The Diaries of Franz Kafka (The Schocken Kafka Library)

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The Diaries of Franz Kafka (The Schocken Kafka Library)

The Diaries of Franz Kafka (The Schocken Kafka Library)

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Dating from 1909 to 1923, the handwritten diaries contain various kinds of writing: accounts of daily events, reflections, observations, literary sketches, drafts of letters, accounts of dreams, as well as finished stories. This volume makes available for the first time in English a comprehensive reconstruction of the diary entries and provides substantial new content, including details, names, literary works, and passages of a sexual nature that were omitted from previous publications. By faithfully reproducing the diaries’ distinctive—and often surprisingly unpolished—writing in Kafka’s notebooks, translator Ross Benjamin brings to light not only the author’s use of the diaries for literary experimentation and private self-expression, but also their value as a work of art in themselves. Ha llegado al punto culmine en el que la literatura lo define cabalmente: «Las diez, 15 de noviembre de 1910. No dejaré que me asalte el cansancio. Penetraré de un salto en mi narración, aunque me llene la cara de cortes». Kafka’s ultimate inability to take a decisive step on one of these two paths consigned him to painful self-division. By day an insurance official, by night an insomniac scribe of the liminal space between waking and dreaming, he denied his capacity to negotiate the conflict between his breadwinning job and his literary calling. He dramatised this dilemma in a letter of apology to his boss, written in his diary on 19 February 1911, for his absence from work that day: When I tried to get out of bed today I simply collapsed. There’s a very simple reason for it, I am completely overworked. Not by the office but by my other work. The office plays an innocent part in it only insofar as, if I didn’t have to go there, I could live in peace for my work and wouldn’t have to spend those 6 hours a day there, which have so tormented me that you cannot imagine it, especially on Friday and Saturday, because I was full of my concerns. In the end as I am well aware this is only chatter, it’s my fault and the office has the clearest and most justified claims on me. But for me it is a horrible double life from which insanity is probably the only way out. Throughout his adult life, Kafka equated being a bachelor with being condemned to stagnation. At the age of 28, he wrote in his diary: An unhappy person who is to have no child is terribly confined in his unhappiness. Nowhere a hope for renewal, for help from happier stars. He must make his way afflicted with unhappiness when his circle is finished, content himself and no longer take up the thread to test whether on a longer path, under different circumstances of body and time, this unhappiness he has suffered could disappear or even bring forth something good

But Kafka’s diaries also reveal a growing fascination with Jewish culture in young adulthood, particularly around a traveling Yiddish theater troupe from Poland whom he saw perform nearly two dozen times. He developed a close relationship with the company’s lead actor, Jizchak Löwy, and would host recitation events where he’d give Löwy the opportunity to perform stories of Jewish life in Warsaw. In a dream I asked the dancer Eduardova to dance the czardas one more time. She had a broad streak of shadow or light in the middle of her face between the lower edge of her forehead and the center of her chin. Just then came someone with the disgusting movements of an unconscious intriguer to tell her the train was about to depart. The way she listened to the message made it terribly clear to me that she would no longer dance. “I’m a bad awful woman am I not?” she said. Oh no I said not that and turned in no particular direction to leave. Apart from raw authenticity, ( ofcourse this was his diary) a candid account of his day-to-day life, including the monotonous details, mundane chores, and his innermost struggles. Some of it I tried to skip to be honest. But some of it was so intense. Kafka’s diaries reveal how relentlessly he exploited the creative possibilities of his anxieties, doubts and self-torments. In these notebooks, Kafka was all over the place, recording daily experiences and observations, describing dreams, composing autobiographical recollections, jotting stray thoughts and impressions, excerpting reading material, outlining planned works, drafting fiction, letters, essays and aphorisms. His incessant reworking of texts in successive iterations, his false starts and stabs in the dark, his misspellings, slips of the pen, sparse and unorthodox punctuation, occasionally muddled syntax, and other stylistic quirks and infelicities – all these are direct traces of the haste, spontaneity and restless experimentation with which he wrote in his diaries. A fresh, unadulterated translation of Kafka’s notebooks, dense with introspection and writerly despair.Es importante la cantidad de escritores que nos han legado sus diarios: Thomas Mann, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (el preferido de Kafka), Witold Gombrowicz, Elías Canetti, John Cheever, Alejandra Pizarnik, Ana Frank… en fin, la lista es extensa. Although versions of Kafka’s diaries had previously been published thanks to the efforts of his Jewish friend and literary executor Max Brod (with translation assistance from Hannah Arendt), they had been heavily doctored with many passages expunged, including some of what Kafka had written about his own understanding of Judaism. A German-language edition of the unabridged diaries was published in 1990. Con el correr de la lectura de sus Diarios vamos encontrando los lazos definitivos en este matrimonio que Kafka ha hecho con la literatura inmortalizando el 21 de agosto de 1913 una de sus más icónicas frases: «Mi empleo me resulta insoportable porque contradice mi único anhelo y mi única vocación, que es la literatura. Dado que no soy nada más que literatura y no puedo ni quiero ser otra cosa» y lo reafirma rotundamente: «Todo lo que no es literatura me aburre y lo odio, pues me molesta o me estorba, aunque solo sea en mi imaginación… Un matrimonio no podría cambiarme, de igual forma que mi empleo no puede cambiarme.»

