Posted by: Dr Churchill | May 31, 2021

Letters from a doll traveling to the edges of our world…

Back in 1903 — the fantastic metaphysical poet of Alienation and the best German language writer Franz Kafka — was fast becoming a middle aged young man.

Having found himself in the dark wood of the Soul, at forty years of life — Franz was singularly alone.

Having been born in 1883 he felt utterly alone mainly because he was faint in his relationships and therefore had never married and had no children — he found himself easily attached and befriending the people all around him.

His favorite activity was to walk through the parks of Prague or the great Prussian city of Germany — Berlin, where he frequently sojourned…

It was on one of his walks through the largest park the Tiergarten, where he met a little girl that was crying buckets of tears, because she had lost her favorite doll.

Naturally he sympathized, joined her and proceeded to search for her doll all around the vast park’s woods, greens and expansive shrubbery.

However, regardless of their tireless efforts — the search for the doll was unsuccessful.

Yet at the end of the search — Franz Kafka told the little girl and her Mother, to meet him there the next day because he would come back to look for her doll.

The next day, Franz met again with the girl and her attendant, and searched for the lost doll.

When the daylight run out and they had not yet found the doll — Kafka gave the girl a letter “written” by the doll saying:

“Please don’t cry, because I took a trip to see the world.”

The letter went on to say:

“Indeed, I will write to you about my adventures.”

Thus began an adventure story which continued until the end of Kafka’s life…

Yet, during their frequent meetings at the Berlin garden park — Kafka read the “letters of the doll” slowly, deliberately and carefully to the little girl, so that she came to believe that her doll actually travelled the world.

They were all well written letters, reminiscent of great adventures, sightings and conversations, the world over.

All of these were stories which the little girl found adorable.

Finally, in another instant when he returned to Berlin from Prague, and met up with the girl again — Kafka brought back a doll.

The girl accepted the gift, looked carefully at the doll and said:

“It doesn’t look at all like my doll.”

Kafka handed her another letter in which the doll wrote:

“My travels have changed me.”

Immediately the little girl hugged the new doll, became happy again and brought her home.

A year later on the 3rd of June of the year 1924 — Franz Kafka died from Tuberculosis and a broken heart.

Many years later, the now-adult girl, removed her doll’s stuffing to wash her, and found inside a letter hidden by Franz inside the stuffing of the doll, patiently waiting to be discovered…

Indeed, there it was: A beautiful tiny letter written and signed by Kafka, which spoke to the girl’s heart and made her cry at the memory of the Great Friend she had when she was nothing but a little girl.

Franz had written this letter to her:

“Everything you love will probably be lost, but in the end, love will return in another way.”

Adieu.

Yours,

Dr Churchill

PS:

Today, Franz Kafka is accepted as the greatest German-language writer of visionary fiction in history.

His most important works include several multivolume books and especially the novel Der Prozess (1925; The Trial) and the story Die Verwandlung (1915; The Metamorphosis), prophetically express the anxieties, the alienation and the looming despair felt by many intellectuals and intelligent European citizens in the early part of the 20th-century, because they sensed, felt and suffered the whirlwinds of the most destructive ideology in History and the world wide conflict that it spawned.

Franz Kafka died in Kierling, near Vienna, Austria in early June of 1924, just days before the rise of Nazism in Germany and yet his grave in the Jewish cemetery of Prague, remnant of Bohemian era of the Austro-Hungarian empire, that was then CzechoSlovakia and what is now the Czech Republic — was destroyed after the Nazis overrun the country in and what remains of his bones have now ben ostensibly re-interned in the same spot under the family’s gravestone marker in the Jewish cemetery of Prague…

Ahhh… the stupid Nazis, they don’t even let the bones stay quiet.

PPS:

Works of Franz Kafka

Sought out by leading avant-garde publishers, Kafka reluctantly published a few of his writings during his lifetime. These publications include two sections (1909) from Beschreibung eines Kampfes (1936; Description of a Struggle) and Betrachtung (1913; Meditation), a collection of short prose pieces. They also include other works representative of Kafka’s maturity as an artist: The Judgment, written in 1912 and published a year later; two other long stories, The Metamorphosis (published in 1915) and In der Strafkolonie (1919; In the Penal Colony); and a collection of short prose, Ein Landarzt (1919; A Country Doctor). Ein Hungerkünstler (1924; A Hunger Artist), four stories exhibiting the concision and lucidity characteristic of Kafka’s late style, had been prepared by the author but did not appear until after his death.

