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Franz Kafka Wants The Best Of No World For Valentine’s Day

Franz Kafka had many lovers in his life.  For someone supposedly distant and difficult, he was rarely without a woman more than willing to be his companion. Of course, being his companion was difficult because he was – well – Franz Kafka. Not that, as far as I know, any of them actually used the phrase .“It’s complicated.”  But it was.

Felice Bauer was, arguably, the most important love in his life. She was engaged to him twice. And, considering the relationship they had, I’m guessing she was relieved each time they broke it off.  They were ‘together’ from September 1912 to October 1917, and most of their relationship occurred through letters. Those few times they were together were not always filled with bliss.

In Kafka In The Castle, where I fill in his missing diary entries, I have him make comments about the end of their relationship.

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Excerpt from Kafka In The Castle

27 February 1917

A letter from F. I am beginning to think that we do not really see the people in front of us. F. has changed from a vibrant companion to a banal drudge. But, of course, she has not really changed. She is neither of these things, but rather a combination. She is a person living through her life, and what I see reflected are my wants and fears. I want F. to share my tiny house, but I am ever fearful she might say yes.

28 March 1917

I have many letters I should write, the principle one being to F. A chore offering little satisfaction, and less pleasure. Except for the relief of knowing it is done. I am an expert in this, since I spend most of my life dealing with chores. The sins of the office will follow me into the third and fourth decade. But what is to be done about Felice? If anything, she is enjoying our correspondence more now, than she ever has. Rarely do we go below the surface of furniture and work. Will this be this, or that be that? If we ever approach the stairway of heaven together, she will be most concerned that the carpeting upon it is expensive and durable.

04 June 1917

Sometimes – with F – a kiss could make me feel I was becoming part of her. And she into me. I retreated.

Kafka Slips Out Of Love As He Wends His Way Through January

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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10 January 1917

This lull with Felice. We have not experienced such a calm for the past four years.

But there isn’t passion, such as when I walked the streets of Prague just to be near the site of our first brief encounter.

Or, when I awoke filled with the hope of just receiving her letters.

But now, in addition to knowing that she would not like this tiny house, I find that I do not even want her present.

Oh, the tortures we have gone through, the incrimination and the tears. J’accuse. But nowadays, we write to each other so sensibly, and discuss the type of furniture which will fill our rooms.

Like An Ice Moon Of Jupiter

callistoplus_gal

He is not a man for grand gestures.  

The gift came as a surprise, the kiss a shock. He was embarrassed by the first and aroused by the second. Time, always a constant worry – not the futile minutes, hours, days, the whirlwind passage of months, but the disappearance of the now into the past -had again taken a bite out of his life before he had realized it was gone.

 “I thought you would like it.” she said, a gift somehow made more important because it was not planned, an obvious display of spontaneity. A chance meeting in a store on a Saturday afternoon. “I’m leaving soon, in two weeks I’ll be in France.” Eyes taking in his every reaction, her voice tinged with reproach. “Do you like it?”


And of course he did, but there were too many memories laced with half smiles jamming into his head, not painful in themselves but adding now to finality. The party where he met her, surely that was just last week, at the most a month ago. Surely it did not stretch back to soft Autumn nights.

“Well, here,” she writes something. “It’s for you, you know.”

A look of puzzlement crosses her face as the gift changes hands, the too brief touch of her fingers. he clutches it carefully, looks back to her eyes and imagines he sees a twinge of that nonexistent past. or does she only reflect what is in his own face?


 And then the kiss. So unexpected that he almost jumps back.


The touch of lips and warm breath, the smell of fresh, soft hair against his cheek. His own mouth open in surprise, her farewell brush of lips turned partially into passion. And then she is out the door, onto the street, and he is standing by a counter feeling very old, his heart an icy moon of Jupiter.

Ah, Christiane. Salut.

 

(image) https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/image/9805/callistoplus_gal.jpg

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