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Franz Kafka

Prague Castle, Prague, Prague Intro, photo, picture, image 


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. His act was flawless.

24 January 1917

                  I realize that love can not remain constant from its point of introduction. It has to change, just as people change. For instance, a friend is dead, I go to the funeral, and I am changed. I have loss and more sadness, and I carry that in its rough container to my love. And love puts it on a shelf of other containers, which is altered by the weight. And when the room is filled, there are many others waiting with bare shelves.

            Just now there was a commotion at the door, and I responded. Perhaps commotion is too strong a word, but noises, fumbling, almost scratching. When I opened the door, a man was standing, bending forward with his hand outstretched. He held a key, and I realized he was my next-door neighbour, whom I have met but once or twice. He was not really bending, but actually weaving, and his voice was difficult and slurred. It became quickly obvious he was at the wrong door, but he took some time to realize this. "You're the Herr Doktor. You don't stay the night." Because it is cold, I took him by the arm and guided him to his own door, even putting the key into the lock. "Julie, Julie," he said, over and over, his voice breaking into sobs. "She refuses to come with me." I turned him around, and closed the door behind him.    Love.

25 January 1917

                  The hunchback will see me to my grave. Scolding. 

26 January 1917

                  Went to the dance hall with Max and a couple of friends. I like watching people dance, especially those who can turn to liquid and pour their bodies across the floor. 

28 January 1917

                  Dreamed I was in an endless house. Not just one dream, but a series of dreams. I awoke from time to time, but knew when I went back to sleep, I would continue the same dream. And in the dream, I knew I was dreaming. Reality could only interrupt. Perhaps these wakeful intrusions kept it from being a nightmare.

      Perhaps my dreams keep me from going insane. Same canvas, different oils. And one time, when I re-entered the house, I stood outside the door of a bedroom where a man lay sleeping. I seemed to have some message, but no inclination to waken him. He was a slender man who slept soundly, with barely a movement of his arms or legs. I seemed to be repeating the message to myself, to make it clear and complete for a befuddled man coming out of sleep. I crossed the threshold, and was about to approach the bed, when he turned in his sleep, his face toward the door. And it was me - the face which I show the world - except I was much older. And I was bald. I awoke again, carrying from my dream the profound disappointment I felt upon seeing myself. I was bald. That seemed to me the worst of fates. 

29 January 1917   

                  Sometime, I think about being a hero. A public hero. I have detailed thoughts about the event, often created at my office desk. I pull people - whole families - from a burning building. Apprehend a dangerous criminal without recourse to weapons. Pluck a raft of children from a swirling river. And there would be adulation from the masses. Recognition from my acquaintances. But then - in the end - how much worse it would be. For I would still be me. More of a fraud than ever. 

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?  

31 January 1917

                  A month of the year gone. In many ways it seems like only last weekend Max wanted me to come out to his party. Such brief time allotted, and the ways we find to waste it. I am worst of all, God knows. I should be writing, or learning, or improving myself physically. But, not only do I not do these things, I seem to do the exact opposite. There is the office, where so much time is taken by trivialities. The whole effort is trivial - except for the fact that the injured people who need their money get it. I realize they need the help. But my part is so small, my mouth an empty slot to put papers.

      But even after the office has ground up so many hours (and even longer hours because of the war), I have part of the afternoons, all of the evenings, and most of the week ends. But there are meals - necessary things; and one must sleep - always a struggle; and walks to take; and people to see; and the newspapers to read; or a party to attend; and it's best to see the latest play; and letters to write; and this war; and always, of course, the girls.  

01 February 1917

                  A particularly tedious day at the office, which stretched like a bridge over an abyss. Perhaps to mock yesterday's comments - the month so short and the day so long. I am sometimes afraid of the white, and sometimes of the black, but my deepest horror is for the destroying grey of life. When it is grey and senseless, it starves your feelings of oxygen, and then you really and truly die. It is said that Jesus raised the dead (though I never understood why), and our own Prague rabbi created the golem to help out in this world. All I can do is scratch ink upon the page. 

