Diary : Franz Kafka
11 February. While I read the proofs of “The Judgment, I’ll write down all the relationships which have become clear to me in the story as far as I now remember them. This is necessary because the story came out of me like a real birth, covered with filth and slime, and only I have the hand that can reach to the body itself and the strength of desire to do so:
The friend is the link between father and son, he is their strongest common bond. Sitting alone at his window, Georg rummages voluptuously in this consciousness of what they have in common, believes he has his father within him, and would be at peace with everything if it were not for a fleeting, sad thoughtfulness. In the course of the story the father, with the strengthened position that the other, lesser things they share in common give him love, devotion to the mother, loyalty to her memory,
The clientele that he (the father) had been the first to acquire for the business uses the common bond of the friend to set himself up as Georg’s antagonist. Georg is left with nothing; the bride, who lives in the story only in relation to the friend, that is, to what father and son have in common, is easily driven away by the father since no marriage has yet taken place, and so she cannot penetrate the circle of blood relationship that is drawn around father and son. What they have in common is built up entirely around the father, Georg can feel it only as something foreign, something that has become independent, that he has never given enough protection, that is exposed to Russian revolutions, and only because he himself has lost everything except his awareness of the father does the judgment, which closes off his father from him completely, have so strong an effect on him.
Georg has the same number of letters as Franz. In Bendemann, mann is a strengthening of Bende to provide for all the as yet unforeseen possibilities in the story. But Bende has exactly the same number of letters as Kafka, and the vowel e occurs in the same places as does the vowel a in Kafka. Frieda has as many letters as F[elice] and the same initial, Brandenfeld has thesame initial as B[auer], and in the word Feld a certain connection in meaning,as well.
Perhaps even the thought of Berlin was not without influence and the recollection of the Mark Brandenburg perhaps had some influence.12 February. In describing the friend I kept thinking of Steuer. Now when I happened to meet him about three months after I had written the story, he told methat hehad become engaged about three months ago.After I read the story at Weltsch’s yesterday, old Mr. Weltsch went out and, whenhe returned after a short time, praised especially the graphic descriptions in the story. With his arm extended he said, I see this father before me, all the time looking directly at the empty chair in which he had been sitting while I was reading.
My sister said, It is our house. I was astonished at how mistaken she was in the setting and said, In that case, then, Father would have to be living in the toilet.
28 February. Ernst Liman arrived in Constantinople on a business trip one rainy autumn morning and, as was his custom this was the tenth time he was making this trip without paying attention to anything else, drove through the otherwise empty streets to the hotel at which he always stopped and which he found suited him. It was almost cool, and drizzling rain blew into the carriage, and, annoyed by the bad weather which had been pursuing him all through his business trip this year, he put up the carriage window and leaned back in a corner to sleep away the fifteen minutes or so of the drive that was before him. But since the driver took him straight through the business district, he could get no rest, and the shouts of the street vendors, the
roping of the heavy wagons, as well as other noises, meaningless on the surface, such as a crowd clapping its hands, disturbed his usually sound sleep.
At the end of his drive an unpleasant surprise awaited him. During the last great fire in Stambul, about which Liman had probably read during his trip, the Hotel Kingston, at which it was his habit to stop, had been burned almost to the ground, but the driver, who of course knew this, had nevertheless carried out his passenger’s instructions with complete indifference, and without a word had brought him to the site of the hotel which had burned down. Now he calmly got down from the box and would even have unloaded Liman’s luggage if the latter had not seized him by the shoulder and shaken him, whereupon the driver then let go of the luggage, to be sure, but as slowly and sleepily as if not Liman but his own change of mind had diverted him from it. Part of the ground floor of the hotel was still intact and had been made fairly habitable by being boarded over at the top and sides. A notice in Turkish and French indicated that the hotel would be rebuilt in a short time as a more beautiful and more modern structure. Yet the only sign of this was the work of three day laborers, who with shovels and rakes were heaping up the rubble at one side and loading it into a small handbarrow.
