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Finding The Right Hole To Live In

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[Kafka’s Alchemist Lane “Burrow” with open door]

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.

Yes – that’s Kafka.

DE

(image)https://www.avantgarde-prague.com/media/gallery/original/prague-ruelle-or-1.jpg

Live Reading Tells The Tale of An Elephant

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Dale Estey

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Dale Estey reads from his story collection, The Elephant Talks to God

Published by: Goose Lane Editions

Dale Estey’s published novels include the fantasy A Lost Tale and the thriller The Bonner Deception. He has two editions of humorous short stories, The Elephant Talks to God, which are appreciated by both young and old.
His manuscripts range from stories about Druids in the Passing Through Trilogy to Satan’s intrusion in the 9/11 destruction of New York. He has filled in the missing diaries of Franz Kafka; recounted the first person dementia of a serial killer; and explored the outrageous lifestyle of the Famous.
He currently switches his attention between writing the saga of a family of onion farmers from Fourth century Italy to revealing the machinations of a contemporary NATO thriller.
He prefers to travel by train, but embraces the computer age with passion. He is ever on the hunt for unique onion recipes.
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“Dale Estey’s The Elephant Talks to God is, first and foremost, a witty, satirical book about the relationship between mortals and an immortal creator.”
—Orson Scott Card

Listen to the Reading on this web site:
Time of Reading: 6:43

Interview With National Radio Some Years Ago (But Most Answers Remain The Same)

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I came across a transcript of this at the end of last year. It’s not that I forgot it, but it took me some time to remember it.

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

1. What unique challenges do you face when writing about serious
non-fiction issues such as religion?

I WRITE about spiritual matters and leave religion to others. The spirit and its quests drive religion – religion just interprets. The biggest challenge I faced in THE ELEPHANT TALKS TO GOD is that the Elephant started asking questions I could not answer. Thus endeth the book.

2. You wrote The Elephant Talks to God in 1989. Why did you decide to
re-release it with the added stories rather than write a sequel?

THIS WAS the decision of the publisher, Goose Lane. When they approached me for a re-issue they were unaware of the additional stories. It was decided the marketplace would prefer one longer book over two shorter ones. Having just one book also reduced production costs, which in turn reduced consumer cost.

3. Why did you decide to become a writer?

“I WAS born like this, I had no choice, I was born with the gift of a golden voice.” This quote from Leonard Cohen sums it up. Not “born” this way exactly, but within one month in grade eleven I went from ‘no writing’ to ‘continually writing’. I have no explanation. I had no previous interest nor inclination toward the arts, or writing. I was not a reader, and only after university deliberately read such children’s classics as Black Beauty and Alice in Wonderland.

4. What books or authors have most influenced your life?

POSSIBLY P.G. WODEHOUSE was the most influential author in my formative period. I even sent him a fan letter and received a response. In university I experienced Franz Kafka, and I believe I have read everything of his in print. Much later I visited Prague to research a novel I have since written about him. There are reports of ‘missing’ stories and diaries of Kafka still in Berlin, which I would dearly love to find.

5. What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good
writing?

SURPRIZE, HUMOUR and reality. ‘In context’ (it doesn’t matter what the genre) I want to be surprized by what is happening, yet fully believe in the reality created in the book. And somewhere, at least once, every character in every novel should make me laugh at least once.

6. What are you reading right now?

“WICKED” BY Gregory Maguire. His abilities as a writer astound me. I am a slow reader, and seemingly getting slower. Soon (?) to be read will be Alice Munro’s “The View from Castle Rock ” and John LeCarre’s “The Mission Song”, both requested Christmas presents. I also do a lot of research for my novels, and will embark upon histories of China in the near future.

7. What advice would you give to writers starting out?

I HAVE two steadfast rules, one put into rhyme. “When in doubt/take it out.” Regardless of the wonder of the poetic line, or the awe of the slice of dialogue, if you have any questions about its effectiveness, that is reason enough to remove it.
The other concerns the physical writing itself. At the end of your writing day, and you know what the next line of dialogue is, or the description you are going to write, or the next line of the poem – DON”T write them down. Start with them the next day, and you will quickly get back into the writing. I find this works 90% of the time.

8. Describe your writing process.

I’M A morning writer, roughly from 9:00 until 15:00. There’s a meal in there, and research and email and such, but I will generally complete two pages a day. I generally write seven or eight days straight and then take one off. At the start of a novel I have a well developed outline and characters, though I rarely write such things down. I find that at the end of a novel I spend an additional third of the writing time editing what is done. I usually complete a novel in two years.

9. Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, how do you overcome
it?

