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Yes, It Is Kafka’s Birthday, And The World Celebrates

03 July is Kafka’s birthday. Celebrations are running rampant in the world.

Hearty renditions of “Hip hip hooray” with an exuberant “Huzzah!”, echo through every major city, and each quiet hamlet.

And this year, I will dive (and then delve) into the new book containing all of Kafka’s various drawings. Some are a tad odd.

I have written Franz the following letter (as yet, unanswered).

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

My Present / Your Future

Still in this World

A Life Away

Dear F:

You would find it perverse to be wished a “Happy” birthday, but your response would be gracious. Such is the reality you understand, and how you deal with it. I have found that your reality is actually real.

Although it will give you no pleasure – well, ‘little’ pleasure – you are correct in all your observations.

Governments become the tools of the bureaucracies which run them. It doesn’t matter what type of Government, from the monarchy under which you lived, to the right wing horror of fascists that called themselves socialists, to the inept socialism pretending to be ‘for the people’. All three governments held their sway over the city where you spent your life. All three oppressed the people they ruled. All three looked after themselves first.

Writers are either writers or they aren’t. The urge to write encircles one like a snake around its prey. Feed it and it won’t quite squeeze you to death. You can not ignore it – even at your peril. It is with you every hour of every day, ever inquisitive and (sadly) always looking for something better. You have thrown up your hands to ward off the snake. Sometimes – some few times – it loosens its grip.

Love is a see-saw of extremes. Every high guarantees a low. Every low reaches for a high. Every high reaches for a high. When these hills and valleys are eventually levelled, they are still desired.

Sex is highly over rated. The thing of it is, even rated fairly, ’tis a consummation devoutly to be had. Yes – I know – you appreciate Shakespeare. On a par with Goethe, even if you can’t bring yourself to say the words.

There is no castle with walls thick enough to hide against the perils of being human. Which is why you never tried.

Except the grave, of course.

Except the grave.

