Contrary to popular belief, Kafka had a very full love life. He was rarely without a lady friend during any part of his life. When one left, another soon took her place.
The following is a part of a letter he wrote to Felice, the woman he was engaged to – twice. It is fair to say that she was long-suffering. The sentiments Kafka expresses might have given her second thoughts. Perhaps that is partly why there were two engagements.
Think what one will about Kafka’s romantic abilities, he was a chick magnet. Right to the end. After his funeral, his last lover had to be restrained from leaping into his grave to be with him.
11 November, 1912
I am now going to ask you a favor which sounds quite crazy, and which I should regard as such, were I the one to receive the letter. It is also the very greatest test that even the kindest person could be put to. Well, this is it:
Write to me only once a week, so that your letter arrives on Sunday — for I cannot endure your daily letters, I am incapable of enduring them. For instance, I answer one of your letters, then lie in bed in apparent calm, but my heart beats through my entire body and is conscious only of you. I belong to you; there is really no other way of expressing it, and that is not strong enough. But for this very reason I don’t want to know what you are wearing; it confuses me so much that I cannot deal with life; and that’s why I don’t want to know that you are fond of me. If I did, how could I, fool that I am, go on sitting in my office, or here at home, instead of leaping onto a train with my eyes shut and opening them only when I am with you? … Franz
While Kafka was in the first year of his ‘love-of-a-lifetime’ affair with Felice Bauer, 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, 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 finally revealed her name is Gerti Wasner. However, very little else (as far as I can find) is known about her.
Where did her life lead after an encounter with Kafka?
Here are some of Kafka’s actual diary entries about the incident.
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 f
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
In the spirit of Valentine’s Day and Kafka, I’ll add a bit from my novel, 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.
04 June 1917
Sometimes – with F – a kiss could make me feel I was becoming part of her. And she into me. I retreated.
05 June 1917
Had I not retreated, I would have given up myself. This is what is expected from love. My thoughts and emotions would be continually extracted. I have no way to replenish them, so I would eventually be hollowed out. And I would collapse.
05 July 1917
I will meet Felice – it is what she wants. It is what must be done. She is coming to Prague, and will no doubt fit in perfectly. My parents approve of her – more, I suspect, than they approve of me. She’ll be insulted by this tiny house – it will be found wanting and crude. Some of those annoying qualities she hints about me.
The night train goes between Halifax and Montreal, and Montreal and Halifax. You can’t get there from here in daylight . . . by train. The train chug chug chugs out of Halifax early afternoon, and out of Montreal early evening. The two pass somewhere in Quebec. Arrival in Montreal is early morning (breakfast time) and early evening (supper time).
Although I’ve had some association with trains for decades (the father of a next-door childhood friend was even the conductor on a train) I came to my pleasure and interest in trains from my first trip to Europe. Both in Great Britain, and the continent, I had great pleasure on the trains (much due to the scenery I had never seen). It was really after that first trip that I travelled with any seriousness by train in Canada. And, as I said, any travel from east to west must include the night train to Montreal.
I have been blessed in that I have never had to ‘sit up’ on this trip (though, these days, even that is not too bad). I’ve had berths (upper and lower) and compartments (these days – again – even with their own shower). And I love the dome cars, sitting there for hours even after dark. It is a grand sensation travelling though the darkened forests with often no more than moon light and stars. And the red and green signal lights of the track itself.
Back ‘in the day’ I even almost had a Night train romance.
This was in the upper berths, where nothing more than a curtain flap and a zipper kept the sleepers private. One usually undressed while supine upon the mattress, sloughing off one’s outer clothes.
On one particular journey to Montreal, in the dark of that Quebec landscape, across the narrow aisle, was a beautiful teen-aged gal, not many years younger than myself. And she indicated ‘interest’, with smiles and giggles and some gentle teasing of undress.