A lush exploration of politics, roses, and pleasure, and a fresh take on George Orwell as an avid gardener whose political writing was grounded by his passion for the natural worldThe beautiful strong separations in Judaism,” he praises at one point, in a disjointed style that is a hallmark of his diaries. “One gets space. One sees oneself better, one judges oneself better.” Luego de la ruptura final con Felice en ese año y el hecho de saber que ya tiene tuberculosis hacen que sus anotaciones disminuyan notablemente, siendo el año 1918 del que menos podemos leer. Mismo caso para el año 1919, año en el solo escribió una hoja. Kafka desiste de tomarse el tiempo de sentarse a escribir para ocuparse de su decreciente salud y sus curas en sanatorios naturistas o de descanso. Las pocas entradas de esta época tienen un marcado tono lúgubre y depresivo. The versatility with which Kafka adapted this image to ever-new forms and functions is epitomised by a letter to Milena Jesenská in September 1920: ‘Love is that you are the knife with which I dig inside myself.’ To trace Kafka’s reimaginings of such a motif – one that kept resurfacing in different contexts, migrating through his notebooks, letters and fiction – is to witness how his ongoing effort to depict what he called his ‘dreamlike inner life’ traversed distinctions between modes of writing. For Kafka, it seems, the act of putting pen to paper was always, at least potentially, an occasion to further elaborate his literary idiom. Are the woods still there? The woods were still more or less there. But scarcely had my gaze gone ten paces when I gave up ensnared again by the boring conversation.

