Journals 1911 (part 2)

by Franz Kafka


1 November. Today, eagerly and happily began to read the History of the Jews by Graetz. Because my desire for it had far outrun the reading, it was at first stranger to me than I thought, and I had to stop here and there in order by resting to allow my Jewishness to collect itself. Towards the end, however, I was already gripped by the imperfection of the first settlements in the newly conquered Canaan and the faithful handing down of the imperfections of the popular heroes (Joshua, the Judges, Elijah).

Last night, good-bye to Mrs. Klug. We, I and Löwy, ran alongside the train and saw Mrs. Klug looking out from the darkness behind a closed window in the last coach. She quickly stretched her arm towards us while still in her compartment, stood up, opened the window, fixing it for a moment with her unbuttoned cloak, until the dark Mr. Klug (all he can do is open up his mouth wide and bitterly and then snap it shut, as though forever) got up opposite her. During the fifteen minutes I spoke very little to Mr. Klug and looked at him for perhaps only two seconds, otherwise I could not, during the weak, uninterrupted conversation, turn my eyes away from Mrs. Klug. She was completely under the domination of my presence, but more in her imagination than in reality. When she turned to Löwy with the repeated introductory phrase, “You, Löwy,” she spoke to me, when she leaned close against her husband who sometimes left her with only her right shoulder showing at the window and pressed against her dress and her baggy overcoat, she was attempting in that way to make me an empty sign.

The first impression I had at the performances, that she did not like me especially, was probably correct, she seldom invited me to sing with her; when, without real feeling, she asked me something, I unfortunately answered incorrectly (“Do you understand that?” “Yes,” I said, but she wanted “No” in order to reply, “Neither do I”); she did not offer me her picture postcards a second time, I preferred Mrs. Tschissik, to whom I wanted to give some flowers in order to spite Mrs. Klug. To this disinclination, however, was joined a respect for my doctorate which was not impaired by my childish appearance, indeed, it was even increased by it. This respect was so great and it became so articulate in her frequent but by no means particularly stressed way of addressing me—“You know, Herr Doktor”—that I half unconsciously regretted that I deserved it so little and asked myself whether I had a right to be addressed like that by everyone. But while I was so respected by her as a person, as a spectator I was even more respected. I beamed when she sang, I laughed and looked at her all the time while she was on the stage, I sang the tunes with her, later the words, I thanked her after several performances; because of this, again, she naturally liked me very well. But if she spoke to me out of this feeling I was so embarrassed that she undoubtedly fell back into her original disinclination and remained there. She had to exert herself all the more to reward me as a spectator, and she was glad to do it because she is a vain actress and a good-natured woman.

She looked at me, especially when she was silent up there in the window of the compartment, with a mouth rapturously contorted by embarrassment and slyness and with twinkling eyes that swam on the wrinkles spreading from her mouth. She must have believed I loved her, as was indeed true, and with these glances she gave me the sole fulfillment that a young but experienced woman, a good wife and mother, could give a doctor of her imagination. These glances were so urgent, and were supported by expressions like “There were such nice guests here, especially some of them,” that I defended myself, and those were the moments when I looked at her husband. I had, when I compared the two, an unjustified sense of astonishment at the fact that they should depart from us together and yet concern themselves only with us and have no glance for one another. Löwy asked whether they had good seats. “Yes, if it remains as empty as this,” Mrs. Klug answered, and looked casually into the inside of the compartment the warm air of which her husband will spoil with his smoking. We spoke of their children for whose sake they were leaving; they have four children, three boys among them, the oldest is nine years old, they haven't seen them for eighteen months now. When a gentleman got hurriedly into a nearby compartment, the train seemed about to leave, we quickly said good-bye, shook each other's hands, I tipped my hat and then held it against my chest, we stepped back as one does when trains leave, by which one means to show that everything is finished and one has come to terms with it. The train did not leave yet, however, we stepped up close again, I was rather happy about it, she asked after my sisters. Surprisingly, the train began to move slowly. Mrs. Klug prepared to wave her handkerchief, I must write to her, she called, do I know her address, she was already too far away for me to be able to answer her, I pointed to Löwy from wham I could get the address, that's good, she nodded to me and him quickly, and let her handkerchief float in the wind, I tipped my hat, at first awkwardly, then, the farther away she was, the more freely.

Later I remembered that I had had the impression that the train was not really leaving but only moving the short length of the railway station in order to put on a play for us, and then was swallowed up. In a doze that same evening, Mrs. Klug appeared to me unnaturally short, almost without legs, and wrung her hands with her face distorted as though a great misfortune had befallen her.

This afternoon the pain occasioned by my loneliness came upon me so piercingly and intensely that I became aware that the strength which I gain through this writing thus spends itself, a strength which I certainly have not intended for this purpose.

As soon as Mr. Klug comes to a new city one can see how his and his wife's jewels disappear into the pawnshop. As their departure draws near he gradually redeems them again.

Favorite saying of the wife of the philosopher Mendelssohn: Wie mies ist mir vor tout l’univers! (How wretched the whole universe is before me!)

One of the most important impressions at the departure of Mrs. Klug: I was always forced to think that, as a simple middle-class woman, she holds herself by force below the level of her true human destiny and requires only a jump, a tearing open of the door, a turned-up light, in order to be an actress and to subjugate me. Actually, even, she stood above and I below, as in the theater—She married at sixteen, is twenty-six years old.

2 November. This morning, for the first time in a long time, the joy again of imagining a knife twisted in my heart.

In the newspapers, in conversation, in the office, the impetuosity of language often leads one astray, also the hope, springing from temporary weakness, for a sudden and stronger illumination in the very next moment, also mere strong self-confidence, or mere carelessness, or a great present impression that one wishes at any cost to shift into the future, also the opinion that true enthusiasm in the present justifies any future confusion, also delight in sentences that are elevated in the middle by one or two jolts and open the mouth gradually to its full size even if they let it close much too quickly and tortuously, also the slight possibility of a decisive and clear judgment, or the effort to give further flow to the speech that has really ended, also the desire to escape from the subject in a hurry, one's belly if it must be, or despair that seeks a way out for its heavy breath, or the longing for a light without shadow—all this can lead one astray to sentences like: “The book which I have just finished is the most beautiful I have ever read,” or, “is more beautiful than any I have ever read.”

In order to prove that everything I write and think about them is false, the actors (aside from Mr. and Mrs. Klug) have again remained here, as Löwy, whom I met yesterday evening, told me; who knows whether for the same reason they will not depart again today, for Löwy did not call at the office despite thc fact that he promised to.

3 November. In order to prove that both things that I wrote were false, a proof that seems almost impossible, Löwy himself came yesterday evening and interrupted me while I was writing.

N.'s habit of repeating everything in the same tone of voice. He tells someone a story about his business, of course not with so many details that it would in itself completely kill the story, but nevertheless in a slow manner, thorough only because of that, it is a communication which is not intended to be anything else and is therefore done with when it is finished. A short time passes with something else, suddenly he finds a transition to his story and produces it again in its old form, almost without additions, but also almost without omissions, with the innocence of a person who carries about the room a ribbon that someone has treacherously tied to his back. Now my parents like him particularly, therefore feel his habit more strongly than they notice it, and so it happens that they, especially my mother, unconsciously give him opportunities to repeat. If some evening the moment for repeating a story cannot quite be found, then Mother is there, she asks a question, and indeed with a curiosity that does not end even after the question is asked, as one might expect. As for stories that have already been repeated and could not return again by their own strength, Mother hunts after them with her questions even several evenings later. N.'s habit is, however, so obsessive that it often has the power to justify itself completely. No one else gets with such regular frequency onto the position of having to tell members of the family individually a story that basically concerns all of them. The story must then be told, almost as often as there are persons, to the family circle that in such cases assembles slowly, at intervals, one person at a time. And because I am the one who alone has recognized N.'s habit, I am also usually the one who hears the story first and for whom the repetitions provide only the small pleasure of confirming an observation.

Envy at nominal success of Baum whom I really like so much. With this, the feeling of having in the middle of my body a ball of wool that quickly winds itself up, its innumerable threads pulling from the surface of my body to itself.

Löwy. My father about him: “Whoever lies down with dogs gets up with fleas.” I could not contain myself and said something uncontrolled. To which Father with unusual quietness (to be sure, after a long interval which was otherwise occupied): “You know that I should not get excited and must be treated with consideration. And now you speak to me like that. I really have enough excitement, quite enough. So don't bother me with such talk.” I say: “I make every effort to restrain myself,” and sense in my father, as always in such extreme moments, the existence of a wisdom of which I can grasp only a breath.

Death of Löwy's grandfather, a man who had an open hand, knew several languages, had made long journeys deep into Russia, and who once on a Saturday refused to eat at the house of a wonder-rabbi in Ekaterinoslav because the long hair and colored neckerchief of the rabbi's son made him suspect the piety of the house.

The bed was set up in the middle of the room, the candlesticks were borrowed from friends and relatives, the room therefore full of the light and smoke of the candles. Some forty men stood around his bed all day to receive inspiration from the death of a pious man. He was conscious until the end and at the right moment, his hand on his breast, he began to repeat the death prayers. During his suffering and after his death the grandmother, who was with the women gathered in the next room, wept incessantly, but while he was dying she was completely calm because it is a commandment to ease the death of the dying man as much as one can. “With his own prayers he passed away.” He was much envied for this death that followed so pious a life.

Pesach (Passover) festival. An association of rich Jews rents a bakery, its members take over for the heads of the families all the tasks of producing the so-called eighteen-minute matzos: the fetching of water, the koshering, the kneading, the cutting, the piercing.

5 November. Yesterday slept, with Löwy after Bar Kokhba from seven on, read a letter from his father. Evening at Baum's.

I want to write, with a constant trembling on my forehead. I sit in my room in the very headquarters of the uproar of the entire house. I hear all the doors close, because of their noise only the footsteps of those running between them are spared me, I hear even the slamming of the oven door in the kitchen. My father bursts through the doors of my room and passes through in his dragging dressing-gown, the ashes are scraped out of the stove in the next room, Valli asks, shouting into the indefinite through the anteroom as though through a Paris street, whether Father's hat has been brushed yet, a hushing that claims to be friendly to me raises the shout of an answering voice. The house door is unlatched and screeches as though from a sore throat, then opens wider with the brief singing of a woman's voice and closes with a dull manly jerk that sounds most inconsiderate. My father is gone, now begins the more delicate, more distracted, more hopeless noise led by the voices of the two canaries. I had already thought of it before, but with the canaries it comes back to me again, that I might open the door a narrow crack, crawl into the next room like a snake and in that way, on the floor, beg my sisters and their governess for quiet.

The bitterness I felt yesterday evening when Max read my little motor-car story at Baum's. I was isolated from everyone and in the face of the story I kept my chin pressed against my breast, as it were. The disordered sentences of this story with holes into which one could stick both hands; one sentence sounds high, one sentence sounds low, as the case may be, one sentence rubs against another like the tongue against a hollow or false tooth; one sentence comes marching up with so rough a start that the entire story falls into sulky amazement; a sleepy imitation of Max (reproaches muffled—stirred up) seesaws in, sometimes it looks like a dancing course during its first quarter-hour. I explain it to myself by saying that I have too little time and quiet to draw out of me all the possibilities of my talent. For that reason it is only disconnected starts that always make an appearance, disconnected starts, for instance, all through the motor-car story. If I were ever able to write something large and whole, well shaped from beginning to end, then in the end the story would never be able to detach itself from me and it would be possible for me calmly and with open eyes, as a blood relation of a healthy story, to hear it read, but as it is every little piece of the story runs around homeless and drives me away from it in the opposite direction.—At the same time I can still be happy if this explanation is correct.

Performance of Goldfaden's Bar Kokhba. (Story of Simon Bar Kokhba, who led the Jews in their revolt against the Romans in 132-135 C.E., which was ruthlessly put down.) False judgment of the play throughout the hall and on the stage.

I had brought along a bouquet for Mrs. Tschissik, with an attached visiting card inscribed “in gratitude,” and waited for the moment when I could have it presented to her. The performance had begun late, Mrs. Tschissik's big scene was promised me only in the fourth act, in impatience and fear that the flowers might wilt I had them unwrapped by the waiter as early as during the third act (it was eleven o'clock), they lay on a table, the kitchen help and several dirty regular guests handed them from one to another and smelled them, I could only look on worriedly and angrily, nothing else, I loved Mrs. Tschissik during her big scene in the prison, but still, I was anxious for her to bring it to its end, finally the act, unnoticed by me in my distraction, was finished, the headwaiter handed up the flowers, Mrs. Tschissik took them between final curtains, she bowed in a narrow opening of the curtains and did not return again. No one noticed my love and I had intended to reveal it to all and so make it valuable in the eyes of Mrs. Tschissik; the bouquet was hardly noticed. Meanwhile it was already past two o'clock, everyone was tired, several people had already left, I should have enjoyed throwing my glass at them.

With me was Comptroller P. from our firm, a Gentile. He, whom I usually like, disturbed me. My worry was the flowers, not his affairs. At the same time I knew that he understood the play incorrectly, while I had no time, desire, or ability to force upon him assistance which he did not think he needed. Finally I was ashamed of myself before him because I myself was paying so little attention. Also he disturbed me in my conversation with Max and even by the recollection that I had liked him before, would again like him afterwards, and that he could take my behavior today amiss.

