26 November 1916
What I desire, and what I expect, are horrible opposites. But my desires still exist, which makes me a fool.
The reading in Munich two weeks ago was a disaster. But we learn from disaster. My work was called "repulsive" - which, of course, it is. Am I to learn from that? And then the meeting with Felice. The fight in the pastry shop. Am I also to learn from that? I'll continue to write letters. I'll continue to hunt for our apartment. I'll continue to have my hopes. For a while longer - hope. But still, my eyes wince at every mirror.
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.
12 December 1916
Max wants me to publish more. He may even wish upon me the horror of his own proliferation. His novels, and stories, and all his comments and reviews about the "arts". I do not tell him this, for I think he would be greatly offended, but much of the time my opinions do not even interest me.
17 December 1916
Although Ottla seems content with just her Sunday afternoons in this tiny house, I was careful to make certain no one was here before I entered. Since the Alchemist Lane ends in a stone wall, all who enter have to return the way they came. How awkward. Ottla would just smile and ask after my health, it is I who would look at my feet. My love affair of letters would blush on such sure ground. But, we did not pass.
This place is of course a fantasy, a burrow in which to hide through these winter months. It's barely big enough to bury a man properly, yet before Ottla moved in, a family of eleven crammed their lives into it. Knowing how fortunate I am in this world never seems to help in mine. I thought I might leave both worlds, with the help of the army. Friends and family have told me how grateful I should be that I am unable to join. My official dispensation because I am indispensable to the bureaucracy of the Empire. F. looked upon me in disbelief when I told her I would try again to enlist. Perhaps I can gather the spirits of the necromancers who have lived on this lane to assist me.
18 December 1916
I could, with my broom, sweep away the glory of war. It is less than the dust of this tiny house.
19 December 1916
My father often complains that I do not pay enough attention to the here and now. I've yet to tell him that I fit comfortably into the now, but it is the here which I find intolerable.
21 December 1916
The shortest day of the year. The days get colder as the sunshine increases - a perverse promise. A heat which doesn't warm. I looked at the stars as I came up tonight.
23 January 1917
The Director talked to me today. About not having sufficient people to run the Institute, and the other shortages caused by the war. And he asked my advice. And I gave him good ideas - pointed the way. I do know my strengths - although far more familiar with my weaknesses. And as the Director talked to me, he looked at me. In the eyes - as he so often does.
But he did not see me. Not the I which I carry around inside myself. Not the K. He saw an adequately dressed government official, Herr Doktor of Law, a Jew (I think he really does not mind), who knows well the operations of the Worker's Accident Insurance Institute for the Kingdom of Bohemia in Prague. Has, indeed, risen to the rank of Deputy-Secretary.
And that is who responded to the conversation. Made comments, and smiled at the Director's dry humour. I watched this Jew with interest, and his act was flawless.