Diaries of franz kafka, p.1
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Diaries of Franz Kafka

  Copyright 1948, 1949 by Schocken Books Inc.

  Copyright renewed 1975, 1976 by Schocken Books, Inc.

  All rights reserved under International and Pan-American

  Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States by Schocken Books Inc., New York. Distributed by Pantheon Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

  This translation of Tagebücher von Kafka was originally published in the United States in two separate volumes by Schocken Books Inc. in 1948 and 1949. This one-volume edition first published in Great Britain by Peregrine Books, an imprint of Penguin Books Ltd., London, in 1964.

  The Diaries of Franz Kafka 1910–13 translated from the German by Joseph Kresh

  The Diaries of Franz Kafka 1914–23 translated from the German by Martin Greenberg with the cooperation of Hannah Arendt

  eISBN: 978-0-307-49485-6

  Jacket design by Peter Mendelsund



  Only longer compositions, or those of a

  finished nature, are listed here.


  Title Page


  DIARIES 1910

  The Dancer Eduardova

  ‘My education has done me great harm …’

  ‘ “You,” I said, and gave him a little shove with my knee’

  ‘I have now examined my desk more closely …’

  DIARIES 1911

  The Urban World

  My visit to Dr Steiner

  The Four Friends

  The Yiddish Theatre Troupe

  ‘I walked through a long row of houses …’ – a dream

  ‘I dreamed today of a donkey.…’

  ‘Everything theatre’ – a dream

  ‘It seems so dreadful to be a bachelor …’

  ‘In the theatre’ – a dream

  ‘The education of girls …’

  ‘The unhappiness of the bachelor …’

  ‘If one patiently submits to a book of letters or memoirs …’

  The Literature of Small Peoples

  ‘I was unusually badly dressed …’

  DIARIES 1912

  The Sudden Walk


  ‘I opened the front door …’

  A Perfect Fool

  ‘He seduced a girl …’

  ‘I was riding with my father …’ – a dream

  The Invention of the Devil

  New York Harbour – a dream

  Gustav Blenkelt

  DIARIES 1913

  Comments on ‘The Judgement’

  Ernst Liman

  ‘Who am I, then?’

  Wilhelm Menz, a Book-keeper

  ‘On a rising way …’ – a dream

  In the Sanatorium – a dream

  The Merchant Messner

  DIARIES 1914

  Joseph the Coachman

  The White Horse

  The Landlady

  My Neighbour

  I make Plans

  Bruder, a City Official

  Temptation in the Village

  The Life of a Society

  The Angel

  The Thief

  Bauz the Director

  Memoirs of the Kalda Railway

  DIARIES 1915

  The Sword

  DIARIES 1916

  Hans and Amalia

  A Singular Judicial Procedure

  DIARIES 1917

  Fragment of ‘The Hunter Gracchus’

  Seeking Advice

  Fragments of ‘In the Penal Colony’

  DIARIES 1919

  DIARIES 1920

  DIARIES 1921

  DIARIES 1922

  DIARIES 1923


  Trip to Friedland and Reichenberg, 1911

  Trip to Switzerland, Italy, Paris, and Erlenbach, 1911

  The Tricycle and the Motor-car

  Trip to Weimar and Jungborn, 1912



  CHRONOLOGY 1883–1924


  About the Author

  Manuscript of the first page of the Diaries.

  DIARIES 1910

  The onlookers go rigid when the train goes past.

  ‘If he should forever ahsk me.’ The ah, released from the sentence, flew off like a ball on the meadow.

  His gravity is the death of me. His head in its collar, his hair arranged immovably on his skull, the muscles of his jowels below, tensed in their places –

  Are the woods still there? The woods were still almost there. But hardly had my glance gone ten steps farther when I left off, again caught up in the tedious conversation.

  In the dark woods, on the sodden ground, I found my way only by the whiteness of his collar.

  In a dream I asked the

  dancer Eduardova1 to dance the Czardas just one time more. She had a broad streak of shadow or light across the middle of her face between the lower part of her forehead and the cleft of her chin. Just then someone with the loathsome gestures of an unconscious intriguer approached to tell her the train was leaving immediately. The manner in which she listened to this announcement made it terribly clear to me that she would not dance again. ‘I am a wicked, evil woman, am I not?’ she said. ‘Oh no,’ I said, ‘not that,’ and turned away aimlessly.

  Before that I had questioned her about the many flowers that were stuck into her girdle. ‘They are from all the princes of Europe,’ said she. I pondered as to what this might mean – that all those fresh flowers stuck in her girdle had been presented to the dancer Eduardova by all the princes of Europe.

  The dancer Eduardova, a lover of music, travels in the tram, as everywhere else, in the company of two vigorous violinists whom she makes play often. For there is no known reason why one should not play in the tram if the playing is good, pleasing to the fellow passengers, and costs nothing; i.e., if the hat is not passed round afterwards. Of course, at first it is a little surprising and for a short while everybody finds it improper. But at full speed, in a strong breeze and on a silent street, it sounds quite nice.

