Monthly Archives: July 2010

Kafka quotes 2

From the Diary:

Since people lack a sense of context, their literary activities are out of context too.

The metaphysical urge is only the urge toward death.

Discoveries have forced themselves on people.

Uncertainty, aridity, peace – all things will resolve themselves into these and pass away.

What an effort to keep alive! Erecting a monument does not require the expenditure of so much strength.

The life of society moves in a circle. Only those burdened with a common affliction understand each other.

We are permitted to crack that whip, the will, over us with our own hand.

Beyond a certain point there is no return. This point has to be reached.

There is a goal, but no way; but what we call a way is hesitation.

Knowledge of oneself is something only Evil has.

We were expelled from Paradise, but Paradise was not destroyed. In a sense our expulsion from Paradise was a stroke of luck, for had we not been expelled, Paradise would have had to be destroyed.

Religions get lost as people do.

From ‘He’:

Some deny the existence of misery by pointing to the sun; he denies the existence of the sun by pointing to misery.

He has found Archimedes’ fulcrum, but he has turned it to account against himself, clearly he was permitted to find it only on this condition.

From letters:

God doesn’t want me to write, but I – I must.
– To Oskar Pollak

I usually solve problems by letting them devour me.
– To Max Brod

I am away from home and must always write home, even if any home of mine has long since floated away into eternity.
– To Max Brod

Silence, I believe, avoids me, as water on the beach avoids stranded fish.
– To Felice Bauer

I write differently from what I speak, I speak differently from what I think, I think differently from the way I ought to think, and so it all proceeds into deepest darkness.
– To Ottla (sister)

Man is an immense swamp. If he is seized with enthusiasm, the effect in the general picture is as though somewhere in a corner of this swamp a little frog had flopped into the green water.

Quotes from friends:

The look in Kafka’s eyes was always a little puzzled, full of the wisdom of children and of melancholy slightly counterpointed by an enigmatic smile. He always seemed to be somewhat embarrassed.
– John Urzidil, The Kafka Problem

The fact is we all seem capable of living, because at some time or other we have taken refuge in a lie, in blindness, in enthusiasm, in optimism, in some conviction, in pessimism or something of the sort. He has never taken refuge in anything. He is absolutely incapable of lying, just as he is incapable of getting drunk.
– Milena Jesenská

He marvels at everything, including typewriters and women. He will never understand.
–Milena Jesenská



‘Unreal, unreal. Wasn’t that the truth, that I was unreal, that the world was unreal to me, as unreal as to a foetus in the womb? Unreal, unreal. Wasn’t that my secret, wasn’t that what had made the world meaningless and frightening, in the beginning? A pane of glass in front of things, mist hanging over things, mist in the head. Unreal, unreal.’


‘Some days there seemed no choice, no other way of hiding. I had to get drunk, drunk to the point of oblivion, get drunk and pass out, hide in drunkenness and sleep. I’d get up, start drinking, eat, and go to bed. I’d get up, drink more, eat more, and go to bed. They were strange dissolute days, coloured by bad dreams, those dreamlike days I could never quite escape from. Someone came to visit and I was drunk and tried not to show it. He looked at me and his look decided something about me I could barely sense in myself. Later I walked around the streets looking in at the tidy flats and felt like a bum. Exposed.’

Bad dreams

‘Then I started having bad dreams in which I was treated unfairly. Dreams in which people saw through me and stole from me and I couldn’t take charge. Old friends returned as enemies. Women gave themselves to rivals. Parties turned into trials. They were nothing new, these dreams, just more frequent and more insistent. I’d wake up scowling and have to spend time trying to think things out, time I should have spent working. It was as if the old troubles the pills had pushed under the surface (I’d felt them stirring under the surface all along) were returning by way of my dreams, in the classic way.’

Waiting for the Miracle

I don’t believe you’d like it,
You wouldn’t like it here.
There ain’t no entertainment
and the judgements are severe.
The Maestro says it’s Mozart
but it sounds like bubble gum
when you’re waiting
for the miracle, for the miracle to come.

Waiting for the miracle
There’s nothing left to do.
I haven’t been this happy
since the end of World War II.

Nothing left to do
when you know that you’ve been taken.
Nothing left to do
when you’re begging for a crumb
Nothing left to do
when you’ve got to go on waiting
waiting for the miracle to come.
When you’ve fallen on the highway
and you’re lying in the rain,
and they ask you how you’re doing
of course you’ll say you can’t complain —
If you’re squeezed for information,
that’s when you’ve got to play it dumb:
You just say you’re out there waiting
for the miracle, for the miracle to come.

— Leonard Cohen, from ‘Waiting for the Miracle’

Just about

‘I was just about able to go on. What did this “just about” amount to? An infinity, far beyond my comprehension, like a child’s first word.’

Despite myself

‘I appeared: where did I appear? In my refusal to appear. I lived: how did I live? In my inability to live, but also in my expression of my inability to live. I lived despite myself, in a kind of doubling. I’d both lost and gained, I was neither here nor there. I lived on without myself, laughing. But with whose laughter?’