Monday 28 September 2015

Image: Kafka and Protocol,

When Kafka began to engage with Judaism, his father disapproved of his interest, as he did of all his interests. In fact, because Kafka turned to Judaism, his father turned away from it:
Through me, Judaism became revolting to you, you could no longer read Jewish writings. They “disgusted you”. That may have meant that you insisted on the kind of Judaism you had shown me in my childhood, considering it the only correct Judaism and regarding anything beyond as nothing. But such an insistence is hardly credible. If so, your disgust – not directed against Judaism itself but rather against my person – could mean only that you were aware subconsciously that your kind of Judaism and my Jewish education was frail, and you did not want to be reminded of that and responded to all reminders with open hatred. In any case, your negative assessment of my new Judaism was quite exaggerated…

You were more on track with your dislike of my writings and their context, of which you were not aware. Through my writing I had indeed managed to distance myself and gain some independence from you, even if I was reminded of a worm that had been stepped on and whose back was crushed, although it managed to wrench away its front section and drag itself to the side. I was safe to some extent, there was a certain relief. Your immediate dislike for my writings was welcome for once. My ambition and my pride were hurt, however, by your reception of my books (notorious among us). “Put it on the night table,” you said. (Most of the time you were playing cards when the book arrived). But deep down I was content, not only out of rebellious maliciousness, not only because I was pleased that my view of our relationship had been confirmed, but spontaneously because that phrase sounded like “Now you are free!” But of course that was a mistaken notion. I was not free, or at best, not yet free. My writings were about you. I lamented there what I could not lament addressing you directly. It was a purposely drawn out farewell from you.

(Source: Letter to my Father, text on; my translation)

Monday 21 September 2015

Roberto Bolano on what is irretrievably lost

WRITING. Exercising the memory by focusing deliberately rather than randomly on images.
DESIRE FOR SOLITUDE. Now, in a dark and inescapable way, we’re alone, which until recently was something that I desired, though certainly not in the way it came about.
MELANCHOLY. I was gripped then by a vast melancholy that seized my belly, my spine, my bottom ribs, until I doubled over.
HIS FACE. He was tall, skeletal and faceless, or with his face weathered in a kind of dark and shifting cloud.
FACES.  They look at me with the disapproving faces of people who can hardly grasp that there are those who rise after noon.

THE TILTED MIRROR. Looking into the mirror above the bar, I suddenly realized that my own reflection wasn’t visible. Slowly and fearfully I slid to the left along the counter. Gradually my image began to appear…and though what I saw was rather unpleasant (wrinkled clothes, flushed cheeks, tousled hair), it was still me, alive and tangible. I felt relief and a deep weariness.

Friday 18 September 2015


OMENS. They say that in the hour before an earthquake the clouds hang leaden in the sky, the wind slows to a hot breath, and the birds fall quiet in the trees of the town square.   – No, real disaster will announce itself by hardly moving its lips.
POLICE MEN. Nice lips. Quite full, and rather juicy –looking. He wasn’t beautiful, but I was  transfixed by the way he stood and cast his eyes down deferentially when he spoke.  And of course there’s always something about a uniform. You wonder if the protocol will peel off with the jacket, I suppose.
DAWN. The orange glow of the night [cast by the distant city] faded, and I started to see the fields and the hedges around us.  Everything was gray at first by then the colors began to come into the land – blue and green, but very soft, as if the colors did not have any happiness in them.
FINDING GRIEF. I am drilling down through the memories, searching for the capstone, the memory which when cracked would release some symptom of anguish…It was exhausting prospecting for grief like this, unsure if grief was even there to be found.
OFFICIALS. The men seemed limp, half-garroted by their ties. Everyone stooped, or scuttled, or nervously ticked. They carried themselves like weather presenters preparing to lower expectations for the bank holiday weekend.
AN AFFAIR COMING ON: It became a possibility, albeit in a relatively controlled form that both of us could still step back from. Here it was, if we wanted it, hanging from a taut umbilicus between us: an affair between adults, minute yet fully formed, with all its forbidden trysts and muffled paroxysms and shattering betrayals already present, like the buds of fingers and toes.
THE LOOK OF GASOLINE. The hose went right inside the fuel tank, so that the transfer of the fluid was hidden. I still do not know what gasoline truly looks like. If it looks like the way it smells, it must flash like the most brilliant happiness, so intense that you would go blind or crazy if you even looked at it.  Maybe that is why they do not let us see gasoline.

DISAPPEARING IN THE CROWD IN LONDONI was inside the crowd, getting pushed this way and that way. I did not mind and I did not look back. I let myself be taken along by this river of human souls that flowed beside the water. I was happy. I smelled the mud on the banks of the river and the dust of the gray pigeons’ wings and the flat dry smell of the ancient stone buildings and the hot breath of cigarettes and chewing gum that floated through the crowed.

Sunday 6 September 2015


So what was new on 10 July 1894?
GENEROSITY. Their Majesties, the Emperor and Empress of Austria, donated 100 florins to the Club for Beautification in Lainz as well as 50 florins to the Volunteer Fire Brigade in Magyabony, Hungary.  What misers compared to the Union of Banks in Vienna which donated 500 florins to the victims of a hail storm. Then again 50 florins is better than what the Archduchess Stephanie gave in support of a publication, The Austro-Hungarian Monarchy in words and images. She merely contributed a long telegram: I shall continue to take a deep interest in every one of your forthcoming volumes. You efforts and persistent labour fills me with patriotic pride and sincere joy. That’s very kind of you, archduchess!
WEDDING & CAREER. The music critic of the Presse married the opera singer Emmy Karlona, who therefore resigned her post with the Court Opera.
CRIME. Franz Seidl, known as a rough individual and violent when drunk, without provocation punched a security guard. When the guard attempted to arrest him, he became so angry that he abused two other security guards coming to their colleague’s help, punching one in the nose and demolishing the other’s helmet. Seidl was taken into custody.
Meanwhile Anton Cerbik and his friend Ignaz Fussthaler were arrested under suspicion of having stolen veal and other kinds of meat on numerous occasions from the market hall. Well, at least they didn’t abuse the animals.

(Source: Wiener Zeitung of 4 July, 1894; my translation) 

Friday 4 September 2015


A notice appeared in the Wiener Tagblatt of July 10, 1894:
Albert Kötzlow has invented and built a new phonograph. It surpasses Edison’s instrument in that it is very simple and cheap and can be worked by any non-specialist. It does everything with respect to speech, song or music that Edison’s phonograph does. The sound waves are transcribed to a cylinder by means of a membrane to which a stylus is attached, or through a so-called writing knife shaped like a pin. ..The rolls are made of hard soap and if used gently will yield several thousand reproductions. For practical purposes -- the reproduction of speech in lieu of stenography -- it is sufficient to turn the phonograph by hand. For the reproduction of music or song one needs a very regularly running motor… The costs are low, hardly more than the cost of paper, since a roll can take 1000 words and be played back about 250 times…the cost of acquiring the apparatus is also low, and repairs hardly ever required. Thus Kötzlow’s apparatus is clearly useful for practical business purposes, which can hardly be said of Edison’s phonograph.

Költzow opened the first phonograph factory in Berlin, 1890. He worked together with the locksmith Paul Pfeiffer and the mechanic Carl Lindström, whose company, Lindström Inc., became a global player in the recording industry in the 20th century.

 (Source: Wiener Zeitung, 10 July 1894; my translation)