However, she travelled with her (I presume) parents, safely ensconced in the lower berths. And Daddy looked as if he:
a) would brook no nonsense
and (more to the point)
b) would cease and desist any interest by me
The sweet lass keep appearing from behind her curtain with smiles and gestures, but finally realized that an athletic leap from my side to hers was neither safe nor wise. We arrived in Montreal as pure as we set out.
(Place Ville Marie)
At one time I shared a whole house with four other people. Two were in the process of becoming lawyers. I noted that most of their stories did not contain much whimsy. The following is a story one of the fellows told us. I, of course, make up the dialogue but, though fiction, it is based on his facts.
“I don’t mean to stare – I apologise. I’m not in the habit of doing this, but you remind me of someone. That has to sound like a line – the look on your face. But I’m not after ….
“Have you ever been in the train station at Place Ville Marie in Montréal? The escalators that come up by the Queen Elizabeth Hotel. I had a lot of travel to get to work when I lived in Montréal, and made train and bus connection.
“No, thanks. I don’t want another.
“One morning – a Thursday – as I was going up the escalator, I saw a girl coming down from the street. She had short red hair – that’s the main reason I’ve been staring – and a green skirt with a white blouse. Coming down that escalator, with that wide space between us. She was looking at me the way I was looking at her – interest and excitement and whatever potential that leads to. We stared into each others eyes as we came level, and craned to look back as we passed.
“I guess I’ll have another of the same, after all.
“That was stupid enough. I should have jumped that barrier, or at least gone down after her. But I had a job, and was young, and things like that just don’t happen.
“Next morning, even though I was looking for her, and hoping so much, I couldn’t have been more shocked by a ghost when I saw that red hair. She had that same look – of shock.
“God, to be so unsure of what to do, and stupid to the ways of the world, and even to have that stabbing thought that it can happen again tomorrow. We stared and stared, you could almost feel electricity between us. At the top I waited as long as I dared, hoping she would come up. I had to get my bus, and just jumped it as it was pulling away.
“That was a Friday. I sweated through the weekend, full of grand plans about telling her to wait, or to come up to me, or yelling my phone number. She wasn’t there, of course, on Monday or any other day. I looked the rest of the summer, then it was back to university.
“I mean, to be given one chance like that and waste it. But two. I’ve never forgotten, even now with a wife and kids, I wonder what might have been. It can make my hands shake, seeing someone like you, and with too much drink in me.”
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~ Good Day to you, Mr. President.
~ Take it easy, soldier.
~ You know – at ease.
~ Yes, Sir.
~ What can I get you?
~ I’m not allowed to drink on duty, Sir.
~ I’m your Commander-in-Chief. I can allow it.
~ You’d have to order me, Sir.
~ Would that work?
~ I don’t know, Sir. That’s above my pay grade.
~ Not above mine.
~ No, Sir.
~ I have billions.
~ Yes, Sir.
~ Billions and billions and billions.
~ Yes, Sir.
~ I could pay you to drink.
~ I couldn’t take pay, Sir.
~ It would be a bribe?
~ No other word for it, Sir.
~ So – what do you think of the cross-dressers?
~ Pardon me, Sir?
~ You know – cross-dressers in the military.
~ We’re all cross-dressers in the military, Sir.
~We take off our civvies and put on a uniform. Sir.
~ Then that isn’t it.
~ No, Sir.
~ Gotcha. It’s the transgenders.You know them?
~ In truth, I don’t, Sir. Those uniforms keep things private.
~ But you must wonder about them.
~ Not for a second, Sir.
~ You don’t care what’s between their legs?
~ No, Sir.
~ That doesn’t sound natural.
~ Sir, as long as they carry a gun and got my back – I don’t care what’s between their legs.
Exposure to the internet is something like that where, in the course of five minutes, you might have extreme information flash past. You do with it what you will.
Conversely, when the same word, phrase or idea comes into your ken from extremely diverse sources in mere minutes, you take note. Such happened to me in a ten minute period a couple of days ago. It was the word ‘cunt’.
