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)

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