Conversations with Kafka by Gustav Janouch

By Gustav Janouch

Contributor note: advent by way of Francine Prose
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Gustav Janouch met Franz Kafka, the distinguished writer of The Metamorphosis, as a seventeen-year-old fledgling poet. As Francine Prose notes in her excellent preface, “they fell into the behavior of taking lengthy strolls in the course of the urban, strolls on which Kafka turns out to have acknowledged many notable, incisive, literary, and in step with- issues to his spouse and interlocutor, the teenage Boswell of Prague. Crossing a windswept sq., apropos of whatever or different, Kafka tells Janouch, ‘Life is infinitely nice and profound because the immensity of the celebs above us. you can actually in basic terms examine it throughout the slim keyhole of one’s own adventure. yet via it one perceives multiple can see. So specifically one needs to hold the keyhole clean.’”

They discuss writing (Kafka’s personal, but additionally that of his favourite writers: Poe, Kleist, and Rimbaud, who “transforms vowels into colors”) in addition to know-how, movie, crime, Darwinism, chinese language philosophy, carpentry, insomnia, road fights, Hindu scripture, artwork, suicide, and prayer. “Prayer,” Kafka notes, brings “its endless radiance to mattress within the frail little cradle of one’s personal existence.”

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I flew into the kitchen yelling, ‘I know what’s wrong with Mum. ’ Dad blanched and said quietly, ‘You heartless little bitch’. I was deeply wounded. He didn’t understand. We had just seen a public health film about a woman who had exactly the same symptoms our mother had been showing for a long while. The woman had an X-ray and was found to be suffering from tuberculosis. Mum was obviously suffering from the same 36 Noeline Brown pgs 22/4/05 2:20 PM Page 37 ALWAYS IN STRIFE disease. My words must have been terrible for my father to hear because, to Dad, TB was a death sentence.

Dad blanched and said quietly, ‘You heartless little bitch’. I was deeply wounded. He didn’t understand. We had just seen a public health film about a woman who had exactly the same symptoms our mother had been showing for a long while. The woman had an X-ray and was found to be suffering from tuberculosis. Mum was obviously suffering from the same 36 Noeline Brown pgs 22/4/05 2:20 PM Page 37 ALWAYS IN STRIFE disease. My words must have been terrible for my father to hear because, to Dad, TB was a death sentence.

In those days local performers on radio often sounded more English than the English except in variety shows where they used to pretend to be American. I took my 40 Noeline Brown pgs 22/4/05 2:20 PM Page 41 ALWAYS IN STRIFE rejection bravely even though I felt certain that as I had been playing the part of a kangaroo I should definitely have had an Australian accent. I had been quite happy with my interpretation and had even tried to incorporate a hop in my voice. In my final year at school my classmates, in a rather democratic process for the fifties, selected me for the position of school captain, although I suspect the teachers were probably required to approve the decision.

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