02 February 1917

                  Their faces - sometimes. I am not a man to cry (am barely capable of it) but those times when I see their faces. The social cast gone, and they think themselves unobserved. They have such a revelation that they do not care - or, more accurately, they are beyond caring. A bewildering revelation. A truth, which once known, they can never escape. They now know they can never escape. Perhaps, because I observe more, I see more. Or, perhaps the less resilient come through the doors of the Institute, with their injuries and their needs. Perhaps it is this war. Perhaps they somehow know that although I judge, I never pass sentence. When I see this look upon their faces - the fear of life itself. 

04 February 1917

                  I will soon slip out the door and go down into the city. The fire has already died, so I won't have to rake the coals. I am never tired when I leave, never exhausted when I reach my bed. There is fresh snow in the Stag Moat, covering the old, which lies upon older still. With what authority I will crunch along the lane, and down the steps; and with what authority the snow will fall upon my shoulders. It is ever thus, the vanquisher becomes the vanquished. The weight upon my hat. 

05 February 1917

                  Max was full of talk about Palestine today - great dreams about going there. He was making jokes about how wonderful the warm weather would be, particularly compared to this winter. The first night I met Felice, we ended the evening by promising to go on a trip to Palestine together. The Zionists are convinced we Jews would find a home there (make a home there), and finally be secure. Or do they - being Jews, after all, with that quest for accuracy and truth - say we could feel secure. Many times over (often, many times a day) I think about a life in Palestine. A life away from Prague.

      No one is ever safe within their life, but we Jews face so many added perils. This country is not safe, this continent is not safe, and this century will not be safe. There may one day be a Homeland, and perhaps Max and I will help build it. And perhaps we may be secure - even as secure as the impressive walls and massive thickness of this Castle can make one feel. But the Jews will never have peace. 

06 February 1917

                  I thought I saw the Swiss girl today. Well - no. Even from the start, I realized it wasn't her. But someone who looked enough like her to start all the memories again. The clarity of the days. The walks along the roads. I walked, but she would sometimes dance. I watched, and she would sometimes sing. To touch someone in public.

      I was lonely and she not so much. The shore was uneven, and the water revelled and shone, twisting colours from the sunshine. Dancing to the tunes of the wind. Sometimes we held hands, and sometimes not. Once, I pretended to push her into the water, and she slipped, and in my frantic attempt to grab her, we both slid to within a fraction of a Natural baptism. That's what she called it. And her eyes and face laughed so, I knew it had been deliberate. The joke turned on me. My look, my face. What did she then see to make her grip my hand so tightly, to say no words but not let go. The water brushed our shoes. And then - with me - I think she became more alone.  

07 February 1917

                  I imagine if I wanted to fully know about tea, it would take me years. The various kinds, how they are picked and dried. The various blends, and their numerous properties. The

effects they are supposed to have on the body. Purgers and restorers. And how tea is shipped, the ways it must be stored. The proper preparation for the cup - the implements used. The procedures just to pour. I imagine there are people who devote their lives to this subject as do I to my writing. Who revel in this knowledge, as I do over words. Sometimes, I think there could be nothing more comfortable and comforting, than to be F. Kafka, Tea Merchant. My father would be ecstatic. 

08 February 1917

                  An odd thing happened to me on the Charles Bridge this morning. There was some business for the Institute, and I took advantage to do it myself. The Director has his knowing smile - I've come to recognize it - and this morning it was directed at me. The chore was, indeed, below my rank to perform, but he made no verbal comment. So I took the advantage to be rid of the office. It was when I was waiting for the elevator, that I realized such opportunities often come my way. It was then I remembered the Director's knowing smile. He is a good man, and I don't give him credit enough.