We cannot understand these entries without context, much of it helpfully supplied by the new translation’s copious endnotes, but, by the same token, we cannot understand Kafka’s context without consulting his diaries. No one could guess at the circumstances of his engagement on the basis of his notebooks alone, but no one could have any idea how unendurable he found an ostensible celebration if he had not, in writing, likened it to a prison. For Kafka, the relationship between word and world was symbiotic: literature was an appendage to life, but life was flat and senseless without the embellishments of literature. Averse to all non-literary pursuits because his ‘powers in their entirety were so slight that only gathered could they halfway serve the purpose of writing,’ Kafka presented his predicament in terms of the need to allocate his scarce, easily depleted reserves of mental and physical energy. In a diary entry in November 1911, he imagined his vitality being spread too thin through his long, frail body: There’s no doubt that a main obstacle to my progress is my physical condition. With such a body nothing can be achieved. I will have to get used to its perpetual failure. From the last few wildly dreamed-through but barely even snatchily slept-through nights I was so incoherent this morning, felt nothing but my forehead, saw a halfway bearable condition only far beyond the present one and in sheer readiness for death at one point would have liked to curl up with the documents in my hand on the cement tiles of the corridor. My body is too long for its weakness, it has not the least fat to generate a blessed warmth, to preserve inner fire, no fat on which the spirit might at some point nourish itself beyond its daily need without damage to the whole. How is the weak heart, which recently has often stabbed me, supposed to push the blood down the whole length of these legs. To the knee would be enough work, but then it is washed with only decrepit strength into the cold lower legs. But now it is already needed again up above, one waits for it while it dissipates down below. Due to the length of the body everything is pulled apart. What can it accomplish then, when perhaps even if it were compressed, it wouldn’t have enough strength for what I want to achieve. Selected Published Works: The Metamorphosis (Die Verwandlung, 1915), "A Hunger Artist" ("Ein Hungerkünstler," 1922), The Trial ( Der Prozess, 1925), Amerika, or The Man who Disappeared (Amerika, or Der Verschollene, 1927), The Castle (Das Schloss, 1926) His thoughts reveals how much he suffered, depression is not mere a term but a darkness that slowly consumes you. But Kafka notes it down, penned it into something that spreads beautiful colours of someone's in-depth thoughts on everyday life.En el año 1936, un escritor plantó unas rosas». Así comienza el nuevo libro de Rebecca Solnit, una reflexión sobre un jardinero apasionado que fue, además, la voz más importante del siglo XX frente a la mentira y el George Orwell. A partir de su inesperado encuentro con aquellas rosas que Orwell cultivó hace más de ochenta años y que siguen hoy rebosantes de vida en su jardín, la autora indaga en ese aspecto más desconocido de la vida del escritor para descubrir en qué medida su devoción por las flores puede iluminar sus compromisos éticos y estéticos como escritor y como luchador antifascista. His seriousness is killing me. His head in his collar, his hair arranged immovably around his skull, the muscles at the bottom of his cheeks tensed in place With this new rendition of Kafka’s diaries, Benjamin escorts us inside the burrow, showing us the artist at work. At once disturbing and humanizing, these unexpurgated notebooks remind us that the achievements of this singular writer were unlikely, precarious, and paid for with great pain.” Los distintos vaivenes de su condición física, su creciente hipocondría y sus constantes achaques, las enfermedades (especialmente después de que se le diagnostica la tuberculosis en 1917) también son volcados en los Diarios.

The diaries are filled with images of motion and standstill, from the very first entry: ‘The spectators stiffen when the train passes.’ The coupling of the train’s onrush with the spectators’ rigidity is reminiscent of the ancient Greek philosopher Zeno of Elea’s paradoxes, which Kafka invoked in an entry in December 1910: ‘Zeno answered an urgent question as to whether nothing ever rests: Yes the flying arrow rests’. As it whizzes through the air, Zeno argued, the arrow is every instant at rest in whatever position it occupies, leading him to conclude that movement and change are illusory, impossible. In early 1922, the year Kafka began writing The Castle, he wrote in his diary: [M]y life until now has been a marching in place, a development at most in the sense a tooth becoming hollow and decaying undergoes one. The way I led my life never proved its worth in the slightest. It was as if I like every other person had been given the center of a circle, as if I then like every other person had to follow the decisive radius and then draw the beautiful circle. Instead I have perpetually started the radius, but again and again had to break it off immediately (examples: piano, violin, languages, German studies, anti-Zionism, Zionism, Hebrew, gardening, carpentry, literature, marriage attempts, an apartment of my own) The center of the imaginary circle bristles with beginnings of radii, there is no more space for a new attempt, no space means age, weakness of nerves, and no further attempt means the end. If I have ever brought the radius a little bit farther than usual, perhaps in the case of my law studies or engagements, everything was simply worse by this little bit, instead of better. After all, Kafka’s parents hailed from small towns in the countryside and attained bourgeois respectability and mainstream acceptance only when they opened a fancy-goods store in the heart of the city. No wonder they were so flummoxed by their obstinately impractical son, who refused to take an interest in the business. As he wrote in that intercepted letter to Felice’s father, “I live within my family, among the kindest, most affectionate people—and am more strange than a stranger.” Known For: Literary depictions of the alienation of the modern individual, particularly through governmental bureaucracyThe broad strokes of Kafka’s biography have long been known to historians, but a new English translation of the Czech author’s complete and unabridged diaries gives readers the fullest possible picture of his complex, contradictory relationship with Judaism. For an author most famous for his depictions of loneliness, alienation and unyielding bureaucracy, Kafka often saw in Judaism an opportunity to forge a shared community. Despite first language, Kafka also spoke fluent Czech. Later, Kafka acquired some knowledge of the French language and culture from Flaubert, one of his favorite authors.

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