THREE MONTHS of writer’s block during my second novel has (so far) been my experience with this curse (knock knock knock on wood). I sat at the desk literally for hours per day attempting to continue. I think I wrote five paragraphs in that time. I know of no way to overcome it other than attempting to write each day. My number two tip in question #7 will help in avoiding writer’s block.

10. Naturally, most writer want as many people as possible to read
their work. Who did you have in mind when you were writing this book,
the “believers” or the “non-believers”?

BRITISH PUBLISHER Joseph Dent introduced “Everyman’s Library” in the early 1900’s (which is now published by Penguin Random House UK). As my mother was from England and my father was a proud UEL, there were many of these books when I was growing up. Everyman’s Library had a motto at the beginning of each book:        “Everyman, I will go with thee/and be thy guide,/ in thy most need/ to go by thy side.”     This is what came to mind when thinking of who I write for. I did not write for either believers or non-believers. I wrote for everyone, and my job is to make them accept that the The Elephant believes. 

DE

The House Of Kafka – Now Picture Perfect

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House No. 22 on The Golden Lane is situated in the Prague Castle. It is so called because in the 16th Century, the Emperor had a number of Alchemists trying to make gold. They were housed on this lane.

Kafka did not really live in this tiny house on this narrow lane – his sister did.

And she did not really live in this tiny house on this narrow lane – she rented it so she could have a place to meet her lover in secret.

The secret was necessary because her lover was a Christian.

So the house was vacant most of the time.

Enter Kafka. He  started to go there (at the suggestion of his sister) so he could have a place to be alone. Otherwise he would be with his parents, which was not conducive to either his (nor his sister’s) desires.

He never stayed the night, but was there most evenings for months. He wrote a whole book of short stories in his book The Country Doctor  while there.

I set a third of my novel about Kafka in this tiny house.
I’ve visited it.
Peered from the windows.
Looked up the stairs.
Ducked in the doorway.
When I was there while the country was still under Communist control, it was a book store.
But – Kafka being Kafkaesque long after death – none of his books were displayed.

From Kafka In The Castle

27 November 1916

Should I comment upon my unique and strange surroundings – this tiny house of Ottla’s. Not shared with a fiancée, but a sister. This place would not do for Felice, it is too small and too spare and too far from the heart of the city. But I feel secure against the winter. Up here in the castle.

As with all the tiny houses on Alchemist Lane, this one has its history of the quest for gold. Thus I fit right in, for I am after such purity.

29 November 1916

I like these walks up and down from the castle. I am surprised – and surprised because I am surprised. Perhaps I will sometime stay overnight, but I doubt it. It is Ottla’s house, and she should keep possession in appearance as well as fact. I impose as it is, which may be the right of an older brother, but not my wish. If it weren’t for Ottla, my life would be bleak beyond what I could bear.

27 December 1916

Ottla says I am staying here too late into the night. But she is implying more. I am certain she is soon to tell

me that I should stay in her tiny house all night. Sleep here. Have things prepared and ready so I could go directly to the office in the morning. But the office must be more than just distance from this place.

30 January 1917

What a storm. The storm of the year, perhaps. It was with difficulty that I came here today, and this might be the night when I shall actually stay. This tiny house, once it’s warm, is a perfect refuge. The winds howling along the Stag Moat, throwing snow at the window behind me, can easily put one back into Medieval times. Might someone have been where I am now – not with pen and paper – but tools and flasks, and elusive gold?  With questions and a quest?

DE

(image)https://rail.cc/img/loc/1/1331728884316e067a8fa1b029edac249de7ca0d2d.jpg

Author Interviewed About Elephant And Writing

Dale Estey – The Elephant Talks to God

by

What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.

The Elephant Talks to God is a book of short stories where my Elephant takes his queries and comments directly to God. God not only listens (as God does to us all) but enters into conversation with the Elephant, answering his questions. The stories eventually ended because the Elephant began asking questions the author could not answer. This book is not typical of my novels, the first being a Fantasy set in World War Two and published on two continents, the second a Thriller leading to my first translated work.

Tell us about yourself.

I am from Atlantic Canada, where I have lived all my life. My mother was a British War Bride and my father came from United Empire Loyalist stock. The Estey ancestry goes back to medieval Italy and the House of D’Este. I am interested in, and directed by, all this heritage. I have been writing for over thirty years.

What inspired you to write this book?

My mother gave me an elephant figurine as part of a Christmas gift. While struggling for a subject for a short story, I looked around my room and stopped at the elephant. It was to be a one-off story. The Elephant (and God) had other ideas.

How did you choose the title?

I wanted the most straight-forward title of such a weighty character and subject matter.

How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?

