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Kafka Has A Beer With His Father

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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. 

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 Kafka knew his estranged sister, Ottla, was coming to visit. Her parting of months before had been vicious.

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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.

 

[Image] https:/ /s.inyourpocket.com/gallery/148184.jpg

 

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Fall Harvest from “Kafka In The Castle”

kafka_franz_ottla_sirem

In my novel, Kafka In The Castle, where I fill in the diary entries that Kafka left blank, I have him visit (as he, in real life, did) his sister Ottla. She had moved to a small village to manage her brother-in-law’s farm.

(In the photo, Kafka is at the far right, while Ottla is in the middle.)

10 October 1917

A rainy day which halted most of the harvest. I thought there would be grumbling, and the kitchen filled with men drinking tea. But if I’m here long enough, I’ll learn. I discovered that during harvest, most regular chores are put aside, so when some time appears, there is as much activity as ever. Plus, there is the additional anxiety over how long the produce will be delayed in the field. I’m certain that Ottla looks out the window every ten minutes, and asks my opinion of the rain every half hour. I have learned to look with my knowing farmer’s eye, and nod, and grunt. So far Ottla never fails to laugh.

11 October 1917

Another day of rain. Apparently, it isn’t just the delay the rain is causing as it falls, but if the fields become too wet, the farmers will still have to wait for the earth to dry out enough so they can work in it. Even Ottla had not been aware of this. She assumed – as did I – that when the rain ceased, she could resume in the fields. Also, some of the produce will rot if left too long. So, a decision must soon be made whether or not to go into the fields in the rain.

It will be difficult and awkward work, and will also mean much damaged and lost produce. There will be a meeting tomorrow of all the farmers, for they will help each other. Ottla surprised me when, after the supper dishes were done, she told me she wished father were present, so she could ask his advice. Wouldn’t that startle him? Sometimes one must give credit even to father – he was never afraid to make decisions.

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.

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

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!

Sex And The End Of January (from) “Kafka In The Castle”

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(Franz & friends)

In my novel, Kafka In The Castle, I fill in the entries  missing from his actual diaries. A hundred years ago, it is quite possible he had thoughts like these.

Ottla is his sister. and Fraulein G is a *young* lady from the village of Zürau, where Franz is staying with his sister. In this photo, Ottla is third from the right. It is unknown who Fraulein G really was.

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25 January 1918

I can not tell (and such thoughts often consume me) whether I’ve gone after too little in life – or too much.

 

27 January 1918

Fraulein G. came to dinner this afternoon, and although we all had a good time, and the meal was pleasant, I felt that she was being too familiar with me – with us. Of course, I am taken aback when even Ottla expresses affection (her laughter, and the way she touched my shoulder a few days ago), so the fault no doubt lies in me. There can be nothing more personal than a touch – written words can be read by anyone.

Well – she is young. As much to be envied as excused. Ottla turned an indulgent eye upon us, and then I walked her home with a bit more speed than usual. We both thought it wise – at my suggestion – not to linger long at her gate. She thinks us discreet (which, indeed, we are) but she has somehow not grasped the fact that the only thing faster than the village tongues are the village eyes.

 

28 January 1918

A month ago I said good-bye to F.

 

29 January 1918

Sometimes, no destination seems far enough away.

A Meal With Kafka And His Family

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[Ottla ~ Kafka’s little sister]

