2 November. This morning, for the first time in a long time, the joy again of imagining a knife twisted in my heart.
‘With his own prayers he passed away.’ He was much envied for his death that followed so pious a life.
If I were ever able to write something large and whole, well shaped from beginning to end, then in the end the story would never be able to detach itself from me and it would be possible for me calmly and with open eyes, as a blood relation of a healthy story, to hear it read, but as it is every little piece of the story runs around homeless and drives me away from it in the opposite direction. — At the same time I can still be happy if this explanation is correct.
I had hoped, by means of the bouquet of flowers, to appease my love for her a little, it was quite useless. It is possible only through literature or through sleeping together. I write this not because I did not know it, but rather because it is perhaps well to write down warnings frequently.
I could not tell her that I was not really concerned about her but was rather only happy to have found an emotion in which I could enjoy my love, and therefore told her again that I was worried.
Should I be grateful or should I curse the fact that despite all misfortune I can still feel love, an unearthly love but still for earthly objects.
I often wished to be brought face to face with the Emperor to show him how little effect he had. And that was not courage, it was just coolness.
Before falling asleep.
It seems to so dreadful to be a bachelor, to become an old man struggling to keep one’s dignity while begging for an invitation whenever one wants to spend an evening in company, having to carry one’s meal home in one’s hand, unable to expect anyone with a lazy sense of calm confidence, able only with difficulty and vexation to give a gift to someone, having to say good night at the front door, never being able to run up a stairway beside one’s wife, to lie ill and have only the solace of the view from one’s window when one can sit up, to have only side-doors in one’s room leading into other people’s living-rooms, to feel estranged from one’s family, with whom one can keep on close terms only by marriage, first by the marriage of one’s parents, then when the effect of that has worn off, by one’s own, having to admire other people’s children and not even being allowed to go on saying: ‘I have none myself,’ never to feel oneself grow older since there is no family growing up around one, modelling oneself in appearance and behaviour on one or two bachelors remembered from our youth.
This is all true, but it is easy to make the error of unfolding future sufferings so far in front of one that one’s eye must pass beyond them and never again return, while in reality, both today and later, one will stand with a palpable body and a real head, a real forehead that is, for smiting one with one’s hand.
Blindly and arbitrarily I snatch handfuls out of the stream so that when I write it down calmly, my acquisition is nothing in comparison with the fullness in which it lived, is incapable of restoring this fullness, and thus is bad and disturbing because it tempts to no purpose.
From an old notebook: ‘Now, in the evening, after having studied since six o’clock in the morning, I noticed that my left hand had already for some time been sympathetically clasping my right hand by the fingers.’
We accept foreign cities as a fact, the inhabitants live there without penetrating our way of life, just as we cannot penetrate theirs, a comparison must be made, it can’t be helped, but one is well aware that it has no moral or even psychological value, in the end one can often even omit the comparison because the difference in the condition of life is so great that it makes it unnecessary.
Suddenly, impure paraffin or a damaged wick is probably the cause, the light spurts out of one of these lanterns and sparks pour down in a broad gush on the crowded audience that forms a mass as black as earth. Then a gentleman rises up out of this mass, walks on it towards the lamp, apparently wants to fix the lamp, but first looks up at it, remains standing near it for a short while, and, when nothing happens, returns quietly to his place in which he is swallowed up. I take him for myself and bow my face into the darkness.
My repugnance for antitheses is certain. They are unexpected, but do not surprise, for they have always been there; if they were unconscious, it was at the very edge of consciousness they make for thoroughness, fullness, completeness, but only like a figure on the ‘wheel of life’, we have chased our little idea around the circle. They are as undifferentiated as they are different, they grow under one’s hand as though bloated by water, beginning with the prospect of infinity, they always end up in the same medium size. They curl up, cannot be straightened out, are mere clues, are holes in wood, are immobile assaults, draw antitheses to themselves, as I have shown. If they would only draw all of them, and forever.
[inwardly undisturbed]: Why yes, unfortunately he is leaving, you didn’t have to call me here for that.
