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New Year & Kafka Meet In Prague

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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.

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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.

(image)https://cloud10.todocoleccion.online/coleccionismo/tc/2013/11/19/12/40061270.jpg

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Kafka Settles Into December from “Kafka In The Castle”

Franz-Kafka-em-Praga-1922

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.

In these entries, the chill of winter begins to settle over the chill of his life.

10 December 1916

My father is so suspicious, he rarely suspects what is really going on around him. He has no idea that Ottla has rented this house, or that I come here like a thief in the night. He would think that it is another plot against him. And, he is right about the plots – but he’ll never realize they are done solely for defensive purposes. Which is a shame, for he fully appreciates self-preservation.

Of course, even I do not fully know Ottla’s reasons for renting this tiny house. I suspect a young man is involved, but I will keep my queries to myself. It is not the place to bring Felice – but is nice enough to set out on new adventures. I’ve had adventures in less suitable surroundings. The shop girls. The hotels with their chilly rooms.

12 December 1916

Max wants me to publish more. He may even wish upon me the horror of his own proliferation. His novels, and stories, and all his comments and reviews about the “arts”. I do not tell him this, for I think he would be greatly offended, but much of the time my opinions do not even interest me.

 

14 December 1916

Overheard a woman talking to Max today – complained of being lonely. But what it sounded like to me was that she was only tired. She had children at home, family in the neighbourhood, and friends (obviously) whom she could talk to. Yet, she chooses to feel lonely. Yes, her husband is in the war, but a partial loss does not make one lonely. Perhaps alone – but that is entirely different. Being lonely is waking from a nightmare, and realizing there is no one to wake you.

Truth As Pointed Out By Kafka from “Kafka In The Castle”

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(Image by Kafka)

I have filled in Kafka’s missing diaries for a two year period in my novel, Kafka In The Castle. So, a hundred years ago he was – in reality – realizing that his escape from Prague, as he stayed with his sister is a small farming community, was nearing its end. He made some trips back to Prague to try to get his leave from his employer extended. I imagine this happened on one of these trips.

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07 May 1918

Max and I to a coffee house. It was not something I really wanted to do, but I have no good reason for wanting to be on my own. He would take offence. Max – although observant of my needs – becomes (it seems to me) more and more full of himself. And – although I don’t tell him this – his life is just not interesting enough to be exposed in every drop and detail. I did not miss these forays into his loves, his family, and his career, as I lived the eight months in Zurau. And, as far as I can tell, little has changed. The names, perhaps. The places of rendezvous. But the bickering simmers, and his wish for flight still bubbles to the top. Flee to the freedom of the Palestine. All this is more difficult for him, because he wants to be as truthful as he can with everyone. I confess my ears pricked up at this, as my interest (or annoyance) was engaged.

Doktor K: Being partially truthful is like being partially pregnant.

Doktor Max: A truth you’ve brought back from the farm?

Doktor K: Truth does cling to the feet – and the smell lingers.

Doktor Max: Which permeating truth do you think I should know?

Doktor K: That you can not possess a truth and it’s opposite.

 

08 May 1918

I have acquired a farmer’s eye for the weather. My predictions for the next day have so far been surprisingly accurate. Much to the amusement of my father. I at last possess some ability which is of worth.

Escape From The House of Hell

alh5baf0f_ottla[Franz & Ottla]

Franz Kafka lived way too long with his parents (his discord with his father is famous), and stayed in the city of Prague (which he described as “The little mother with claws”) for most of his life. But his sister, Ottla, escaped both. In my rendition of Kafka’s missing diary entries, in Kafka In The Castle, I show his reaction to his sister’s escape.

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20 April 1917

Fate laughed up its sleeve, and this morning’s post brought a letter from Felice. A letter of no consequence, except for its arrival.

And I, in fact, have answered it. Perhaps too hastily. Perhaps too truthfully.

I have praised Ottla so much previously that F. has, upon occasion, made comments about my admiration.

That was her word, and I think it was not used favourably.

But the truth is – I have great admiration for my youngest sister. She does not think and think and think.

She does not discuss things for weeks.

She acts.

My God – she got away from Prague!

Finding The Right Hole To Live In

prague-ruelle-or-1

[Kafka’s Alchemist Lane “Burrow” with open door]

A burrow offers security and comfort.  Kafka found both in his sister’s tiny house on the Golden Lane.

The Golden Lane is a narrow, dead-end yet massively historic lane, hugging an interior wall of the huge Prague Castle. Centuries ago the small buildings along the lane housed workers of the Castle, including some resident alchemists. Thus the name.

Ottla – Kafka’s sister – had rented it so she could spend time with her lover, and not be bothered by parents and comments. Her lover was not only a Christian, but he was soon going to leave to fight in World War I. Time was precious. However, she rarely had opportunities to use it other than the weekends, so she offered Franz the use of the tiny house for most of the time. And use it he did, though he never stayed the night.

Through fall, winter and spring Kafka wrote a whole book of short stories there. For a single block of time, it was one of his most creative periods.

When I visited, under the Communist rule of the time, it had been converted to a book store. Of course (which he would have appreciated) there were no books by Kafka for sale. Today he is displayed in the windows.

It was only when I went thorough the small rooms, and looked out the window into The Stag Moat, that I realized how important the house would become in Kafka In The Castle, my novel about Kafka. It was cozy – even with the space cramped by tourists. It had been little altered. I could easily imagine Kafka looking through the same glass and walking through the same doorways. No doubt stooping because he was tall. Research met reality.

One of the last stories Kafka wrote, during his final year in Berlin, was called The Burrow. A version exists and is published, though a longer version is supposed to be among his ‘missing’ papers. In it a tiny animal keeps incessantly burrowing to keep away from an enemy. A vague noise convinces the animal to burrow deeper.