Franz Kafka
Franz Kafka Franz Kafka, c. 1910.Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In fact, misgivings about his work caused Kafka before his death to request that all of his unpublished manuscripts be destroyed; Brod, as his literary executor, disregarded his instructions and published the novels The TrialThe Castle, and Amerika in 1925, 1926, and 1927, respectively, and a collection of shorter pieces, Beim Bau der chinesischen Mauer(The Great Wall of China), in 1931. Such early works by Kafka as Description of a Struggle (begun about 1904) and Meditation, though their style is more concretely imaged and their structure more incoherent than that of the later works, are already original in a characteristic way. The characters in these works fail to establish communication with others, they follow a hidden logic that flouts normal everyday logic, and their world erupts in grotesque incidents and violence. Each character is only an anguished voice, vainly questing for information and understanding of the world and for a way to believe in his own identity and purpose. Many of Kafka’s fables contain an inscrutable, baffling mixture of the normal and the fantastic, though occasionally the strangeness may be understood as the outcome of a literary or verbal device, as when the delusions of a pathological state are given the status of reality or when the metaphor of a common figure of speech is taken literally. Thus, in The Judgment a son unquestioningly commits suicide at the behest of his aged father. In The Metamorphosisthe son, Gregor Samsa, wakes up to find himself transformed into a monstrous and repulsive insect; he slowly dies, not only because of his family’s shame and its neglect of him but because of his own guilty despair.

Many of the motifs in the short fables recur in the novels. In the unfinished Amerika, for example, the boy Karl Rossmann has been sent by his family to America. There he seeks shelter with a number of father figures. His innocence and simplicity are everywhere exploited, and a last chapter describes his admission to a dreamworld, the “nature-theatre of Oklahoma”; Kafka made a note that Rossmann was ultimately to perish. In The TrialJoseph K., an able and conscientiousbank official and a bachelor, is awakened by bailiffs, who arrest him. The investigation in the magistrate’s court turns into a squalid farce, the charge against him is never defined, and from this point the courts take no further initiative. But Joseph K. consumes himself in a search for inaccessible courts and for an acquittal from his unknown offense. He appeals to intermediaries whose advice and explanations produce new bewilderment; he adopts absurd stratagems; squalor, darkness, and lewdness attend his search. Resting in a cathedral, he is told by a priest that his protestations of innocence are themselves a sign of guilt and that the justice he is forced to seek must forever be barred to him. A last chapter describes his execution as, still looking around desperately for help, he protests to the last. This is Kafka’s blackest work: evil is everywhere, acquittal or redemption is inaccessible, and frenzied effort only indicates an individual’s real impotence.

In The Castle, one of Kafka’s last works and also unfinished, the setting is a village dominated by a castle. Time seems to have stopped in this wintry landscape, and nearly all the scenes occur in the dark. K. arrives at the village claiming to be a land surveyor appointed by the castle authorities. His claim is rejected by the village officials, and the novel recounts K.’s efforts to gain recognition from an authority that is as elusive as Joseph K.’s courts. But K. is not a victim: he is an aggressor, challenging both the petty, arrogant officials and the villagers who accept their authority. All of his stratagems fail. Like Joseph K., he makes love to a servant, the barmaid Frieda, but she leaves him when she discovers that he is simply using her. Brod observes that Kafka intended that K. should die exhausted by his efforts but that on his deathbed he was to receive a permit to stay. There are new elements in this novel. It is tragic, not desolate. While the majority of Kafka’s characters are mere functions, Frieda is a resolute person, calm and matter-of-fact. K. gains through her personality some insight into a possible solution of his quest, and, when he speaks of her with affection, he seems himself to be breaking through his sense of isolation.

Kafka’s stories and novels have provoked a wealth of interpretations. Brod and Kafka’s first English translators, Edwin Muir and his wife, Willa, viewed the novels as allegories of divine grace. Existentialists have seen Kafka’s environment of guilt and despair as the ground upon which to construct an authentic existence. Some have seen his neurotic involvement with his father as the heart of his work. Others have emphasized the social criticism, the inhumanity of the powerful and their agents, the violence and barbarity that lurk beneath normal routine. Some have found an imaginative anticipation of totalitarianism in the random and faceless bureaucratic terror of The Trial. The Surrealists delighted in the persistent intrusions of the absurd. There is evidence in both the works and the diaries for each of these interpretations, but Kafka’s work as a whole transcends them all. One critic may have put it most accurately when he wrote of the works as “open parables” whose final meanings can never be rounded off.

But Kafka’s oeuvre is also limited. Each of his works bears the marks of a man suffering in spirit and body, searching desperately, but always inwardly, for meaning, security, self-worth, and a sense of purpose. Kafka himself looked upon his writing and the creative act it signified as a means of “redemption,” as a “form of prayer” through which he might be reconciled to the world or might transcend his negative experience of it. The lucidly described but inexplicable darkness of his works reveal Kafka’s own frustrated personal struggles, but through his powerless characters and the strange incidents that befall them the author achieved a compelling symbolism that more broadly signifies the anxiety and alienation of the 20th-century world itself.

At the time of his death, Kafka was appreciated only by a small literary coterie. His name and work would not have survived if Brod had honoured Kafka’s testament—two notes requiring his friend to destroy all unpublished manuscripts and to refrain from republishing the works that had already appeared in print. Brod took the opposite course, and thus the name and work of Kafka gained worldwide posthumous fame. This development took place first in France and the English-speaking countries during the regime of Adolf Hitler, at the very time when Kafka’s three sisters were deported and killed in concentration camps. After 1945 Kafka was rediscovered in Germany and Austria and began to greatly influence German literature.

By the 1960s this influence became global and extended even to the intellectual, literary, and political life of Kafka’s place of birth, in what had become communist Czechoslovakia.


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