But not only I was disturbed. Max felt responsible because of his laudatory article in the paper. It was getting too late for the Jews in Bergmann's convoy. The members of the Bar Kokhba Association had come because of the name of the play and could not help being disappointed. From what I know of Bar Kokhba from this play, I would not have named any association after him. In the back of the hall there were two shopgirls in their best clothes with their sweethearts who had to be silenced by loud shouts during the death scenes. Finally people on the street struck the huge panes in annoyance that they saw so little of the stage.

The two Klugs were missing from the stage. Ridiculous extras. “Vulgar Jews,” as Löwy said. Travelling salesmen who weren't paid. Most of the time they were concerned only with concealing their laughter or enjoying it, even if aside from this they meant well. A round-cheeked fellow with a blond beard at the sight of whom you could scarcely keep from laughing looked especially funny when he laughed. His false beard shook unnaturally, because of his laughter it was no longer pasted in its right place on his cheeks. Another fellow laughed only when he wanted to, but then a lot. When Löwy died, singing, in the arms of these two elders and was supposed to slip slowly to earth with the fading song, they put their heads together behind his back in order finally to be able to laugh their fill for once, unseen by the audience (as they thought). Yesterday, when I remembered it at lunch, I still had to laugh.

Mrs. Tschissik in prison must take the helmet off the drunken Roman governor (young Pipes) who is visiting her and then put it on herself. When she takes it off, a crushed towel falls out which Pipes had apparently stuffed in because the helmet pinched too much. Although he certainly must have known that the helmet would be taken off his head on the stage, he looks reproachfully at Mrs. Tschissik, forgetting his drunkenness.

Beautiful: the way Mrs. Tschissik, under the hands of the Roman soldiers (whom, however, she first had to pull to her, for they obviously were afraid to touch her), writhed while the movements of the three actors by her care and art almost, only almost, followed the rhythm of the singing; the song in which she proclaims the appearance of the Messiah, and, without destroying the illusion, sheerly by the spell she casts, represents the playing of a harp by the motions of bowing a violin; in the prison where at the frequent approach of footsteps she breaks off her song of lamentation, hurries to her treadmill and turns it to the accompaniment of a work song, then again escapes to her song and again to the mill, the way she sings in her sleep when Papus visits her and her mouth is open like a twinkling eye, the way in general the corners of her mouth in opening remind one of the corners of her eyes. In the white veil, as in the black, she was beautiful.

New among her familiar gestures: pressing her hand deep into her not very good bodice, abrupt shrug of her shoulders and hips in scorn, especially when she turns her back on the one scorned.

She led the whole performance like the mother of a family. She prompted everyone but never faltered herself; she instructed the extras, implored them, finally shoved them if need be; her clear voice, when she was off stage, joined in the ragged chorus on stage, she held up the folding screen (which in the last act was supposed to represent a citadel) that the extras would have knocked down ten times.

I had hoped, by means of the bouquet of flowers, to appease my love for her a little, it was quite useless. It is possible only through literature or through sleeping together. I write this not because I did not know it, but rather because it is perhaps well to write down warnings frequently.

7 November. Tuesday. Yesterday the actors and Mrs. Tschissik finally left. I went with Löwy to the coffeehouse in the evening, but waited outside, did not want to go in, did not want to see Mrs. Tschissik. But while I was walking up and down I saw her open the door and come out with Löwy, I went towards them with a greeting and met them in the middle of the street. Mrs. Tschissik thanked me for my bouquet in the grand but natural vocables of her speech, she had only just now learned that it was from me. This liar Löwy had therefore said nothing to her. I was worried about her because she was wearing only a thin, dark blouse with short sleeves and I asked her—I almost touched her in order to force her—to go into the restaurant so that she would not catch cold. No, she said, she does not catch cold, indeed she has a shawl, and she raised it a little to show it and then drew it together more closely about her breast. I could not tell her that I was not really concerned about her but was rather only happy to have found an emotion in which I could enjoy my love, and therefore I told her again that I was worried.

Meanwhile her husband, her little girl, and Mr. Pipes had also come out and it turned out that it had by no means been decided that they would go to Brünn as Löwy had convinced me, on the contrary, Pipes was even determined to go to Nuremberg. That would be best, a hall would be easy to get, the Jewish community is large, moreover, the trip to Leipzig and Berlin very comfortable. Furthermore they had discussed it all day and Löwy, who had slept until four, had simply kept them waiting and made them miss the seven-thirty for Brünn. Amidst these arguments we entered the tavern and sat down at a table, I across from Mrs. Tschissik. I should so have liked to distinguish myself, this would not have been so difficult, I should just have had to know several train connections, tell the railway stations apart, bring about a choice between Nuremberg and Brünn, but chiefly shout down Pipes who was behaving like his Bar Kokhba. To Pipes's shouting Löwy very reasonably, if unintentionally, counterposed a very quick, uninterruptable chatter in his normal voice that was, at least for me, rather incomprehensible at the time. So instead of distinguishing myself I sat sunk in my chair, looked from Pipes to Löwy, and only now and then caught Mrs. Tschissik's eye on the way, but when she answered me with her glance (when she smiled at me because of Pipes's excitement, for instance) I looked away. This had its sense. Between us there could be no smiling at Pipes's excitement. Facing her, I was too serious for this, and quite tired by this seriousness. If I wanted to laugh at something I could look across her shoulder at the fat woman who had played the governor's wife in Bar Kokhba. But really I could not look at her seriously either. For that would have meant that I loved her. Even young Pipes behind me, in all his innocence, would have had to recognize that. And that would have been really unheard of. A young man whom everyone takes to be eighteen years old declares in the presence of the evening's guests at the Café Savoy, amidst the surrounding waiters, in the presence of the table full of actors, declares to a thirty-year-old woman whom hardly anyone even considers pretty, who has two children, ten and eight years old, whose husband is sitting beside her, who is a model of respectability and economy—declares to this woman his love to which he has completely fallen victim and, now comes the really remarkable part which of course no one else would have observed, immediately renounces the woman, just as he would renounce her if she were young and single. Should I be grateful or should I curse the fact that despite all misfortune I can still feel love, an unearthly love but still for earthly objects.

Mrs. Tschissik was beautiful yesterday. The really normal beauty of small hands, of light fingers, of rounded forearms which in themselves are so perfect that even the unaccustomed sight of this nakedness does not make one think of the rest of the body. The hair separated into two waves, brightly illumined by the gaslight. Somewhat bad complexion around the right corner of her mouth. Her mouth opens as though in childish complaint, running above and below into delicately shaped curves, one imagines that the beautiful shaping of words, which spreads the light of the vowels throughout the words and preserves their pure contours with the tip of the tongue, can succeed only once, and admires how everlasting it is. Low, white forehead. The powdering that I have so far seen I hate, but if this white color, this somewhat cloudy milk-colored veil hovering low over the skin is the result of powder, then every woman should powder. She likes to hold two fingers to the right corner of her mouth, perhaps she even stuck the tips of her fingers into her mouth—yes, perhaps she even put a toothpick into her mouth; I didn't look closely at these fingers, but it seemed almost as though she were poking in a hollow tooth with a toothpick and let it stay there a quarter of an hour.

8 November. All afternoon at the lawyer's about the factory.

The girl who only because she was walking arm in arm with her sweetheart looked quietly around.

The clerk in N.'s office reminded me of the actress who played Manette Salomon at the Odéon in Paris a year and a half ago. At least when she was sitting. A soft bosom, broader than it was high, encased in a woolly material. A broad face down to the mouth, but then rapidly narrowing. Neglected, natural curls in a flat hairdo. Zeal and calm in a strong body. The resemblance was strengthened too, as I see now, because she worked on unmoved (the keys flew—Oliver system—on her typewriter like old-time knitting needles), also walked about, but scarcely spoke two words in half an hour, as though she had Manette Salomon within her.

When I was waiting at the lawyer's I looked at the one typist and thought how hard it was to make out her face even while looking at it. The relationship between a hairdo standing out almost at the same distance all around her head, and the straight nose that most of the time seemed too long, was especially confusing. When the girl who was reading a document made a more striking movement, I was almost confounded by the observation that through my contemplation I had remained more of a stranger to the girl than if I had brushed her skirt with my little finger.

When the lawyer, in reading the agreement [about the shares in the factory] to me, came to a passage concerning my possible future wife and possible children, I saw across from me a table with two large chairs and a smaller one around it. At the thought that I should never be in a position to seat in these or any other three chairs myself, my wife, and my child, there came over me a yearning for this happiness so despairing from the very start that in my excitement I asked the lawyer the only question I had left after the long reading, which at once revealed my complete misunderstanding of a rather long section of the agreement that had just been read.

Continuation of the farewell: in Pipes, because I felt oppressed by him, I saw first of all the jagged and darkly spotted tips of his teeth. Finally I got half an idea: “Why go as far as Nuremberg in one jump?” I asked. “Why not give one or two performances at a smaller local station?”

“Do you know one?” asked Mrs. Tschissik, not nearly as sharply as I write it, and in this way forced me to look at her. All that part of her body which was visible above the table, all the roundness of shoulders, back, and breast, was soft despite her (in European dress, on the stage) bony, almost coarse build. Ridiculously I mentioned Pilsen. Some regular guests at the next table very reasonably mentioned Teplitz. Mr. Tschissik would have been in favor of any local station, he has confidence only in small undertakings, Mrs. Tschissik agreed without their having consulted much with one another, aside from that she asks around about the fares. Several times they said that if they just earned enough for parnusse (enough to live on), it would be sufficient. Her daughter rubs her cheek against her arm; she certainly does not feel it, but to the adult there comes the childish conviction that nothing can happen to a child who is with its parents, even if they are travelling actors, and that if you think about it, real troubles are not to be met with so close to the earth but only at the height of an adult's face. I was very much in favor of Teplitz because I could give them a letter of recommendation to Dr. P. and so use my influence for Mrs. Tschissik. In the face of the objection of Pipes, who himself prepared the lots to be drawn for the three possible cities and conducted the drawing with great liveliness, Teplitz was drawn for the third time. I went to the next table and excitedly wrote the letter of recommendation. I took my leave with the excuse that I had to go home to get the exact address of Dr. P., which was not necessary, however, and which they didn't know at home, either. In embarrassment, while Löwy prepared to accompany me, I played with the hand of the woman, the chin of her little girl.

9 November. A dream the day before yesterday: Everything theater, I now up in the balcony, now on the stage, a girl whom I had liked a few months ago was playing a part, tensed her lithe body when she held on to the back of a chair in terror; from the balcony I pointed to the girl who was playing a male role, my companion did not like her. In one act the set was so large that nothing else was to be seen, no stage, no auditorium, no dark, no footlights; instead, great crowds of spectators were on the set which represented the Altstädter Ring, probably seen from the opening of Niklasstrasse. Although one should really not have been able to see the square in front of the Rathaus clock and the small Ring, short turns and slow rockings of the stage floor nevertheless made it possible to look down, for example, on the small Ring from Kinsky Palace. This had no purpose except to show the whole set whenever possible, since it was already there in such perfection anyhow, and since it would have been a crying shame to miss seeing any of this set which, as I was well aware, was the most beautiful set in all the world and of all time. The lighting was that of dark, autumnal clouds. The light of the dimmed sun was scatteredly reflected from one or another stained-glass window on the southeast side of the square. Since everything was executed in life size and without the smallest false detail, the fact that some of the casement windows were blown open and shut by the slight breeze without a sound because of the great height of the houses, made an overwhelming impression. The square was very steep, the pavement almost black, the Tein Church was in its place, but in front of it was a small imperial castle in the courtyard of which all the monuments that ordinarily stood in the square were assembled in perfect order: the Pillar of St. Mary, the old fountain in front of the Rathaus that I myself have never seen, the fountain before the Niklas Church, and a board fence that has now been put up round the excavation for the Hus memorial.

They acted—in the audience one often forgets that it is only acting, how much truer is this on the stage and behind the scenes—an imperial fête and a revolution. The revolution, with huge throngs of people sent back and forth, was probably greater than anything that ever took place in Prague; they had apparently located it in Prague only because of the set, although really it belonged in Paris. Of the fête one saw nothing at first, in any event, the court had ridden off to a fête, meanwhile the revolution had broken out, the people had forced its way into the castle, I myself ran out into the open right over the ledges of the fountain in the churchyard, but it was supposed to be impossible for the court to return to the castle. Then the court carriages came from Eisengasse at so wild a pace that they had to brake while still far from the castle entrance, and slid across the pavement with locked wheels. They were the sort of carriages—one sees them at festivals and processions—on which living tableaux are shown, they were therefore flat, hung with garlands of flowers, and from the carriage doors a colored cloth covering the wheels hung down all around. One was all the more aware of the terror that their speed indicated. As though unconsciously, the horses, which reared before the entrance, pulled the carriages in a curve from Eisengasse to the castle. Just then many people streamed past me out into the square, mostly spectators whom I knew from the street and who perhaps had arrived this very moment. Among them there was also a girl I know, but I do not know which; beside her walked a young, elegant man in a yellowish-brown ulster with small checks, his right hand deep in his pocket. They walked toward Niklasstrasse. From this moment on I saw nothing more.

Schiller some place or other: The chief thing is (or something similar) “to transform emotion into character.”

