my stupid obsession with Franz Kafka
(This page doesn't have the best text-formatting style, does it? I'll fix... eventually...)
"Why Kafka?" you may be wondering. I'm also wondering. I can't explain it*.
I didn't know jack shit about him before reading the Metamorphosis (I didn't even know he was one of the most important writers of the 20th century. "Franz Kafka? Who tf is this guy, I'm here for that cockroach Gregor Something I've heard of"). After reading and absolutely loving it I decided to read all of his short stories. All of them. The result was almost complete and utter confusion. I liked some, but for others I felt like I didn't have enough context to even attempt at understanding what they were about (I didn't even know he was Jewish!!). There was something that made me go "!!!" for him*, and made me look for more and read The Trial instead of giving up his work thinking "what's the point if it's all flying over my head?"
And... I don't know how to explain this. I realized there's this idea of him in "popular culture"(lacking a better word) of a sad man living a wretched life and that's it, that's all there was to him, and people treat him like the Tortured Artist archetype or a romantic quotes generator...
HE WAS JUST SOME GUY?!? He's MY some guy <3 but let's all chill a little.
It often happens with historical figures that a "stereotypical" or "idealized" verision of them is the most well-known and placed on high pedestal, I think it's both inevitable and sad, it dehumanizes them.
So I guess all of this lead to wanting to know him a little more. I know it's impossible to have a complete picture, I just want more pieces of a pretty puzzle I'll never finish and to be able to speak with the dead
Also, this is hilarious to me. This whole page I mean. Imagine: around 100 years after your death, a random Internet user (whatever this Inter Net is) is like "I like you :) ! I think you were neat! I whish we were friends! I'll study you like a lab-rat! I'll read anything I can put my hands on about you, even the embarassing stuff :) !". This is so stupiiiddd
Anyway uhh click around for some thingsss disclaimer: I'm not a scholar, just an idiot with a website. This is all a big WIP. I'm both lazy and a slow reader, even with things I like. I just realized I wrote 19th century instead of 20th and left it up for quite a while. I keep forgetting that the century number and the century's first two digits don't match.
*I guess I could tell he was a bit messed up in the head, like me :(
more of my incoherent thoughts, but about his stories (coming whenever)
b. reads Kafka's diaries
Don't know were to put these sorry
franzkavkas on tumblr is a good blog go look at it
I made a Pinterest board with all his photos I could find because I'm a creep with too much free time also because sometimes I couldn't tell if I had already seen one before and wantred to keep track, why not share the result
«He was coming to see me one afternoon- I was still living with my parents then- and his coming in woke up my father. Instead of apologizing, he said, in an indescribably gentle way, raising a hand as if to calm him and walking softly on tiptoe through the room, "Please look on me as a dream"» (Franz Kafka, a biography)
«Talking about his headaches, a frightful tension in the temples, he said:"It's the sort of feeling a pane of glass must have in the spot where it cracks."» (Franz Kafka, a biography)
Kavka, pronounced and colloquially written as kafka, is jackdaw in czech (guess how you say it in italian :) ). Super cool! But his father used a jackdaw as his business logo, which is less cool
A bad peach
(July 27, 1914) «Ate rice à la Trautmannsdorf and a peach. A man drinking wine watched my attempts to cut the unripe little peach with my knife. I couldn’t. Stricken with shame under the old man’s eyes, I let the peach go completely and ten times leafed through Die Fliegenden Blätter. I waited to see if he wouldn’t at last turn away. Finally I collected all my strength and in defiance of him bit into the completely juiceless and expensive peach.»
"franz kafka's profound neuroticism really does give me life. every time i do something stupid i just think about how franz kafka was stupider than me" - tumblr user a-bell-to-rie-and-die
"I like to imagine people preparing to fight WWI in Austria Hungry, people reeling from the archduke's murder, and the ticking clock on if the country will attack Serbia and Kafka is just there having an embarassing peach incident and its all he could think of." - tumbrl user millyblank
"Calm down Kafka you have social anxiety" - tumblr user tuvanshaman
You have made me unhappy.
I bought your Metamorphosis and gave it to my cousin. But she doesn’t know how to make sense of the story.
My cousin gave it to her mother, but she can’t find an explanation either.
Her mother gave the book to my other cousin and she doesn’t have an explanation either.
Now they’ve written to me. I’m supposed to explain the story to them. Because I’m the Doctor in the family. But I’m at a loss.
Sir! I spent months in the trenches slugging it out with the Russians and didn’t bat an eyelash. But if my reputation with my cousins went to the devil, I couldn’t bear it.
Only you can help me. You must; because you’re the one who got me into this mess. So please tell me what my cousin is supposed to think when she reads the Metamorphosis.
Most sincerely and respectfully yours,
Dr. Siegfried Wolff»
This is a real letter he recieved, we don't know if he ever answered or not. I feel you Dr. Wolff
Our Office Baby
"I hate my job, it makes me miserale *is one of best employee they've ever had*"
- Franz Kafka, probably
«Franz Kafka, so the gentleman [one of the head officials] told me, was popular with everyone; he hadn't a single enemy. His devotion to duty was exemplary; his work was very highly thought of. The gentleman emphasized that Franz Kafka attacked every question from the opposite end of that from which everyone else generally did. [...] Another thing he emphasized was a certian naïveté in Kafka's make-up. He was "our office baby." He told me a story that is very characteristic of Kafka. "One day he came into my office just as I was eating a slice of bread and butter. "How can you swallow that fat?" he said. "A lemon is the best food.""» (Franz Kafka, a biography)
«His social conscience was greatly stirred when he saw workers crippled through neglet of safety precautions. "How modest these men are," he once said to me, opening his eyes wide "They come to us and beg. Instead of storming the institute and smashing it to little pieces, they come and beg."» (Franz Kafka, a biography)
more to come, hopefully! Wow, the stuff he had to write for work is incredibly boring!
