Wednesday, 9 December 2015

From #Kafka’s Letter to his Father: Fear of marriage.


There is a belief that fear of marriage has its origin in fear that one day your offspring will pay you back for the sins you committed against your own parents. That has no great relevance to my case, I believe, because my bad conscience originated in you and is unique in every respect. Indeed the sense that it is unique is part of my torment. I can’t imagine that it could be duplicated. I must say, however, that I myself could not bear such a silent, dull, dry, decadent son [as I am]. If I had no other option, I would flee, that is, emigrate, as you wanted to do on account of my marriage plans.

But the most important obstacle to a marriage is the indelible conviction that maintaining and even more so, heading a family requires all the qualities I recognized in you, that combination of good and evil which is organically united in you:  inner strength and outward derisiveness, health as well as a certain grandiosity, the gift of oratory as well as reserve, confidence in oneself and dissatisfaction with everyone else, a sense of universal superiority and a tyrannical spirit, knowledge of people and distrust against most of them; in addition the assets that have no disadvantages such as industry, stamina, ready wit, courage. Of all these qualities I had comparatively few or hardly any. I this state I did not want to take the risk of marriage, when I saw that even you had to fight hard in your marriage and even you failed with respect to your children.

But naturally I did not explicitly phrase the problem like that in my mind and did not expressly respond to it, or the usual thought process would have taken over and proffered me examples of other men, different from you (my uncle Richard to mention one man close at hand and very different). I would have thought of the men who married nevertheless and at least did not collapse under the burden, which is already a great achievement and would have amply satisfied me. But I did not approach marriage in this questioning manner. I experienced your marriage from childhood on…and your example persuasively proved that I was incapable of marriage.
How then can I go ahead and marry without going mad! – And that is the conclusion of my life with you up to now, and that is the outlook for the future it carries within it.

(Source: Letter to my Father, text on www.kafka.org; my translation)

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