This is a word I don’t use and, after a degree of thought, don’t think many (if any) of my characters use. Maybe someone once in five years. I never restrict my characters’ vocabulary.
However, there it appeared. Not only unusually, but from two unusual places.
The first place was in an article about the names of places in London. I might expect a bit of raunch here, but I was taken aback by Gropecunt Lane. Actually, that was a bit of a double whammy, as it is both action and noun. Yet, there it was, complete with provenance and description.
What is now an incredibly rude name for a street actually served a purpose when it first got its name. Even back in the Middle Ages, plenty of towns and cities had a red-light district, including London. The C word, of course, is a pretty offensive word used to describe female body parts. A name like this implied this was a part of town with many houses of ill-repute. Other towns with this name have since changed it to “Gropecount”, “Grapecount”, “Grape Lane”, and more.
Then within five minutes, as I was reading a sports site to find out why Lionel Messi, the great Barcelona soccer player, had received a four game suspension, I found out he is a bit of a potty mouth.
Enraged by a decision by an official, he said: “la concha de tu madre” which translates as “your mother’s cunt”.
The power of words.
Summer wings its indolent way past,
and the petal touch of fall floats the air.
If one refused to meld into the other,
would thoughts of mortality arise?
I have often wished
– no, not upon the distant stars (shooting stars are dying a hot death, did you ever think of that?) –
but upon the green/mauve bud and the chill of September morns.
The wishes and the dreams … oh, my.
Have you noticed the abundance of mushrooms this year,
ink caps thrusting to the sky?
– such tasty, tasty, treats.
The seasons each have their place,
and since I get pleasure from them all,
(or, if you wish – passings)
seem not the least profound.
I certainly shan’t waste my time pondering over morality
– what, after all, is more immortal than the changing seasons?
And what might your wishes be, my friend?
I rarely do little more than reach out my hand,
and am fulfilled.
There is so much bounty to partake of
– and no better displayed then at this time of year
(your seasons; Bursting seasons).
Ah, the summer sun has warmed me,
but the crisp fall eve shall make me more appreciate
a warm lady snuggled by my side.
Watch out for mushrooms,
they make the body lament a single bed.
My wishes would leave you
– yes, even you –
There aren’t heights on the earth tall enough to reach them,
and the ocean depths would soon be full,
if ever I let my hopes accumulate.
Ask not after a person’s dreams, for you could easily violate a soul.
I put more trust in the unspoken word,
and the unseen deed,
for they are oft the strongest.
There is chill enough in the air this morning to make your warm ladies
work overtime to keep you in a happy state.
What a storm was loosed upon the world last night.
I fear the poor mushrooms
will be more mush than anything else.
I fill my bed quite happily, sir,
do not lament for me.
I shall trust unspoken words
when my ears hurt from the noise they make.
I hear too much as it is,
voices full-primed with choice advice and platitudes,
whether from the pulpit or a cozy bed companion.
You’d be surprised the little that I heed.
With so much new in life,
so much to taste and try,
the wonder lies in the drabness of most lives.
From where do so many fears spring,
and how do they exist?
We also had a grand storm across our lands,
but I had not ignored the signs, and thus picked
a bounty of the succulent fungi.
Whether they aided me or not I can’t say,
but my rest did seem more deserved than usual.
ps Moira sends again her thanks for your hospitality.
I not only attempt to write fiction, I have, over the years, written a lot of fiction. My fiction ranges from the conversations between God and an Elephant, to the account of a sociopath serial killer, to the diary of Franz Kafka, to NATO military intrigue. In many ways I think I’ve covered the bases. See a stone, and I turn it over.
But I admit being stopped in my tracks by this Daily Mail Facebook NewsFeed.
I confess, I could not make this stuff up.
And performed a sex act on one while he was wearing a gas mask.