Are you dead?

‘Are you dead?’
‘Yes’, said the Hunter, ‘as you see. Many years ago, yes, it must be a great many years ago, I fell from a precipice in the Black forest — that is in Germany — when I was hunting a chamois. Since then I have been dead’.
‘But you are alive too’, said the Burgomaster.
‘In a certain sense’, said the Hunter, ‘in a certain sense I am alive too. My death ship lost its way; a wrong turn of the wheel, a moment’s absence of mind on the pilot’s part, the distraction of my lovely native country, I cannot tell what it was; I only know this, that I remained on earth and that ever since my ship has sailed earthly waters. So I, who asked for nothing better than to live among my mountains, travel after my death through all the lands of the earth.’
‘And you have no part in the other world?’ asked the Burgomaster, knitting his brow.
‘I am forever’, replied the Hunter, ‘on the great stair that leads up to it. On that infinitely wide and spacious stair I clamber about, sometimes up, sometimes down, sometimes on the right, sometimes on the left, always in motion. The Hunter has been turned into a butterfly. Don’t laugh.’

— Kafka, ‘The Hunter Gracchus’ (trans. W. and E. Muir)


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