Max Brod gushes about his BFF
more like "Max Brod is still mourning his friend years later because his death was that devastating" but it was too sad. Keep in mind that he tends to exagerate a bit.
There's at least one interwiev with him on the subject, search "Max Brod on Franz Kafka interview" or click here (Youtube)
«Unlike myself, Kafka had a closed nature and did not open up his soul to anyone, not even to me. I knew very well that he sometimes kept important things to himself.» (Streitbares Leben)
«I have experienced over and over again that admirers of Kafka who know him only from his books have a completely false picture of him. They think he must have made a sad, even desperate impression in company too. The opposite is the case. One felt well when one was with him. The richness of his thoughts, which he generally uttered in a cheerful tone, made him, to put it on the lowst level, one of the most amusing of men I ever met, in spite of his shyness, in spite of his quietness. He talked very little; when there were a lot of people he often didn't speak for hours on end. But when he did say something, everybody had to listen immediately, because it was always something full of meat, somethung that hit the nail on the head.
And in an intimate conversation his tounge sometimes ran away with itself in the most astounding manner. He could be enthusiastic and carried away. There was no end to our joking and laughing- he liked a good, hearty laugh, and knew how to make his friends laugh too. More than that, if one where in a thight corner, one could unhesitatingly rely on his knowledge of the world, his tact, his advice, which hardly ever failed to be right. He was a wonderfully helpful friend» (This and all the followig are from Franz Kafka, a biography. If there's misspells it's bc I'm an idiot)
«In him there was a rare mixture of hopelessness and constuctive urge which in his case did not cancel each other out but rose to endlessly complicated visions.»
«He had an unusual aura of power around him, such as I have never met anywhere else, even when I met very important, famous men. I have often tried to analyze this peculiarity, after Kafka's death that is, because while he was alive it made itself felt in a way so naturally and so completeely taken for granted, that the idea of thinking about it never struck one. Perhaps the best way to express this remarkable, extremely personal characteristic is this; the unintermittent compactness of his ideas could not endure a gap, he never spoke a meaningless word. Everything that came from him, came in a way that became less and less forced as the years went on, a precious expression of his quite special way of looking at things- patient, life-loving, ironically considerate towards the follies of the word, and therefore full of sad humor, but never forgetful of the real kernel, "The Indestructible," and so always far from being blasé or cynical.»
«I admired Franz's swimming and rowing. He was particularly clever at handling a so-called "man-drowner". He was always less clumsy, bolder than myself, and had a special trick of leaving one to one's fate in breackneck situations with almost a cruel smile which seemed to say something like "Help yourself." How I adored that smile, in whic after all, there lay also so much confidence and encouragement. Franz was inexhaustble in finding out new lines of sport, or so it seemed to me. In this too his personality expressed itself, this too he did, as he did everything, with complete abandon.»
«[...] and this is I think a good place once again emphatically to point out how false the view is that considers Kafka was at home in an ivory tower, a world of fantasies far removed from life, and images him as an ascetic consumed by nothing other than religious speculations. He was entirely different: he was interested in everything new, topical, technical, as for example, in the beginnings of the film; he never proudly withdrew himself, even in the case of abuses and excrescenses of modern development, he went down to their roots with patience and inexhaustable curiosity, preserved his hopes in man's common sense, never, in proud "distinction" never, in the attitude of Stefan George, rejected contact with the inferior, organized world around him. Only what was dirty, immoral, seemed to have no attraction to him. He had the wonderful gift of finding it boring.» (Brod weren't both of you avid readers of The Amethist/Opal)
«At times I stood over him like a rod, drove him and forced him, not directly naturally, but again and again by new means and new tricks; at any rate I didn't let his gift break down again. there were times when he thanked me for doing so. But often I was a burden to him with my prodding and he wished it to the devil, as his diary informs me. I felt that, too, but it didn't matter to me. What mattered to me was the thing itself, the helping of a friend even against the wish of the friend.» (everyone say thank you to Brod)
«How many evenings we spent together in theaters, cabarets - and also in wine bars with pretty girls! For the idea that Kafka was a kind of stylite or anchorite is completely wrong. He asked not too little from life, but rather too much, perfection in fact, or nothing - and the result of that, of course, was that in later years he steered clear of dalliance, looked at the erotic side of life only from the most serious angle, and never told a dirty story or even stood for one being told in his presence. That is to say, he never protested against one; it simply would not have occurred to oanyone to tell one in his presence. Butin those young days this strict way of thinking had not yet developed so markedly. I remember his passion for a barmaid called Hansi, of whom he once said that whole cavalry regiments had ridden on her body. Franz was very unhappy while this affair lasted. You can see that, too, in a photograph taken of him together with Hansi, but in which he looks as if he would like to run away the next moment*. An entry in my Diary runs: "Trocasero wine bar. There he [Franz] is in love with a Germania from the German postage stamps, chambre séparée. But he is so extraordinarily shy. When he says, "I'll pay your rent for you,**" he laughs as if he meant it ironically." Many of his letters refer to this and similar contacts. These ambiguous and, one may say, even in his opinion, in fact most of all in his opinion, unclean affairs with women have left many traces in his three great novels and in other parts of his writings.»
