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100 Years Ago Love Goes So Terribly Wrong For Kafka

dopis_felice

When I wrote my novel, Kafka In The Castle, filling in all of Kafka’s missing diary entries,  after a few months of writing, I found something very interesting. The day/month/year I was writing about, mirrored the day/month/year in which I was writing.

 

For example, if the 03 of July was a Friday in my writing year, it was also Friday, 03 July in 1917.

 

It was an exciting surprise, and made (I think) for more immediate writing.

When Kafka became so ill he he took leave from his employment, he stayed with his sister Ottla in a village, hours from Prague. The following recounts the visit of his fiance,Felice.

 

Here is 23 &24  September from Kafka In The Castle.

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23 September 1917

The trials of Felice. The trials of Franz. As they are put together in this obscure little village – with animals and harvest and the clatter of waggons without.

Because of the war, her train journey an ordeal of thirty hours. Only to reach this destination. This lover who doesn’t …even have the grace to love another.”

That is something F. can understand.

 

24 September 1917

The two days Felice spent here a trial of misery. A trail of misery. Even – I suspect – when she slept.

It is fortunate that I am ill, for it lets her see me in life, the way I am in spirit. The`me’ she would have to fight against. The `me’ which is always opposed to her.

We shared quiet meals, grateful and annoyed by Ottla’s constant chatter. As good a hostess as possible to this strange, sullen couple.

Ottla must have been thankful that her chores took her away as often as they did. I had no such excuses, yet could offer nothing in their place.

F. and I were truly left to each other, and any thoughts she might still have about us getting married must surely be removed.

When we did talk, it was about the change in seasons, the harvest (she took an interest), her work in Berlin. About my health when I seemed to tire (my weariness not all caused by being sick).

We rarely held hands on our walks – just briefly, in the minutes as we returned.

The few kisses were perfunctory.

Not even for memories of things past.

Kafka And His Father Have An Understanding [from: Kafka In The Castle]

kafkafather

01 January 1917

There was a cloud caught in the branches of a tree today, outside my parents home.

Or so it appeared.

I got up from the cot and went to tell Ottla, but she was clearing the kitchen, tending to the dishes. So I was radical, unthinking – driven by haste – and told the only one not consumed by labour. I told my father.

“In the trees?” he asked.

I propelled him from his chair, thrusting the papers aside. He followed me, and I could see the surprise on his face.

“Where?” he asked; and I pointed out the window.

“But I see nothing.”

“Oh, you have to lie on the cot.”

“On the cot?”

“And with your head just so.” I pushed him onto it, and he lay, looking sideways.

“But you are right,” he said.

I thought because of the holiday he might be humouring me, but then I saw that his jaw hung open, and his face was astonished.

Does the boy never grow, that he can feel so good to be vindicated by his father?

DE

Postcards From The Past Without Pictures

ww1postcards02

 

Dear Eustice:

My mind confronts so many intangible truths that you sometimes seem – or is it just hope on my part – to be my only peg of reality. Have you noticed that whenever we finally believe we know the reason for something which happens, it often occurs that the real reasons are exactly the opposite of what we supposed. Everything walks a line – as narrow as those upon this page – between profound revelation and mindless absurdity. As I look through my window, the shadows cast through the trees on the next building, take the shape of a French poodle carrying a parasol. Is even Nature absurd?

Yours,

Margot
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Dear Margot:

Nature is nothing but reality, only the intangible can be absurd. As I’ve said too many times (and why do I repeat myself yet again) you spend too much effort – and wasted effort, for how can it be other – on futile quest and query. The only truth to be found is in sour milk or pleasant fornication – these things are real, these things exist. Absurdity is kittens playing or the Prime Minister’s latest speech. These things we look at with amusement or contempt – we know not to expect much from either. Quit you silly endeavours and join the world which surrounds you, not the one which your head surrounds. All important answers can be found between someones legs.

Yours,

Eustice

 

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Dear Eustice:

Ideas and questions are what make us more than the rutting animals you seem to exemplify. I do not claim that I shall ever reach Plato’s perfect bed, but neither would I wish to remain in your oft-used and no doubt soiled one. We are meant (I am quite certain of this) to strive to new understanding, new revelations about ourselves and our place in this world. The sole function of our body is to be a vehicle for transporting our mind, and keeping it alive. My `quest and query’ as you put it (and, by the way, did you steal that phrase – it sounds like the title of one of those pretentious little magazines you read) is both proper and noble. I really do wish you would utilize the gifts given you, and not waste so much time in idle and – it must be said – repetitious pursuits.