Yes – that’s Kafka.

DE

(image)https://www.avantgarde-prague.com/media/gallery/original/prague-ruelle-or-1.jpg

One Hundred Years Ago Kafka Returns To Prague

 

In my manuscript, Kafka In The Castle, I fill in his missing diary entries. One hundred years ago, to the day, he re-visited (in real life) the small house where he had been happy and productive.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~zlata-ulitzka

01 November 1917

The claws of Prague make fierce sounds when they tear into your flesh.

 

02 November 1917

I walked to Alchemist Lane this afternoon. It is not really a part of Prague – high and removed by its ninety-eight steps. A cold, clear day – much like the day a year ago when I accompanied Ottla on her mad little quest to see it. But not (as I had thought) for the first time. In fact, she had already rented it – something I’ve only learned these past few weeks. She had wished my approval, but she didn’t need my approval. I am glad of that.

It was strange entering the courtyards, and passing beneath the spires of the cathedral. But stranger still was to stand at the mouth of the Lane itself, and look along its length. I could have been away for years, or returning to resume yesterday’s thoughts. I felt both. It was if I were at the station, but not knowing if I were arriving on one train, or departing upon another.

The narrow lane was deserted, so I walked along its length slowly. There were new curtains on the windows of my little house. When I returned, I did pause before my old door, and glanced between the curtains to see that all of my furniture had been removed. Much as their owner.

(image)https://media-cdn.tripadvisor.com/media/photo-s/03/14/ea/f9/zlata-ulitzka.jpg

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

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[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

A Hotel In Prague Where Once Kafka Worked

I have visited Prague for my novel, Kafka In The Castle, and visited many of the places that were part of  Kafka’s life. One such place – the small house where he wrote a whole book of short stories – became a setting for a third of my novel.

However, the place where he was employed and toiled  for so many years, The Workers’ Accident Insurance Institute for the Kingdom of Bohemia in Prague, I only saw at a distance across a Square. It was not a happy place for Kafka, though he was very successful at his employ, and rose to an administrative position of importance. It was not really much of a setting for my novel.

That building is now a fancy hotel, and Kafka’s office is a room for rent. It is even designated The Franz Kafka room, and contains mementos. It is where I plan to stay when next I visit. I hope there is not a long list of folk wishing to spend the night there, too.

Here is some information, and some photos of the room.

In addition, is one of the few diary entries I wrote, set in his office building, for Kafka In The Castle.

DE
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The hotel is situated in the heart of Prague, next to the Old Town Square, where the famous medieval astronomical clock is mounted on the southern wall of the Old Town City Hall. The Neo-Baroque building was built in the 19th century by Alfonse Wertmuller, a famous architect in Prague. It was formerly the office of the Workers’ Accident Insurance of Kingdom of Bohemia, where Franz Kafka worked as an insurance clerk from 1908 to 1922. His spirit can still be felt in the hotel, as his bronze bust welcomes guests in the lobby in front of the majestic stairs.
hotel-century-old-town
room
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Excerpt from Kafka In The Castle

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, hoped 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.

The House Of Kafka – Now Picture Perfect

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House No. 22 on The Golden Lane is situated in the Prague Castle. It is so called because in the 16th Century, the Emperor had a number of Alchemists trying to make gold. They were housed on this lane.

Kafka did not really live in this tiny house on this narrow lane – his sister did.

And she did not really live in this tiny house on this narrow lane – she rented it so she could have a place to meet her lover in secret.

The secret was necessary because her lover was a Christian.

So the house was vacant most of the time.

Enter Kafka. He  started to go there (at the suggestion of his sister) so he could have a place to be alone. Otherwise he would be with his parents, which was not conducive to either his (nor his sister’s) desires.

He never stayed the night, but was there most evenings for months. He wrote a whole book of short stories in his book The Country Doctor  while there.

I set a third of my novel about Kafka in this tiny house.
I’ve visited it.
Peered from the windows.
Looked up the stairs.
Ducked in the doorway.
When I was there while the country was still under Communist control, it was a book store.
But – Kafka being Kafkaesque long after death – none of his books were displayed.

From Kafka In The Castle

27 November 1916

Should I comment upon my unique and strange surroundings – this tiny house of Ottla’s. Not shared with a fiancée, but a sister. This place would not do for Felice, it is too small and too spare and too far from the heart of the city. But I feel secure against the winter. Up here in the castle.

As with all the tiny houses on Alchemist Lane, this one has its history of the quest for gold. Thus I fit right in, for I am after such purity.

29 November 1916

I like these walks up and down from the castle. I am surprised – and surprised because I am surprised. Perhaps I will sometime stay overnight, but I doubt it. It is Ottla’s house, and she should keep possession in appearance as well as fact. I impose as it is, which may be the right of an older brother, but not my wish. If it weren’t for Ottla, my life would be bleak beyond what I could bear.

27 December 1916

Ottla says I am staying here too late into the night. But she is implying more. I am certain she is soon to tell

me that I should stay in her tiny house all night. Sleep here. Have things prepared and ready so I could go directly to the office in the morning. But the office must be more than just distance from this place.

30 January 1917

What a storm. The storm of the year, perhaps. It was with difficulty that I came here today, and this might be the night when I shall actually stay. This tiny house, once it’s warm, is a perfect refuge. The winds howling along the Stag Moat, throwing snow at the window behind me, can easily put one back into Medieval times. Might someone have been where I am now – not with pen and paper – but tools and flasks, and elusive gold?  With questions and a quest?

DE

(image)https://rail.cc/img/loc/1/1331728884316e067a8fa1b029edac249de7ca0d2d.jpg

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