*(It's the one whith the dog and the bowler hat. For some reason there's two versions, the full one with Hansi and the cutted one with a different backgroud) **(ohmyfuckinggoddd the cringe <3 )
«With Kafka, when he was happy, nothing was carried out without a touch of mischief, which was always, however, combined with a great amount of affection.»
«I may be absolutely honest, didt I find Kafka a nuisance now and then? For instance, in Lugano, when he refused to take any laxative, faithful to his nature principles, but ruined the days for me with his moanings? At the same time Kafka was an exception among geniouses, he was so indescribably gentle and considerate. He went to personal trouble to damp down until they were completely unfelt the dissonances which had their root in the principle of genious. They were also really hardly noticeable, nothing but rudiments of them, e.g. unpunctuality.»
[Kafka started coughing blood in august 1917] «It took till September 4 before I could finally persuade Franz to call in a doctor. In such matters he was quite pig-headed; it took a great deal of patience and perseverance to handle him properly. My description of the decisive, wretched day runs:
"September 4. In the afternoon went with Kafka to Professor Friedl Pick. it has taken all that time to carry it trought.
"Catarrh in the lungs diagnosed. Must have three months' leave. There is danger of T.B. My God! Nothing so horrible can happen. Then Sophie Island. Swimming-pool with Franz. He feels himself released and beaten at the same time. There is a part of him which resists, and considers marriage as a distraction from the one direction of his gaze- towards the absolute. Another part fights for marriage as in accordance with nature. This struggle has worn him out. He considers his illness as a punishment, because he has often wished for a violent solution. But this solution is too drastic for him. He quotes against God, from the Meistersinger, "I should have taken him for more of a gentleman""
Then: "December 10. Went with Kafka to see Professor Pick again. His revelation that he had been learning Hebrew, forty-five lessons in Rath's handbook; never said anything to me about it. So he was trying me out when he asked me some time ago, with every appearance of innocence, how do you count in Hebrew. This making a big secret of everything. There is something very great about it, but also something evil."»
«On September 12 I wrote in my diary, "Said goodbye to Kafka. It hurts me. I have not been without him for such a long time for years. He now thinks he can't marry F. because of his illness. Despairing letter from her, although she knows nothing about it yet. Two people come from the shop with handcarts to take his luggage. He says, "They are coming for the coffin."» (not sure if I can put this in "He was Funny". Is it a bitter joke?)
«He coughed a gread deal, suffered from high temperature and shortness of breath- Kafka, whose beautifully constructed phrases and magnificent sentences are distinguished by such long breaths. In the same way cruel nature let Beethoven and Smetana grow deaf, and many a painter go blind,- just the organ which has the been best developed is destroyed.»
more to come?
art and memes
go watch the animated short Franz Kafka by Piotr Dumala!(NSFW)
there's a play called, I kid you not, Kafka's Dick. Don't know anything about it other than I need to watch it
Max Brod and Franz Kafka try to sketch Goethe's house (emphasis on try)x (wish I knew where it's from)
some odd postcards from the Czech Republic x y and some cute ones x (anyone got a source that isn't tumblr pretty please) (also send the one where he's in the floor plz)
He had a sense of humor
What? Mr. Doom and Gloom could laugh???
«There was no end to our joking and laughing- he liked a good, hearty laugh, and knew how to make his friends laugh too.»
- Max Brod (Franz Kafka a Biography)
«When Kafka read aloud himself, this humor became particularly clear. Thus, for example, we friends of his laughed quite immoderately when he first let us hear the first chapter of The Trial. And he himself laughed so much that there were moments when he couldn't read any further. Astonishing enough, when you think of the fearful earnestness of this chapter. But that is how it was.
Certainly it was not entirely good, comfortable laughter. But the ingredients of a good laugh were also there—alongside the hundred ingredients of uncanniness, which I shall not try to minimize. I am only pointing out the fact that is otherwise so easily forgotten in studies of Kafka—the streak of joy in the world and in life.» (Franz Kafka a biography)
«Uncle Franz Talks to Himself.
Isn’t it a shame to give such a pretty book to Gerti for her birthday? No, because first of all she’s an outstanding girl and second sometime she’ll forget the book here and then you can take it back»
- Kafka’s dedication for Gerti Hermann, his little niece (Is that Kafka? 99 finds)
«In gratitude for the pretty book that I received thanks to your kind forgetfulness, I am taking the liberty of presenting you with this book, perhaps even prettier, which you will surely find the occasion to leave in an appropriate hotel nightstand when the time comes. May you, dear lady, continue to spread joy in this way among us poor chambermaids.
Anna from the Schützenhaus Karlsbad 19.II 19»
- a dedication he wrote, we're not sure to whom.(Is that Kafka? 99 finds)
«[Franz and Dora] often joked together like children. I remember, for example, how they used to dip their hands together in the same wash-basin and call it our "family bath".» (Franz Kafka a biography)
«Kafka’s unique brand of humor, which was bound up with bitterness and dryness, stayed with him until his final hour. When that time came, the doctor who treated him wanted to open the door. But the doctor didn’t want the patient to think he was leaving him alone, so he stood up, saying: “I’m not leaving.” “But I am,” Kafka answered, and breathed his last.»