  The dancer Eduardova is not as pretty in the open air as on the stage. Her faded colour, her cheekbones which draw her skin so taut that there is scarcely a trace of motion in her face and a real face is no longer possible, the large nose, which rises as though out of a cavity, with which one can take no liberties – such as testing the hardness of the point or taking it gently by the bridge and pulling it back and forth while one says, ‘But now you come along.’ The large figure with the high waist in skirts with too many pleats – whom can that please? – she looks like one of my aunts, an elderly lady; many elderly aunts of many people look like that. In the open air Eduardova really has nothing to compensate for these disadvantages, moreover, aside from her very good feet; there is actually nothing that would give occasion for enthusiasm, astonishment, or even for respect. And so I have actually seen Eduardova very often treated with a degree of indifference that even gentlemen, who were otherwise very adroit, very correct, could not conceal, although they naturally made every effort to do so in the presence of so famous a dancer as Eduardova still was.

  The auricle of my ear felt fresh, rough, cool, succulent as a leaf, to the touch.

  I write this very decidedly out of despair over my body and over a future with this body.

  When despair shows itself so definitely, is so tied to its object, so pent up, as in a soldier who covers a retreat and thus lets himself be torn to pieces, then it is not true despair. True despair overreaches its goal immediately and always, (at this comma it became clear that only the first sentence was correct).

  Do you despair?

  Yes? You despair?

/>   A Manuscript page of the Diaries (see this page).

  You run away? You want to hide?

  I passed by the brothel as though past the house of a beloved.

  Writers speak a stench.

  The seamstresses in the downpour of rain.2

  Finally, after five months of my life during which I could write nothing that would have satisfied me, and for which no power will compensate me, though all were under obligation to do so, it occurs to me to talk to myself again. Whenever I really questioned myself, there was always a response forthcoming, there was always something in me to catch fire, in this heap of straw that I have been for five months and whose fate, it seems, is to be set afire during the summer and consumed more swiftly than the onlooker can blink his eyes. If only that would happen to me! And tenfold ought that to happen to me, for I do not even regret this unhappy time. My condition is not unhappiness, but it is also not happiness, not indifference, not weakness, not fatigue, not another interest – so what is it then? That I do not know this is probably connected with my inability to write. And without knowing the reason for it, I believe I understand the latter. All those things, that is to say, those things which occur to me, occur to me not from the root up but rather only from somewhere about their middle. Let someone then attempt to seize them, let someone attempt to seize a blade of grass and hold fast to it when it begins to grow only from the middle.

  There are some people who can do this, probably, Japanese jugglers, for example, who scramble up a ladder that does not rest on the ground but on the raised soles of someone half lying on the ground, and which does not lean against a wall but just goes up into the air. I cannot do this – aside from the fact that my ladder does not even have those soles at its disposal. This, naturally, isn’t all, and it isn’t such a question that prompts me to speak. But every day at least one line should be trained on me, as they now train telescopes on comets. And if then I should appear before that sentence once, lured by that sentence, just as, for instance, I was last Christmas, when I was so far gone that I was barely able to control myself and when I seemed really on the last rung of my ladder, which, however, rested quietly on the ground and against a wall. But what ground, what a wall! And yet that ladder did not fall, so strongly did my feet press it against the ground, so strongly did my feet raise it against the wall.

  A Manuscript page of the Diaries (see this page).

  Today, for instance, I acted three pieces of insolence, towards a conductor, towards someone introduced to me – well, there were only two, but they hurt like a stomach-ache. On the part of anyone they would have been insolent, how much the more so on my part. Therefore I went outside myself, fought in the air amid the mist, and, worst of all, no one noticed that I was even insolent to my companions, a piece of insolence as such, and had to be, and had to assume the proper manner for it and the responsibility; but the worst was when one of my acquaintances took this insolence not even as the indication of a personality but rather as a personality itself, called my attention to my insolence and admired it. Why don’t I stay within myself? To be sure, I now say to myself: Look, the world submits to your blows, the conductor and the person introduced to you remained undisturbed; as you left, the latter even said good-bye. But that means nothing. You can achieve nothing if you forsake yourself; but what do you miss, aside from this, in your circle? To this appeal I answer only: I too would rather submit to blows within the circle than myself deal the blows outside it – but where the devil is this circle? For a time, indeed, I did see it lying on the earth, as if sprayed in lime, but now it just seems to hover about me, indeed does not even hover.

  Night of comets, 17–18 May.

  Together with Blei, his wife and child, from time to time listened to myself outside of myself, it sounded like the whimpering of a young cat.

  How many days have again gone silently by; today is 28 May. Have I not even the resolution to take this penholder, this piece of wood, in my hand every day? I really think I do not. I row, ride, swim, lie in the sun. Therefore my calves are good, my thighs not bad, my belly will pass muster, but my chest is very shabby and if my head set low between my shoulders –

  Sunday, 19 July, slept, awoke, slept, awoke, miserable life.