      On my way back to the office, I stopped by one of the statues, leaned against the railing, and looked at the island where I sometimes row in the summer. I was wondering what I might do for my summer vacation, when I realized how quiet the morning was. The sun was bright, the sky clear, and the air was silent. I turned quickly, looking one way then the other, and the bridge was deserted. No people; no trams; no bells. This happens occasionally when I walk the bridge at night, but at mid-morning it startled me. Almost frightened me. I had the fleeting suspicion that God - in his Infinite Humour - was granting me my wish to be alone. Then I wondered if my mind had somehow created this emptiness - that the people were there, but I no longer saw or heard them. Just the carved statues and me, sharing the Charles Bridge. I am still undecided  as to whether this would be heaven or hell.

      I turned my back to look again along the river, wondering if I spoke aloud, would I hear my own voice. It was then that I finally heard noises through the Old Town Gate, and a group of workers - a mixture of men and woman, with their distinctive caps -approached the end of the bridge. And as I watched them, a boy on a bicycle approached me from the other direction, his chain loose and clanking against the metal frame. He stood up as he passed me, to show off. I applauded. 

09 February 1917

                  When does a haven become a prison? 

11 February 1917

                  I dreamed that I was right here, in my tiny house on Alchemist Lane. I was sitting as I am now, at my desk, when a knock came to the door. An insistent knock, and a woman's voice. I opened the door, and there stood a woman with her child, a boy who seemed four or five. I asked them in out of the dark, and the boy immediately began to play under the lamp. His mother was beautiful (I felt that I knew her before), and I desired her immediately. I had visions of her body under her clothes. We didn't have to talk, for it seemed that they belonged.

      The boy had the habit of asking questions, and then answering them. "Why was the table square?" he said. "Because it was not round."  "Why was it dark outside?"  "Because it was not light."  "Why was his mother pretty?"  "Because the men looked."  I didn't have to question his mother, for she answered what I wanted to know. Yes, this was indeed the Child-Rabbi, playing with some object under my lamp.  "Why does the lamp shine?"  "Because the glow is fire."  He then began to race around, chasing the toy which seemed alive. She called out his name. It sounded like Kamaronski, so I took them to be Russian - perhaps Poles. The child dove into his mother, laughing and pushing into her breasts. I wished I could be he. Then, the toy appeared again, and he settled down to it.  "He will answer any question you wish."  I didn't know where to look, still having thoughts best not revealed.  "Any question?"  "Yes. He is the Child-Rabbi."  "And the answer," I began.  "They will be the right answers," she said. I was wondering what I should ask, when he left his toy, and came over to me.  "I have to go pee," he said.  "What?" I asked.  "I'm a child. I have to go pee." 

      He held up his hand for me to take, and we went out into the cold. I was going to walk to the toilet, but when we got near, he said, "I want to do it in the snow."  "It must be a secret," I said, and he agreed. I stood beside him, waiting, and he told me, "You have to do it, too."  I said that I didn't need to, but he replied, "Mummy says I have to go every chance I get - so you do, too."  It didn't seem worthwhile to argue, so I followed him, into the snow. He looked at me, and said, "Your thing is big."  I told him that his would grow. He asked if his thing would be as big as mine. I said yes. He said if it did, it would frighten his mother. I had nothing to say to that. We went back in, and he immediately ran over to his mother.  "The Herr Doktor has a big thing. I told him it would frighten you."  His mother didn't blush - as I, myself, was doing - but instead looked at me with interest.

      As she appraised me, her son went back to his toy. The mother then spoke. "You can ask the Child-Rabbi a question, now."  "Any question?"  "Yes - of course. Before it is time for his nap."  I approached the boy, and knelt beside him. He looked up at me, and smiled, then resumed his play.  "Will I find the truth?"  His toy spun under the table.  "Only if you don't search," he said. "And are prepared to lie." 