I have filled in the missing diaries of Franz Kafka in my novel Kafka In The Castle. Speculation on my part, of course, but based on actual incidents.

~~~~~

15 April 1917

I’ve just come from the train station. Seeing Ottla off to Zurau. She didn’t take much with her – I had little to carry. Very little help to give. She had not planned to go for another couple of weeks, but father took her to task at today’s dinner. He was vile even by his standards. I like to think he was really trying to stop her. You can stop someone by destroying them. Perhaps that is always his strategy.

She didn’t get to finish her meal – although, I suppose, throwing it across the table is one way of finishing it. A plate of soup which splattered against his chest, turning the shirt dark. “There you see it.”  He bellowed as he stood up from the table.  “Yes, yes. There it is.”  His voice growled, and spittle was on his lips. The rest of us were immobile. Even mother did not bustle forward to try to clean the mess, or make her usual noises to calm him down. His face flushed red, and his hands trembled in front of him, but for once he made no reference to his heart, or the other ailments he claims. Ottla did not look in his direction, but glanced at her sisters. and then at me.

I had the greatest desire to continue eating my soup. I wished some words of reason could come out of my mouth; that things could be made right, and we would go on to the next course of this ghastly meal. I wished these things all the while I looked up to father – and smiled.  “There! There!”  This time he did step back from the table. “There is the Herr Son. At last the true villain bares his teeth. The old cur teaching the bitch her new tricks. This educated misfit who knows nothing of children and families. Who never even knew how to be a proper child.”

I am sure the only reason father did not throw his food at me was because he did not think of it.  “The Herr Doktor who does not have a wife – who can not please a woman enough to make her stay. This has turned my family against me. I should rip him apart like a fish.” He made tearing motions with his hands. “The head just so – snapping it back to carry out the spine.”  And then he smiled at me – a mocking grin.  “If there is a spine in this particular minnow.”

He made motions as if to wipe his fingers on his shirt, and looked down with genuine surprise when they brushed against the dampness of the soup. Mother was standing by this time, and father looked at her with his mouth open. His hands fell to his side, and he finally looked at Ottla. “You disgrace your parents. The whores of Russia act better than you.”  “Then it is a shame I can’t get to Russia.”  Ottla stood carefully, though she shoved her chair back with enough deliberation to hit the wall. “I would truly be rid of you.”

She looked right at him, her face without expression.  “But I can go to Zurau. That I can do this evening. I’ll not have to stay another night under this roof. Within the reach of your contamination.” She walked from the room without looking back.  “You’ll think differently, after a few days on the farm. When your hands are blistered, and your body aching. Then you will be glad to return here, to the comforts of your home.”  I rose to follow Ottla, to be with her, and to help if I could.  “If you leave this table to go to her, then you are no son of mine.”  I looked father in the face as I passed, and smiled again. “How I pray you could accomplish that.”

(image)img2.ct24.cz/cache/900×700/article/11/1097/109616.jpg

 

History Follows The Footsteps Of Franz Kafka 100 Years Later

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(Franz Kafka, and his sister, Ottla, in Zürau)

A hundred years ago, in the Autumn of 1917, Kafka started his stay in the small village of Zürau (as it was then known) a few hours train ride from Prague. He was there from September 1917 to April 1918, living with his sister Ottla, who was managing a farm. It was in this time he wrote the book which became known as The Zürau Aphorisms.

The Village is now called Sirem, and this month a permanent photographic exhibition has opened in a local house.

Here is a news article about the event, followed by the first of my fictional diary entries about Kafka’s stay in the village. Time certainly marches on

DE

New Kafka exhibition opens in Czech village where he stayed

ČTK |

21 August 2017

Sirem, North Bohemia, Aug 19 (CTK) – A new exhibition on Prague-born Jewish German writer Franz Kafka (1883-1924) focused on his travelling has opened in Sirem village, where he stayed 100 years ago.

The permanent photographic exhibition shows less known sides of the writer. It presents him as a man in a good shape who liked rowing and preferred vegetarian diet.

Kafka arrived in Sirem in the summer of 1917 after he was diagnosed with tuberculosis.

“His relatives thought that he would choose some sanatorium, but he went to see his beloved sister Ottla who was running a farmstead in Sirem,” journalist Judita Matyasova, one of the display authors, told CTK.

She and photographer Jan Jindra were travelling to follow in the footsteps of Kafka for 14 years.

Kafka liked Sirem, the then German village, so much that he stayed there for eight months, which was the longest time he ever spent in the countryside.

Some literary historians are of the view that Sirem inspired Kafka’s novel The Castle (1926).

Kafka’s fans started visiting Sirem in the 1990s.

The new display is installed in a former oast of a farmstead. The first floor houses photographs taken during the trips of Matyasova and Jindra to the places where the writer stayed.

“This was a detective’s work. We were searching for how the sites looked like when Kafka visited them… and what he was doing there,” Matyasova said.

Works by young photography students inspired by Kafka’s short story The Burrow are displayed on another floor.

People can also visit the information centre near the church in Sirem to see old photographs of the village from the time when Kafka stayed there.

“(Former Czech president) Vaclav Havel also visited the village. He wanted to shoot a film inspired by Kafka’s novel The Castle together with Milos Forman,” Matyasova said.

The new exhibition is opened from 13:00 to 17:00 on weekends only.

A mini-brewery to make beer from a local hops sort might be opened nearby in the future, said David Herblich, whose parents own the farmstead where the Kafka display is situated

http://praguemonitor.com/2017/08/21/new-kafka-exhibition-opens-czech-village-where-he-stayed

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Excerpt From: Kafka In The Castle

QUARTO XII

 

16 September 1917

