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Yes, It Is Kafka’s Birthday, And The World Celebrates

03 July is Kafka’s birthday. Celebrations are running rampant in the world.

Hearty renditions of “Hip hip hooray” with an exuberant “Huzzah!”, echo through every major city, and each quiet hamlet.

And this year, I will dive (and then delve) into the new book containing all of Kafka’s various drawings. Some are a tad odd.

I have written Franz the following letter (as yet, unanswered).

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

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. You have thrown up your hands to ward off the snake. Sometimes – some few times – it loosens its grip.

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.

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

~~~~~~~~~~~

And, in my novel about him, Kafka In The Castle, I gave him this diary entry.

03 July 1918

The anniversary of my birth.

In celebration of the day, I did not make it my last.

Kafka Plans An Escape From His Life

In my novel, Kafka In The Castle, I fill in **missing** diary entries from Kafka’s real diary. He either did not fill in these days himself, or he destroyed them. It is estimated Kafka destroyed 70% – 80% of everything he wrote. 

############################

19 June 1917

           I arrived here tonight far later than usual. I had been on a day trip for the Institute, dealing with a court case for a few hours. I was in the station at the furthest reaches of Prague, waiting for the last train to bring me downtown. A taxi would have been more efficient, but I found myself in no hurry. I walked around the station, and found myself staring at the Departures List. All those places, with many trains still passing into the night. Bern. Copenhagen. Florence.

     I had a large amount of the Institute’s money with me (I had won our case), and all my travel documents in order – the war can be circumvented by bureaucrats. I think it was just having all that money which gave rise to such ideas. I realized that, with the right explanations, even London was possible. If I so desired. I had it all arranged in my head. The official letter I would send to Max, before I left the empire, authorizing him to pay back the Institute from my bank account. I had even figured – accurately – the interest to add for each day up until next Monday. And I knew I could trust him to tidy up my other business matters – my apartment, and this tiny house.

     I would tell him to destroy all my manuscripts – he could use this stove. Other letters I could write from other places – to Ottla, to F., to my parents. I thought that I might even be able to eventually make my way to Palestine. That would meet with Max’s approval.

And the trains kept departing before my eyes, one, and another, and another. They were not even crowded, the hour was so late.

And then, there was my train. Back into Prague.

I was the last one on.

Some Franz Kafka For Father’s Day

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. It is estimated that Kafka destroyed 70% – 80% of everything he wrote. 

On this day, Kafka spent the afternoon with his father – an unusual event. And he even had a beer – he was not much of a drinker. But his estranged sister, Ottla, was coming to visit. Her parting with her father months before had been vicious. Kafka hopes to make her visit passable.

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

25 June 2017

We are rarely alone with each other, and the strain was palpable. I wanted to act as normally as possible, but since my usual conversation is what generally infuriates him, that seemed unwise. We read the newspapers, and I managed enough comments about the articles, and elicited his tiresome opinions about the war, and didn’t argue with him too much, that the afternoon – although slow – passed with little rancour. I even had a beer with him, and he showed his surprise. And, I even enjoyed it – but then, I had earned it.

In fact, it may have been the unaccustomed alcohol which lessened the shock of seeing Ottla enter the apartment with mother. Father stood from his chair, the newspapers falling at his feet. “Ottla has an hour before she must catch her train,” said Mother. “I have asked her in for some tea.” Father glared at her an excessively long minute without speaking, managing however to give me an occasional menacing glance. He then abruptly sat again, gathering his papers and holding them in front of his face. “Don’t give her too much,” came his voice from behind the pages. “Too much tea can make a long journey uncomfortable.” I knew that he had already read the pages he held, and I wondered what he was thinking.