- Georg Langer (taken from a third party and recounted imprecisely. The real one below)(Is that Kafka? 99 finds)
«As Klopstock moved away from the bed to clean some part of the syringe, Franz said "Don't leave me." His friend answered "But I am not leaving you." Franz answererd in a deep voice "But I am leaving you."»(Franz Kafka a biography)
«I can laugh too, Felice, don’t doubt that, I’m even known as a great
laugher, though I used to be much more foolish about it than I am now.
Once—it’s been two years now, but the legend will outlive me here at the
Institute—I even started to laugh in the midst of a formal meeting with the
president—and what a laugh! It would be too long-winded to explain this
man’s importance, so just trust me when I say that it is great, and that an
ordinary employee at the Institute imagines this man up in the clouds, not
down on earth. And since we generally don’t have many opportunities to
speak to the kaiser, this man offers ordinary employees the chance to feel
like they’re meeting with the kaiser—that’s the way it is in any large
business. Of course there’s something laughable about this man—as there
is about any man who’s fully exposed to public scrutiny, and whose
position is somewhat disproportionate to his own achievements—but
anyone who would be moved to laughter by something so apparent, by that
sort of natural phenomenon—and in the presence of the great man, at that
—must really be godforsaken. We—two colleagues and I—had just
received a promotion, and we were there in our formal black suits to
express our gratitude to the president, and I should not neglect to mention
that I had a special reason to be grateful to the president to begin with.
The most dignified of us—I was the youngest—gave a speech to express
our thanks, short, reasonable, spirited, in keeping with his character. The
president listened in the posture he typically adopted on such formal
occasions, a pose somewhat like that of our real kaiser when he holds an
audience, and truly (if you will, and if you can’t help it) hilarious. His legs
lightly crossed, his left hand clenched in a fist and resting on the very corner of the table, his head lowered so that his full white beard folds in at
the chest, and on top of all that, his belly—which was not too large, but
still protruded—slightly rocking. I really must have been in an
uncontrollable mood at the time, because I was familiar enough with that
pose, and there was no reason for me to break out in little bursts of
laughter. At first they were only sporadic, and they could have easily been
taken for coughing fits, especially since the president wasn’t looking up.
The clear voice of my colleague, who kept his eyes forward and took note
of my condition, but without being influenced by it, also helped to rein me
in. But then, when my colleague’s speech had ended, the president raised
his head, and for a moment my laughter gave way to terror, because now
he could see my face and could easily tell that the laughter that was
coming from my mouth, much to my chagrin, was by no means a cough. But
as he began his speech—the sort of customary speech that you know long
before you hear it, following the imperial formula and accompanied by
heavy chest tones, altogether meaningless and unjustified—as my
colleague cast sidelong glances my way, trying to warn me even as I fought
for self-control, but in the process vividly reminding me of the pleasure of
my earlier laughter—I couldn’t hold myself back anymore, and I
abandoned all hope that I would ever be able to hold myself back. At first I
only laughed at the harmless little jokes that the president scattered in
here and there; but whereas the law tells us to respond to these jokes only
with a respectful smile, I was already letting out a full-throated laugh, I
could see my colleagues give a start for fear of contagion, and I felt more
sympathy for them than for myself, but I couldn’t help myself, yet I didn’t
try to turn away or to cover my mouth with my hand, rather in my
helplessness I kept staring into the president’s face, unable to turn away,
probably feeling that it could only get worse, not better, and so it would be
best to avoid any change at all. Of course, once I got going, I started
laughing not only at the current joke, but also at the previous jokes, and
the jokes yet to come, and all of them together, and no one could tell
anymore what I was actually laughing at; a general sense of awkwardness took hold, only the president was relatively exempt, as a great man who is
accustomed to many things in the world, and who, by the way, could never
even grasp the possibility that his own person would be treated with
disrespect. If we had slipped out at that point, perhaps the president even
shortened his speech a bit, everything still would have gone alright,
certainly my behavior would still have been rude, but this rudeness would
have gone unremarked, and the whole matter would have been put to rest
by an unspoken agreement among the four of us who were involved, as
often happens with such apparently impossible things. But then, to my
misfortune, the colleague I haven’t mentioned until now (a man near 40
with a round, childlike but bearded face, and a staunch beer drinker
besides) started in on a fully unexpected little speech. At that moment it
was completely inconceivable to me, my laughter had already completely
thrown him off, he had stood there with his cheeks puffed out as he
suppressed his own laughter and—now he started in on a serious speech.
But for him this made perfect sense. He has such a vacuous, fiery
temperament, that he’s capable of passionately, endlessly championing
claims that everyone already accepts, and if it weren’t for his laughable
but congenial passion, these speeches of his would be unbearably boring.