12 February 1917

                  Max visited me yesterday, and I read to him. He seemed pleased with my work. He made the comment that this tiny house was like a monk's cell. A strange phrase (I didn't tell him this) for one Jew to use to another. And I didn't reveal my speculations as to why Ottla had purchased this tiny house. Not for a Monk's purposes at all. Max appreciates what this place does for my writing - I think he is even envious - but he would never want to stay here. So different are we. I locked my door with much authority behind us - enough to make him laugh - and we enjoyed the long walk to the city. Max counted each and every step. "Ninety-eight," he said. I didn't tell him I already knew. 

13 February 1917

                  Went to a lecture entitled `The Biographer's Craft'. I do so enjoy reading biographies. I sometimes ponder about writing about myself, and perhaps discover the purpose of my life. But this particular lecture was at best mediocre, and poorly rendered. Also, poorly attended. At each place where the talk became stifling, the speaker attempted to inject interest with snippets of famous people's lust. In the coffee house later, one person made the comment that the lecturer never discussed the subject of `faith'. Another said that it was all about `affairs'. I realize that lust can engage everybody's interest for the moment, but if that becomes the main concern, then what a puerile society is formed. 

14 February 1917

                  I was waiting for the tram today, when I abruptly realized I was thinking about Felice in the same way I remember school friends, or people from the university. With a more kindly patina, perhaps, but still with that distance. I tried to trace

this thought back to a source, but the feeling itself made me feel so sad, that my attempt was not strong. What a battle F. and I have had these last four years. The retreats I have made. I want both solitude and marriage - and will settle for nothing less. Thus has F. faded from touch to thought. 

15 February 1917

                  If I tell Ottla what I know, she will protest, because she doesn't know it yet herself. We both desire to escape  - but she has the will. I am sure that by the spring she will be gone - from the family, and out of Prague. Father will feel betrayed and deserted, even as he is pushing her out the door. Ottla will come to me for help, and I'll offer it tenfold, though I'll be devastated. She'll balk at taking money, but I'll get it to her somehow. The house will be in an uproar, and my father will predict destruction for his wilful daughter. He rants about betrayal as you stand before him, attempting to love. 

16 February 1917

                  There was a commotion at the office today. It was late morning, and from far below, coming up the stairwell, I could hear a voice bellowing: "Doktor Kafka. Doktor Kafka." It was a terrible voice, full of blood and darkness. I got from my desk and went to the door. There were other voices, trying to calm, saying: "He can't be disturbed." But the voice was louder, more horrible, close in the corridor.  "Doktor Kafka - for the love of God."   My secretary wanted me to stay inside, hoped the man would just move along the corridor until the police were summoned. But - I was curious; the man had my name, and his voice was ... terrified.

      I opened the door and stood in front of it.  "I'm Kafka," I said. The man lunged at me, and went to his knees.  "Doktor Kafka?" he said.  "Yes, I'm Kafka." He reached out, grabbing for my hand.  "Jesus, Jesus, for the love of Jesus - they say that you'll help me."  He was a heavy man, and looked as if he had the strength to pull off doors, yet the tears burst from his eyes.  "I can get no work. I fell from a bridge, and my back is twisted and in pain." He slumped against the wall, looking at my eyes.  "I have a family, Doktor Kafka. A baby not a year old."  "You were working on this bridge?" I asked.  "Yes." His voice slid down his throat. "I was helping repair the surface."  "Then you deserve your insurance. Why can't you get it?" He straightened up, and tried to stand. "I have to fill in papers; the doctor can see no wounds; the foreman said I drank; because my brother is a thief, I am not to be trusted." I held out my hand, and he slowly stood. "I'm telling you the truth, Doktor Kafka."  "If that is so," I said, "you'll get the money due you."  "I'm so tired," he said.

      I gave instructions to those standing around - no other work was to be done until this man's case was decided. I took him to my office, where he sat. He sat - practically without a word - for five hours. I summoned a prominent doctor to look at him. The doctor prodded, and the man screamed. Officials from his village were telephoned. I helped him with the details on the forms. His truth was in his pain. He left our stony building with money in his hand, and his worth restored. The people who assisted me had smiles on their faces. A man had needed their help. 

