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

Before I started to write I had quite a clear idea of who he or I was. If I’d written that down it might have been ten pages.


So what was I doing here?

I sat down by the brick fireplace outside the cottage and lit a cigarette. It might have been eleven or maybe half past eleven. The mountainside looked as it must have done when my grandmother worked here in the thirties and forties. Well, everything looked more or less how it must have looked back then. But still, everything was different. It was August 1988, I was a product of the eighties, contemporary with Duran Duran and The Cure, not with the violin and accordion music that my grandfather had heard that time when he and his friend lumbered up here to woo my grandmother and her sister in the twilight. I didn’t belong here, I felt it in my whole body. It didn’t help that I knew that the forest was actually a forest of the eighties and that the mountains were actually mountains of the eighties.

So what was I doing here?

I wanted to write. But I couldn’t, because I was alone, alone to the depths of my soul.

– Knausgaard, My Struggle, Vol. 5 (my. tr.)

I cannot recall ever having felt the urge to write. My stock of urges has always been awfully small—eating, trying to sleep, and walking as far away as possible from everything are the big three. I’m not what you would call a writerish type. Writing is something I have done to make big bad time go away when there is too much of it coming down upon me at once, as there often is in warmer weathers.

Gary Lutz

On all sides I behold nothing but infinity

I see the terrifying immensity of the universe which surrounds me, and find myself limited to one corner of this vast expanse, without knowing why I am set down here rather than elsewhere, nor why the brief period appointed for my life is assigned to me at this moment rather than another in all the eternity that has gone before and will come after me. On all sides I behold nothing but infinity, in which I am a mere atom, a mere passing shadow that returns no more. All I know is that I must soon die, but what I understand least of all is this very death which I cannot escape.

As I know not whence I come, so I know not whither I go. I only know that on leaving this world I fall for ever into nothingness or into the hands of a wrathful God, without knowing to which of these two states I shall be everlastingly consigned. Such is my condition, full of weakness and uncertainty.

—    Blaise Pascal, Pensées (via here)

Always this double movement, at once too far inside and too far outside. But inside and outside what? As if one’s eyeballs turned inwards and outwards at the same time.

– Frenet

A waking, or half-awake dream. I lived in a room occupied by a man who had just died. I had the strength to look in the mirror. No, hardly strength. Did it crowd me or make room for me, the mirror? I made a hole in the door with a table leg through which they deigned to feed me. I had the cunning to grab their hands, to force them to touch my belly, my sex. Sometimes they enjoyed it. Sometimes I did. By listening I learned their methods and found my own. I learned to murmur back. I pressed my face against the mirror: my cheek, the back of my head, my hands.

– Frenet