Now the president had made some thoroughly harmless remark that this
colleague didn’t completely agree with, and besides, possibly on account
of my uninterrupted laughter, he had halfway forgotten where he was, and
in short, he thought that it was the right moment for him to come out with
his particular viewpoints, and to convince the president (who was
naturally deathly indifferent to anything that others could say). So now, as
he started waving his hands and rattling off something ridiculous (as
usual, but now more than ever), it all got to be too much for me, the world
that I had seemed to have in front of my eyes up to that point slipped away
from me entirely, and I burst out in loud, reckless laughter, the kind of
hearty laughter that you usually only hear from grade-schoolers on their
benches. Everything fell silent, and now my laughter and I had finally
taken center stage. Of course my knees were trembling with fear the whole time I was laughing, and now my colleagues could laugh along with me all
they wanted, they could never compete with the abomination of that
laughter that I’d been preparing and practicing for so long, and so they
went relatively unnoticed. Beating my breast with my right hand, partly in
acknowledgement of my sin (as a reminder of the Day of Atonement), and
partly to drive out all of the laughter that I had held back in my breast, I
offered numerous excuses for my laughter, which may all have been very
convincing, but they could not be understood because they were constantly
being interrupted by fresh laughter. Of course by now even the president
was confused, but since such people are born with an instinct for
balancing things out, and with all the resources they need to do so, he
found some phrase to give some sort of sensible meaning to my howling, I
think a connection to a joke he had made much earlier. Then he dismissed
us in a hurry. Undefeated, and with a great laugh, but deathly miserable, I
was the first to stumble out of the meeting room.» (letters to Felice Bauer)
«I helped the inconsolable Franz to write a letter of apology to the high official, who luckily turned out to be a considerate person, not without a sense of humor.» (Max Brod - Franz Kafka a biography. Since he was Jewish, he had a chance at being hired only because he was a friend of the president's son.)
Conversations with Kafka
Gustav Janouch met Franz Kafka for the first time when he was a young poet, his father found his poems and he showed them to Kafka, who then asked to meet him. Kafka had a great impact on him, so Janouch kept notes of their conversations, and years later decided to publish them. I trust the 1953 edition enough because of what Max Brod wrote in the introduction (below) (not enough to mix it with everything else), I'm not sure of what to make of the second edition that includes manuscripts Janouch claims to have found after years, and that neither Brod nor Dymant read.
«I read the manuscript myself, and was struck by the wealth of new impressions it conveyed, all bearing unmistakably the stamp of Kafka's genious. Even his physical appearence, his manner of speech, his gentle and expressive hait of gesticulation, and other physical traits were all vividly recorded. I felt as if my friend had come to life again and that moment entered my room. Once again I heard him talk, felt his brilliant and lively glance rest upon me, saw his quiet suffering smile, and felt myself once more possesed and moved by his wisdom.
Not long afterwards Dora Dymant made her visit to Israel, and I read her Janouch's still unpublished book. She was at once deeply impressed by it, and in all Janouch's notes recognized Kafka's style and way of thought. For her the book was like meeting Kafka again, and she was overcome.»
Janouch literally writes "Franz Kafka was the first person who took my spiritual life seriously, who talked to me like an adult and so strengthened my self-confiedence. His interest in me was a wonderful gift to me", meanwhile Kafka barely mentions him in anything he wrote and sometimes found him annoying lol
I can't say "I put here the parts I find the most interestng" because it'd be the entire book (which you can read for free on archive.org. It's very short). Seriously, I'm leaving out so much good stuff!!
«"But he is the author of The Metamorphosis!" I exclaimed. "An extraordinary story. Do you know him?"» I can't believe this. That story has been the gateway drug for decades.
«Behind one of two desks standing side by side sat a tall, slim man. He had black hair combed back, a bony nose, wonderful grey-blue eyes under a strikingly narrow forehead, and bitter-sweet, smiling lips.
"This is certamly he," he said, instead of greeting us.
"It is," said my father.
Dr Kafka stretched out his hand to me.
"You needn’t be ashamed in front of me. I also have a large electricity bill.
"He laughed, and my shyness vanished.
"So this is the creator of the mysterious bug, Samsa," I said to myself, disillusioned to see before me a simple, well-mannered man.
"There is too much noise in your poems," said Franz Kafka, when my father left us alone in the office. "It is a by-product of youth, which indicates an excess of vitality. So that the noise is itself beautiful, though it has nothing in common with art. On the contrary! The noise mars the expression. But I am no critic, I cannot quickly transform myself mto somethmg different, then return to myself and precisely measure the distance. As I said — I am no critic. I am only a man under judgement and a spectator."
"And the judge?" I asked. He gave an embarrassed smile.
"Indeed, I am also the usher of the court, yet I do not know the judge. Probably I am quite a humble assistant-usher. I have no definite post."
Kafka laughed. I laughed with him, though I did not understand him.
"The only definite thing is suffering," he said earnestly. "When do you write?"
I was surprised by the question, so I answered quicly:
"In the evening, at night. During the day very rarely. I cannot write during the day."
"The day is a great enchantment."
"I am disturbed by the light, the factory, the houses, the windows over the way. Most of all by the light. The light distracts my attention."
"Perhaps it distracts it from the darkness within. It is good when the light overpowers one. If it were not for these horrible sleepless nights, I would never write at all. But they always recall me again to my own dark solitude."
"Is he not himself the unfortunate bug in The Metamorphosis?" I thought.
I was glad when the door opened and my father came in.»
«Kafka had great grey eyes, under thick dark eyebrows. His brown face is very animated. Kafka speaks with his face.