About ten minutes passed, and then mother came back and asked if we would like any tea. “Yes,” my father answered, but instead of waiting for it to be brought to him, as is his usual practise, he followed mother into the dining room. And I followed him. Ottla didn’t look up, but he did manage to ask some questions about the farm, and she delivered some cautious replies. She stayed another twenty minutes, then I walked her to the station. It had been mother’s idea to come home, and Ottla had not strongly resisted. I know that she and father will never apologize to each other, but at least they now speak. Once we were out of sight of the house, she gripped my hand and held it until we reached the train. “How can I love that monster?” she asked from the train as it pulled away. “How can you not?” I replied. I hope the noise from the wheels drowned out my words.

26 June 1917

Fight and you die. Surrender and you die.

27 June 1917

Live and you die.

Kafka Walks The Charles Bridge In Prague And Ponders The World

In my novel, Kafka In The Castle, I fill in all the lost diary entries that he either ignored or destroyed.

Today, on Facebook, there is a wonderful video from Prague Morning, showing a lamp lighter walking the length of Charles Bridge (in the direction of ‘Kafka’s Castle’), lighting all the lamps. Kafka made this walk hundreds of times (and I managed a few, myself).

The following is the entry I made of Kafka crossing the Bridge, and what he pondered.

Excerpt From Kafka in The Castle

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

29 August 1917

I strolled the Charles Bridge a long time tonight, before coming on to the castle. I have the feeling that the river air helps my lungs.

I also like the city lights reflecting from the racing water. And the occasional boat, lanterns stern and bow.

I have once or twice steered my own boat through the dark, the flickering light dripping through the gloom before me. If I could have reached the sea while it was still dark, I would have tried to do so. But I was younger then. And could breathe deeply.

Fantasy fuelled this escape, from my Moldau island and then along the Elbe, through Dresden, Magdeburg and Hamburg, to the freedom of Helgoland Bay. Further into the North Sea, if I wanted. Perhaps to Iceland, where I could become lost in the snow and white.

All this, from my perch upon the Charles Bridge, as I strolled from side to side, and one end to the other. My last smile reserved for the statues staring down on me.

Their stony expressions etched upon their faces, as are mine to me.

Link to Lamp Lighting story:

https://praguemorning.cz/lamp-lighter-on-the-charles-bridge-to-come-back-after-two-years/

Kafka Leaves A Home He Never Owned

In my Kafka In The Castle I fill in all the diary entries that Kafka leaves bare (or destroyed),. For about a year, he used the tiny house his sister rented up in the Prague Castle on The Golden Lane. She rented it solely to have trysts with her lover. Kafka never actually stayed the night, but he went there often, and wrote a whole book of short stories while he was there. But, on this late summer night, I imagine how he left it for the last time

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

30 August 1917

I’ll just leave the newspapers. They will no doubt be appreciated as fuel for the next winter. My manuscripts though – regardless of the temptation – I’ll take. The pile on the table, looming behind the lamp, I’ll take tonight. The rest tomorrow. Max has offered to carry things – no doubt thinking that what he carries, I can not burn – and has arranged to be here shortly.

What I most want to take away with me, I can’t. The comfort. The view of the Stag Moat. The Castle walls. The world held suspended beyond the massive gates. The silence. Perhaps peace – which can be many things – can also be nothing more than silence. And here is Max at my open door. His worried smile precedes him into my peaceful room.

31 August 1917

The last night of the month. My last night in this tiny house. My last trek along the Alchemist’s Lane as someone who belongs. And soon, my last walk down the Castle steps. Which Max so dutifully counted. And after Max conveys me to the specialist, I imagine I’ll embark on the last part of my life. The power of the Alchemist’s Lane is far from spent, if one truly sees what I have turned into. There could have been no substance so base as myself to put beneath the test of smoking acid. Burning with precision into my lungs.

Since Max helped last night, there is not much for me to carry away. I might indeed be taking as little as I brought that first day. Technically, I must leave by mid-night, and I plan to walk out the door at that precise minute, turning the key in the lock at the last strokes of the cathedral bell. Of course, I don’t have to do this – no one will appear to check on me. But, I enjoy technicalities. I skirt through life on both the vaguest, and the most precise, of technicalities. After all, I am a well-trained lawyer. Like a weasel well-versed in the ways of the earth.