Now, however, I lie here on the sofa, kicked out of the world, watching for the sleep that refuses to come and will only graze me when it does, my joints ache with fatigue, my dried-up body trembles toward its own destruction in turmoils of which I dare not become fully conscious, in my head are astonishing convulsions. And there stand the three women before my door, one praises me as I was, two as I am. The cook says I shall go straight — she means without any detour — to heaven. This it shall be.
(22 November) ANNA: No, but you have developed a new habit, Emil, one that’s quite horrible. You know how to catch hold of every trifle and use it to find something bad in me.
KARL [rubs his fingers]: Because you have no consideration, because in general you are incomprehensible.
When I come to Warsaw I will walk about among you in my European clothes like ‘a spider before your eyes, like a mourner at a wedding’.
If a great scholar commits a sin during the evening or the night, by morning you are no longer permitted to reproach him with it, for in his scholarship he has already repented of it himself.
Honesty of evil thoughts.… How would I live through it with this body picked up in a lumber room? The Talmud too says: A man without a woman is no person. I had no defence this evening against such thoughts except to say to myself: ‘It is now that you come, evil thoughts, now, because I am weak and have an upset stomach. You pick this time for me to think you. You have waited for your advantage. Shame on you. Come some other time, when I am stronger. Don’t exploit my condition in this way.’ And, in fact, without even waiting for other proofs, they yielded, scattered slowly and did not again disturb me during the rest of my walk, which was naturally, not too happy. They apparently forgot, however, that if they were to respect all my evil moments, they would seldom get their chance.
Boundest in dancing, etc.
At one such entertainment a wonder-rabbi who often had hallucinations suddenly laid his face on his arms, which were resting on the table, and remained in that position for three hours while everyone was silent. When he awoke he wept and sang an entirely new, gay, military march. This was the melody with which the angels of the dead have just escorted to heaven the soul of a wonder-rabbi who had died at this time in a far-off Russian city.
On Friday, according to the Kabbalah, the pious get a new, more delicate soul, entirely divine, which remains with them until Saturday evening.
On Friday evening two angels accompany each pious man from the synagogue to his home; the master of the house stands while he greets them in the dining-room; they stay only a short time.
The unhappiness of the bachelor, whether seeming or actual, is so easily guessed at by the world around him that he will curse his decision, at least if he has remained a bachelor because of the delight he takes in secrecy.… But everyone knows his condition, can detail his sufferings. A cold breeze breathes upon him from within and he gazes inward with the even sadder half of his double face. He moves incessantly, but with predictable regularity, from one apartment to another. The farther he moves away from the living, for whom he must still — and this is the worst mockery — work like a conscious slave who dare not express his consciousness, so much the smaller a space is considered sufficient for him. While it is death that must still strike down the others, though they may have spent all their lives in a sickbed — for even though they would have gone down by themselves long ago from their own weakness, they nevertheless hold fast to their loving, very healthy relatives by blood and marriage — he, this bachelor, still in the midst of life, apparently of his own free will resigns himself to an even smaller space, and when he dies the coffin is exactly right for him.
Before falling asleep felt on my body the weight of the fists on my light arms.
In order to be able to speak to young girls I need older persons near me. The slight disturbance emanating from them enlivens my speech, I immediately feel that the demands made on me are diminished; what I speak out of myself without previous consideration can always, if it is not suitable for the girl, be directed to the older person, from whom I can also, if it becomes necessary, draw on abundance of help.
9 December. Stauffer-Bern: ‘The sweetness of creation begets illusions about its real value.’
The way once, at midnight, the piano player, probably a bachelor, slipped out of the door with his music.
When I begin to write after a rather long interval, I draw the words as if out of the empty air. If I capture one, then I have just this one alone and all the toll must begin anew.
The old tricks at the Christmas Fair. Two cockatoos on a crossbar pull fortunes. Mistakes: a girl has a lady-love predicted. A man offers artificial flowers for sale in rhyme: To jest ruze udelená z kuze [This is a rose, made of leather].