Whenever he can substitute for words a movement of his facial muscles, he does so. A smile, contraction of his eyebrows, wrinkling of the narrow forehead, protrusion or pursuing of the lips - such movements are a substitute for spoken sentences. Franz Kafka loves gestures, and is therefore economical of them. A gesture of his is not an accompaniment of speech, duplicating the words, but as it were a word from an independent language of movement, a means of communication, thus in no way an involuntary reflex, but a deliberate expression of intention. Folding of the hands, laying of outstretched palms on the surface of his desk, leaning his body back comfortably and yet tensely in his chair, bending his head forward in corjunction with a shrug of the shoulders, pressing his hand to his heart, these are a few of the sparingly used means of expression which he always accompanies with an apologetic smile, as if to say, "It is true, and I admit, that I am playing a game: yet I hope that my game pleases you. And after all - after all, I only do it to win your understanding for a short while."»
«I no longer remember how often I visited Franz Kafka in his office. One thing, however, I remember very distinctly: his physical appearance as I - half an hour before the end of office hours - opened the door on the second floor of the Workmen’s Acadent Insurance Institution.
He sat behind his desk, his head leanmg back, legs outstretched, his hands resting on the desk. Filla’s picture, A Reader of Dostoievsky, has something of the attitude he assumed. From this point of view, there was a great resemblance betweaa Filla’s picture and Kafka’s bodily appearance. Yet it was purely external. Behind the outward likeness lay a great inner difference.
Filla’s reader was overpowered by something, while Kafka’s attitude expressed a voluntary and therefore triumphant surrender. On the thin lips played a delicate smile, which was much more the reflection of some distant alien joy than an expression of his own happiness. The eyes always looked at people a little from below upwards. Franz Kafka thus had a singular appearance, as if apologizing for being so slender and tail. His entire figure seemed to say, "I am, forgive me, quite ummportant. You do me a great pleasure, if you overlook me,"
His voice was a hesitating, muted baritone, wonderfully melodious, although it never left the middle range in strength and pitch. Voice, gesture, look, all radiated the peace of understanding and goodness.
He spoke both Czech and German. But more German. And his German had a hard accent, like that of the German spoken by the Czechs. Yet the likeness is only a faint and inexact one; in fact, they were quite different.
The Czech accent of the German which I am thinking of is harsh. The language sounds as if hacked to pieces. Kafka’s speech never made this impression. It seemed angular because of the inner tension : every word a stone. The hardness of his speech was caused by the effort at exactness and precision. It was thus determined by positive personal qualities and not by group characteristics. His speech resembled his hands.
He had large, strong hands, broad palms, thin, fine fingers with flat, spatulate finger-nails and prominent yet very delicate bones and knuckles.
When I remember Kafka’s voice, his smile and his hands, I always think of a remark of my father’s.
He said, "Strength combined with scrupulous delicacy: strength, which finds the small things the most difficult"»
«Kafka noticed my lack of sleep. Quite truthfully I told him:
"I was so full of things that I wrote until the morning." Kafka laid his large hands, as if carved out of wood, on the table top and said slowly:
"That is a great happmess, to be able to expose one’s inner feel- ings so easily."
"It was as if I were drunk. I have not yet read what exactly I wrote."
"Of course. What is written is merely the dregs of the experience."»
«Sometimes with Franz Kafka I met Hans Klaus, whom I had already met at school, but until then had not known well, because he was several years older than me. In addition, he was already well known as the author of a number of poems and stories. Compared with him I was merely an immature little schoolboy. Yet it seemed to me that Franz Kafka talked to me more as a friend than to Klaus. I was pleased by this, and at the same time ashamed of myself.
"Are you only a child to Doktor Kafka?" I asked myself, and immediately reassured myself: "You probably only imagine that he is more friendly to you than to Klaus"
I had no peace. So one day I turned to Kafka as I accompanied him from,the office along the Altstadter Ring.
"What do you think, Herr Doktor - am I vam?"
Kafka was astomshed.
"What made you think of such a question?"
"It seems to me that you are more friendly to me than to Klaus. That makes me happy. It makes me very happy. At the same time I tell myself that these are merely the whispers of vamty."
Kafka took me by the arm.
"You are a child."
My chin began to tremble.
"Look, Herr Doktor, I always think that you are so good to me only because I am still a foolish, immature child."
"For me you are a young man," said Franz Kafka. "You have future possibilities which others have already lost. People mean so much to you that you have to watch yourself very closely, in order not to lose yourself. Certainly I am more friendly to you than to Klaus. After all, I speak to my own past when I speak to you. One cannot help being friendly. And then; you are younger than Edaus, and so you need more understanding and love."»
«Franz Kafka laughed, when he saw me with a little book of poems by Michael Mareš.
"I know him," he said. "He is a fierce anarchist whom they endure as a curiosity in the Prager Tagblatt."
"You don’t take the Czech anarchists seriously?"
Kafka smiled apologetically.
"That is very hard. These people, who call themselves anarchists, are so nice and friendly, that one has to believe every word they say. At the same time - and by reason of the same qualities - one cannot believe that they are really such world destroyers as they claim."
"So you know them personally?"
"A little. They are very nice, jolly people."»
«I accompamed Kafka from the office to his home. It was a cold autumn day, swept by rain and wind.
Kafka said to me on the steps that he could not talk in the open air in such weather.
"That doesn’t matter," I said. "We shall understand each other all the same."
Nevertheless as we emerged from the entrance of the Workmen’s Accident Insurance Institution, Kafka stooped, shook himself vigorously, crossed himself with a great Roman cross, and for me all understanding ceased.