18 February 1917

                  A drive to the country, to see the dying. A man from my childhood. We could have been porters in the station, with other people's luggage, so little did he care. There was no pretence at conversation, he did not even feign an interest. He had gone into himself, and death patiently awaited his return. 

19 February 1917

                  My mind is as blank as this page. 

20 February 1917

                  Harsh winds today. Frigid temperatures, though the sky was clear. So intense at my back that it actually pushed me up the steps, making me stumble in a couple of places. The wind gathers speed inside the castle walls, racing along as in a tunnel. I am tempted to put a chair underneath the doorknob, this tiny house rattles so. The pages move upon my desk. I find myself kneeling beside the stove every few minutes, coaxing it to stay alive. Much as a virgin tending the sacred flame. Max would get a

laugh from that. But his laughter would be uncomfortable. Not just because of the cold, but because the wind howling down the chimney proves that Nature is too close. He would lose his sense of control. His whole culture has a false sense of control and security, and the truth of life frightens them. I enjoy comfort (I wish it were warmer), but I also like knowing I am part of something real. And, that I can deal with it, and survive. But Max, and most of his friends, (and my own parents), try to insulate themselves with servants and comforts. They live their lives within walls, drenched in artificial light. No wonder they fear death. 

21 February 1917

                  Dreamed I had a telephone summons. In the night. I was surprised it rang, but I did not hesitate to engage in conversation. It was AB. I looked across the room, and saw the Director peering through the window from the Alchemist Lane. The Director began tapping the window, looking impatient. I became confused, and began writing furiously upon some pages which lay before me. I had to write down what AB said, and then write out my answer. My handwriting was scrawled, and I feared I might misunderstand some important word. But, I could not just cross out the word which was wrong, I had to cross out the whole line with a ruler, and start again. At the same time, I had to hold onto the telephone receiver, and the pages became wildly shuffled on my desk.

      The Director had become bored, and was yawning as he tapped on my window. On the other side of the door, at another window, AB was laughing that laugh - that one you fall in love with. I expected her to enter any minute. Give me some of her impulsive kisses, and properly arrange everything beneath my hands. "But you've gone far away," I said, my hand sweating so much I could barely hold the receiver. "I took you to the station myself."  "You don't remember?" she asked, her eyes as playful as ever I remember. "Or did you misunderstand even then, my poor, dear K.?" The pages were falling around my feet. The Director was whistling, and cleaning his nails. "I know you went far, far away," I said. "Perhaps even to Amerika. There were tears in your eyes, and I missed you. I missed you so." AB made a face at the Director behind his back, then touched a finger to her cheek. "You wiped my tears away," she said. "Then laid me in my grave." 

22 February 1917

                  Decided to clean this tiny house. The idea came to me at the office, late in the day. I have no idea why. Such things are best left to Ottla and the girl. But I was thinking about it, even on the walk up to the castle, so I didn't even have my coat off when I started hunting for the brush and broom. It seemed to me a simple task. Wipe the spots up with a rag. Brush the dust onto the floor. Sweep all the dust and dirt into the pan, and throw it out the door.

      But the dust blew and raced around the room. No matter how I swept, there always seemed to be ash beside the stove. The walls had streaks, which disappeared when you came close to clean them off. After the windows were rubbed with a damp cloth, they grabbed all the pieces of flying dirt, and arrayed new patterns of dust upon each pane. And, after the sweeping was complete, and the pan was finally full, the wind at the open door did not disperse it, but threw it back into my face. And I carried it back in, and sat upon the chair, and watched it settle once again at my feet.   

23 February 1917

                  Max goaded me into another public gathering. Paintings on the walls this time, though the artist was long dead, and largely unknown. Representations of nature and buildings. Colouring accurate (no mean feat) but hardly inspired. If I wanted paintings on my walls, these would be as good as any. There was little hint of imagination however, just reproduction. I noticed that the most sensible people said the most trite things. Unless they were meant to be overheard, then there was a mixture of arch wit and malice.