Yours,

D

~~~~~~~~~~~

And, in my novel about him, Kafka In The Castle, I gave him this diary entry.

03 July 1918

The anniversary of my birth.

In celebration of the day, I did not make it my last.

The Nun And The Elephant Are In Heaven Now, Enjoying The Same God

Many 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 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 dinner.

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 dour and angst-filled poems. Sadness and despair crept through the room(s). At least Bill and I would be a contrast.

Bill is an excellent performer. He knows when to show them and knows when to hold them. He is insightful, philosophical, innovative, 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.

Never Say Never With A FINAL Novel Edit

What it is now:

THERE WAS A TIME, OH PILGRIM, WHEN THE STONES WERE NOT SO SMOOTH

                                   THE END

                                    26 03 2022


566pp     165,669 words

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

What is was earlier this year:

THERE WAS A TIME, OH PILGRIM, WHEN THE STONES WERE NOT SO SMOOTH

                                              THE END

                                                 07 01 2022

595 pp.     174,838 words

The Almighty and The Elephant Share Poems on World Poetry Day

The elephant was contemplating his muse.

He was lying beside the river, trailing one of his big feet in the water.

He watched as the current rippled and sparkled past, and noted the occasional
leaping fish with bemusement.He looked across to the other shore with a sigh,
and then closed his eyes to more fully experience the race of the river against his toes.
After indulging himself in this manner for awhile, he flopped onto his back, so he could
look at the trees.

He traced their outline against the blue sky with his trunk, and followed

the curve of some branches overhanging the river with interest. He even smiled benignly as a family of monkeys clambered up one tree, leapt through the canopy of leaves, and

raced down another.

He suddenly slapped his forehead with his trunk, rolled over with such force that

he jostled a boulder with his flank, and began to emote.

The monkeys, in the trees,

“Cause a breeze, when they sneeze.”

“Pardon me?” said the boulder.

I nudged the boulder with my shoulder.

“It was older, and much colder.”

“Oh boy,” said God.

“I am a POET,” said the elephant.

“Oh boy, again,” said God.

It is a stone, which has grown,

“In a zone, all alone.”

“Would that I were – alone, and away from the voices.”

“I’m expressing myself,” said the elephant.

“That is a statement of truth,” said God, “which does not contain the whole truth.”

“It is a thrill, to have free will,

“That is until, others say `nil’.”

“To be fair,” God stifled a chuckle. “You seem to have grasped the concept of

rhyme – although your reach sometimes exceeds it.”

“But that’s what heaven’s for,” pointed out the elephant.

“You’ll get,” said God, “no Browning points from me.”

“That’s not my last, don’t be so fast,

“My muse to cast, into the past.”

“You’ve heard about too much of a good thing?” asked the boulder, giving a nudge of its own.

“Yes,” said the elephant.

“Well – this isn’t it.”

“You don’t like the way I make the words dance?”

“I’d rather sit this one out.”

In the misty morn, he sat forlorn;

“He wouldn’t adorn, the dance floor well-worn.”

“Oh boy,”said God.

“As you can see,” said the elephant. “I provide a lot of bon mot for each and

every occasion.”

“Such a threat is enough to make a boulder crumble,” said the boulder.

“The rock of ages, dissolved in stages,

“And proved the sages’, `noblesse obliges’.”

“Oy veh,” said God. “I’ve become a straight man for a stand-up elephant.”

“I could pack a hall,” said the elephant.

“You could pachyderm,” pointed out God.

It’s just a guess, I do confess,

“That more is less, in the wilderness.”

“This could go on forever,” said God.

“You’re the expert there,” pointed out the elephant.

“Then I think I’ll repair to the forest,” said the boulder.

“He stood, in the wood,

“Where he could, do most good.”

The boulder rumbled with a voice which filled the jungle.

Poems are made by fools like thee,

“But only I can make a tree.”

A Change of Lifestyle Thanks to a Computer Hack

As far as I know, I clicked on a link to a site about Optical Illusions.

That froze my computer with a screen-sized warning, telling me that I had been hacked, and infected with a Trojan Horse Virus. The warning purported to be from Microsoft, and gave a phone number to call. There was no other avenue to follow, nothing to click on. I was also warned not to turn off the computer. But, with nothing else to do, I turned off the computer.

Two or three minutes later I turned the computer back on and the frozen screen was still there. Since I was not clicking anything on the screen (being unable to do so anyway), I called the number. I have since found out that 805 phone numbers are a favorite of scams.

At any rate, the situation on the other end of the call sounded exactly like the call centers which phone me for the usual scams. A jumble of background noises and voices that sound as if the people are in a huge warehouse. I questioned the authenticity of the situation with the speaker immediately. The proof he offered was for me to hang up and he would call right back. Which, of course, proved nothing.

So, after a couple of minutes of this, I hung up and I turned off the computer. I phoned my computer shop. I was told I was hacked and to bring in the machine.

And thus, three days later, I have a cleansed machine, information about hacks I did not know, and the news that even my computer expert has been hacked (once by going to a story in The Guardian Newspaper). He also told me that had I waited a day, the screen would have unfrozen on its own, but I would not know if something had been downloaded into my computer.

So, here I am, with everything seemingly fine.

But, in those three days with no internet access, I started reading novels again. I picked out two (yes, this is true) from one of those small “Free Library” box/houses where folk can drop off books they have read, and exchange – all free. I took a JohnleCarré novel (one of my favorite writers) which I probably read twenty years ago [Absolute Friends] and a Joanna Trollope novel, an author I have wanted to read for twenty years [Other People’s Children].

I have read 15 pages a day, of each one, since. I will continue after I post this.

Gotta say, it feels good to be back reading novels. And I will restrict my roaming time in the internet.

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.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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.

Alison Alexandra Wonders Whether To Change Her Future As The Past Becomes Distant

Alison Alexandra sometimes thinks of turning over a new leaf. Sometimes at the most traditional of times, like at New Year or her birthday or under a full moon or when the tide is at its highest.

But then she remembers that well into her pre-teen years she thought the expression to turn over a new leaf meant reaching into the branches of a tree and flipping her wrist (somewhat like Amanda does when cutting cards) and when she found out the flip flip flipping concerned paper pages she was so bored she never did it.

No, not once.

And anyway, why would she overturn anything in some sort of orderly fashion when she pell-mell turns things over at the very time they seem that they need to be overturned and not a minute or an hour or a full moon or one leaf later.

That now is indeed now is, indeed, now and as she daily finds out from her windows or cliffs overlooking the ocean; tide and time await no Alison Alexandra.

So she will not wait for them.

Alison Alexandra has often thought – and she also often thinks – that she could happily turn over all her leaves just from her prow-of-a-ship room jutting into the sea or the cliffs that, as yet, do not erode under her feet as she walks them looking out to sea.

But that would be unwise and probably as stagnant as a rotting fish that sometimes lodges itself at the base of her cliff and though she has not traveled as often as those sailors and their spyglasses, she has traveled as far as many of them just to keep those leaves flip flip flipping.

So, today she is going to walk to town.

In February, Kafka Ponders The Role And Duties Of The Citizen

In real life, Kafka recorded the beginning of the First World War in his diary this way:

August 2, 1914: Germany has declared war on Russia. Went swimming in the afternoon.

That was it.

But, regardless of his lack of enthusiasm, Kafka believed in the duties of the citizen. He tried to join the army to fight. In fact, he tried to join a number of times. He was always refused because the government deemed his civil/government job was too important for him to relinquish.

But, near the end of the war, when Kafka was so sick he had lengthy periods of leave from his job to recuperate, the army came calling.  Kafka had to appear before authorities with medical proof of his illness.

In my novel, Kafka In The Castle, I ‘fill in’ one of his diary entries describing such a situation.

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

07 February 1918

              I find I must go to Prague at the end of next week. Such knowledge is proof that one should not open one’s mail. The Military yet again wishes to snare me, and I must once again prove that my hide is not worth the effort.

     There were time (very rare) when my father would despair. Not his usual anger at the general incompetence and perfidy of the world around him, but a resignation to the belief that things would never get any better.

     “If they want to drag me down,” he would say, “Then I may as well join them. I’ll go out into the street and let myself be swept away by the mob. I’ll become part of their common, grubby life, and let them wipe their boots on me.”

     That is much as I feel right now. Let the army take me, dress me in their uniform, point me toward the Americans, and have some cowboy shoot me. Going into battle could be no worse than going into Prague.

The Elephant Talks to GOD About a Violent Storm

From: The Elephant Talks To God

The elephant surveyed the remnants of shattered trees, the gouged earth, and the still turbulent waves.

“You know,” he said, looking up at the storm cloud hovering overhead, “A herd of us on the rampage have got nothing on you, when the mood strikes. You trying to tear down in one night what it took seven days to create?”

“Six days,” noted the cloud. “On the seventh … “

” … day you rested,” finished the elephant. “You gotta be patient with us lumbering beasts; after all, you didn’t give us fingers so we could count.”

“But I did give you memories.” said the cloud.

“I know,” said the elephant. “I haven’t forgotten.”

“And this display,” added God, “Looks far worse than it is.

Natural forces occur to keep my earth in a happy balance. Life is already reviving and reasserting itself.”

“Could you not be a bit more gentle?”

“My winds must go somewhere,” said God. “As you already mentioned, even elephants go upon the occasional rampage.”

“I’ve never done anything like this,” said the elephant.

“You’ve not seen yourself from the ant’s point of view,” answered God.

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