Monthly Archives: April 2010

The least kindred spirit

All this time I was looking for the one, I tell X, the one I’d have a connection with, the one I’d really connect with for once. My kindred spirit, I say, that’s what I was looking for. Male or female, it didn’t matter, because once I found him or her that would be it, we would know each other instantly, like the halves of Aristophanes’ circles, like reunited twins who’ve felt the same strange absence all their lives. Little did I know it would be you, I say, the least kindred spirit.


The weight of my past

The weight of my past, I tell X. Can’t you feel it? There’s nothing but regrets. And yet what is it, my past? I ask him. Nothing but what is undone by my regrets. It’s weightless, but it weighs on me, with a weightless weight.

If only I could retrace my steps

This is it, I tell X, I’m done talking to you. I’ve said all I have to say, all that has to be said, and if I haven’t someone else probably has. If only I could go back to wherever I was before, I say. If only I could retrace my steps!

What idiotic complaints!

What idiotic complaints! And yet I know perfectly well that it has to pass and that I shan’t perish in the process. How does God put up with these complaints? Why doesn’t he strike me down? But in fact — and this again is the complainer talking — he does strike me down.

– Kafka, letter to Felice (tr. J. Stern and E. Duckworth)

If only I could destroy the pages I have written

Tired, you are sure to be tired, my Felice, when you pick up this letter, and I must make an effort to write clearly to spare your sleepy eyes. Wouldn’t you rather leave the letter unread for the moment, lie back, and go on sleeping for a few more hours after this week of noise and rush? The letter won’t fly away, but will be quite happy to wait on your bedcover until you wake up.

I can’t tell you exactly what time it is while I am writing this letter, because my watch is on a chair not far away and I don’t dare get up and look; it must be nearly morning. But I didn’t get to my desk until after midnight. In the spring and summer – I don’t yet know from experience, for my nightly vigils are of recent date – one will not be able to stay awake undisturbed through three hours, for dawn will come on and drive one to bed, but now in these long, unchanging nights the world forgets about one, even if one doesn’t forget about it.

My work moreover has been so bad that I don’t deserve any sleep, and should be condemned to spend the rest of the night looking out of the window. Can you understand this, dearest: to write badly, yet feel compelled to write, or abandon oneself to total despair! To have to atone for the joys of good writing in this terrible way! In fact, not to be really unhappy, not to be pierced by a fresh stab of unhappiness, but to see the pages being covered endlessly with things one hates, that fill one with loathing, or at any rate with dull indifference, that nevertheless have to be written down in order that one shall live. Disgusting! If only I could destroy the pages I have written in the last four days, as though they had never been.

But what sort of good-morning is this? Is this the way to welcome one’s beloved on a beautiful Sunday morning? Well, one welcomes her the way one can, you wouldn’t want it otherwise. If sleep has not been completely driven out by my complaints and you can find some more, then I’m satisfied. And, as my farewell, I add that everything is definitely, quite definitely going to be better, and you need not worry. Surely I can’t be utterly thrown out of my writing after having thought more than once that I was sitting in its centre, settled in its comforting warmth.

– Kafka, letter to Felice (tr. J. Stern and E. Duckworth)

Talking again

I tell X that last night I was made to see as clearly as a child being taught a lesson that something’s gone wrong. But now I’ve forgotten the lesson and I’m back talking again, I say. I fell asleep and started dreaming and my dreams came between me and the lesson, and my dreams themselves were wrong. And now I’m back in the day, trying to remember what went wrong.

What’s going wrong?

I tell X that something happened around the time I started talking to him. That much I know, I say. Something went wrong. That much I’ve established. But what?