      Max is at the forefront of this type of thing. He complains that I don't speak enough, but I point out that speeches are exactly what one hears at these things - rarely is there conversation, and rarely does there seem to be one wanted. The most insipid of opinions are allowed to rest on a foundation of the most facile observation. 

25 February 1917

                  We live a life where the years are short, yet the days can seem so long. We can be lonely, yet find the company of others tedious. I would guess I walked for hours today, so little inclination had I to do anything else. Yet now, with the time soon upon me to go down into the city, I feel as if the day had barely started. The people - numerous, interminable people - whom I met on my walk, wished to drown me in their banal conversations.

      I would flee one, only to run into a couple; escape them, only to be tracked by a family. They enticed me into coffee shops, tricked me into homes, cross-referenced me for their supper tables. They would even forego meat, they said, if I would only stay. I wanted to tell them that I would actually eat meat, if only I could leave. And on it seemed to go, an endless day crammed with intruders. But now, with bare minutes racing toward a new morning, I wish someone sat in my chair beside the lamp, so we could talk deep into the dark. 

26 February 1917

                  I am appalled the way people shut out life with curtains and drapes. From my window, I wish to see the most remote bird, flying to the most distant land. Yet others will cover the most slender crack, and guard against the entry of the least sliver of light. There is a woman in my parents' apartment building, whom I notice often, because she notices everyone. Her furtive parting, and then closing, of the drapes, has become a joke. Even my father mentions her, comparing her to someone in the village where he grew up, though, of course, "... no one had enough money for curtains, we had to use sacks."  Although she is known as Frau Licht, no one can claim to ever having seen her. My sisters call her, "the woman who watches the world." To which my father inevitably replies, "... and never takes part in it."  This has become rote by now, and they probably don't hear the words they use. But does my father realize how profound and terrible his statement is? We have this one world. To shun it - to hide from it - such fear is a living horror. I am not tempted to smile and wave at Frau Licht, as others sometimes do. I more want to climb the stair, batter down her door, and force her into life. She might die from the terror, but death is better than the life she leads. 

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 February 1917

                  Ottla was crying today, away from where father

could see or hear her. "That monster," she said, for it was father who had sent her to her well of unshed tears. He usually does not have that power. And because father was the cause, she tried to hide her tears even from me. Strong, sad Ottla. 

01 March 1917

                  I was part way down the steps of the castle last night, on my way home. Perhaps a bit later than usual, I didn't check my watch. I was passing one of the corners, where the locked doors bar entrance to the passageways, when I heard a rustle in the air. I doubt I would have noticed, were it not for my acute hearing. Nothing more than that, but I went to take a look. A man was huddled by the stone - not sprawled or laying, but seated - and with his head resting against the cold surface. There was the smell of urine, and the smell of wine. He did not look up as I approached, and I wondered what to do. People and their choices - I prefer to let them lead their lives - but he could not spend the night where he was. He would freeze to death.  I spoke, but there was no response. I debated between nudging him with my foot, or shaking him by the shoulders, although I found neither course of action appealing. "You should go home," I said. "It is too cold to stay here." He made a noise, but I wasn't sure what it was, so I leaned closer. The wine was so strong, I thought he must have broken the bottle. This time I could hear the trace of laughter, and his low voice. "We meet again. The Herr Doktor." I hurriedly stepped back. Recognition was the last thing I had expected. "You still walk the nights," he said, and I then realized it was my next - door neighbour. "I leave late," I said. "But you still come home late." And with less success than ever, I thought, but I did not tell him this. "I broke the bottle." He spoke unexpectedly, and startled me. "I've cut my hand." He tried to struggle to his feet, and I reached for him, but he ignored me. Because it was less dark on the steps, I could see that his jacket and pants were wet, and his sleeve was smeared with blood. He was not even dressed for winter, and I wondered if he had lost his coat.

