where the writers are
E-Mails to Milena (Kafka's Imaginary Blog)

"It’s a long time since I’ve posted here.  Even longer since I’ve sent an e-mail message to my much-loved and faraway Ms. Milena.  But I refuse to apologize.  I’m proud that I haven’t succumbed for—almost ten days.  A record.

I am a writer, moving toward silence.  It’s why I started this blog.  You all know how I’ve come to distrust the written word.

(Are you reading my blog, darling M?  Is anyone?)

Most of the misfortune in my life stems from sending written communications, or struggling with the possibility of doing so.  In the flesh, people seldom deceive me.  But letters, long e-mails, even text messages—they always do.  Especially my own.

Writing, especially in this digital age, has becomes so easy, so seductive.  But it’s led to the disintegration of souls.  Am I the only one who sees it?  Writing to another person forces us into intercourse with ghosts—the ghost of the recipient, of course, but also our own ghosts.  The ghosts that spring up between the lines.  That hover over my keyboard at this very moment.  Mocking me.  Corrupting all of us.

Who ever got the absurd idea that two people, especially two lovers, could maintain a relationship through e-mails?

We can hold a distant lover close in our imagination.  We can see and touch a lover who is nearby.  Either is preferable to writing.

Writing means getting naked in front of the ghosts.  The ghosts like it when we write.  They wait greedily.  They are bloodsuckers.  They drink up every word, every touch.  (They intercept every kiss, every caress, every emoticon I send to you, darling M, so they never reach you.)   

The ghosts are well nourished.  No wonder they multiply.

We can fight against it, this ghostly element that separates people.  We can rise up.  We can turn off the Internet.  Refuse to text.  Lose our cell phones.  Restore some semblance of natural communication between people.  Bring peace to our souls.

But the ghosts are patient.  They are calmer and stronger than we are.  They invented all this.  They tempt us.  First, with the postal service, the telegraph, the telephone.  And now, the Internet.  Webcams.  Skype.

The ghosts won’t starve.  But we will perish.

I will perish.  Unless I stop.  Unless I let you go, my beloved M.  I must remind myself:  It’s not really you.  It’s just your ghostly stand-in that I need to relinquish.

I am practicing silence.






Franz Kafka’s legendary affair with Czech journalist and translator Milena Jesenská (1896-1944) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milena_Jesenská was conducted almost entirely through letters.  The two met in person only twice. Kafka broke off the affair when it became clear Milena would not leave her husband.  But they remained close and Kafka left his diaries with her.  Milena, who was not Jewish, was active with the anti-Nazi partisans. She  died in Ravensbruck concentration camp.  Kafka’s side of their correspondence was eventually published as “Letters to Milena.”   I have tried to imagine Kafka’s struggle in a contemporary context, where many passionate relationships exist in cyberspace.  This imaginary blog entry is based on the text of one of Kafka’s actual letters to Milena, which you can read here: http://kroh.net/rocketry/milena.html



2 Comment count
Comment Bubble Tip


Dear Blair,

Absolutely rich and beautifully written! I love it and can say no more. I am silent.


Catherine Nagle

Comment Bubble Tip

Thank you for your kind and

Thank you for your kind and touching response, Catherine! I'd say the richness lies with Kafka. I hope you'll click the link and read the words to his original letter to Milena. I have made relatively few changes and additions. Mostly, I tried to make the language a little more contemporary (and added the contemporary references, of course!) I was amazed at how much Kafka spoke to our current struggles with the virtual reality that surrounds us. Thanks again!