Leseliste I: Kafka Tagebücher

Also get ready for posts on books, because traveling and reading go together awesomely…..

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Kafka, Diaries 1910-1923: Bought at the tiny Antiquariat (above) behind the Cathedral in Wuerzburg. Crazy stuff–descriptions of insomnia, his dreams (“I dream, I don’t sleep”), the women he sees on the streets but is somehow never able to talk to (“if I should live to be 40 I would settle down comfortably with an ugly old maid–but I won’t live till I’m 40”), his list of reasons pro and contra marriage to Felice Bauer (“I must be alone. All that I have done is an accomplishment only of solitude”), the way he is entirely made of literature and wants to do nothing else with his life but write, but is simultaneously unable to experience literature and writing as anything other than torture.

IMG_0071Drinking Chai and reading in some lovely cafe in Munich.

The last entry, before tuberculosis took away his ability to speak and eat, a year before his death:

12. Juni, 1923 Die schrecklichen letzten Zeiten, unaufzählbar, fast ununterbrochen. Spaziergänge, Nächte, Tage, für alles unfähig, außer für Schmerzen.

Immer ängstlicher im Niederschreiben. Es ist begreiflich. Jedes Wort, gewendet in der Hand der Geister – dieser Schwung der Hand ist ihre charakteristische Bewegung –, wird zum Spieß, gekehrt gegen den Sprecher. Eine Bemerkung wie diese ganz besonders. Und so ins Unendliche. Der Trost wäre nur: es geschieht, ob du willst oder nicht. Und was du willst, hilft nur unmerklich wenig. Mehr als Trost ist: Auch du hast Waffen.

June 12, 1923 The horrible end times, innumerable, almost incessant. Walks, nights, days, incapable of everything except pain.

More and more fearful in putting things in writing. It is understandable. Every word, turned in the hands of the spirits–this turn of the hand is their characteristic motion–becomes a lance aimed at the speaker. An observation like this entirely peculiar. And so on into endlessness. The only consolation would be: it is happening, whether you want it to or not. And what you want helps hardly at all. More than consolation is: even you have weapons.

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IMG_0082Reading and soaking my feet in a fountain in a courtyard in the Residenz, surrounded by surreal little statues–half children, half fish. 

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3 thoughts on “Leseliste I: Kafka Tagebücher

  1. Face it, he would have been a lot happier as an ordinary burger — like his father — with 2.5 kids and a reasonably attentive wife. He realized this at the end, apparently. But his neuroses had driven him elsewhere. Then he instructed Max Brod to destroy all of his manuscripts other than the few pieces published. Half-seriously perhaps but gallant. Was his art worth the torment? Damn hard to combine burger and kunstler earnestly. He realized the thing he most needed was love, simple human love, life’s pinnacle, so evident when K. is with Olga’s family in Das Schloss. Sadly, Kafka was incapable of simplicity. He at least got a brief taste with his new wife at the end in Germany.

    • Yes, I got that feeling too. At one point, he writes that his mother never understood him because she always said he was an ordinary young man who suffered under the illusion of being sick/solitary/etc. I think she was more than a little right. When he’s going on about how much he hates everything that is not literature, it sounds like he is trying to convince himself.

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