11 November. Saturday. Yesterday all afternoon at Max's. Decided on the sequence of the essays for The Beauty of Ugly Pictures. Without good feeling. It is just then, however, that Max loves me most, or does it only seem so because then I am so clearly conscious how little deserving I am. No, he really loves me more. He wants to include my “Brescia” in the book too. Everything good in me struggles against it. I was supposed to go to Brünn with him today. Everything bad and weak in me held me back. For I cannot believe that I shall really write something good tomorrow.

The girls, tightly wrapped up in their work aprons, especially behind. One at Löwy's and Winterberg's this morning whose apron flaps, which closed only on her behind, did not tie together as they usually do, but instead closed over each other so that she was wrapped up like a child in swaddling clothes. Sensual impression like that which, even unconsciously, I always had of children in swaddling clothes who are so squeezed in their wrappings and beds and so laced with ribbons, quite as though to satisfy one's lust.

Edison, in an American interview, told of his trip through Bohemia, in his opinion the relatively higher development of Bohemia (in the suburbs there are broad streets, gardens in front of the houses, in travelling through the country you see factories being built) is due to the fact that the emigration of Czechs to America is so large, and that those returning from there one by one bring new ambition back.

As soon as I become aware in any way that I leave abuses undisturbed which it was really intended that I should correct (for example, the extremely satisfied, but from my point of view dismal, life of my married sister [Elli]), I lose all sensation in my arm muscles for a moment.

I will try, gradually, to group everything certain in me, later the credible, then the possible, etc. The greed for books is certain in me. Not really to own or to read them, but rather to see them, to convince myself of their actuality in the stalls of a bookseller. If there are several copies of the same book somewhere, each individual one delights me. It is as though this greed came from my stomach, as though it were a perverse appetite. Books that I own delight me less, but books belonging to my sisters do delight me. The desire to own them is incomparably less, it is almost absent.

12 November. Sunday. Yesterday lecture by Richepin: “La Légende de Napoléon” in the Rudolphinum. Pretty empty. As though on sudden inspiration to test the manners of the lecturer, a large piano is standing in the way between the small entrance door and the lecturer's table. The lecturer enters, he wants, with his eyes on the audience, to reach his table by the shortest route, therefore comes close to the piano, is startled, steps back and walks around it softly without looking at the audience again. In the enthusiasm at the end of his speech and in the loud applause, he naturally forgot the piano, as it did not call attention to itself during the lecture. With his hands on his chest, he wants to turn his back on the audience as late as possible, therefore takes several elegant steps to the side, naturally bumps gently into the piano and, on tiptoe, must arch his back a little before he gets into the clear again. At least that is the way Richepin did it.

A tall, powerful man of fifty with a waistline. His hair is stiff and tousled (Daudet's, for example) although pressed fairly close to his skull. Like all old Southerners with their thick nose and the broad, wrinkled face that goes with it, from whose nostrils a strong wind can blow as from a horse's muzzle, and of whom you know very well that this is the final state of their faces, it will not be replaced but will endure for a long time; his face also reminded me of the face of an elderly Italian woman wearing a very natural, definitely not false beard.

The freshly painted light gray of the podium rising behind him was distracting at first. His white hair blended with the color and there was no outline to be seen. When he bent his head back the color was set in motion, his head almost sank in it. Only towards the middle of the lecture, when your attention was fully concentrated, did this disturbance come to an end, especially when he raised his large, black-clad body during a recitation and, with waving hands, conducted the verses and put the gray color to flight—in the beginning he was embarrassing, he scattered so many compliments in all directions. In telling about a Napoleonic soldier whom he had known personally and who had had fifty-seven wounds, he remarked that the variety of colors on the torso of this man could have been imitated only by a great colorist such as his friend Mucha, who was present.

I observed in myself a continual increase in the degree to which I am affected by people on a podium. I gave no thought to my pains and cares. I was squeezed into the left corner of my chair, but really into the lecture, my clasped hands between my knees. I felt that Richepin had an effect upon me such as Solomon must have felt when he took young girls into his bed. I even had a slight vision of Napoleon who, in a connected fantasy, also stepped through the little entrance door although he could really have stepped out of the wood of the podium or out of the organ. He overwhelmed the entire hall, which was tightly packed at that moment. Near as I actually was to him, I had and would have had even in reality never a doubt of his effect. I should perhaps have noticed any absurdity in his dress, as in the case of Richepin as well, but noticing it would not have disturbed me. How cool I had been, on the other hand, as a child! I often wished to be brought face to face with the Emperor to show him how little effect he had. And that was not courage, it was just coolness.

He recited poems as though they were speeches in the Chamber. An impotent onlooker at battles, he pounded the table, he flung out his outstretched arms to clear a path for the guards through the middle of the hall, “Empereur!” he shouted, with his raised arm become a banner, and in repeating it made it echo as though an army was shouting down in the plain. During the description of a battle, a little foot kicked against the floor somewhere, the matter was looked into, it was his foot that had had too little confidence in itself. But it did not disturb him. After “The Grenadiers,” which he read in a translation by Gérard de Nerval and which he thought very highly of, there was the least applause.

In his youth the tomb of Napoleon had been opened once a year and the embalmed face was displayed to disabled soldiers filing past in procession; the face was bloated and greenish, more a spectacle of terror than of admiration; this is why they later stopped opening the tomb. But nevertheless Richepin saw the face from the arm of his grand-uncle, who had served in Africa and for whose sake the Commandant opened the tomb.

He announces long in advance that a poem he intends to recite (he has an infallible memory, which a strong temperament must really always have), discusses it, the coming verses already cause a small earthquake under his words, in the case of the first poem he even said he would recite it with all his fire. He did.

He brought things to a climax in the last poem by getting imperceptibly into the verses (by Victor Hugo), standing up slowly, not sitting down again even after he finished the verses, picking up and carrying on the sweeping movements of the recitation with the final force of his own prose. He closed with the vow that even after a thousand years each grain of dust of his corpse, if it should have consciousness, would be ready to answer the call of Napoleon.

The French, short-winded from the quick succession of its escaping breaths, withstood even the most unskillful improvisations, did not break down even under his frequent talking about poets who beautify everyday life, about his own imagination (eyes closed) being that of a poet's, about his hallucinations (eyes reluctantly wrenched open on the distance) being those of a poet's, etc. At the same time he sometimes covered his eyes and then slowly uncovered them, taking away one finger after another.

He served in the army, his uncle in Africa, his grandfather under Napoleon, he even sang two lines of a battle song. 13 November. And this man is, I learned today, sixty-two years old.

14 November. Tuesday. Yesterday at Max's who returned from his Brünn lecture.

In the afternoon while falling asleep. As though the solid skullcap encircling the insensitive cranium had moved more deeply inwards and left a part of the brain exposed to the free play of light and muscles.

To awaken on a cold autumn morning full of yellowish light. To force your way through the half-shut window and while still in front of the panes, before you fall, to hover, arms extended, belly arched, legs curved backwards, like the figures on the bows of ships in old times.

Before falling asleep.

It seems so dreadful to be a bachelor, to become an old man struggling to keep one's dignity while begging for an invitation whenever one wants to spend an evening in company, having to carry one's meal home in one's hand, unable to expect anyone with a lazy sense of calm confidence, able only with difficulty and vexation to give a gift to someone, having to say good night at the front door, never being able to run up a stairway beside one's wife, to lie ill and have only the solace of the view from one's window when one can sit up, to have only side doors in one's room leading into other people's living rooms, to feel estranged from one’s family, with whom one can keep on close terms only by marriage, first by the marriage of one's parents, then, when the effect of that has worn off, by one's own, having to admire other people's children and not even being allowed to go on saying: “I have none myself,” never to feel oneself grow older since there is no family growing up around one, modeling oneself in appearance and behavior on one or two bachelors remembered from our youth.

This is all true, but it is easy to make the error of unfolding future sufferings so far in front of one that one's eye must pass beyond them and never again return, while in reality, both today and later, one will stand with a palpable body and a real head, a real forehead that is, for smiting on with one's hand.

Now I'll try a sketch for the introduction to Richard and Samuel.

15 November. Yesterday evening, already with a sense of foreboding, pulled the cover off the bed, lay down, and again became aware of all my abilities as though I were holding them in my hand; they tightened my chest, they set my head on fire, for a short while, to console myself for not getting up to work, I repeated: “That's not healthy, that's not healthy,” and with almost visible purpose tried to draw sleep over my head. I kept thinking of a cap with a visor which, to protect myself, I pulled down hard over my forehead. How much did I lose yesterday, how the blood pounded in my tight head, capable of anything and restrained only by powers which are indispensable for my very life and are here being wasted.

It is certain that everything I have conceived in advance, even when I was in a good mood, whether word for word or just casually, but in specific words appears dry, wrong, inflexible, embarrassing to everybody around me, timid, but above all incomplete when I try to write it down at my desk, although I have forgotten nothing of the original conception. This is naturally related in large part to the fact that I conceive something good away from paper only in a time of exaltation, a time more feared than longed for, much as I do long for it; but then the fullness is so great that I have to give up. Blindly and arbitrarily I snatch handfuls out of the stream so that when I write it down calmly, my acquisition is nothing in comparison with the fullness in which it lived, is incapable of restoring this fullness, and thus is bad and disturbing because it tempts to no purpose.

16 November. This noon, before falling asleep, but I did not fall asleep, the upper part of the body of a wax woman lay on top of me. Her face was bent back over mine, her left forearm pressed against my breast.

No sleep for three nights, at the slightest effort to do anything my strength is immediately exhausted.

From an old notebook: “Now, in the evening, after having studied since six o'clock in the morning, I noticed that my left hand had already for some time been sympathetically clasping my right hand by the fingers.”

18 November. Yesterday in the factory. Rode back on the trolley, sat in a corner with legs stretched out, saw people outside, lights in stores, walls of viaducts through which we passed, backs and faces over and over again, a highway leading from the business street of the suburb with nothing human on it save people going home, the glaring electric lights of the railway station burned into the darkness, the low, tapering chimneys of a gasworks, a poster announcing the guest appearance of a singer, de Treville, that gropes its way along the walls as far as an alley near the cemeteries, from where it then returned with me out of the cold of the fields into the liveable warmth of the city. We accept foreign cities as a fact, the inhabitants live there without penetrating our way of life, just as we cannot penetrate theirs, a comparison must be made, it can't be helped, but one is well aware that it has no moral or even psychological value, in the end one can often even omit the comparison because the difference in the condition of life is so great that it makes it unnecessary.

The suburbs of our native city, however, are also foreign to us, but in this case comparisons have value, a half-hour's walk can prove it to us over and over again, here live people partly within our city, partly on the miserable, dark edge of the city that is furrowed like a great ditch, although they all have an area of interest in common with us that is greater than any other group of people outside the city. For this reason I always enter and leave the suburb with a weak mixed feeling of anxiety, of abandonment, of sympathy, of curiosity, of conceit, of joy in travelling, of fortitude, and return with pleasure, seriousness, and calm, especially from Zizkov.

19 November. Sunday. Dream: In the theater. Performance of Das Weite Land (The Waste Land) by Schnitzler, adapted by Utitz. I sit right up at the front, think I am sitting in the first row until it finally appears that it is the second. The back of the row is turned towards the stage so that one can see the auditorium comfortably, the stage only by turning. The author is somewhere nearby, I can't hold back my poor opinion of the play which I seem to know from before, but add that the third act is supposed to be witty. With this “supposed to be,” however, I mean to say that if one is speaking of the good parts, I do not know the play and must rely on hearsay; therefore I repeat this remark once more, not just for myself, but nevertheless it is disregarded by the others. There is a great crush around me. The audience seems to have come in its winter clothes, everyone fills his seat to overflowing. People beside me, behind me, whom I do not see, interrupt me, point out new arrivals, mention their names, my attention is called especially to a married couple forcing their way along a row of seats, since the woman has a dark-yellow, mannish, long-nosed face, and besides, as far as one can see in the crowd out of which her head towers, is wearing men's clothes; near me, remarkably free, the actor Löwy, but very unlike the real one, is standing and making excited speeches in which the word “principium” is repeated, I keep expecting the words “tertium comparationis,” they do not come. In a box in the second tier, really only in a right-hand corner (seen from the stage) of the balcony that connects with the boxes there, a third son of the Kisch family, dressed in a beautiful Prince Albert with its flaps opened wide, stands behind his mother, who is seated, and speaks out into the theater. Löwy's speeches have a connection with these speeches. Among other things, Kisch points high up to a spot on the curtain and says, “There sits the German Kisch,” by this he means my schoolmate who studied Germanics. When the curtain goes up the theater begins to darken, and Kisch, in order to indicate that he would disappear in any case, marches up and away from the balcony with his mother, again with all his arms, coats, and legs spread wide.