      He started down the steps, but I turned him around. "Ah, yes," he said. "To heaven." He did not seem to want my help as he very deliberately took one step at a time. Near the top, he turned and spoke. "She's a whore, that Julie. She's no good." Halfway through the court yard he said: "Her hair. Just to touch her hair." At the entrance of the Alchemist Lane, he held up his bloodied hand as if to push something away. "There is a man, now. A man with her." His voice slavered around the air. I stopped him before his own door, and he surprised me by having the key in his hand. He put it in the lock slowly, but without difficulty. "I saw them." As the door swung in, he turned to me. "Herr Doktor, my Angel of Redemption. So you have moved next door." He shook my hand, leaving blood upon my fingers. "You do good work, Herr Doktor. But I search for the Angel of Death."

02 March 1917

                  A child said "hello" to me this morning. On the street. 

04 March 1917

                  I dreamed I was a prophet. The prophet Amshel, which is my Jewish name. And, I could talk to God. And I was looking at myself in the mirror. And I was looking back at me. I mean, Franz was in the mirror, looking back at me - the me of Amshel - who was looking in the mirror. Except, I was as much me looking out, as I was me looking in. The wall behind the prophet was painted red, while the one behind Franz was of brown wood. They both could raise their fists at each other, and sometimes did. In unison, of course. That was the law. "Certainly, you may speak to God," said Franz. "What is there in that? Everyone speaks to God - in sentences, in actions, with their lives. No one is more talked-to in the Universe than God. But what a prophet needs, is to have God speak back."

      And then God spoke, from somewhere behind the mirror, but He did not speak to Amshel. He spoke to Franz. "You are on the wrong side," said God. "Speak to me," said Amshel. "Wrong side of what?" asked Franz. "Of the mirror," answered God. "Don't speak to him," shouted Amshel. "He is from the world of vipers." And Amshel raised his fist, but Franz had to hold up his fist in turn. "I am not the prophet you seek," said Franz, and pointed his finger at the mirror. "There is your prophet." And Amshel was also pointing toward the glass. "Not him - you don't want him." He then turned his hand toward himself. "I'm the one you want." But Franz was just as vehement, as his thumb arched toward his own chest. "Not me." For emphasis, he placed his hand over his heart. "In this, God, you have erred." And his words echoed those of Amshel, who also had his hand upon his heart. "In this, God, you haver erred." And the two faces stared at one another, their fingers clutching at the garments they wore. But God was silent. 

3 Comment count
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This is really great. Kafka

This is really great. Kafka is a fascinating figure, to put it mildly.

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Thanks, Christine. I've

Thanks, Christine.

I've been attempting to get this novel published for years. And I await the time when I'll do another, covering the last ten months of his life (he lived in Berlin).

btw, you are the first person to make any comment on my writing samples. I did not realize this feature even existed.

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Kafka, etc.

A. Colin Wright

Dear Dale,

I don't know whether you'll remember me or not: I attended the workshops at UNB a couple of times years ago, together with Joan Fern Shaw (who died, alas, in 1995, after publishing a number of short stories and a couple of books with Oberon Press).

I see that our interests coincide somewhat. I've always enjoyed Kafka, although I haven't read the diaries, and I've long been fascinated with Berlin, which I know from both before and after the fall of the wall. I too have a long novel on the go set there, but my problem always is putting together the many scenes into a harmonious whole. I also have a published story about the U- and S-Bahn "Ghost stations" before the wall came down, and translated into German by a friend. If you're interested, you can find it at http://www.authorsden.com/acolinwright.

I finally got my early novel "Sardinian SIlver" out, through IUniverse, a POD company. Good reviews, several awards, but few sales! So now I'm still struggling to find an agent for a collection of my published stories, and then hopefully another couple of novels that I've never found a publisher for.

At all events, all best wishes,

A. Colin Wright