The Icy Wisdom of Franz Kafka

Kafkaesque, no?

From the review of Kafka's office writings, an elegant collection of Kafka's aphorisms, in modern English translation: 

The crows maintain that a single crow could destroy heaven. This is beyond doubt, but doesn’t prove anything against heaven, since heaven means, precisely, the impossibility of crows.’

‘To believe in progress is not to believe that progress has already happened. That would not be a belief.’

‘There can be a knowledge of the devilish, but no belief in it, because there is nothing more devilish than what already exists.’

‘If it had been possible to build the Tower of Babel without climbing it, it would have been allowed.’

‘In the battle between yourself and the world, support the world.’

‘Goodness is in a certain sense comfortless.’

And speaking of Kafka, his worldview, and his life, here are his thoughts on marriage, from a diary entry from 12 July 1912:

Summary of all the arguments for and against my marriage:

1. Inability to endure life alone, which does not imply inability to live, quite the contrary, it is even improbable that I know how to live with anyone, but I am incapable, alone, of bearing the assault of my own life, the demands of my own person, the attacks of time and old age, the vague pressure of the desire to write, sleeplessness, the nearness of insanity—I cannot bear all this alone. I naturally add a “perhaps” to this. The connection with F. will give my existence more strength to resist.

2. Everything immediately gives me pause. Every joke in the comic paper, what I remember about Flaubert and Grillparzer, the sight of the nightshirts on my parents' beds, laid out for the night, Max’s marriage. Yesterday my sister said, “All the married people (that we know) are happy, I don't understand it,” this remark too gave me pause, I became afraid again.

3. I must be alone a great deal. What I accomplished was only the result of being alone.

4. I hate everything that does not relate to literature, conversations bore me (even if they relate to literature), to visit people bores me, the sorrows and joys of my relatives bore me to my soul. Conversations take the importance, the seriousness, the truth of everything I think.

5. The fear of the connection, of passing into the other. Then I'll never be alone again.

6. In the past, especially, the person I am in the company of my sisters has been entirely different from the person I am in the company of other people. Fearless, powerful, surprising, moved as I otherwise am only when I write. If through the intermediation of my wife I could be like that in the presence of everyone! But then would it not be at the expense of my writing? Not that, not that!

7. Alone, I could perhaps some day really give up my job. Married, it will never be possible.

Kafka never married.

[photo: staircase to the roof gallery of the Cathedral of Florence, November 2008]

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