Kafka smiled at my astonished face, went back into the building, and said:
"I was speakmg Czech - sakramentskd velkd zima!* My stooping indicated the force which overpowered me, shivering is the traditional way of expressing cold, and the Cross, that precisely is the sacrament."
For some unknown reason, his gaiety offended me, and so I said:
"The sign of the Cross is not a sacrament."
He laid his hand on my shoulder.
"Not only every sign, but even the merest gesture, is holy if it is filled with faith."» *Sakramentskd velkd zima. The Czech word sakramentskd means literally ‘sacramentally’, but is also used as a popular swear word corresponding precisely to the English ‘bloody’. The phrase thus means ‘bloody great cold’
«Franz Kafka could suddenly illummate controversial subjects by a single remark. Yet he never tried to appear intellectual, or even witty. Whatever he said seemed, in his mouth, simple, obvious, and natural. This was not the effect of any special conjunction of words, of his play of features, or of his tone of voice. It was Kafka’s whole personality which affected the listener. He was so quiet and calm. Yet his eyes were lively and brilliant, though they began to blink if, to his helpless embarrassment, I mentioned music or his own literary work in our conversations.»
«"The Karpfengasse in the Jewish quarter, where I was born, is immeasurably far from home."*
"I was born in Yugoslavia," I said, because I was upset by the expression in his eyes.
But Franz Kafka slowly shook his head.
"From the Jewish quarter to the Teinkirche is much, much farther. I come from another world."» * Kafka was born at No. 7 Karpfengasse, in the Judenstadt. In speaking of "home" here he means, of course, the Jewish national home. When later in this conversation he speaks of the distance being far greater from the Teinkirche to the Jewish quarter, he means that, though the Teinkirche is itself in the Jewish quarter, yet, being a Christian church, it is infinitely alien from its surroundings.
«Franz Kafka was the first person who took my spiritual life seriously, who talked to me like an adult and so strengthened my self-confidence. His interest in me was a wonderful gift to me. I was always conscious of this. Once I even expressed myself in this sense to him.
"Do I not waste your time? I am so stupid. You give me so much and I give you nothing."
Kafka was plainly embarrassed by my words.
"Now, now," he said soothingly. "You are a child. You are not a robber. I do indeed give you my time, but it belongs not to me but to the Workmen’s Accident Insurance Institution; both of us conspire to rob it of my time. After all, that is splendid! Also you are not stupid. So stop using such phrases, by which you will only force me to admit that I enjoy your youthful devotion and understanding."»
«Frau Svátek, who lived in the Jeseniusgasse in Žižkov, used to work as a servant in my father’s house in the mornings. In the afternoons she worked as a charwoman in the Workmen’s Accident Insurance Institution. She saw me several times with Franz Kafka, whom she knew, and so one day she began to talk about him to me.
"Doktor Kafka is a fine man. He is quite different from the others. You can see that even in the way he gives you something. The others hand it to you in such a way that it almost bums you to take it. They don’t give - they humiliate and insult you. One would often like to throw thdr tips away. But Doktor Kafka gives, really gives, in such a way that it’s a pleasure. For instance, a bunch of grapes which he has not eaten that morning. They are left-overs. You know what they usually look like - with most people. But Doktor Kafka never leaves them looking like a tasteless lump. He leaves the grapes or the fruit nicely arranged on the plate. And when I come into the office, he says, by the way, could I possibly make use of them. Yes, Doktor Kafka does not treat me hke an old char. He is a fine man."
Frau Svátek, was right. Kafka had the art of giving. He never said, "Take this, it is a present." When he gave me a book or a magazine, all he ever said was, "There is no need to give it me back."»
«With my friend Helene Slaviček I returned firom Chlumetz to Prague. We went to my father in his office, to announce our arrival. On the stairs we met Franz Kafka. I introduced him to Helene. Two days later he said to me:
"Women are snares, which he in wait for men on all sides in order to drag them into the merely finite. They lose their dangers if one voluntarily falls into one of the snares. But if, as a result of habit, one overcomes it, then all the jaws of the female trap open again"» fuck you too dude
«During the period of my visits to Franz Kafka in the office on the Pořič, my parents’ marriage had been going through a severe crisis. I sufiered because of the domestic quarrels. I complained of this to Kafka and adimtted that the troubles around me were the decisive motive for my literary efforts.
"If things were different at home, perhaps I would not write at all," I said. "I want to escape the unrest, to shut out the voices around me and within me, and so I write. Just as some people make silly objects with a fret-saw in order to get through the boredom of their evenings at home, so I patch words and sentences and paragraphs together, to have an excuse for being alone and to cut myself off from my surroundings, which suffocate me."
"You are quite right," said Kafka. "Many men do the same, in one of his letters Flaubert writes that his novel is a rock to which he hangs in order not to be drowned in the waves of the world around him."
"Well, I am a Gustav too, but not a Flaubert," I said smiling.
"The technique of spiritual hygiene is not reserved for rare individuals. So that Flaubert’s name will not embarrass you, I will confess that at a certain period I did exactly as you are doing. Only in my case things were a little more complicated. By scribblmg I run ahead of myself in order to catch myself up at the finishing post. I cannot run away froom myself."»
