25 May. Weak tempo, little blood.
Without weight, without bones, without body, walked through the streets for two hours considering what I overcame this afternoon while writing.
The invention of the devil. If we are possessed by the devil, it cannot be by one, for then we should live, at least here on earth, quietly, as with God, in unity, without contradiction, without reflection, always sure of the man behind us. His face would not frighten us, for as diabolical beings we would, if somewhat sensitive to the sight, be clever enough to prefer to sacrifice a hand in order to keep his face covered with it. If we were possessed by only a single devil, one who had a calm, untroubled view of our whole nature, and freedom to dispose of us at any moment, then that devil would also have enough power to hold us for the length of a human life high above the spirit of God in us, and even to swing us to and fro, so that we should never get to see a glimmer of it and therefore should not be troubled from that quarter. Only a crowd of devils could account for our earthly misfortunes. Why don’t they exterminate one another until a single one is left, or why don’t they subordinate themselves to one great devil? Either way would be in accord with the diabolical principle of deceiving us as completely as possible. With unity lacking, of what use is the scrupulous attention all the devils pay us? It simply goes without saying that the falling of human hair must matter more to the devil than to God, since the devil really loses that hair and God does not. But we still do not arrive at any state of well-being as long as the many devils are within us.
The way he can risk everything and risks nothing, because there is nothing but truth in him already, a truth that even in the face of the contradictory impressions of the moment will justify itself as such when the crucial time arrives. The calm self-possession. The slow pace that neglects nothing. The immediate readiness, when it is needed, not soon, for long in advance he sees everything that is coming.
This evening the whimpering of my poor mother because I don’t eat.
The picture of dissatisfaction presented by a street, where everyone is perpetually lifting his feet to escape from the place on which he stands.
Love between brother and sister — the repeating of the love between mother and father.
23 September. This story, ‘The Judgement’, I wrote at one sitting during the night of the 22nd-23rd, from ten o’clock at night to six o’clock in the morning.
I, only I, am the spectator in the orchestra.
Towards the end my hand was moving uncontrollably about and actually before my face. There were tears in my eyes. The indubitability of the story was confirmed — This evening tore myself away from my writing. Films in the National Theatre. Miss O., whom a clergyman once pursued. She came home soaked in cold sweat. Danzig. Life of Körner. The horses. The white horse. The smoke of powder. ‘Lützows wilde Jagd.’
11 February. While I read the proofs of ‘The Judgement’, I’ll write down all the relationships which have become clear to me in the story as far as I now remember them. This is necessary because the story came out of me like a real birth, covered with filth and slime, and only I have the hand that can reach to the body itself and the strength of desire to do so:…
3 May. The terrible uncertainty of my inner existence.
The tremendous world I have in my head. But how free myself and free it without being torn to pieces. And a thousand times rather be torn to pieces than retain it in me or bury it. That, indeed, is why I am here, that is quite clear to me.
1 July. The wish for an unthinking, reckless solitude. To be face to face only with myself.
2 July. Wept over the report of the trial of twenty-three-year-old Marie Abraham who, because of poverty and hunger, strangled her not quite nine-month-old child, Barbara, with a man’s tie that she used as a garter. Very routine story.
When I say something it immediately and finally loses its importance, when I write it down it loses it too, but sometimes gains a new one.
I cannot sleep. Only dreams, no sleep.
Special methods of thinking. Permeated with emotion. Everything feels itself to be a thought, even the vaguest feelings (Dostoyevsky).
This block and tackle of the inner being. A small lever is somewhere secretly released, one is hardly aware of it at first, and at once the whole apparatus is in motion. Subject to an incomprehensible power, as the watch seems subject to time, it creaks here and there, and all the chains clank down their prescribed path one after the other.
Miserable creature that I am!
Just whip the horse properly! Dig the spurs into him slowly, then pull them out with a jerk, but now let them bite into the flesh with all your strength.
What an extremity!
Were we crazy? We ran through the park at night swinging branches.
I sailed a boat into a small, natural bay.
Nothing, nothing, nothing. Weakness, self-destruction, tip of a flame of hell piercing the floor.
23 July. With Felix in Rostock. The bursting sexuality of the women. Their natural impurity. The flirtation, senseless for me, with little Lena. The sight of a stout woman hunched up in a basket chair, one foot curiously pushed backwards, who was sewing something and talking to an old woman, probably an old spinster, whose teeth appeared unusually large on one side of her mouth. The full-bloodedness and wisdom of the pregnant woman. Her behind almost faceted by evenly divided planes. The life on the small terrace. How I coldly took the little girl on my lap, not at all unhappy about the coolness.
How childishly a tinker, seen through the open door of his shop, sits at his work and keeps striking with his hammer.
Roskoff, History of the Devil: Among the present-day Caribs, ‘he who works at night’ is regarded as the creator of the world.
I’ll shut myself off from everyone to the point of insensibility. Make an enemy of everyone, speak to no one.
While my evening’s intercourse with W. was carried on in a language of knocks whose meaning we never definitely agreed upon. I knocked on the ceiling of my room below hers, received her answer, leaned out of the window, greeted her, once let myself be blessed by her, once snatched at a ribbon she let down, sat on the window sill for hours, heard every one of her steps above, mistakenly regarded every chance knock to be the sign of an understanding, heard her coughing, her singing before she fell asleep.
22 October. Too late. The sweetness of sorrow and of love. To be smiled at by her in the boat. That was the most beautiful of all. Always only the desire to die and the not-yet-yielding; this alone is love.
6 November. Whence the sudden confidence? If it would only remain! If I could go in and out of every door in this way, a passably erect person. Only I don’t know whether I want that.
Everything appears to me to be an artificial construction of the mind. Every mark by someone else, every chance look throws everything in me over on the other side, even what has been forgotten, even what is entirely insignificant.
These predictions, this imitating of models, this fear of something definite, is ridiculous. These are constructions that even in the imagination, where they are alone sovereign, only approach the living surface but then are always suddenly driven under. Who has the magic hand to thrust into the machinery without its being torn to pieces and scattered by a thousand knives?
I am on the hunt for constructions. I come into a room and find them whitely merging in a corner.
The child of the housekeeper who opened the gate. Bundled up in a woman’s old shawl, pale, numb, fleshy little face. At night is carried to the gate like that by the housekeeper.
E: Please step in here. Be careful not to stumble. Please walk ahead, there’s only my sister in the room.
To die would mean nothing else than to surrender a nothing to a nothing, but that would be impossible to conceive, for how could a person, even only as a nothing, consciously surrender himself to the nothing, and not merely to an empty nothing but rather to a roaring nothing whose nothingness consists only in its incomprehensibility.
What is disgusting, perhaps, is this puffing-themselves-up of the little fools in their great folly.
Wonderful, entirely self-contradictory idea that someone who died at 3 a.m., for instance, immediately thereafter, about dawn, enters into a higher life. What incompatibility there is between the visibly human and everything else! How out of one mystery there always comes a greater one! In the first moment the breath leaves the human calculator. Really one should be afraid to step out of one’s house.
The world is conquered and we have watched it with open eyes. We can therefore quietly turn away and live on.
10 December. Discoveries have forced themselves on people.
16 December. ‘The thundering scream of the seraphim’s delight.’
18 December. I am going to sleep, I am tired. Perhaps it has already been decided there. Many dreams about it.
The effect of a peaceful face, calm speech, especially when exercised by a strange person one hasn’t seen through yet. The voice of God out of a human mouth.
—Franz Kafka, from diaries 1910-1923, edited by Max Brod.