Sunday dinner is certainly different here. The food – of course. More staple perhaps, but also fresher and richer. But the atmosphere is free. No etched pattern to follow; no dullness of similar fare and similar talk; no tension bubbling underneath because of what father was going to say. Ottla laughs because something is funny, not because she’s prodded by family expectation. I have often thought that our dread of the Sunday dinner started sometime on the Monday morning.

 

17 September 1917

A whole week away from the office. F. will soon pay a visit.

 

20 September 1917

Dreamed a mixture. I walked – a desolate figure trudging the vast Steppes. Yet I rode wildly – a madman with my forehead pressed against the compartment window. And I saw myself as the train raced by, outlined by the yellow light of the coach; and then a slender body turning to stare at the racing train. We both hollered, but noise and distance obscured our voice. The vast Steppes turned into a castle, but the castle was displayed in the photos of a magazine, which I held on my lap in the flickering light of the compartment, as the train became engulfed  by the large buildings on either side of the tracks. In the magazine there was a railway at the base of the castle, and as I looked out the window the stone walls filled the frame, each giant block wedged securely to the others, their facing protruding and rough. It was as if the train had entered a tunnel, except there was still light from the distant sky.

I turned a page, and had to squint to see the pictures. Along the whole bottom of the magazine pages, a train obscured part of the castle wall, almost becoming a part of the stones. Black and white, light and shade, blending into a sepia which smudged all the details. Was there a figure in the window?

 

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. She 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.

 

26 September 1917

Two weeks away from the Institute. I should – for would not a normal man? – miss something. I’ve taken to feeding the animals.

 

 

 

27 September 1917

In Prague, I often wondered what to do with many of the empty hours. I would lie on the cot, or sit at the table, or walk the streets, but the boredom and despair clung to me like a tattered garment. There were many such days – many long afternoons with the dread of the torpid Sunday dinner damning the course of the day. But here in Zurau, though I spend hours just reclining in the fresh air (as I am supposed to do), often not even looking at the books which I have at my side, I feel comfortable and content. I suppose that I can not go without thought, but I find I can not even tell Ottla (for she asks me) what it is my mind has been doing over the course of the hours. Of its own volition, it must go to those places unknown to me.

 

30 September 1917

There was a knocking at the window this morning. A polite and concise rap rap rap. It awoke me while the room was barely light. Who could want me so early? And then again, an insistent rap rap rap. I was confused, wondering where I was. The panic of Prague weighted down the covers, and I was sorry I had opened my eyes. The room, the smells – even the bed – was not familiar, so I was both bothered and assured by the strangeness. When I realized I was not in Prague – for who could knock on my third floor window – I remembered I was in Zurau, where things were different. Here my window looked onto a yard, and anyone could  be at it. Was there something wrong? Was Ottla after my help? I even wondered, as I searched for my slippers, if her young man had somehow arranged leave from the army, and after much travail had managed to reach the wrong room. I could understand that very well.

I walked hesitantly over to the window, and cautiously pulled back the curtain. Such a commotion ensued that I stepped back in some fright. A bird flew immediately past the glass, its wings frantic as it screeched in agitation. It had been perched on my window ledge, pecking away at the frame. Ottla says it may have been after insects or grubs settled in for the winter.  “Insects in the walls of the house?” I asked.  “Yes.” She was quite matter-of-fact.  “It is a warm place for them during the cold months.”  I was not inclined to argue with the logic, but neither had I thought I would be existing in such close proximity with the tenants of nature. Houses for warmth and bugs for food. It is a blend of the base and the subtle which I can appreciate. Much – I like to think – as does the annoyed bird.

A Woman Takes Control ~ From “Kafka In The Castle”

frank-with-ottla-his-favourite-sister

Franz and his sister, Ottla

16 December 1917

I think it possible the women conspire unbeknownst to themselves.

It was Ottla’s suggestion that I walk Fraulein G home after dinner. She stayed well into the evening. She was good company and we all enjoyed ourselves. We even read to each other – I selected some work by Max. He will get double pleasure from that, as he likes to entertain the young ladies himself.

She helped Ottla with the dishes, and some other clearing chores. Ottla then produced a bottle of schnapps – something I didn’t even know was in the house. I thought it possible Fraulein G had brought it (I’ve found she is capable of such a forward gesture) but I also noted it was the type which father prefers, so perhaps Ottla brought it from Prague. (And perhaps father will be recounting his stock with some confusion.)

Ottla encouraged the consumption of a couple of small glasses. I will not tell Max that the appreciation of his writings was enhanced accordingly.

As I walked Fraulein G home, I could not shake the feeling that something was expected of me. Something more than my company along the darkened road.

Was I to take her arm, or her hand, or even put my arm about her waist? I felt an element of encouragement for some such action, yet wondered where such a thing might lead.

Further, perhaps, than just the door of her house.

But, as the wind was lively, I chose to take her hand, and she then chose to walk closely by my side.

And the lips which murmured “Thank you” at her gate, and chose to brush my own, no longer called me “Herr Doktor”.

DE

(image)http://www.thecultureconcept.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Frank-with-Ottla-his-favourite-sister.jpg

Franz Kafka Turns Words To Gold On The Golden Lane

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[Kafka’s house on The Golden Lane]

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. Yup – that’s Kafka.

DE

(image) https://farm3.staticflickr.com/2645/3848764367_a7b9e65ed5_o.jpg

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