The stage is somewhat lower than the auditorium, you look down with your chin on the back of the seat. The set consists chiefly of two low, thick pillars in the middle of the stage. The scene is a banquet in which girls and young men take part. Despite the fact that when the play began many people in the first rows left, apparently to go backstage, I can see very little, for the girls left behind block the view with their large, flat hats, most of which are blue, that move back and forth along the whole length of the row. Nevertheless, I see a small ten- to fifteen-year-old boy unusually clearly on the stage. He has dry, parted, straight-cut hair. He cannot even place his napkin properly on his lap, must look down carefully when he does, and is supposed to be a man-about-town in this play. In consequence, I no longer have much confidence in this theater. The company on the stage now waits for various newcomers who come down onto the stage from the first rows of the auditorium. But the play is not well rehearsed, either. Thus, an actress named Hackelberg has just entered, an actor, leaning back in his chair like a man of the world, addresses her as “Hackel,” then becomes aware of his mistake and corrects himself. Now a girl enters whom I know (her name is Frankel, I think), she climbs over the back of the seat right where I am sitting, her back, when she climbs over, is entirely naked, the skin not very good, over the right hip there is even a scratched, bloodshot spot the size of a doorknob. But then, when she turns around on the stage and stands there with a clean face, she acts very well. Now a singing horseman is supposed to approach out of the distance at a gallop, a piano reproduces the clatter of hoofs, you hear the stormy song approaching, finally I see the singer too, who, to give the singing the natural swelling that takes place in a rapid approach, is running along the balcony up above towards the stage. He is not yet at the stage or through with the song and yet he has already passed the climax of haste and shrieking song, and the piano too can no longer reproduce distinctly the sound of hoofs striking against the stones. Both stop, therefore, and the singer approaches quietly, but he makes himself so small that only his head rises above the railing of the balcony, so that you cannot see him very clearly.

With this, the first act is over, but the curtain doesn't come down, the theater remains dark too. On the stage two critics sit on the floor, writing, with their backs resting against a piece of scenery. A dramatic coach or stage manager with a blond, pointed beard jumps on to the stage, while still in the air he stretches one hand out to give some instructions, in the other hand he has a bunch of grapes that had been in a fruit dish on the banquet table and which he now eats.

Again facing the auditorium I see that it is lit by simple paraffin lamps that are stuck up on simple chandeliers, like those in the streets, and now, of course, burn only very low. Suddenly, impure paraffin or a damaged wick is probably the cause, the light spurts out of one of these lanterns and sparks pour down in a broad gush on the crowded audience that forms a mass as black as earth. Then a gentleman rises up out of this mass, walks on it towards the lamp, apparently wants to fix the lamp, but first looks up at it, remains standing near it for a short while, and, when nothing happens, returns quietly to his place in which he is swallowed up. I take him for myself and bow my face into the darkness.

I and Max must really be different to the very core. Much as I admire his writings when they lie before me as a whole, resisting my and anyone else’s encroachment (a few small book reviews even today), still, every sentence he writes for Richard and Samuel is bound up with a reluctant concession on my part which I feel painfully to my very depths. At least today.

This evening I was again filled with anxiously restrained abilities.

20 November. Dream of a picture, apparently by Ingres. The girls in the woods in a thousand mirrors, or rather: the virgins, etc. To the right of the picture, grouped in the same way and airily drawn like the pictures on theater curtains, there was a more compact group, to the left they sat and lay on a gigantic twig or flying ribbon, or soared by their own power in a chain that rose slowly towards the sky. And now they were reflected not only towards the spectator but also away from him, became more indistinct and multitudinous; what the eye lost in detail it gained in fullness. But in front stood a naked girl untouched by the reflections, her weight on one leg, her hip thrust forward. Here Ingres's draftsmanship was to be admired, but I actually found with satisfaction that there was too much real nakedness left in this girl even for the sense of touch. From behind her came a gleam of pale, yellowish light.

My repugnance for antitheses is certain. They are unexpected, but do not surprise, for they have always been there; if they were unconscious, it was at the very edge of consciousness. They make for thoroughness, fullness, completeness, but only like a figure on the “wheel of life,” we have chased our little idea around the circle. They are as undifferentiated as they are different, they grow under one's hand as though bloated by water, beginning with the prospect of infinity, they always end up in the same medium size. They curl up, cannot be straightened out, are mere clues, are holes in wood, are immobile assaults, draw antitheses to themselves, as I have shown. If they would only draw all of them, and forever.

For the drama: Weise, English teacher, the way he hurried by with squared shoulders, his hands deep in his pockets, his yellowish overcoat tightly folded, crossing the tracks with powerful strides right in front of the trolley that still stood there but was already signaling its departure with its bell. Away from us.

E: Anna!

A [looking up]: Yes.

E: Come here.

A [long, quiet steps]: What do you want?

E: I wanted to tell you that I have been dissatisfied with you for some time.

A: Really!

E: It is so.

A: Then you must certainly give me notice, Emil.

E: So quickly? And don't you even ask the reason?

A: I know it.

E: You do?

A: You don't like the food.

E [stands up quickly, loud]: Do you or don't you know that Kurt is leaving this evening?

A [inwardly undisturbed]: Why yes, unfortunately he is leaving, you didn't have to call me here for that.

21 November. My former governess, the one with the black-and-yellow face, with the square nose and a wart on her cheek which used to delight me so, was at our house today for the second time recently to see me. The first time I wasn't home, this time I wanted to be left in peace and to sleep and made them tell her I was out. Why did she bring me up so badly, after all I was obedient, she herself is saying so now to the cook and the governess in the anteroom, I was good and had a quiet disposition. Why didn't she use this to my advantage and prepare a better future for me? She is a married woman or a widow, has children, has a lively way of speaking that doesn't let me sleep, thinks I am a tall, healthy gentleman at the beautiful age of twenty-eight who likes to remember his youth and in general knows what to do with himself. Now, however, I lie here on the sofa, kicked out of the world, watching for the sleep that refuses to come and will only graze me when it does, my joints ache with fatigue, my dried-up body trembles toward its own destruction in turmoils of which I dare not become fully conscious, in my head are astonishing convulsions. And there stand the three women before my door, one praises me as I was, two as I am. The cook says I shall go straight—she means without any detour—to heaven. This it shall be.

Löwy: A rabbi in the Talmud made it a principle, in this case very pleasing to God, to accept nothing, not even a glass of water, from anyone. Now it happened, however, that the greatest rabbi of his time wanted to make his acquaintance and therefore invited him to a meal. To refuse the invitation of such a man, that was impossible. The first rabbi therefore set out sadly on his journey. But because his principle was so strong, a mountain raised itself up between the two rabbis.

[ANNA sits at the table, reading the paper.

KARL walks round the room, when he comes to the window he stops and looks out, once he even opens the inner window.]

ANNA: Please leave the window closed, it's really freezing.

KARL [closes the window]: Well, we have different things to worry about.

(22 November) ANNA: No, but you have developed a new habit, Emil, one that's quite horrible. You know how to catch hold of every trifle and use it to find something bad in me.

KARL [rubs his fingers]: Because you have no consideration, because in general you are incomprehensible.

It is certain that a major obstacle to my progress is my physical condition. Nothing can be accomplished with such a body. I shall have to get used to its perpetual balking. As a result of the last few nights spent in wild dreams but with scarcely a few snatches of sleep, I was so incoherent this morning, felt nothing but my forehead, saw a halfway bearable condition only far beyond my present one, and in sheer readiness to die would have been glad simply to have curled up in a ball on the cement floor of the corridor with the documents in my hand. My body is too long for its weakness, it hasn't the least bit of fat to engender a blessed warmth, to preserve an inner fire, no fat on which the spirit could occasionally nourish itself beyond its daily need without damage to the whole. How shall the weak heart that lately has troubled me so often be able to pound the blood through all the length of these legs? It would be labor enough to the knees, and from there it can only spill with a senile strength into the cold lower parts of my legs. But now it is already needed up above again, it is being waited for, while it is wasting itself down below. Everything is pulled apart throughout the length of my body. What could it accomplish then, when it perhaps wouldn't have enough strength for what I want to achieve even if it were shorter and more compact.

From a letter of Löwy's to his father: When I come to Warsaw I will walk about among you in my European clothes like “a spider before your eyes, like a mourner at a wedding.”

Löwy tells a story about a married friend who lives in Postin, a small town near Warsaw, and who feels isolated in his progressive interests and therefore unhappy.

“Postin, is that a large city?”

“This large,” he holds out the palm of his hand to me. It is covered by a rough yellow-brown glove and looks like a wasteland.

23 November. On the 21st, the hundredth anniversary of Kleist's death, the Kleist family had a wreath placed on his grave with the epitaph: “To the best of their house.”

On what circumstances my way of life makes me dependent! Tonight I slept somewhat better than in the past week, this afternoon even fairly well, I even feel that drowsiness which follows moderately good sleep, consequently I am afraid I shall not be able to write as well, feel individual abilities turning more deeply inward, and am prepared for any surprise, that is, I already see it.

24 November. Shechite (one who is learning the slaughterer's art). Play by Gordin. In it quotations from the Talmud, for example:

If a great scholar commits a sin during the evening or the night, by morning you are no longer permitted to reproach him with it, for in his scholarship he has already repented of it himself.

If you steal an ox then you must return two, if you slaughter the stolen ox then you must return four, but if you slaughter a stolen calf then you must return only three because it is assumed that you had to carry the calf away, therefore had done hard work. This assumption influences the punishment even if the calf was led away without any difficulty.

Honesty of evil thoughts. Yesterday evening I felt especially miserable. My stomach was upset again. I had written with difficulty. I had listened with effort to Löwy's reading in the coffeehouse (which at first was quiet so that we had to restrain ourselves, but which then became full of bustle and gave us no peace), the dismal future immediately before me seemed not worth entering, abandoned, I walked through Ferdinandstrasse. Then at the junction with the Bergstein I once more thought about the more distant future. How would I live through it with this body picked up in a lumber room? The Talmud too says: A man without a woman is no person. I had no defense this evening against such thoughts except to say to myself: “It is now that you come, evil thoughts, now, because I am weak and have an upset stomach. You pick this time for me to think you. You have waited for your advantage. Shame on you. Come some other time, when I am stronger. Don't exploit my condition in this way.” And, in fact, without even waiting for other proofs, they yielded, scattered slowly and did not again disturb me during the rest of my walk, which was, naturally, not too happy. They apparently forgot, however, that if they were to respect all my evil moments, they would seldom get their chance.

The odor of petrol from a motor-car driving towards me from the theater made me notice how visibly a beautiful home life (and were it lit by a single candle, that is all one needs before going to bed) is waiting for the theater-goers coming towards me who are giving their cloaks and dangling opera glasses a last tug into place, but also how it seems that they are being sent home from the theater like subordinates before whom the curtain has gone down for the last time and behind whom the doors have opened through which—full of pride because of some ridiculous worry or another—they had entered the theater before the beginning of or during the first act.

28 November. Have written nothing for three days.

Spent all afternoon of the 25th in the Café City persuading M. to sign a declaration that he was just a clerk with us, therefore not covered by insurance, so that Father would not be obliged to make the large payment on his insurance. He promises it, I speak fluent Czech, I apologize for my mistakes with particular elegance, he promises to send the declaration to the office Monday, I feel that if he does not like me then at least he respects me, but on Monday he sends nothing, nor is he any longer in Prague, he has left.

Dull evening at Baum's without Max. Reading of Die Hässliche (The Ugly Woman), a story that is still too disorganized, the first chapter is rather the building-site of a story.

On Sunday, 26 November. Richard and Samuel with Max morning and afternoon until five. Then to N., a collector from Linz, recommended by Kubin, fifty, gigantic, towerlike movements; when he is silent for any length of time one bows one's head, for he is entirely silent, while when he speaks he does not speak entirely, his life consists of collecting and fornicating.

Collecting: He began with a collection of postage stamps, then turned to drawings, then collected everything, then saw the aimlessness of this collection which could never be completed and limited himself to amulets, later to pilgrimage medals and pilgrimage tracts from lower Austria and southern Bavaria. These are medals and tracts which are issued anew for each pilgrimage, most of them worthless in their material and also artistically, but often have nice pictures. He now also began industriously to write about them, and indeed was the first to write on this subject, for the systematization of which he first established the points of reference. Naturally, those who had been collecting these objects and had put off publishing were furious, but had to put up with it nevertheless. Now he is an acknowledged expert on these pilgrimage medals, requests come from all over for his opinion and decision on these medals, his voice is decisive. Besides, he collects everything else as well, his pride is a chastity belt that, together with his amulets, was exhibited at the Dresden Hygienic Exhibition. (He has just been there to have everything packed for shipment.) Then a beautiful knight's sword of the Falkensteiners. His relationship to art is unambiguous and clear in that bad way which collecting makes possible.

From the coffeehouse in the Hotel Graf he takes us up to his overheated room, sits down on the bed, we on two chairs around him, so that we form a quiet group. His first question: “Are you collectors?”

“No, only poor amateurs.”

“That doesn't matter.” He pulls out his wallet and practically showers us with book-plates, his own and others', jumbled with announcements of his next book, Magic and Superstition in the Mineral Kingdom. He has already written much, especially on “Motherhood in Art,” he considers the pregnant body the most beautiful, for him it is also the most pleasant to fuck (vögeln). He has also written about amulets. He was also in the employ of the Vienna Court Museum, was in charge of excavations in Braila at the mouth of the Danube, invented a process, named after him, for restoring excavated vases, is a member of thirteen learned societies and museums, his collection is willed to the Germanic Museum in Nuremberg, he often sits at his desk until one or two o'clock at night and is back at eight o'clock in the morning. We have to write something in a lady friend's album which he has brought along to fill up on his journey. Those who themselves create come first. Max writes a complicated verse which Mr. N. tries to render by the proverb, “Every cloud has a silver lining.” Before this, he had read it aloud in a wooden voice. I write down:

Little soul,
Boundest in dancing, etc.

He reads aloud again, I help, finally he says: “A Persian rhythm? Now what is that called? Ghazel? Right.” We are not in a position to agree with this nor even to guess at what he means. Finally he quotes a “ritornello by Rückert.” Yes, he meant ritornello. However, it is not that either. Very well, but it has a certain melody.