Yours,

Margot

 

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Dear Margot:

One of life’s meaner tricks is to allow us all a different set of beliefs. Cows, cats and dragonflies are content with their uniform outlook on life. Their needs are simple (if keeping alive can be called simple), and they eat, drink, keep warm, and yes, cheerfully reproduce with little thought of anything else. If you wish to assume there are greater endevours in this existence, then you should also assume that only saints and angels can fathom them, and not spend so much time on a chore for which you are not equipped. Grand thoughts may be fine for the likes of Plato, but my perfect bed will have three beautiful partners in it, who are completely willing to whatever I suggest. I think if you study our bodies more closely, you will see what it really is their function to produce. You could do with stimulation to more than just your mind.

Yours,

Eustice.

P.S. Moira sends her love

 

DE

(image) http://www.nzeldes.com/Miscellany/images/WW1Postcards02.jpg

Pictures Of Kafka’s Young Holiday Love

 

frantzkafka_vKafka liked the ladies and he had many relationships. While in the first year of his ‘love-of-a-lifetime’ affair with Felice Bauer (they were engaged twice but – indeed – never married) he met “The Swiss Girl”. In his diaries she was only referred to as W. or G. W. They were together for ten days in a spa on Lake Garda. She was a Christian. He was thirty and she was eighteen. However the relationship (apparently sexually consummated) made a great impression on him for the rest of his life.

Research over the years has finally revealed who she is, and Google search even provides photos. However, very little else (as far as I can find) is known about her. Where did her life lead after an encounter with Kafka?

In my own tale about Kafka, I have him making a few poignant comments about “The Swiss Girl”. As with Kafka, they are as sad as they are sweet. But they *are* sweet.

Below is her image and name. Also some of Kafka’s actual diary entries about the incident.

DE

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

15 October 1913. Perhaps I have caught hold of myself again, perhaps I secretly took the shorter way again, and now I, who already despair in loneliness, have pulled myself up again. But the headaches, the sleeplessness! Well, it is worth the struggle, or rather, I have no choice. The stay in Riva was very important to me. For the first time I understood a Christian girl and lived almost entirely within the sphere of her influence. I am incapable of writing down the important things that I need to remember. This weakness of mine makes my dull head clear and empty only in order to preserve itself, but only insofar as the confusion lets itself be crowded off to the periphery. But I almost prefer this condition to the merely dull and indefinite pressure the uncertain release from which first would require a hammer to crush me.

 

20 October 1913 I would gladly write fairy tales (why do I hate the word so?) that could please W. and that she might sometimes keep under  the table at meals, read between courses, and blush fearfully when she noticed that the sanatorium doctor has been standing behind her for a little while now and watching her. Her excitement sometimes—or really all of the time—when she hears stories. I notice that I am afraid of the almost physical strain of the effort to remember, afraid of the pain beneath which the floor of the thoughtless vacuum of the mind slowly opens up, or even merely heaves up a little in preparation. All things resist being written down. If I knew that her commandment not to mention her were at work here (I have kept it faithfully, almost without effort), then I should be satisfied, but it is nothing but inability. Besides, what am I to think of the fact that this evening, for a long while, I was pondering what the acquaintance with W. had cost me in pleasures with the Russian woman, who at night perhaps (this is by no means impossible) might have let me into her room, which was diagonally across from mine. While my evening’s intercourse with W. was carried on in a language of knocks whose meaning we never definitely agreed upon. I knocked on the ceiling of my room below hers, received her answer, leaned out of the window, greeted her, once let myself be blessed by her, once snatched at a ribbon she let down, sat on the window sill for hours, heard every one of her steps above, mistakenly regarded every chance knock to be the sign of an understanding, heard her coughing, her singing before she fell asleep.

 

22 October 1913. Too late. The sweetness of sorrow and of love. To be smiled at by her in the boat. That was most beautiful of all. Always only the desire to die and the not-yet-yielding; this alone is love.

 

Translated by Joseph Kresh

 

Gerti Wasner
Gerti Wasner

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