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A Birthday Present For Kafka – Party On!

kafka_mimi
(sweet baby Kafka)
03 July is Kafka’s birthday and –  I forgot.
I could say (without any honesty) that I am distracted by COVID-19 and all the changes (some of them fundamental) which are happening around me. {I had my own two week self-isolation to deal with}. BUT Kafka not only lived through the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918, he contracted the disease. And he survived, even though he already had the tuberculosis that would eventually kill him six years later.

But, this morning, a Twitter respondent from across the Atlantic reminded me. I have already thanked her. So, I will repost my Kafka Birthday blog.

First, is the letter I have written to him (as yet, unanswered).
Second, is the diary entry I gave him for his birthday, from my novel, Kafka In The Castle.

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

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 have found that 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 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

 

~~~~~~~~~~~

03 July 1918
 
The anniversary of my birth.
 
In celebration of the day, I did not make it my last.

Kafka Sees A Ghost’s Shadow From The Window

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An Excerpt from my Kafka In The Castle, where I fill in all of his missing diary entries. Kafka never avoided life – if anything, he perhaps plunged too deeply into it. But I think he never felt he was a part of what went on around him. He understood reality too well.

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

01 June 1917

I have been on the outside, looking in – the darkness of the night behind me, the fog resting close upon the harbour.

I’ve watched diners at their ease, the fire colourful through the grate, the rich hue of the glass raised to the lips. And my own face, peering back at me as I look in, reflecting like a ghost’s shadow from the window.

And the very next night, I have been on the inside, looking out – seated at the very table I had previously observed.

The fireplace at my back, its warmth more than welcome. And I glanced out at the harbour, its fog higher than the previous evening, but not yet obscuring the lights of the ships. Their portholes wavering.

And, as I brought the red liquid to my lips, I saw my own face dimly doing the same in the window, imposed and distant between me and the fog. And I felt as alone as I did the night before.

Whether I was sitting or standing; whether in the warmth, or in the fog – I was still me.

Always K.

Always observing.

Does Hope In Life Cloud The Reality Of Death?

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An Excerpt from my Kafka In The Castle, where I fill in all of his missing diary entries. Perhaps because the summer heat is getting to him, his patience is thin with those whose hope outstrip the realities of life and – particularly – death.

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

17 June 1917

I am told that you can’t lose people, that “…they will always be with you in memory.” Max is heavy with this type of comment – as if the hand of sentimentality brushed off his coat before he set out on each day.

Both the intelligent and the slow of wit seem to be struck dumb by this nonsense. Emotion, I suppose  – hope, I suppose – has no place for reason among its folds. But, if you can not touch, or have expectation of being touched, then the people and places are as gone as yesterday.

There is no way to travel back, and the future beckons with only an empty gesture and a hollow laugh. Bowing low at the open doorway to usher you in, but the room is empty. And will remain ever so.

When they are no longer there to hold their hand out to you – well, then they are no longer there.

 

(image) https://izquotes.com/quotes-pictures/quote-plenty-of-hope-an-infinite-amount-of-hope-but-not-for-us-franz-kafka-242320.jpg

Death Mask And The Creative Spirit

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My two gals, Alison Alexandra and her friend, Amanda, went on a sea voyage. A voyage via a freighter, and not a cruise ship. They stop in the ports where the freighter stops, and they take visits of the town if they so desire.

 

On one of their times on shore, they decide to visit a Police Museum. One of the exhibits is a Death Mask of a hanged murderer. They take great interest in this, noting the repose of the face.

 

This incident is based on an event in my own life. I melded parts of my experience into my characters afternoon visit during their day ashore. This had not been on my mind when I started this particular chapter..
 

I once taught a workshop on Supernatural writing. For my workshop I took advantage to take my students on a field trip to see the death mask of a historically known poet. The death mask was conveniently on view in a display case in a near-by building.

None of them had even heard of ‘death masks’, let alone seen one. I invited them to incorporate the idea into their writing exercises. Some did, some did not.

However, it’s possible this visit to Death elicited the following story from one of my students.

My student and her husband had purchased a new house. Cleaning and renovations eventually took them to the back loft area, which was piled high with decades of accumulated detritus from a long life.

 

They cleared out beds and boxes and newspaper piles and magazines and bundles of clothes and on and on. Near the end of this process, my student noticed a “clump of something”on one of the wooden beams of the loft.

Getting ladder and flashlight her husband climbed to see what it was.

It was the end of a number of knotted bed sheets.

Russia Invades The Artic With Paratroopers

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So implies the newspaper headlines in the Spring of 2020. With photos. Photos provided by the Russian military.

In The Bonner Resolution, my novel of NATO Military Intrigue, the Russians do not invade the Artic. But they make stealth under the ice with a nuclear submarine. NATO is waiting.

This is how “The Bonner Resolution” begins:

 

Afternoon ZULU Time 14:52

The sky is clear and cold.

And blue.

This does not help while watching the expanse of ice. Colonel Bonner thought it would. He thought such a clean demarcation of surface and horizon would accentuate anything appearing between the two. Across kilometers of rippled ice that encourages the winds. The winds that make the Arctic cold penetrate his high tech parka and his thermal long johns. They talk about “wind chill” in the country Bonner is used to. They don’t know nothing.

Before this assignment, Colonel Bonner presumed he had been every place NATO could send him. He has been in war zones. He has been in safe zones where people did not know there is a war. He has been in those diplomatic zones that teeter-totter between the two. Those most of all. He has fought enemies both foreign and domestic. He has averted disaster of massive proportions on his own soil (well – legal sea boundary) that has still managed to remain unexplained.