He is a friend of Halbe. He likes to talk about him. We would much rather talk about Blei. There is not much to say about him, however, Munich literary society does not think much of him because of his intellectual double crossing, he is divorced from his wife who had had a large practice as a dentist and supported him, his daughter, sixteen, blonde, with blue eyes, is the wildest girl in Munich. In Sternheim's Hose—N. was at the theater with Halbe—Blei played an aging man-about-town. When N. met him the next day he said: “Herr Doktor, yesterday you played Dr. Blei.”

“What? What?” he said in embarrassment, “but I was playing so-and-so.”

When we leave he throws open the bed so that it may thoroughly take on the warmth of the room, he arranges for additional hearing besides.

29 November. From the Talmud: When a scholar goes to meet his bride, he should take an am ha-aretz (a man of the street, an uneducated man) along, he is too deeply sunk in his scholarliness, he would not observe what should be observed.

As a result of bribery the telephone and telegraph wires around Warsaw were put up in a complete circle, which in the sense of the Talmud makes the city a bounded area, a courtyard, as it were, so that on Saturday it is possible even for the most pious person to move about, carry trifles (like handkerchiefs) on his person, within this circle.

The parties of the Hasidim where they merrily discourse on talmudic problems. If the entertainment runs down or if someone does not take part, they make up for it by singing. Melodies are invented, if one is a success, members of the family are called in and it is repeated and rehearsed with them. At one such entertainment a wonder-rabbi who often had hallucinations suddenly laid his face on his arms, which were resting on the table, and remained in that position for three hours while everyone was silent. When he awoke he wept and sang an entirely new, gay, military march. This was the melody with which the angels of the dead had just escorted to heaven the soul of a wonder-rabbi who had died at this time in a far-off Russian city.

On Friday, according to the Kabbalah, the pious get a new, more delicate soul, entirely divine, which remains with them until Saturday evening.

On Friday evening two angels accompany each pious man from the synagogue to his home; the master of the house stands while he greets them in the dining room; they stay only a short time.

The education of girls, their growing up, getting used to the ways of the world, was always especially important to me. Then they no longer run so hopelessly out of the way of a person who knows them only casually and would like to speak casually with them, they have begun to stop for a moment, even though it be not quite in that part of the room in which you would have them, you need no longer hold them with glances, threats, or the power of love; when they turn away they do so slowly and do not intend any harm by it, then their backs have become broader too. What you say to them is not lost, they listen to the whole question without your having to hurry, and they answer, jokingly to be sure, but directly to the point. Yes, with their faces lifted up they even ask questions themselves, and a short conversation is not more than they can stand. They hardly ever let a spectator disturb them any more in the work they have just undertaken, and therefore pay less attention to him, yet he may look at them longer. They withdraw only to dress for dinner. This is the only time when you may be insecure. Apart from this, however, you need no longer run through the streets, lie in wait at house doors, and wait over and over again for a lucky chance, even though you have really long since learned that such chances can't be forced.

But despite this great change that has taken place in them it is no rarity for them to come towards us with mournful faces when we meet them unexpectedly, to put their hands flatly in ours and with slow gestures invite us to enter their homes as though we were business acquaintances. They walk heavily up and down in the next room; but when we penetrate there too, in desire and spite, they crouch in a window-seat and read the paper without a glance to spare for us.

3 December. I have read a part of Schäfer's Karl Stauffers Lebensgang. Eine Chronik der Leidenschaft (The Course of Karl Stauffer's Life. A Chronicle of Passion), and am so caught up and held fast by this powerful impression forcing its ways into that inner part of me which I listen to and learn from only at rare intervals, but at the same time am driven to such a pass by the hunger imposed on me by my upset stomach and by the usual excitements of the free Sunday, that I must write, just as one can get relief from external excitement forced upon one from the outside only by flailing one's arms.

The unhappiness of the bachelor, whether seeming or actual, is so easily guessed at by the world around him that he will curse his decision, at least if he has remained a bachelor because of the delight he takes in secrecy. He walks around with his coat buttoned, his hands in the upper pockets of his jacket, his arms akimbo, his hat pulled down over his eyes, a false smile that has become natural to him is supposed to shield his mouth as his glasses do his eyes, his trousers are tighter than seem proper for his thin legs. But everyone knows his condition, can detail his sufferings. A cold breeze breathes upon him from within and he gazes inward with the even sadder half of his double face. He moves incessantly, but with predictable regularity, from one apartment to another. The farther he moves away from the living, for whom he must still—and this is the worst mockery—work like a conscious slave who dare not express his consciousness, so much the smaller a space is considered sufficient for him. While it is death that must still strike down the others, though they may have spent all their lives in a sickbed—for even though they would have gone down by themselves long ago from their own weakness, they nevertheless hold fast to their loving, very healthy relatives by blood and marriage—he, this bachelor, still in the midst of life, apparently of his own free will resigns himself to an ever smaller space, and when he dies the coffin is exactly right for him.

My recent reading of Mörike's autobiography to my sisters began well enough but improved as I went on, and finally, my fingertips together, it conquered inner obstacles with my voice's unceasing calm, provided a constantly expanding panorama for my voice, and finally the whole room round about me dared admit nothing but my voice. Until my parents, returning from business, rang.

Before falling asleep felt on my body the weight of the fists on my light arms.

8 December. Friday, have not written for a long time, but this time it was really in part because of satisfaction, as I have finished the first chapter of Richard and Samuel and consider it, particularly the original description of the sleep in the train compartment, a success. Even more, I think that something is happening within me that is very close to Schiller's transformation of emotion into character. Despite all the resistance of my inner being I must write this down.

Walk with Löwy to the Lieutenant-Governor's castle, which I called Fort Zion. The entrance gates and the color of the sky matched very well.

Another walk to Hetz Island. Story about Mrs. Tschissik, how they took her into the company in Berlin out of pity, at first an insignificant singer of duets in an antiquated dress and hat. Reading of a letter from Warsaw in which a young Warsaw Jew complains about the decline of the Jewish theater and writes that he prefers to go to the “Nowosti,” the Polish operetta theater, rather than to the Jewish one, for the miserable equipment, the indecencies, the “moldy” couplets, etc., are unbearable. Just imagine the big scene of a Jewish operetta in which the prima donna, with a train of small children behind her, marches through the audience on to the stage. Each of them is carrying a small scroll of the Torah and is singing: Toire iz di beste s'khoire—the Torah is the best merchandise.

Beautiful lonely walk over the Hradschin and the Belvedere after those successful parts of Richard and Samuel. In the Nerudagasse a sign: Anna Krizová, Dressmaker, Trained in France by the Aid of the Dowager Duchess Ahrenberg, née Princess Ahrenberg—in the middle of the first castle court I stood and watched the calling out of the castle guard.

The last section I wrote hasn't pleased Max, probably because he regards it as unsuitable for the whole, but possibly also because he considers it bad in itself. This is very probable because he warned me against writing such long passages and regards the effect of such writng as somewhat jellylike.

In order to be able to speak to young girls I need older persons near me. The slight disturbance emanating from them enlivens my speech, I immediately feel that the demands made on me are diminished; what I speak out of myself without previous consideration can always if it is not suitable for the girl, be directed to the older person, from whom I can also, if it becomes necessary, draw an abundance of help.

Miss H. She reminds me of Mrs. Bl., only her long, slightly double-curved, and relatively narrow nose looks like the ruined nose of Mrs. Bl. But apart from that there is also in her face a blackness, hardly caused externally, that can be driven into the skin only by a strong character. Broad back, well on the way to being a woman's swelling back; heavy body that seems thin in the well-cut jacket and on which the narrow jacket is even loose. She raises her head freely to show that she has found a way out of the embarrassing moments of the conversation. Indeed, I was not put down in this conversation, had not surrendered even inwardly, but had I just looked at myself from the outside, I should not have been able to explain my behavior in any other way. In the past I could not express myself freely in the company of new acquaintances because the presence of sexual wishes unconsciously hindered me, now their conscious absence hinders me.

Ran into the Tschissik couple at the Graben. She was wearing the hussy's dress she wore in Der Wilde Mensch. When I break down her appearance into its details as I saw it then at the Graben, she becomes improbable. (I saw her only for a moment, for I became frightened at the sight of her, did not greet her, nor did she see me, and I did not immediately dare to turn around.) She seemed much smaller than usual, her left hip was thrust forward, not just at the moment, but permanently, her right leg was bent in at the knee, the movements of her throat and head, which she brought close to her husband, were very quick, with her right arm crooked outwards she tried to take the arm of her husband. He was wearing his little summer hat with the brim turned down in front. When I turned they were gone. I guessed that they had gone to the Café Central, waked awhile on the other side of the Graben, and was lucky enough after a long interval to see her come to the window. When she sat down at the table only the rim of her cardboard hat, covered with blue velvet, was visible.

I then dreamed that I was in a very narrow but not very tall glass-domed house with two entrances like the impassable passageways in the paintings of Italian primitives, also resembling from the distance an arcade leading off from the rue des Petits Champs that we saw in Paris. Except that the one in Paris was really wider and full of stores, but this one ran along between blank walls, appeared to have scarcely enough room for two people to walk side by side, but when one really entered it, as I did with Mrs. Tschissik, there was a surprising amount of room, which did not really surprise us. While I left by one exit with Mrs. Tschissik in the direction of a possible observer of all this, and Mrs. Tschissik at the same time apologized for some offense or other (it seemed to be drunkenness) and begged me not to believe her detractors, Mr. Tschissik, at the second of the house's two exits, whipped a shaggy, blond St. Bernard which stood opposite him on its hind legs. It was not quite clear whether he was just playing with the dog and neglected his wife because of it, or whether he had himself been attacked by the dog in earnest, or whether he wished to keep the dog away from us.

With L. on the quay. I had a slight spell of faintness that stifled all my being, got over it and remembered it after a short time as something long forgotten.

Even if I overlook all other obstacles (physical condition, parents, character), the following serves as a very good excuse for my not limiting myself to literature in spite of everything: I can take nothing on myself as long as I have not achieved a sustained work that satisfies me completely. That is of course irrefutable.

I have now, and have had since this afternoon, a great yearning to write all my anxiety entirely out of me, write it into the depths of the paper just as it comes out of the depths of me, or write it down in such a way that I could draw what I had written into me completely. This is no artistic yearning. Today, when Löwy spoke of his dissatisfaction with and of his indifference to everything that the troupe does, I explained his condition as due to homesickness, but in a sense did not give him this explanation even though I voiced it, instead kept it for myself and enjoyed it in passing as a sorrow of my own.

9 December. Stauffer-Bern: “The sweetness of creation begets illusions about its real value.”

If one patiently submits to a book of letters or memoirs, no matter by whom, in this case it is Karl Stauffer-Bern, one doesn't make him one's own by main strength, for to do this one has to employ art, and art is its own reward; but rather one suffers oneself to be drawn away—this is easily done, if one doesn't resist—by the concentrated otherness of the person writing, and lets oneself be made into his counterpart. Thus it is no longer remarkable, when one is brought back to one's sex by the closing of the book, that one feels the better for this excursion and this recreation, and, with a clearer head, remains behind in one's own being, which has been newly discovered, newly shaken up and seen for a moment from the distance. Only later are we surprised that these experiences of another person's life, in spite of their vividness, are faithfully described in the book—our own experience inclines us to think that nothing in the world is further removed from an experience (sorrow over the death of a friend, for instance) than its description. But what is right for us is not right for the other person. If our letters cannot match our own feelings—naturally, there are varying degrees of this, passing imperceptibly into one another in both directions—if even at our best, expressions like “indescribable,” “inexpressible,” or “so sad,” or “so beautiful,” followed by a rapidly collapsing “that” clause, must perpetually come to our assistance, then as if in compensation we have been given the ability to comprehend what another person has written with at least the same degree of calm exactitude which we lack when we confront our own letter-writing. Our ignorance of those feelings which alternately make us crumple up and pull open again the letter in front of us, this very ignorance becomes knowledge the moment we are compelled to limit ourselves to this letter, to believe only what it says, and thus to find it perfectly expressed and perfect in expression, as is only right, if we are to see a clear road into what is most human. So Karl Stauffer's letters contain only an account of the short life of an artist—

10 December. Sunday. I must go to see my sister [Elli] and her little boy. When my mother came home from my sister's at one o'clock at night the day before yesterday with the news of the boy's birth, my father marched through the house in his nightshirt, opened all the doors, woke me, the maid, and my sisters and proclaimed the birth as though the child had not only been born, but as though it had already lived an honorable life and been buried too.

13 December. Because of fatigue did not write and lay now on the sofa in the warm room and now on the one in the cold room, with sick legs and disgusting dreams. A dog lay on my body, one paw near my face. I woke up because of it but was still afraid for a little while to open my eyes and look at it.