In periods of transition such as the past week has been for me and as this moment at least still is, a sad but calm astonishment at my lack of feeling often grips me. I am divided from all things by a hollow space and I don’t even push myself to the limits.
The appearance of the dead Axiocha, called up in the shape of a phantom, who soon disappears because, having died only a short time ago, she relives her old human sorrows too keenly at the sight of the world.
I am not punctual because I do not feel the pains of waiting. I wait like an ox. For if I feel a purpose in my momentary existence, even a very uncertain one, I am so vain in my weakness that I would gladly bear anything for the sake of this purpose once it is before me. If I were in love, what couldn’t I do then. How long I waited, years ago, under the arcades of the Ring until M. came by, even to see her walk with her lover. I have been late for appointments partly out of carelessness, partly out of ignorance of the pains of writing, but also partly in order to attain new, complicated purposes through a renewed, uncertain search for the people with whom I made the appointments, and so to achieve the possibility of long, uncertain waiting. From the fact as a child I had a great nervous fear of waiting one could conclude that I was destined for something better and that I foresaw my future.
Today at breakfast I spoke with my mother by chance about children and marriage, only a few words, but for the first time saw clearly how untrue and childish is the conception of me that my mother builds up for herself. She considers me a healthy young man who suffers a little from the notion that he is ill. This notion will disappear by itself with time; marriage, of course, and having children would put an end to it best of all. Then my interest in literature would also be reduced to the degree that is perhaps necessary for an educated man. A matter-of-fact, undisturbed interest in my profession or in the factory or in whatever may come to hand will appear. Hence there is not the slightest, not the trace of a reason for pemanent despair, which is not very deep, however, whenever I think my stomach is upset, or when I can’t sleep because I write too much. There are thousands of possible solutions. The most probable is that I shall suddenly fall in love with a girl and will never gain want to do without her. Then I shall see how good their intentions towards me are and how little they will interfere with me. But if I remain a bachelor like my uncle in Madrid, that too will be no misfortune because with my cleverness I shall know how to make adjustments.
23 December. Saturday. When I look at my whole way of life going in a direction that is foreign and false to all my relatives and acquaintances, the apprehension arises, and my father expresses it, that I shall become a second Uncle Rudolf, the fool of the new generation of the family, the fool somewhat altered to meet the needs of a different period;…
After having demanded from us understanding of these transformations, the artist indicated only hastily, but with pride, that everything on these sheets had significance and that even the accidental was necessary because its effect influence everything that followed.
One advantage in keeping a diary is that you become aware with reassuring clarity of the changes which you constantly suffer and which in general way are naturally believed, surmised, and admitted by you, but which you’ll unconsciously deny when it comes to the point of gaining hope or peace from such an admission. In the diary you find proof that in situations which today would seem unbearable, you lived, looked around and wrote down observations, that this right hand moved then as it does today, when we may be wiser because we are able to look back upon our former condition, and for that very reason have got to admit the courage of our earlier striving in which we persisted in sheer ignorance.
It is so indisputable that these religious forms which have reached their final end have merely a historical character, even as they are practised today, that only a short time was needed this very morning to interest the people present in the obsolete custom of circumcision and its half-sung prayers by describing it to them as something out of history.
To run against the window, and, weak after exerting all one’s strength, to step over the window sill through the splintered wood and glass.
List of thing which today are easy to imagine as ancient: the crippled beggars on the way to promenades and picnic places, the unilluminated atmosphere at night, the crossed girders of the bridge.
27 December. An unfortunate man, one who is condemned to have no children, is terribly imprisoned in his misfortune. Nowhere a hope for revival, for help from luckier stars. He must live his life, afflicted by his misfortune, and when its circle is ended must resign himself to it and not start out again to see whether, on a longer path, under other circumstances of body and time, the misfortune which he has suffered could disappear or even produce something good.
—Franz Kafka from diaries 1910-1923, edited by Max Brod.
Good morning, captain 7:39 Slint Spiderland Alternative & Punk 100 5/29/06 5:35 AM