In January 1922, as Kafka was embarking on the composition of The Castle, he arrived one snowy evening in the health resort of Spindelmühle in the Riesengebirge near the Polish border. At the Hotel Krone, where he was expected, he found he was listed in the hotel directory as ‘Dr Josef Kafka’.
– John Banville
I called for my horse to be brought from the stable. The servant did not understand me. I myself went into the stable, saddled my horse and mounted.
In the distance I heard a bugle call. I asked him what it meant but he did not know and had not heard it.
By the gate he stopped me and asked, ‘Where are you riding to sir?’ I answered, ‘away from here, away from here, always away from here. Only by doing so can I reach my destination’. ‘Then you know your destination’, he asked. ‘Yes’, I said, ‘I have already said so, “Away-From-Here”, that is my destination’.
‘You have no provisions with you’, he said. ‘I don’t need any’, I said. ‘The journey is so long that I will die of hunger if I do not get something along the way. It is, fortunately, a truly immense journey.’
– Kafka (exegesis)
Into the cage they put a young panther. Even the most insensitive felt it refreshing to see this wild creature leaping around the cage that had so long been dreary. The panther was all right. The food he liked was brought to him without hesitation by the attendants; he seemed not even to miss his freedom; his noble body, furnished almost to the bursting point with all that it needed, seemed to carry freedom around with it too; somewhere in his jaws it seemed to lurk; and the joy of life streamed with such ardent passion from his throat that for the onlookers it was not easy to stand the shock of it. But they braced themselves, crowded around the cage, and did not ever want to move away.
– Kafka, ‘The Hunger Artist’ (tr. W. and E. Muir)
What guarantee is there that the five senses, taken together, do cover the whole of possible experience? They cover simply our actual experience, our human knowledge of facts or events. There are gaps between the fingers; there are gaps between the senses. In these gaps is the darkness which hides the connection between things…. This darkness is the source of our vague fears and anxieties, but also the home of the gods. They alone see the connections, the total relevance of everything that happens; that which now comes to us in bits and pieces, the ‘accidents’ which exist only in our heads, in our limited perceptions.
– Idris Parry, Kafka, Rilke, and Rumpelstiltskin (via here)
Forget everything. Open the windows. Clear the room. The wind blows through it. You see only its emptiness, you search in every corner and don’t find yourself.
– Kafka, Diaries (tr. Greenberg)
23 September. This story, “The Judgment,” 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 was hardly able to pull my legs out from under the desk, they had got so stiff from sitting. The fearful strain and joy, how the story developed before me, as if I were advancing over water. Several times during this night I heaved my own weight on my back. How everything can be said, how for everything, for the strangest fancies, there waits a great fire in which they perish and rise up again. How it turned blue outside the window. A wagon rolled by. Two men walked across the bridge. At two I looked at the clock for the last time. As the maid walked through the anteroom for the first time I wrote the last sentence. Turning out the light and the light of day. The slight pains around my heart. The weariness that disappeared in the middle of the night. The trembling entrance into my sisters’ room. Reading aloud. Before that, stretching in the presence of the maid and saying, “I’ve been writing until now.” The appearance of the undisturbed bed, as though it had just been brought in. The conviction verified that with my novel-writing I am in the shameful lowlands of writing. Only in this way can writing be done, only with such coherence, with such a complete opening out of the body and the soul. Morning in bed. The always clear eyes.
– Kafka, Diaries (tr. Greenberg)
“Are you as lonely as that?” I asked.
“Like Kaspar Hauser?”
“Much worse than Kaspar Hauser. I’m as lonely as…..as Franz Kafka.”
– Gustav Janouch, Conversations with Kafka
An uncanny empathy broods above these zoomorphs, and invests them with more of their creator’s soul than all but a few human characters receive. So a child, cowed and bored by the world of human adults, makes companions of pets and toy animals.
– From John Updike’s introduction to Schocken Books’ Franz Kafka: The Complete Stories
Brod, who could lend a touch of kitsch to anything, described Kafka’s stay in Zürau as an ‘escape from the world into purity’. He also viewed it – he wrote to his friend – as a ‘successful and admirable enterprise’. It would be hard to find two adjectives that irritated Kafka more. He replied to Brod with a closely argued letter in which he explained that the only sensible solution he had ever reached in his life was ‘not suicide, but the thought of suicide’. If he didn’t go beyond the thought, it was due to a further reflection: ‘You who can’t manage to do anything, you want to do this?’ And here was his closest friend speaking to him of success, of admiration, of purity.
– Roberto Calasso, K. (tr. Brock)