Biberpelz (Beaver Fur). Bad play, flowing along without climax. Scenes with the police superintendent not true. Delicate acting by the Lehmann woman of the Lessing Theater. The way her skirt folds between her thighs when she bends. The thoughtful look of the people when she raises her two hands, places them one under the other on the left in front of her face, as though she wanted to weaken the force of the denying or protesting voice. Bewildered, coarse acting of the others. The comedian's impudence towards the play (draws his saber, exchanges hats). My cold aversion. Went home, but while still there sat with a feeling of admiration that so many people take upon themselves so much excitement for an evening (they shout, steal, are robbed, harass, slander, neglect), and that in this play, if one only looks at it with blinking eyes, so many disordered human voices and exclamations are thrown together. Pretty girls. One with a flat face, unbroken surfaces of skin, rounded cheeks, hair beginning high up, eyes lost in this smoothness and protruding a little—Beautiful passages of the play in which the Wulffen woman shows herself at once a thief and an honest friend of the clever, progressive, democratic people. A Wehrhahn in the audience might feel himself justified—Sad parallelism of the four acts. In the first act there is stealing, in the second act is the judgment, the same in the third and fourth acts.

Der Schneider als Gemeinderat (The Tailor as Municipal Councilor) at the Jews. Without the Tschissiks but with two new, terrible people, thc Liebgold couple. Bad play by Richter. Thc beginning like Molière, the purse-proud alderman hung with watches. The Liebgold woman can't read, her husband has to rehearse with her.

It is almost a custom for a comedian to marry a serious actress and a serious actor a comedienne, and in general to take along with them only married women or relatives. The way once, at midnight, the piano player, probably a bachelor, slipped out of the door with his music.

Brahms concert by the Singing Society. The essence of my unmusicalness consists in my inability to enjoy music connectedly, it only now and then has an effect on me, and how seldom it is a musical one. The natural effect of music on me is to circumscribe me with a wall, and its only constant influence on me is that, confined in this way, I am different from what I am when free.

There is, among the public, no such reverence for literature as there is for music. The singing girls. It was only the melody that held open the mouths of many of them. The throat and head of one with a clumsy body quivered when she sang.

Three clerics in a box. The middle one, wearing a red skullcap, listens with calm and dignity, unmoved and heavy, but not stiff; the one on the right is sunken into himself, with a pointed, rigid, wrinkled face; the one on the left, stout, holds his face propped at an angle on his half-opened fist.

Played: Tragic Overture. (I hear only slow, solemn beats, now here, now there. It is instructive to watch the music pass from one group of players to another and to follow it with the ear. The disheveled hair of the conductor.) “Beherzigung” by Goethe, “Nänie” by Schiller, “Gesang der Parzen,” “Triumphlied.”

The singing women who stood up on the low balustrade as though on a piece of early Italian architecture.

Despite the fact that for a considerable time I have been standing deep in literature and it has often broken over me, it is certain that for the past three days, aside from a general desire to be happy, I have felt no genuine desire for literature. In the same way I considered Löwy my indispensable friend last week, and now I have easily dispensed with him for three days.

When I begin to write after a rather long interval, I draw the words as if out of the empty air. If I capture one, then I have just this one alone and all the toil must begin anew.

14 December. My father reproached me at noon because I don't bother with the factory. I explained that I had accepted a share because I expected profit but that I cannot take an active part so long as I am in the office. Father quarreled on, I stood silently at the window. This evening, however, I caught myself thinking, as a result of that noon-time discussion, that I could put up with my present situation very contentedly, and that I only had to be careful not to have all my time free for literature. I had scarcely exposed this thought to a closer inspection when it became no longer astonishing and already appeared accustomed. I disputed my ability to devote all my time to literature. This conviction arose, of course, only from the momentary situation, but was stronger than it. I also thought of Max as of a stranger despite the fact that today he has an exciting evening of reading and acting in Berlin, it occurs to me now that I thought of him only when I approached Miss Taussig's (his girlfriend's) house on my evening walk.

Walk with Löwy down by the river. The one pillar of the vault rising out of the Elizabeth Bridge, lit on the inside by an electric light, looked—a dark mass between light streaming from the sides—like a factory chimney, and the dark wedge of shadow stretching over it to the sky was like ascending smoke. The sharply outlined green areas of light at the side of the bridge.

The way, during the reading of Beethoven und das Liebespaar (Beethoven and the Lovers) by W. Schäfer, various thoughts (about dinner, about Löwy, who was waiting) unconnected with what I was reading passed through my mind with great distinctness without disturbing my reading, which just today was very pure.

16 December. Sunday, 12 noon. Idled away the morning with sleeping and reading newspapers. Afraid to finish a review for the Prager Tagblatt. Such fear of writing always expresses itself by my occasionally making up, away from my desk, initial sentences for what I am to write, which immediately prove unusable, dry, broken off long before their end, and pointing with their towering fragments to a sad future.

The old tricks at the Christmas Fair. Two cockatoos on a crossbar pull fortunes. Mistakes: a girl has a lady-love predicted. A man offers artificial flowers for sale in rhyme: To jest ruze udelená z kuze [This is a rose, made of leather].

Young Pipes when singing. As sole gesture, he rolls his right forearm back and forth at the joint, he opens his hands a little and then draws them together again. Sweat covers his face, especially his upper lip, as though with splinters of glass. A buttonless dickey has been hurriedly tucked into the vest under his straight black coat.

The warm shadow in the soft red of Mrs. Klug's mouth when she sings.

Jewish streets in Paris, rue Rosier, side street of rue de Rivoli.

If a disorganized education having only that minimum coherence indispensable for the merest uncertain existence is suddenly challenged to a task limited in time, therefore necessarily arduous, to self-development, to articulate speech, then the response can only be a bitterness in which are mingled arrogance over achievements which could be attained only by calling upon all one's untrained powers, a last glance at the knowledge that escapes in surprise and that is so very fluctuating because it was suspected rather than certain, and, finally, hate and admiration for the environment.

Before falling asleep yesterday I had an image of a drawing in which a group of people were isolated like a mountain in the air. The technique of the drawing seemed to me completely new and, once discovered, easily executed.

A company was assembled around a table, the earth extended somewhat beyond the circle of people, but of all these people, at the moment, I saw with a powerful glance only one young man in ancient dress. His left arm was propped on the table, the hand hung loosely over his face, which was playfully turned up towards someone who was solicitously or questioningly bent over him. His body, especially the right leg, was stretched out in careless youthfulness, he lay rather than sat. The two distinct pairs of lines that outlined his legs crossed and softly merged with the lines outlining his body. His pale, colored clothes lay heaped up between these lines with feeble corporeality. In astonishment at this beautiful drawing, which begot in my head an excitement that I was convinced was that same and indeed permanent excitement which would guide the pencil in my hand when I wished, I forced myself out of my twilight condition in order better to be able to think the drawing through. Then it soon turned out, of course, that I had imagined nothing but a small, gray-white porcelain group.

In periods of transition such as the past week has been for me and as this moment at least still is, a sad but calm astonishment at my lack of feeling often grips me. I am divided from all things by a hollow space and I don't even push myself to the limits of it.

Now, in the evening, when my thoughts begin to move more freely and I would perhaps be capable of something, I must go to the National Theater to the first night of Hippodamie by Vrchlicky.

It is certain that Sunday can never be of more use to me than a weekday because its special organization throws all my habits into confusion and I need the additional free time to adjust myself halfway to this special day.

The moment I were set free from the office I would yield at once to my desire to write an autobiography. I would have to have some such decisive change before me as a preliminary goal when I began to write in order to be able to give direction to the mass of events. But I cannot imagine any other inspiriting change than this, which is itself so terribly improbable. Then, however, the writing of the autobiography would be a great joy because it would move along as easily as the writing down of dreams, yet it would have an entirely different effect, a great one, which would always influence me and would be accessible as well to the understanding and feeling of everyone else.

18 December. Day before yesterday Hippodamie. Bad play. A rambling about in Greek mythology without rhyme or reason. Kvapil’s essay in the program which expresses between the lines the view apparent throughout the whole performance, that a good production (which here, however, was nothing but an imitation of Reinhardt) can make a bad play into a great theatrical work. All this must be sad for a Czech who knows even a little of the world.

The Lieutenant-Governor, who during the intermission snatched air from the corridor through the open door of his box.

The appearance of the dead Axiocha, called up in the shape of a phantom, who soon disappears because, having died only a short time ago, she relives her old human sorrows too keenly at the sight of the world.

I hate Werfel, not because I envy him, but I envy him too. He is healthy, young and rich, everything that I am not. Besides, gifted with a sense of music, he has done very good work early and easily, he has the happiest life behind him and before him, I work with weights I cannot get rid of, and I am entirely shut off from music.

I am not punctual because I do not feel the pains of waiting. I wait like an ox. For if I feel a purpose in my momentary existence, even a very uncertain one, I am so vain in my weakness that I would gladly bear anything for the sake of this purpose once it is before me. If I were in love, what couldn't I do then. How long I waited, years ago, under the arcades of the Ring until M. came by, even to see her walk with her lover. I have been late for appointments partly out of carelessness, partly out of ignorance of the pains of waiting, but also partly in order to attain new, complicated purposes through a renewed, uncertain search for the people with whom I had made the appointments, and so to achieve the possibility of long, uncertain waiting. From the fact that as a child I had a great nervous fear of waiting one could conclude that I was destined for something better and that I foresaw my future.

My good periods do not have time or opportunity to live themselves out naturally; my bad ones, on the other hand, have more than they need. As I see from the diary, I have now been suffering from such a state since the 9th, for almost ten days. Yesterday I once again went to bed with my head on fire, and was ready to rejoice that the bad time was over and ready to fear that I would sleep badly. It passed, however, I slept fairly well and feel badly when I'm awake.

19 December. Yesterday Davids Geige (David's Violin) by Lateiner. The disinherited son, a good violinist, returns home a rich man, as I used to dream of doing in my early days at the Gymnasium. But first, disguised as a beggar, his feet bound in rags like a snow shoveler, he tests his relatives who have never left home: his poor, honest daughter, his rich brother who will not give his son in marriage to his poor cousin and who despite his age himself wants to marry a young woman. He reveals himself later on by tearing open a Prince Albert under which, on a diagonal sash, hang decorations from all the princes of Europe. By violin playing and singing he turns all the relatives and their hangers-on into good people and straightens out their affairs.

Mrs. Tschissik acted again. Yesterday her body was more beautiful than her face, which seemed narrower than usual so that the forehead, which is thrown into wrinkles at her first word, was too striking. The beautifully founded, moderately strong, large body did not belong with her face yesterday, and she reminded me vaguely of hybrid beings like mermaids, sirens, centaurs. When she stood before me then, with her face distorted, her complexion spoiled by make-up, a stain on her dark-blue short-sleeved blouse, I felt as though I were speaking to a statue in a circle of pitiless onlookers.

Mrs. Klug stood near her and watched me. Miss Weltsch watched me from the left. I said as many stupid things as possible. I did not stop asking Mrs. Tschissik why she had gone to Dresden, although I knew that she had quarreled with the others and for that reason had gone away, and that this subject was embarrassing to her. In the end it was even more embarrassing to me, but nothing else occurred to me. When Mrs. Tschissik joined us while I was speaking to Mrs. Klug, I turned to Mrs. Tschissik, saying “Pardon!” to Mrs. Klug as though I intended to spend the rest of my life with Mrs. Tschissik. Then while I was speaking with Mrs. Tschissik I observed that my love had not really grasped her, but only flitted about her, now nearer, now farther. Indeed, it can find no peace.

Mrs. Liebgold acted a young man in a costume that tightly embraced her pregnant body. As she does not obey her father (Löwy), he presses the upper part of her body down on a chair and beats her over her very tightly trousered behind. Löwy said that he touched her with the same repugnance that he would a mouse. Seen from the front, however, she is pretty, it is only in profile that her nose slants down too long, too pointed and too cruel.

I first arrived at ten, took a walk and tasted to the full the slight nervousness of having a seat in the theater and going for a walk during the performance, that is, while the soloists were trying to sing me into my seat. I missed Mrs. Klug too. Listening to her always lively singing does nothing less than prove the solidity of the world, which is what I need, after all.

Today at breakfast I spoke with my mother by chance about children and marriage, only a few words, but for the first time saw clearly how untrue and childish is the conception of me that my mother builds up for herself. She considers me a healthy young man who suffers a little from the notion that he is ill. This notion will disappear by itself with time; marriage, of course, and having children would put an end to it best of all. Then my interest in literature would also be reduced to the degree that is perhaps necessary for an educated man. A matter-of-fact, undisturbed interest in my profession or in the factory or in whatever may come to hand will appear. Hence there is not the slightest, not the trace of a reason for permanent despair about my future. There is occasion for temporary despair, which is not very deep, however, whenever I think my stomach is upset, or when I can't sleep because I write too much. There are thousands of possible solutions. The most probable is that I shall suddenly fall in love with a girl and will never again want to do without her. Then I shall see how good their intentions towards me are and how little they will interfere with me. But if I remain a bachelor like my uncle in Madrid, that too will be no misfortune because with my cleverness I shall know how to make adjustments.

23 December. Saturday. When I look at my whole way of life going in a direction that is foreign and false to all my relatives and acquaintances, the apprehension arises, and my father expresses it, that I shall become a second Uncle Rudolf, the fool of the new generation of the family, the fool somewhat altered to meet the needs of a different period; but from now on I'll be able to feel how my mother (whose opposition to this opinion grows continually weaker in the course of the years) sums up and enforces everything that speaks for me and against Uncle Rudolf, and that enters like a wedge between the conceptions entertained about the two of us.

