Thursday, 12 February 2015


As a youngster, Kafka disliked being introduced to new people, and was ill at ease in company.
"They made ridiculous claims, lied about statistics, made mistakes about geography, introduced heresies – forbidden as well as nonsensical-- or valid political views, respectable opinions about the issues of the day, praiseworthy ideas that surprised the speaker as much as the company, and everything was reinforced with looks, or the way they grasped the edge of the table, or jumped up from their chair. As soon as they started that, they immediately stopped looking at me in that prolonged and severe manner, for now they no longer kept their upper body in its natural position but spontaneously bent forward or backward. Some even became oblivious to the clothes they wore and bent their knees sharply, supporting their weight solely on the tips of their toes, or creased their jackets, pressing them against their breast with great force. Others weren’t like that. They hung on with their fingers to a pince-nez, a fan, a pencil, a lorgnette, a cigarette, and most of them became heated and turned ruddy even if their skin was firm and solid. Their eyes slid off me, like a raised arm being dropped.
I remained in my natural state. I was free to wait and listen or to leave and go to bed, to which I always looked forward since I was often sleepy on account of being shy. It was like the long intermission at a dance, when few people decide to leave and most remain where they are standing or sitting, while the musicians, to whom no one pays attention, are off somewhere replenishing their energies to play on…
Through all of this, I was still in fear – in fear of the man with whom I’d shaken hands without feeling anything, whose name I did not know unless one of his friends chanced to call him by his Christian name. I sat across from him for hours maybe, totally at peace, a little tired perhaps, as young people tend to be when an adult looks at them, even if that adult turned his eyes rarely on me alone." 
Stay tuned for "Kafka and the Giant Hedgehog" (Sunday)
(Source: unpublished text of 1909, posted on; my translation)

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