  When I think about it, I must say that

  my education has done me great harm in some respects. I was not, as a matter of fact, educated in any out-of-the-way place, in a ruin, say, in the mountains – something against which in fact I could not have brought myself to say a word of reproach. In spite of the risk of all my former teachers not understanding this, I should prefer most of all to have been such a little dweller in the ruins, burnt by the sun which would have shone for me there on the tepid ivy between the remains on every side; even though I might have been weak at first under the pressure of my good qualities, which would have grown tall in me with the might of weeds.

  When I think about it, I must say that my education has done me great harm in some respects. This reproach applies to a multitude of people – that is to say, my parents, several relatives, individual visitors to our house, various writers, a certain particular cook who took me to school for a year, a crowd of teachers (whom I must press tightly together in my memory, otherwise one would drop out here and there – but since I have pressed them together so, the whole mass crumbles away bit by bit anyhow), a school inspector, slowly walking passers-by; in short, this reproach twists through society like a dagger. And no one, I repeat, unfortunately no one, can be sure as to whether the point of the dagger won’t suddenly appear sometimes in front, at the back, or from the side. I do not want to hear this reproach contradicted; since I have already heard too many contradictions, and since most of the contradictions, moreover, have refuted me, I include these contradictions in my reproach and now declare that my education and this refutation have done me great harm in many respects.

  Often I think it over and then I always have to say that my education has done me great harm in some ways. This reproach is directed against a multitude of people; indeed, they stand here together and, as in old family photographs, they do not know what to do about each other, it simply does not occur to them to lower their eyes, and out of anticipation they do not dare smile. Among them are my parents, several relatives, several teachers, a certain particular cook, several girls at dancing school, several visitors to our house in earlier times, several writers, a swimming teacher, a ticket-seller, a school inspector, then some people that I met only once on the street, and others that I just cannot recall and those whom I shall never again recall, and those, finally, whose instruction, being somehow distracted at the time, I did not notice at all; in short, there are so many that one must take care not to name anyone twice. And I address my reproach to them all, introduce them to one another in this way, but tolerate no contradiction. For honestly I have borne enough contradictions already, and since most of them have refuted me, all I can do is include these refutations, too, in my reproach, and say that aside from my education these refutations have also done me great harm in some respects.

  Does one suspect, perhaps, that I was educated in some out-of-way place? No, I was educated in the middle of the city, in the middle of the city. Not, for example, in a ruin in the mountains or beside the lake. My reproach had until now covered my parents and their retinue and made them grey; but now they easily push it aside and smile, because I have drawn my hands away from them to my forehead and am thinking: I should have been that little dweller in the ruins, hearkening to the cries of the crows, soared over by their shadows, cooling under the moon, burnt by the sun which would have shone for me from all sides on my bed of ivy, even though I might have been a little weak at first under the pressure of my good qualities, which would have had to grow in me with the might of weeds.

  Often I think it over and give my thoughts free rein, without interfering, and always, no matter how I turn or twist it, I come to the conclusion that in some respects my education has done me terrible harm. There inheres in
the recognition of this a reproach directed against a multitude of people. There are my parents and my relatives, a certain particular cook, my teachers, several writers – the love with which they harmed me makes their guilt even greater, for how much [good] they could have [done] me with their love – several families friendly with my family, a swimming teacher, natives of summer resorts, several ladies in the city park of whom this would not at all have been expected, a hairdresser, a beggarwoman, a helmsman, the family doctor, and many more besides; and there would be still more if I could and wanted to name them all; in short, there are so many that one must be careful not to name anyone in the lot twice.

  Now one might think that these great numbers would make a reproach lose its firmness, that it would simply have to lose its firmness, because a reproach is not an army general, it just goes straight ahead and does not know how to distribute its forces. Especially in this case, when it is directed against persons in the past. Forgotten energy may hold these persons fast in memory, but they would hardly have any ground left under them and even their legs would have already turned to smoke. And how expect it to be of any use to throw up to people in such a condition the mistakes they once made in earlier times in educating a boy who is as incomprehensible to them now as they to us. But indeed one cannot even do as much as make them remember those times, no person can compel them to do so; obviously one cannot mention compulsion at all, they can remember nothing, and if you press them, they push you dumbly aside, for most probably they do not even hear the words. Like tired dogs they stand there, because they use up all their strength in remaining upright in one’s memory.

  But if you actually did make them hear and speak, then your ears would only hum with counter-reproaches, for people take the conviction of the venerability of the dead together with them into the beyond and uphold it ten times as much from there. And if perhaps this opinion is not correct and the dead do stand in especially great awe of the living, then they would side with their own living past all the more – after all, it’s closest to them – and again our ears would hum. And if this opinion, too, is not correct and the dead are after all very impartial, even then they could never sanction their being disturbed by unverifiable reproaches. For such reproaches are unverifiable even as between one person and another. The existence of past mistakes in education cannot be proved, so how much the less the original responsibility for them. And now let me see a reproach that in such a situation would not be transformed into a sigh.

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