my foot being grabbed and held. I’m sure it was what walking through purgatory would be like.

The Funeral For Princess Diana Comes To An End

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An excerpt from my novel More Famous Than The Queen. My main character – so famous he is just known by initials – is at the funeral of Princess Diana.

The casket reaches the Sacrarium. ST leaves his thoughts behind to follow the service, listen to the words, and sing along with the hymns.

Although he has no fondness for opera and operatic song, ST finds the soprano’s voice pleasant, and drifts along with the Latin text: “Dies illa, dias irae … Day of wrath, day of calamity and woe.” He finds Elton John’s presentation bizarre yet sincere.

The rest of the service proceeds around him, but he only stands and sits by following the motion and noise of those fore and aft. Perhaps it is his deficient attention span, perhaps it is jet lag (he did not get any rest yesterday), but, much as he did as a child on Sunday, ST slips into a revere.

He wonders where Diana is.

If the whole context of this service is correct, and her Spirit Everlasting is afloat in some other world, does she have the slightest interest in these proceedings? Do you care what is on the plate after you have eaten the meal?

Is it – as he hopes – an all new wonderful adventure?

ST is returned to the present by the familiar words of The Lord’s Prayer. He is actually reciting  “Give us this day our daily bread” before he realizes what he is doing.

Stopped in place and time.

He could be a child again (perhaps he is) wondering what `trespasses’ are. He could be the aware young man, wondering why God would have a penchant to lead us into temptation. And he could be as he now is, wondering if this was the only way for a troubled young woman to be delivered from evil.

ST is fully attentive to the final hymn, and The Commendation of the Dead to the Lord.

He suspects it is an all-or-nothing package: that Diana and Jesus and God are present and appreciative to what is happening around him; or that he and everyone else are just singing and praying to the empty rafters. He fears his faith has skidded to the unstable foundation of hope.

The cortege prepares to leave the Abbey. Although the choir sings as the procession slowly moves to the west end of the church, it is really silence which hangs over this vast array of people. Again the casket with its ruptured body wend their way down the aisle, the flower arrangement an almost dull glow in this final, sombre setting.

“Weeping at the grave creates the song.”

Or so the song goes.

Then there is the final minute.

The minute of silence.

Observed by the Nation.

Observed by ST.

Observed -perhaps- as a minute’s pause in the enormous expanse of Eternity by a dead princess.

Kafka Greets February With No Good Cheer

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In my novel, 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.

And I must wonder, if he were writing right now, what he would write with the knowledge that February has an extra day.

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

01 February 1917

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.

[image] https://rlv.zcache.co.uk/leap_year_2020_key_ring-r6cfe132053c147549096695345d285ae_fupu3_8byvr_307.jpg

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.

 

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