Saturday 11 April 2015


In 1919 Kafka addressed a letter to his father, discussing their alienation. This is Part 2 of my translation. For the beginning of this letter check my post of 9 April.
I’m not saying that I am what I am solely because of your influence. That would be a great exaggeration (and I am inclined to exaggerate). Even if I had grown up entirely free of your influence, it is quite possible that I would still not have turned out a man after your heart. I might still be a weak, anxious, hesitant, uneasy man, neither like [uncle] Robert Kafka, nor like [uncle] Karl Hermann, yet different from what I am now, and we might have gotten along very well. I would have been happy to have you as my friend, superior, uncle, grandfather, indeed (though I hesitate a little) as my father-in-law. But as a father you were too overpowering for me, especially because my brothers died in childhood, and my sisters were born long after me. And so I had to stand up to the first push all by myself. I was much too weak for that. Compare me to yourself: to say it briefly, I am a Löwy [his mother’s family] with a certain Kafka element, which is not activated, however, by the Kafka will to live, to act, to conquer, but by a Löwy jab, which works more stealthily, more reservedly in another direction. Indeed, it may often be in abeyance altogether. 
Kafka's mother, Julie Löwy

You, by contrast, are a true Kafka in your strength, health, appetite, loud voice, eloquence, assurance, superiority, endurance, ready wit, knowledge of humanity, and a certain generosity – naturally those assets go together with certain faults and drawbacks, brought on by your temper and sometimes your quick anger. …
In any case we were so different, you and I, and posed a danger to each other in our difference.
Calculating in advance how we would relate to each other – the slowly developing child, and you, the grown man – one might have thought you would trample me down until nothing was left of me. That did not happen. One can’t calculate life in advance. But perhaps something more terrible happened to me. As I say this, I keep begging you not to forget that I never in any way thought you were to blame. You had the effect on me that you were bound to have, and you must stop thinking that it was out of a special kind of spite that I succumbed to this effect.
Cont. next Sunday.

(Source: unpublished works on; my translation)

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