But sadly, this burrow must be vacated. And by its exposed front entrance, for I never had the luxury of a back escape route. But then – is that what is now being offered me? Opened for me? Not the Alchemist’s Lane, which will lead me to the city. Between the walls, through the courtyards, down the steps, and beyond the many gates. But the Tuberculous Lane, which may meander in many directions, stop at many doors, but finally – eventually – lead to the deep decent into a darkened pit. The only thing of me remaining above to be my name, carved in stone. The Herr Doktor. Not an unexpected fate. But not a fate I wish to happen too soon.

Not, at any rate, as soon as my fate to walk out that door, my few parcels and papers in hand. A lingering look upon the table, the lamp, the stove. I think I will say good bye. I think I may even say thank-you. And then, I will take a great deal of time to find my key. It will be in the last pocket I search. And I’ll close the door slowly. With care. And the key in the lock will make a noise I shall never forget.

Kafka Ponders The Past And The Ghosts

 

prag-cz-3

In Kafka In The Castle I fill in Kafka’s missing diary entries. It is believed that many of the gaps in his real diaries, he removed and destroyed.

14 March 1918

The past.

 And again the past.

Why can we not be rid of that which – moreso than practically anything else in life – is gone?

I am not even sure what I get from memories. Why do I stroll along the road, reach some humble heights, and imagine (by glancing in a particular direction) I can be closer to a person or event? For even if I reached that place, there would be nothing to recapture.

I am not the me of then.

Swimming in the lake; living in a shack by the shore; climbing the mountain. None of these would mean the same to me as they did.

Even if the Swiss girl were present, and had a new song. The new me – the new she – the new us, would be swamped by our old ghosts, making comparisons no two humans could defeat.

I think the ghosts are such, she could right now walk up beside me – yes, even singing her lively song – and remain unnoticed.

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

13248367

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.

When They Poured Across The Border / I Was Cautioned To Surrender ~ L Cohen

ctm-0806-canada-us-border

I crossed the border yesterday, in this time of Pandemic. On an intercity bus. Restricted to nine passengers. At least I had a seat to myself.

The last time I crossed a border under threat of reprisal was decades ago. I entered (and left) Czechoslovakia (as it was then called) by train. I had gone to Prague to follow the footsteps of Kafka. Then the concern of authorities  was all about smuggling. Dire consequences that could put you in prison. And, on my way back out of the country, I was subject to a random search. Open my luggage, and spread what items the soldier decreed upon the seat and aisle, as he poked and prodded. He took interest in an object ( I forget what it was) which quite quickly could be seen to be a commercial souvenir. Thankfully. My careful packing had then to be shoved helter-skelter back into my luggage. Better a jumble than a jail.

So, crossing the border in the same country in this time of Pandemic was not as filled with anxiety, though anxious I still was. Although travel restrictions are being loosened and (at least in this neck of the woods) the Curve is being flattened,

Death stalks the Land / and keep washing your hands.

I did change my seat once, because a passenger changed seats to “have a better view”. That seat was across the aisle from me.

I was handed a form to fill out by the bus driver at a transfer station (nearly empty of people) to give to the border guards if they asked. Apparently they did not ask for it all that often. Where are you coming from/where are you going to. Name. Full address. Reason for travel. Do you have any symptoms?

So, with mask in place (well … a lot of the time  – though always when off the bus) I had a reasonably pleasant trip on a reasonably pleasant day. Lots of elbow room. There was an hour’s delay at the actual border. When it was the turn for the bus, no officer actually did board to check us out. Or take our forms. However, the driver handed his PA microphone out the window so the officer could tell us that: “Anyone breaking the fourteen (14) day quarantine upon arrival was subject to a $1,000 fine.”

I’ve got thirteen (13) days left.

 

[image] https://cbsnews2.cbsistatic.com/hub/i/r/2018/08/06/8ae2e881-5500-4b09-876f-e1cf5bdecaad/thumbnail/1200×630/bda4ff327e62a7e92030aad7cc2e1693/ctm-0806-canada-us-border.jpg

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