Day before yesterday in the factory. In the evening at Max's where the artist, Novak, was just then displaying the lithographs of Max. I could not express myself in their presence, could not say yes or no. Max voiced several opinions which he had already formed, whereupon my thinking revolved about them without result. Finally I became accustomed to the individual lithographs, overcame at least the surprise of my unaccustomed eye, found a chin round, a face compressed, a chest armorlike, or rather he looked as though he were wearing a giant dress shirt under his street clothes. The artist replied to this with something which was not to be understood either at the first or second attempt, weakening its significance only by saying it to us of all people who thus, if his opinions were proved to be genuinely correct, were in the position of having spoken the cheapest nonsense.

He asserted that it is the felt and even conscious task of the artist to assimilate his subject to his own art form. To achieve this he had first prepared a portrait sketch in color, which also lay before us and which in dark colors showed a really too sharp, dry likeness (this too-great-sharpness I can acknowledge only now), and was declared by Max to be the best portrait, as, aside from its likeness about the eyes and mouth, it showed nobly composed features brought out in the right degree by the dark colors. If one were asked about it, one couldn't deny it. From this sketch the artist now worked at home on his lithographs, endeavoring in lithograph after lithograph to get farther and farther away from the natural phenomenon but at the same time not only not to violate his own art form but rather to come closer to it stroke by stroke. So, for instance, the ear lost its human convolutions, and its clearly defined edge and became a sudden semicircular whorl around a small, dark opening. Max's bony chin, starting from the ear itself, lost its simple boundary, indispensable as it seems, and a new one was as little created for the observer as a new truth is created by the removal of the old. The hair flowed in sure, understandable outlines and remained human hair no matter how the artist denied it.

After having demanded from us understanding of these transformations, the artist indicated only hastily, but with pride, that everything on these sheets had significance and that even the accidental was necessary because its effect influenced everything that followed. Thus, alongside one head a narrow, pale coffee stain extended almost the entire length of the picture, it was part of the whole, so intended, and not to be removed without damage to all the proportions. There was in the left corner of another sheet a thinly stippled, scarcely noticeable, large blue stain; this stain had even been placed there intentionally, for the sake of the slight illumination that passed from it across the picture, and which the artist had taken advantage of when he continued his work. His next objective was now chiefly the mouth on which something, but not enough, had already been done, and then he intended to transform the nose too. In response to Max's complaint that in this way the lithograph would move farther and farther away from the beautiful color sketch, he observed that it wasn't at all impossible that it should again approach it.

One certainly could not overlook the sureness with which the artist relied throughout the discussion on the unexpected in his inspiration, and that only this reliance gave his work its best title to being almost a scientific one.—Bought two lithographs, “Apple Seller,” and “Walk.”

One advantage in keeping a diary is that you become aware with reassuring clarity of the changes which you constantly suffer and which in a general way are naturally believed, surmised, and admitted by you, but which you'll unconsciously deny when it comes to the point of gaining hope or peace from such an admission. In the diary you find proof that in situations which today would seem unbearable, you lived, looked around and wrote down observations, that this right hand moved then as it does today, when we may be wiser because we are able to look back upon our former condition, and for that very reason have got to admit the courage of our earlier striving in which we persisted even in sheer ignorance.

All yesterday morning my head was as if filled with mist from Werfel's poems. For a moment I feared the enthusiasm would carry me along straight into nonsense.

Tormenting discussion with Weltsch evening before last. My startled gaze ran up and down his face and throat for an hour. Once, in the midst of a facial distortion caused by excitement, weakness, and bewilderment, I was not sure that I would get out of the room without permanent damage to our relationship. Outside, in the rainy weather intended for silent walking, I drew a deep breath of relief and then for an hour waited contentedly for M. in front of the Orient. I find this sort of waiting, glancing slowly at the clock and walking indifferently up and down, almost as pleasant as lying on the sofa with legs stretched out and hands in my trouser pockets. (Half asleep, one then thinks one's hands are no longer in the trouser pockets at all, but are lying clenched on top of one's thighs.)

24 December. Sunday. Yesterday it was gay at Baum's. I was there with Weltsch. Max is in Breslau. I felt myself free, could carry every moment to its conclusion, I answered and listened properly, made the most noise, and if I occasionally said something stupid it did not loom large but blew over at once. The walk home in the rain with Weltsch was the same; despite puddles, wind, and cold it passed as quickly for us as though we had ridden. And we were both sorry to say goodbye.

As a child I was anxious, and if not anxious then uneasy, when my father spoke—as he often did, since he was a businessman—of the last day of the month (called the “ultimo”). Since I wasn't curious, and since I wasn't able—even if I sometimes did ask about it—to digest the answer quickly enough with my slow thinking, and since a weakly stirring curiosity once risen to the surface is often already satisfied by a question and an answer without requiring that it understand as well, the expression “the last day of the month” remained a disquieting mystery for me, to be joined later (the result of having listened more attentively) by the expression “ultimo,” even if the latter expression did not have the same great significance. It was bad too that the last day, dreaded so long in advance, could never be completely done away with. Sometimes, when it passed with no special sign, indeed with no special attention (I realized only much later that it always came after about thirty days), and when the first had happily arrived, one again began to speak of the last day, not with special dread, to be sure, but it was still something that I put without examination beside the rest of the incomprehensible.

When I arrived at W.'s yesterday noon I heard the voice of his sister greeting me, but I did not see her herself until her fragile figure detached itself from the rocking chair standing in front of me.

This morning my nephew's circumcision. A short, bow-legged man, Austerlitz, who already has 2,800 circumcisions behind him, carried the thing out very skillfully. It is an operation made more difficult by the fact that the boy, instead of lying on a table, lies on his grandfather's lap, and by the fact that the person performing the operation, instead of paying close attention, must whisper prayers. First the boy is prevented from moving by wrappings which leave only his member free, then the surface to be operated on is defined precisely by putting on a perforated metal disc, then the operation is performed with what is almost an ordinary knife, a sort of fish knife. One sees blood and raw flesh, the moule bustles about briefly with his long-nailed, trembling fingers and pulls skin from some place or other over the wound like the finger of a glove. At once everything is all right, the child has scarcely cried. Now there remains only a short prayer during which the moule drinks some wine and with his fingers, not yet entirely unbloody, carries some wine to the child's lips. Those present pray: “As he has now achieved the covenant, so may he achieve knowledge of the Torah, a happy marriage, and the performance of good deeds.”

Today when I heard the moule's assistant say the grace after meals and those present, aside from the two grandfathers, spent the time in dreams or boredom with a complete lack of understanding of the prayer, I saw Western European Judaism before me in a transition whose end is clearly unpredictable and about which those most closely affected are not concerned, but, like all people truly in transition, bear what is imposed upon them. It is so indisputable that these religious forms which have reached their final end have merely a historical character, even as they are practiced today, that only a short time was needed this very morning to interest the people present in the obsolete custom of circumcision and its half-sung prayers by describing it to them as something out of history.

Löwy, whom I keep waiting half an hour almost every evening, said to me yesterday: For several days I have been looking up at your window while waiting. First I see a light there; if I have come early, as I usually do, I assume that you are still working. Then the light is put out, in the next room the light stays on, you are therefore having dinner; then the light goes on again in your room, you are therefore brushing your teeth; then the light is put out, you are therefore already on the stairs, but then the light is put on again.

25 December. What I understand of contemporary Jewish literature in Warsaw through Löwy, and of contemporary Czech literature partly through my own insight, points to the fact that many of the benefits of literature—the stirring of minds, the coherence of national consciousness, often unrealized in public life and always tending to disintegrate, the pride which a nation gains from a literature of its own and the support it is afforded in the face of a hostile surrounding world, this keeping of a diary by a nation which is something entirely different from historiography and results in a more rapid (and yet always closely scrutinized) development, the spiritualization of the broad area of public life, the assimilation of dissatisfied elements that are immediately put to use precisely in this sphere where only stagnation can do harm, the constant integration of a people with respect to its whole that the incessant bustle of the magazines creates, the narrowing down of the attention of a nation upon itself and the accepting of what is foreign only in reflection, the birth of a respect for those active in literature, the transitory awakening in the younger generation of higher aspirations, which nevertheless leaves its permanent mark, the acknowledgement of literary events as objects of political solicitude, the dignification of the antithesis between fathers and sons and the possibility of discussing this, the presentation of national faults in a manner that is very painful, to be sure, but also liberating and deserving of forgiveness, the beginning of a lively and therefore self-respecting book trade and the eagerness for books—all these effects can be produced even by a literature whose development is not in actual fact unusually broad in scope, but seems to be, because it lacks outstanding talents. The liveliness of such a literature exceeds even that of one rich in talent, for, as it has no writer whose great gifts could silence at least the majority of nay-sayers, literary competition on the greatest scale has a real justification.

A literature not penetrated by a great talent has no gap through which the irrelevant might force its way. Its claim to attention thereby becomes more compelling. The independence of the individual writer, naturally only within the national boundaries, is better preserved. The lack of irresistible national models keeps the completely untalented away from literature. But even mediocre talent would not suffice for a writer to be influenced by the unstriking qualities of the fashionable writers of the moment, or to introduce the works of foreign literatures, or to imitate the foreign literature that has already been introduced; this is plain, for example, in a literature rich in great talents, such as the German is, where the worst writers limit their imitation to what they find at home. The creative and beneficent force exerted in these directions by a literature poor in its component parts proves especially effective when it begins to create a literary history out of the records of its dead writers. These writers' undeniable influence, past and present, becomes so matter-of-fact that it can take the place of their writings. One speaks of the latter and means the former, indeed, one even reads the latter and sees only the former. But since that effect cannot be forgotten, and since the writings themselves do not act independently upon the memory, there is no forgetting and no remembering again. Literary history offers an unchangeable, dependable whole that is hardly affected by the taste of the day.

A small nation's memory is not smaller than the memory of a large one and so can digest the existing material more thoroughly. There are, to be sure, fewer experts in literary history employed, but literature is less a concern of literary history than of the people, and thus, if not purely, it is at least reliably preserved. For the claim that the national consciousness of a small people makes on the individual is such that everyone must always be prepared to know that part of the literature which has come down to him, to support it, to defend it—to defend it even if he does not know it and support it.

The old writings acquire a multiplicity of interpretations; despite the mediocre material, this goes on with an energy that is restrained only by the fear that one may too easily exhaust them, and by the reverence they are accorded by common consent. Everything is done very honestly, only within a bias that is never resolved, that refuses to countenance any weariness, and is spread for miles around when a skilful hand is lifted up. But in the end bias interferes not only with a broad view but with a close insight as well—so that all these observations are cancelled out.

Since people lack a sense of context, their literary activities are out of context too. They depreciate something in order to be able to look down upon it from above, or they praise it to the skies in order to have a place up there beside it. (Wrong.) Even though something is often thought through calmly, one still does not reach the boundary where it connects up with similar things, one reaches this boundary soonest in politics, indeed, one even strives to see it before it is there, and often sees this limiting boundary everywhere. The narrowness of the field, the concern too for simplicity and uniformity, and, finally, the consideration that the inner independence of the literature makes the external connection with politics harmless, result in the dissemination of literature without a country on the basis of political slogans.

There is universal delight in the literary treatment of petty themes whose scope is not permitted to exceed the capacity of small enthusiasms and which are sustained by their polemical possibilities. Insults, intended as literature, roll back and forth. What in great literature goes on down below, constituting a not indispensable cellar of the structure, here takes place in the full light of day, what is there a matter of passing interest for a few, here absorbs everyone no less than as a matter of life and death.

A character sketch of the literature of small peoples.

Good results in both cases.

Here the results in individual instances are even better.

1. Liveliness:
a. Conflict.
b. Schools.
c. Magazines.

2. Less constraint:
a. Absence of principles.
b. Minor themes.
c. Easy formation of symbols.
d. Throwing off of the untalented.

3. Popularity:
a. Connection with politics.
b. Literary history.
c. Faith in literature, can make up their own laws.

It is difficult to readjust when one has felt this useful, happy life in all one's being.

Circumcision in Russia. Throughout the house, wherever there is a door, tablets the size of a hand printed with Kabbalistic symbols are hung up to protect the mother from evil spirits during the time between the birth and the circumcision. The evil spirits are especially dangerous to her and the child at this time, perhaps because her body is so very open and therefore offers an easy entrance to everything evil and because the child, too, so long as it has not been accepted into the covenant, can offer no resistance to evil. That is also the reason why a female attendant is taken in, so that the mother may not remain alone for a moment. For seven days after the birth, except on Friday, also in order to ward off evil spirits, ten to fifteen children, always different ones, led by the belfer (assistant teacher), are admitted to the bedside of the mother, there repeat the Shema Israel, and are then given candy. These innocent, five- to eight year-old children are supposed to be especially effective in driving back the evil spirits, who press forward most strongly towards evening. On Friday a special celebration is held, just as in general one banquet follows another during this week. Before the day of the circumcision the evil ones are wildest, and so the last night is a night of wakefulness and until morning someone watches beside the mother. The circumcision follows, often in the presence of more than a hundred relatives and friends. The most distinguished person present is permitted to carry the child. The circumciser, who performs his office without payment, is usually a drinker—busy as he is, he has no time for the various holiday foods and so simply pours down some brandy. Thus they all have red noses and reeking breaths. It is therefore not very pleasant when, after the operation has been performed, they suck the bloody member with this mouth, in the prescribed manner. The member is then sprinkled with sawdust and heals in about three days.