It was cold there, too.

Colonel Bonner is lying under white camouflage blankets and upon a waterproof mat. He has been in this position for two hours. Any longer and he will be prone to hallucinations. Any longer and he will freeze his balls off – regardless of protective clothing and insulated mat. This is not just his opinion; it is the observation of his guide. His Canadian Ranger companion had nudged him on the shoulder and cupped his own groin and pointed at his watch. If he wants to have babies he’ll move his ass. The cold doesn’t creep up on you, it hits with a wallop. From one minute to the next.

Bonner looks at his own watch. Twenty minutes left though he feels he could have been here either four hours or forty minutes. Time expands and contracts at the same time. This happens during long periods of observation, wherever he has such an assignment. It happens with more force when there is virtually nothing to see. The passage of the sun is the most notable action going on before him. It proves to be of little distraction. And anyway, it is dimmed by his snow goggles.

Bonner adapts to this barren reality by accepting it is not really barren. He pays attention not only to the things the Canadian Rangers teach him, but he watches how they interact to the surroundings. With few humans to deal in an environment that can kill them, they are far more attentive to their senses than he. A creaking of ice, or the slant of shifting snow, tells them more than a manual reveals. They can smell a change coming toward them that is hours away. He makes an attempt to follow their lead. He keeps his mouth shut on the inane observations those from the south are prone to make. He has been shown his restraint is appreciated.

 

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

And this is but one of the many news stories that  cover the real event.
[IMAGE]  https://storage.googleapis.com/afs-prod/media/media:52a815de8b63498e8121d16f40112b6f/3000.jpeg

Kafka Looks Into The Mirror Of God

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[Image of Kafka by Kafka]

 

In my novel, Kafka In The Castle, I fill in the lost (or destroyed) diary entries of Franz Kafka. He recorded many of his dreams. So do I.

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

04 March 1917

I dreamed I was a prophet. The prophet Amshel, which is my Jewish name.

And, I could talk to God.

And I was looking at myself in the mirror.

And I was looking back at me. I mean, Franz was in the mirror, looking back at me – the me of Amshel – who was looking in the mirror. Except, I was as much me looking out, as I was me looking in.

The wall behind the prophet was painted red, while the one behind Franz was of brown wood. They both could raise their fists at each other, and sometimes did. In unison, of course. That was the law.

“Certainly, you may speak to God,” said Franz. “What is there in that? Everyone speaks to God – in sentences, in actions, with their lives. No one is more talked-to in the Universe than God. But what a prophet needs, is to have God speak back.”

And then God spoke, from somewhere behind the mirror, but He did not speak to Amshel. He spoke to Franz.

“You are on the wrong side,” said God.

“Speak to me,” said Amshel.

“Wrong side of what?” asked Franz.

“Of the mirror,” answered God.

“Don’t speak to him,” shouted Amshel. “He is from the world of vipers.” And Amshel raised his fist, but Franz had to hold up his fist in turn.

“I am not the prophet you seek,” said Franz, and pointed his finger at the mirror. “There is your prophet.” And Amshel was also pointing toward the glass.

“Not him – you don’t want him.” He then turned his hand toward himself. “I’m the one you want.”

But Franz was just as vehement, as his thumb arched toward his own chest. “Not me.” For emphasis, he placed his hand over his heart. “In this, God, you have erred.”

And his words echoed those of Amshel, who also had his hand upon his heart. “In this, God, you have erred.”

And the two faces stared at one another, their fingers clutching at the garments they wore.

But God was silent.

Kafka Sprints Through May Day Full Of Many Thoughts

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Excerpt from my Kafka In The Castle, where I fill in all of his missing diary entries. Here he is dealing with a time twenty-eight years after the first May Day was declared. Kafka dealt with workers every day of his work life. But he didn’t take their problems home.

By the way – in real life – Kafka is credited with inventing the the hard hat.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++

27 April 1917

Life seems to offer a handful of solutions which solve nothing. If I could get out of Prague, then I wouldn’t have to get out of Prague.

 

29 April 1917

Ottla managed to get away, and I’ll be able to visit. The dead man next door (I have since found his name was Adolf) also managed to get out of Prague. Him, I can not visit, but I can follow.

 

03 May 1917

The thoughts of the living discourage the dead. I spend so much time watching over myself, that there is no one left to watch over me.

 

06 May 1917

I write to Ottla. I make no mention of her terminated neighbour. I do say “hello” from father. Not an uneven balance.

 

08 May 1917

If Shakespeare were alive today, and people pestered him about Hamlet, would he wonder what all the fuss was about?

 

(image) 2.bp.blogspot.com/-atmC5fHIQp0/UhqBTCq06LI/AAAAAAAAAkA/S47fPCQHuww/w1200-h630-p-k-no-nu/kafka_hard_hat.jpg

A Father’s Understanding

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[Hermann Kafka]

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.

Franz Kafka had his famous conflict with his father. He even wrote a book about it. In reality, his father was almost as harsh and disdainful to Franz’s sister, Ottla. She eventually left the Prague family home, and moved to a small village. But, also in reality, her father never seemed to understand his part in it.

Here I have their father, Hermann, talk about his daughter to his son.

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

 

17 April 1917

Father greeted me at the supper table today, and even – over the course of the meal – asked if I had heard from Ottla.

If it were anyone else, I would have admiration for his guile. But I honestly don’t believe that father has the cunning for such a thing.

Because his belief in his narrow opinions is so absolute, I think that our words slide off him like melting snow.

And because this happens, he does not realize the destruction his own words cause.”They are just words,” he would say. “You can’t eat them, and they don’t keep you warm.”

Just words.

He asked me to say hello from him when I next write to her.

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.

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