As it turned out, part of the hotel staff, unemployed because of the fire, was living in these ruins. A gentleman in a black frock coat and a bright red tie at once came running out when Liman’s carriage stopped, told Liman, who sulkily listened to him, the story of the fire, meanwhile twisting the ends of his long, thin beard around his finger and interrupting this only to point out to Liman where the fire started, how it spread, and how finally everything collapsed. Limam, who had hardly raised his eyes from the ground throughout this whole story and had not let go the handle of the carriage door, was just about to call out to the driver the name of another hotel to which he could drive him when the man in the frock coat, with arms raised, implored him not to go to any other hotel, but to remain loyal to this hotel, where, after all, he had always received satisfaction. Despite the fact that this was only meaningless talk and no one could remember Liman, just as Liman recognized hardly a single one of the male and female employees he saw in the door and windows, he still asked, as a man to whom his habits were dear, how, then, at the moment, he was to remain loyal to the burned-down hotel. Now he learned and involuntarily had to smile at the idea that beautiful rooms in private homes were available for former guests of this hotel, but only for them, Liman need but say the word and he would be taken to one at once, it was quite near, there would be no time lost and the rate they wished to oblige and the room was of course only a substitute was unusually low, even though the food, Viennese cooking, was, if possible, even better and the service even more attentive than in the former Hotel Kingston, which had really been inadequate in some respects. Thank you, said Liman, and got into the carriage. I shall be in Constantinople only five days, I really can’t set myself up in a private home for this short space of time, no, I’m going to a hotel. Next year, however, when I return and your hotel has been rebuilt, I’ll certainly stop only with you. Excuse me! And Liman tried to close the carriage door, the handle of which the representative of the hotel was now holding. Sir, the latter said pleadingly, and looked up at Liman. Let go! shouted Liman, shook the door and directed the driver: To the Hotel Royal. But whether it was because the driver did not understand him, whether it was because he was waiting for the door to be closed, in any event he sat on his box like a statue. In no case however, did the representative of the hotel let go of the door, he even beckoned eagerly to a colleague to rouse himself and come to his aid. There was some girl he particularly hoped could do something, and he kept calling, Fini!
Hey, Fini! Where’s Fini? The people at the windows and the door had turned towards the inside of the house, they shouted in confusion, one saw them running past the windows, everyone was looking for Fini. The man who was keeping Liman from driving off and whom obviously only hunger gave the courage to behave like this, could have been easily pushed away from the door. He realized this and did not dare even to look at Liman; but Liman had already had too many unfortunate experiences on his travels not to know how important it is in a foreign country to avoid doing anything that attracts attention, no matter how very much in the right one might be. He therefore quietly got out of the carriage again, for the time being paid no attention to the man who was holding the door in a convulsive grip, went up to the driver, repeated his instructions, expressly added that he was to drive away from here as fast as he could, then walked up to the man at the door of the carriage, took hold of his hand with an apparently ordinary grip, but secretly squeezed the knuckles so hard that the man almost jumped and was forced to remove his hand from the door handle, shrieking Fini! which was at once a command and an outburst of pain. Here she comes! Here she comes! shouts now came from all the windows, and a laughing girl, her hands still held to her hair, which had just been dressed, her head half bowed, came running out of the house towards the carriage. Quick! Into the carriage! It’s pouring, she cried, grasping Liman by the shoulders and holding her face very close to his. I am Fini, she then said softly, and let her hands move caressingly along his shoulders. They really don’t mean so badly by me, Liman said to himself smiling at the girl, too bad that I’m no longer a young fellow and don’t permit myself risky adventures.
There must be some mistake, Miss,he said, and turned towards his carriage; I neither asked them to call you nor do I intend to drive off with you. From inside the carriage he added, Don’t trouble yourself any further. But Fini had already set one foot on the step and said, her arms crossed over her breast, Now why won’t you let me recommend a place for you to stay? Tired of the annoyances to which he had already been subjected, Liman leaned out to her and said, Please don’t delay me any longer with useless questions! I am going to a hotel and that’s all. Take your foot off the step, otherwise you may be hurt. Go ahead, driver! Stop! the girl shouted, however, and now in earnest tried to swing herself into the carriage. Liman, shaking his head, stood up and blocked all of the door with his stout body. The girl tried to push him away, using her head and knees in the attempt, the carriage began to rock on its wretched springs, Liman had no real grip. And why won’t you take me with you? And why won’t you take me with you? the girl kept repeating. Certainly Liman would have been able to push away the girl without exerting any special force, even though she was strong, if the man in the frock coat, who had remained silent until now as though he had been relieved by Fini, had not now, when he saw Fini waver, hurried over with a bound, supported Fini from behind and tried to push the girl into the carriage by exerting all his strength against Liman’s still restrained efforts at defense. Sensing that he was holding back, she actually forced her way into the carriage, pulled at the door which at the same time was slammed shut from the outside, said, as though to herself, Well, now, first hastily straightened her blouse and then, more deliberately, her hair. This is unheard of, said Liman, who had fallen back into his seat, to the girl who was siting opposite him.