A close-knit family life does not seem to be so very common among and characteristic of the Jews, especially those in Russia. Family life is also found among Christians, after all, and the fact that women are excluded from the study of the Talmud is really destructive of Jewish family life; when the man wants to discuss learned talmudic matters—the very core of his life—with guests, the women withdraw to the next room even if they need not do so—so it is even more characteristic of the Jews that they come together at every possible opportunity, whether to pray or to study or to discuss divine matters or to eat holiday meals whose basis is usually a religious one and at which alcohol is drunk only very moderately. They flee to one another, so to speak.

Goethe probably retards the development of the German language by the force of his writing. Even though prose style has often traveled away from him in the interim, still, in the end, as at present, it returns to him with strengthened yearning and even adopts obsolete idioms found in Goethe but otherwise without any particular connection with him, in order to rejoice in the completeness of its unlimited dependence.

In Hebrew my name is Amschel, like my mother's maternal grandfather, whom my mother, who was six years old when he died, can remember as a very pious and learned man with a long, white beard. She remembers how she had to take hold of the toes of the corpse and ask forgiveness for any offense she may have committed against her grandfather. She also remembers her grandfather's many books which lined the walls. He bathed in the river every day, even in winter, when he chopped a hole in the ice for his bath. My mother's mother died of typhus at an early age. From the time of this death her grandmother became melancholy, refused to eat, spoke with no one, once, a year after the death of her daughter, she went for a walk and did not return, her body was found in the Elbe. An even more learned man than her grandfather was my mother's great-grandfather, Christians and Jews held him in equal honor; during a fire a miracle took place as a result of his piety, the flames jumped over and spared his house while the houses around it burned down. He had four sons, one was converted to Christianity and became a doctor. All but my mother's grandfather died young. He had one son, whom my mother knew as crazy Uncle Nathan, and one daughter, my mother's mother.

To run against the window and, weak after exerting all one's strength, to step over the window sill through the splintered wood and glass.

26 December. Slept badly again, the third night now. So the three holidays during which I had hoped to write things which were to have helped me through the whole year, I spent in a state requiring help. On Christmas Eve, walk with Löwy in the direction of Stern. Yesterday Blümale oder die Perle von Warschau (Blümale or The Pearl of Warsaw). For her steadfast love and loyalty Blümale is distinguished by the author with the honorific title, “Pearl of Warsaw,” in the name of the play. Only the exposed, long, delicate throat of Mrs. Tschissik explains the shape of her face. The glint of tears in Mrs. Klug's eyes when singing a monotonously rhythmic melody into which the audience lets their heads hang, seemed to me by far to surpass in significance the song, the theater, the cares of all the audience, indeed my imagination. View through the back curtain into the dressing room, directly to Mrs. Klug, who is standing there in a white petticoat and a short-sleeved shirt. My uncertainty about the feelings of the audience and therefore my strenuous inner spurring on of its enthusiasm. The skilful, amiable manner in which I spoke to Miss T. and her escort yesterday. It was part of the freedom of the good spirits which I felt yesterday and even as early as Saturday, that, although it was definitely not necessary, because of a certain complaisance toward the world and a reckless modesty I made use of a few seemingly embarrassed words and gestures. I was alone with my mother, and that too I took easily and well; looked at everyone with steadiness.

List of things which today are easy to imagine as ancient: the crippled beggars on the way to promenades and picnic places, the unilluminated atmosphere at night, the crossed girders of the bridge.

A list of those passages in Dichtung und Wahrheit (Poetry and Truth) that, by a peculiarity on which one cannot place one's finger, give an unusually strong impression of liveliness not essentially consistent with what is actually described; for instance, call up the image of the boy Goethe, how curious, richly dressed, loved and lively—he makes his way into the homes of all his acquaintances so that he may see and hear everything that is to be seen and heard. Now, when I leaf through the book, I cannot find any such passages, they all seem clear to me and have a liveliness that cannot be heightened by any accident. I must wait until some time when I am reading innocently along and then stop at the right passages.

It is unpleasant to listen to Father talk with incessant insinuations about the good fortune of people today and especially of his children, about the sufferings he had to endure in his youth. No one denies that for years, as a result of insufficient winter clothing, he had open sores on his legs, that he often went hungry, that when he was only ten he had to push a cart through the villages, even in winter and very early in the morning—but, and this is something he will not understand, these facts, taken together with the further fact that I have not gone through all this, by no means lead to the conclusion that I have been happier than he, that he may pride himself on these sores on his legs, which is something he assumes and asserts from the very beginning, that I cannot appreciate his past sufferings, and that, finally, just because I have not gone through the same sufferings I must be endlessly grateful to him. How gladly I would listen if he would talk on about his youth and parents, but to hear all this in a boastful and quarrelsome tone is torment. Over and over again he claps his hands together: “Who can understand that today! What do the children know! No one has gone through that! Does a child understand that today!” He spoke again in the same way today to Aunt Julie, who was visiting us. She too has the huge face of all Father's relatives. There is something wrong and somewhat disturbing about the set or color of her eyes. At the age of ten she was hired out as a cook. In a skimpy wet skirt, in the severe cold, she had to run out for something, the skin of her legs cracked, the skimpy skirt froze and it was only that evening, in bed, that it dried.

27 December. An unfortunate man, one who is condemned to have no children, is terribly imprisoned in his misfortune. Nowhere a hope for revival, for help from luckier stars. He must live his life, afflicted by his misfortune, and when its circle is ended must resign himself to it and not start out again to see whether, on a longer path, under other circumstances of body and time, the misfortune which he has suffered could disappear or even produce something good.

My feeling when I write something that is wrong might be depicted as follows: In front of two holes in the ground a man is waiting for something to appear that can rise up only out of the hole on his right. But while this hole remains covered over by a dimly visible lid, one thing after another rises up out of the hole on his left, keeps trying to attract his attention, and in the end succeeds in doing this without any difficulty because of its swelling size, which, much as the man may try to prevent it, finally covers up even the right hole. But the man—he does not want to leave this place, and indeed refuses to at any price—has nothing but these appearances, and although—fleeting as they are, their strength is used up by their merely appearing—they cannot satisfy him, he still strives, whenever out of weakness they are arrested in their rising up, to drive them up and scatter them into the air if only he can thus bring up others; for the permanent sight of one is unbear-able, and moreover he continues to hope that after the false appearances have been exhausted, the true will finally appear.

How weak this picture is. An incoherent assumption is thrust like a board between the actual feeling and the metaphor of the description.

28 December. The torment that the factory causes me. Why didn't I object when they made me promise to work there in the afternoons. No one used force to make me do it, but my father compels me by his reproaches, Karl [Hermann, Kafka's brother-in-law and owner of the factory] by his silence, and I by my consciousness of guilt. I know nothing about the factory, and this morning, when the committee made an inspection, I stood around uselessly with my tail between my legs. I deny that it is possible for me to fathom all the details of the operation of the factory. And if I should succeed in doing it by endlessly questioning and pestering all those concerned, what would I have achieved? I would be able to do nothing practical with this knowledge, I am fit only for spectacular performances to which the sound common sense of my boss adds the salt that makes it look like a really good job. But through this empty effort spent on the factory I would, on the other hand, rob myself of the use of the few afternoon hours that belong to me, which would of necessity lead to the complete destruction of my existence, which, even apart from this, becomes more and more hedged in.

This afternoon, while taking a walk, for the duration of a few steps I saw coming towards me or crossing my path entirely imaginary members of the committee that caused me such anxiety this morning.

29 December. Those lively passages in Goethe. Page 265, “I therefore led my friend into the woods.”

Goethe: 307. “Now I heard during these hours no other conversation save what concerned medicine or natural history, and my imagination was drawn in quite another direction.”

The difficulties of bringing to an end even a short essay lie not in the fact that we feel the end of the piece demands a fire which the actual content up to that point has not been able to produce out of itself, they arise rather from the fact that even the shortest essay demands of the author a degree of self-satisfaction and of being lost in himself out of which it is difficult to step into the everyday air without great determination and an external incentive, so that, before the essay is rounded to a close and one might quickly slip away, one bolts, driven by unrest, and then the end must be completed from the outside with hands which must not only do the work but hold on as well.

30 December. My urge to imitate has nothing of the actor in it, its chief lack is unity. The whole range of those characteristics which are rough and striking, I cannot imitate at all, I have always failed when I attempted it, it is contrary to my nature. On the other hand, I have a decided urge to imitate them in their details, the way certain people manipulate walking-sticks, the way they hold their hands, the movements of their fingers, and I can do it without any effort. But this very effortlessness, this thirst for imitation, sets me apart from the actor, because this effortlessness reflects itself in the fact that no one is aware that I am imitating. Only my own satisfied, or more often reluctant, appreciation shows me that I have been successful. Far beyond this external imitation, however, goes the inner, which is often so striking and strong that there is no room at all within me to observe and verify it, and it first confronts me in my memory. But here the imitation is so complete and replaces my own self with so immediate a suddenness that, even assuming it could be made visible at all, it would be unbearable on the stage. The spectator cannot be asked to endure what passes beyond the bounds of playacting. If an actor who is supposed to thrash another according to the plot really does thrash him, out of excitement, out of an excess of emotion, and the other actor screams in pain, then the spectator must become a man and intervene. But what seldom happens in this way happens countless times in lesser ways. The essence of the bad actor consists not in the fact that he imitates too little, but rather in the fact that as a result of gaps in his education, experience, and talent he imitates the wrong models. But his most essential fault is still that he does not observe the limits of the play and imitates too much. His hazy notion of the demands of the stage drives him to this, and even if the spectator thinks one actor or another is bad because he stands around stiffly, toys with his fingers at the edge of his pocket, puts his hands on his hips improperly, listens for the prompter, in spite of the fact that things have changed completely maintains an anxious solemnity regardless, still, even this actor who suddenly dropped from nowhere on the stage is bad only because he imitates too much, even if he does so only in his mind. (31 December.) For the very reason that his abilities are so limited, he is afraid to give less than all he has. Even though his ability may not be so small that it cannot be divided up, he does not want to betray the fact that under certain circumstances, by the exercise of his own will, he can dispose of less than all his art.

In the morning I felt so fresh for writing, but now the idea that I am to read to Max in the afternoon blocks me completely. This shows too how unfit I am for friendship, assuming that friendship in this sense is even possible. For since a friendship without interruption of one's daily life is unthinkable, a great many of its manifestations are blown away time and again, even if its core remains undamaged. From the undamaged core they are formed anew, but as every such formation requires time, and not everything that is expected succeeds, one cam never, even aside from the change in one's personal moods, pick up again where one left off last time. Out of this, in friendships that have a deep foundation, an uneasiness must arise before every fresh meeting which need not be so great that it is felt as such, but which can disturb one's conversation and behavior to such a degree that one is consciously astonished, especially as one is not aware of, or cannot believe, the reason for it. So how am I to read to M. or even think, while writing down what follows, that I shall read it to him.

Besides, I am disturbed by my having leafed through the diary this morning to see what I could read to M. In this examination I have found neither that what I have written so far is especially valuable nor that it must simply be thrown away. My opinion lies between the two and closer to the first, yet it is not of such a nature that, judging by the value of what I have written, I must, in spite of my weakness, regard myself as exhausted. Despite that, the sight of the mass of what I had written diverted me almost irrecoverably from the fountainhead of my writing for the next hour, because my attention was to a certain extent lost downstream, as it were, in the same channel.

While I sometimes think that all through the time I was at the Gymnasium and before that, as well, I was able to think unusually clearly, and only the later weakening of my memory prevents me from judging it correctly today, I still recognize at other times that my poor memory is only trying to flatter me and that I was mentally inert, at least in things themselves insignificant but having serious consequences. So I remember that when I was at the Gymnasium I often—even if not very thoroughly, I probably tired easily even then—argued the existence of God with Bergmann in a talmudic style either my own or imitated from him. At the time I liked to begin with a theme I had found in a Christian magazine (I believe it was Die Christliche Welt [The Christian World]) in which a watch and the world and the watchmaker and God were compared to one another, and the existence of the watchmaker was supposed to prove that of God. In my opinion I was able to refute this very well as far as Bergmann was concerned, even though this refutation was not firmly grounded in me and I had to piece it together for myself like a jigsaw puzzle before using it. Such a refutation once took place while we were walking around the Rathaus tower. I remember this clearly because once, years ago, we reminded each other of it.

But while I thought I was distinguishing myself—I had no other motive than the desire to distinguish myself and my joy in making an impression and in the impression itself—it was only as a result of giving it insufficient thought that I endured always having to go around dressed in the wretched clothes which my parents had made for me by one customer after another, longest by a tailor in Nusle. I naturally noticed—it was obvious—that I was unusually badly dressed, and even had an eye for others who were well dressed, but for years on end my mind did not succeed in recognizing in my clothes the cause of my miserable appearance. Since even at that time, more in tendency than in fact, I was on the way to underestimating myself, I was convinced that it was only on me that clothes assumed this appearance, first looking as stiff as a board, then hanging in wrinkles. I did not want new clothes at all, for if I was going to look ugly in any case, I wanted at least to be comfortable and also to avoid exhibiting the ugliness of the new clothes to the world that had grown accustomed to the old ones. These always long-drawn-out refusals on the frequent occasions when my mother (who with the eyes of an adult was still able to find differences between these new clothes and the old ones) wanted to have new clothes of this sort made for me, had this effect upon me that, with my parents concurring, I had to conclude that I was not at all concerned about my appearance.

Copyright Schocken Books, Inc. Translated by Joseph Kresh.

Dacă nu este specificat altfel, conţinutul acestei pagini este licenţiat sub Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License