I had no interest in writing, books, reading or any of the arts until Grade Eleven. Within the space of a week (for no obvious reason – I say that God cuffed me on the back of the head) I started writing “funny” short articles. The first of them which I remember (and it may indeed be the first) was about a classroom pencil sharpener which chewed up my pencil. I would do one or two of these funny articles a month. They started to get published in the regional newspaper, The Daily Gleaner.

Do you have any writing rituals?

My writing rituals slide around and some disappear over the years. The bulk of my manuscripts are done long hand with a BIC black ink pen. I usually write in the morning. I use binders and write on alternate lines on both sides of the page. I do now write thriller/adventure books on the computer, for I find that medium enhances the speed of such stories.

How do you come up with the names for your characters?

When stuck for a character’s name, I go to a Gazetteer. Most of the time the character appears with name intact. I have three novel manuscripts where the central character has no name but just initials.

Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book? What?

Every day I write I learn something about writing. The Elephant showed me I can sustain humour.

If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?

I know what I should have done differently, but I doubt I would do it. I would have concentrated more on the career aspect, promotion and name recognition. But that might mean I would have written one less novel. Not worth the trade-off.

What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?

I prefer reading books where all the elements (character, plot, description, philosophy) blend seamlessly. Writers whom I enjoy who accomplish this are John le Carré, Thomas Mann, Thomas Hardy, Mavis Gallant, Alan Bennett, Robert Hass, Alice Munro, Saul Bellow.

Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?

I am working on a thriller centred around NATO. Internet chicanery is at the core of the intricate plot. One central character is a guard/attack dog named Louie. His name came from a real dog I heard being called to in a dog park. Louie is a Cane Corso.

What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

*BEST* advice for a writer – write regularly. Work time into a schedule to make it possible to write a number of times a week – same time/same place if possible. Publishing venues are so broad these days that it is best to take a long time and study them all. Then chose an avenue that is comfortable (and understandable).

Who is the perfect reader for your book?

Perfection is over-rated. Enter my books and you won’t be disappointed.

Where can readers learn more about you and your book?

http://DaleEstey.com

Amazon.com

http://books.google.com/books/about/The_Elephant_Talks_to_God.html?id=Cj5sAAAACAAJ

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000411133160

http://twitter.com/#!/DaleEstey

Interview at:

http://www.sellingbooks.com/

Amazing Elephant Stories Please The Nun

THE ELEPHANT TALKS TO GOD

 

A number of years ago I received a phone call from a rather panicked Government Administrator. There was a huge weekend Arts Conference being held, for all disciplines in the province. A reader who was to present – well, entertainment – at lunch was unable to attend. Could I fill in for him. It was two days away.

Yes, said I.

My Elephant stories are all under five minutes, and they are all amusing. They read themselves. Why not.

What I did not realize was the extent of this conference. Nor did I fully appreciate that the readings were to be held during the luncheon. Something like an after dinner speech. In the middle of the day.

There was one other English reader, the late Bill Bauer. Bill is a genius, a wit, a funny fellow, and an excellent reader. A tough act to follow so I was glad to be a co-participant. The other two readers were reading in French (New Brunswick is a bi-lingual province). They were to go first, Bill and I second.

The venue – for a reader – was a hell-hole (if I may be blunt). Two large rooms filled with tables and post-meal listeners. There was no way to face them all at the same time. Bill seemed fazed by nothing but I was uncomfortable. I was glad enough the French readers went first.

They were both poets (as was Bill). My French is far from the best but, by their reading method and the reaction of the audience, it appeared that they read the most dour and angst-filled poems imaginable. Sadness and despair crept through the room(s). At least Bill and I would be a contrast.

Bill is an excellent reader – a performer, in fact. He knows when to show them and knows when to hold them. He is insightful, philosophical, inovative and just damned funny. I will laugh at a poem of his which I have read a dozen times. Few can successfully end a poem with the main character screaming the immortal words: “Aphids, aphids, aphids.” Bill does.

It may be that we were both assisted by the dour poets, for Bill’s applause was enthusiastic. I was admittedly disconcerted by attempting to read to these hundreds of people scatted upon two sides of me. But – let’s face it – ya gotta laugh at The Elephant as he takes his concerns to God. And (I hope) appreciate God’s thoughtful and kindly replies. If Bill left them laughing (and he did) then The Elephant left them laughing more.

At the end it was time for all the participants to bustle back to their conferences. But some did come up to make comments to the readers. And then occurred an event which I will cherish to my grave. An elderly French nun (in real nun garb) came up to me. She was assisted by a younger nun. The old sister put her hand on my arm. She looked up at me, and in a conspiratorial voice, thick with her French accent, said: “Ah, that Elephant.” And she smiled.

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