This book makes me feel like this:
stop feeding my irrational love Janouch!
go read the wikipedia page if you really wanna learn something. Or better, a biography. Or the Franz Kafka museum's website. Anything other than this page lol
- People disagreed on his eye color. Passport said "dark blue-gray"(99 finds);
- 1.82 m tall. It's pretty tall for today, I think in the past even more so? ;
- Birthay was July 3 (1883) I may or may not have put this in my calendar app;
- German-speaking Jew in Prague. There were tensions between Czechs and Germans (for example Oskar Baum, one of Kafka's closest friends, was blinded in a fight between Czech and German students) and being Jewish... I don't think I need to explain this one. What a mix!;
- Serious case of baby face. Just look at him, how old do you think he was in that photo?
It was taken in 1916;
- Sleep schedule was a mess. He slept a bit in the afternoon and then again late night/early morning to write during the night (to be alone and in silence);
- Unusually sensitive to noises (desperately needed a pair of professional earmuffs);
- Moved out for the first time at 31;
- Music wasn't his thing
«The essence of my unmusicalness consists in my inability to enjoy music connectedly, it only now and then has an effect on me, and how seldom it is a musical one. The natural effect of music on me is to circumscribe me with a wall, and its only constant inluence on me is that, confined in this way, I am different from what I am when free.»
«Kafka, as if to compensate for the remarkable gift he had of musical speech, had no talent for pure music. [...] He once told me he couldn't tell the difference between The Merry Widow and Tristan and Isolde.". There is this amount of truth in these words, that he never took much trouble to get to know the higher music. And yet he was not without a natural feeling for rhythm and tune. I often heard him sing Lowe's ballad, "Count Eberstein," to himself- it was his favourite piece.» (Franz Kafka a biography) (It's Graf Eberstein by Carl Loewe. "Is that Kafka? 99 finds" also mentions Nun leb wohl du kleine Gasse. They're both on Youtube :)x y)
- Loved to give readings of his own work or other's and was very good at it;
- Vegetarian (yay!) for "health reasons" (BOOOOO!!). And have you ever heard of Fletcher's mastication method? ;
- Had a low opinion of doctors and modern medicine in general,
adhered to a strictly “holistic” model of illness (99 finds)
«Kafka was always very sensitive on the question of his health. Every imperfection of the body tormented him, even, for example, scurf or constipation, or a toe that was not quite properly formed. He distrusted drugs and doctors. He demanded that Nature herself should restore the balance, and despised all "unnatural" medicines.This tendency was strengthened in 1911, when, on a journey- probably on behalf of the office- to Warnsdorf, he met the industrialist Schnitzer, who preached the "nature cure." I find the following entries on the subject i my notes dated May 1911.
"Kafka came back to Prague on Friday, but didn't come to see me or Baum. Finally, the following Thursday, I rang him up in a temper." He was "so weak, felt so rotten; his stomach was out of order; he wasn't going out at all, he was so miserable." On Friday afternoon he came to see me and told me a lot of wonderful things about the garden city of Warnsdorf, about a "magician," a believer in naural healing, a rich industrialist, who had examined him, had looked at only at his throath in profile, from the front, and had then talked to him about poisons in his spinal marrow and almost up to his brain already*, which had developed through living on the wrong lines. To cure them he recommended sleeping with the windows open, sun-bathing, working in the garden, joining in the activities of a club for natural healing and subscribing to a magazine published either by the club or by the industrialist himself. He speaks agains doctors, medicines, and injections. He explains the Bible from a vegetarian standpoint: Moses led the Jews through the desert so that they might become vegetarians in these forty years. Manna as a meatless diet. the dead quais. the longing for the "fleshpots of Egypt." Even more clearly, in the New Testament Jesus addressed bread with the words, "This is my body." Franz's attitude to the "natural heal methods" and reform movements of a similar nature was one of very intense interest, nicely tempered by making good-natured fun of the follies and fads which go alon with these movements. Fundamentally he saw in the efforts to create a new healthy man, and to use the mysterious and freely proffered healing powers of nature something extremely positive which agreed with many of his own instincts and convictions, and which he widely put into practice too. He slept with the window open all the year around. When you went to his place to see him, the cool fresh air there was a thing that struck you. He always wore light clothing, even in winter, went for long periods without eating meat and drank no alcohol. When he became ill he infinitely preferred being looked after in a private house (in Zürau), in a primitive country district, to any sanatorium, and only went to sanatoriums when he was finally forced to do so.» (Franz Kafka a biography) (*NOOO why did you fell for this shit. cringe :( )
- Tried to marry like what, 5 times? He just couldn't do it, could he. Twice with Felice Bauer (I cannot believe they lasted so long. HOW.), then with Julie Wohryzek, then Milena Jesenská (who was already married), and last but not least Dora Diamant/Dymant. Am I forgetting someone?
- had a weird relationship with women in general I won't elaborate but franzkavkas (tumblr) will apparently. I trust that blog more than my reading comprehension skills. The museum has something to say too;
- Attended anarchist meetings, Michael Kácha nicknamed him Klidas, "the colossus of silence" because he never spoke there SOURCE;
- Loved fruits (especially "exotic" ones like bananas and pineapples. fuck I forgot where I read this don't trust me)
and beer (99 finds) I'm lost on the beer. 99 finds points out that he did like it, but then why does Brod (and Murray's biography) say he didn't drink alcohol? Just to make him more of a saint? Did he really quit for a period? What's going on :( ?;