franz kafka

A Pan-English Dictionary (for readers of Harry Mathews’s The Sinking of the Odradek Stadium)

And while on the subject of reposting literary resources: here’s a Pan-English dictionary I made for the benefit of anyone reading Harry Mathews‘s early masterpiece, the epistolary novel The Sinking of the Odradek Stadium.

Odradek presents the correspondence of newlyweds and amateur sleuths Zachary McCaltex and Twang Panattapam. Separated by the Atlantic, they exchange letters in which they “try to trace the whereabouts of a treasure supposedly lost off the coast of Florida in the sixteenth century, while navigating a relationship separated by an ocean as well as their different cultures.”

Twang, who hails “from the Southeast-Asian country of Pan-Nam,” peppers her letters with snatches of her native language, “Pan.” Fortunately for her husband and the reader, she also translates it on the spot. I’ve collected all of the Pan and its English equivalents and presented them below.


I Like __ A Lot / 3 Comments
May 3rd, 2012 / 8:01 am

kafka the friendly ghost

do you talk to dead writers?

i do.


Craft Notes & Massive People & Random / 9 Comments
September 30th, 2011 / 5:09 pm

Vonnegut Gives a Free Creative Writing Lesson From the Grave

I suggest all you Harper’s/New Yorker haters get on Lewis Lapham’s Quaterly boat. Personally, I can’t believe I’ve been out to sea so long since parting ways with The Believer, although I do still find myself running fuzzy fingers sidelong across her stilted bow anytime I see one in port.

Anyway, so umm… O yeah click of his graph for Vonnegut’s writing lesson, in which he compares the plight & plot of protagonists in popular books, film & teevee, to that of Cinderella, Gregor Samsa & the kingshit himself, Hamlet.


Craft Notes / 20 Comments
April 13th, 2011 / 12:15 pm

The Poetics of Non-Arrival: KAFKA

Illustration by Shaun Tan

“Am I a circus rider on two horses? Alas, I am no rider, but lie prostrate on the ground.”
–Franz Kafka in a letter to Felice Bauer, 1916

He was talking about the Jewish horse and the German horse
(But there is also the Czech horse.)
What horse did Kafka ride?
Where does Kafka belong?
Who owns Kafka? *

These sentences kill me.
Imagine: prostrate on the ground.
That’s what an exilic existence is like
Prostrate on the ground.
Living in the place that is no place
Riding the no horse
Going nowhere, only not-here
With no language
Never quite comfortable in any language. **

When the narrator in the story “My Destination” is asked where he is going
He says,

“I don’t know.”

“Away from here, away from here.”

“Always away from here, only by doing so can I reach my destination.”

Always away, never arriving. ***
Butler: “…the monstrous and infinite distance between departure and arrival….”

Kafka: “For it is, fortunately, a truly immense journey.”




* [I love this essay about Kafka by Judith Butler.]

** [Butler: “We find in Kafka’s correspondence with his lover Felice Bauer, who was from Berlin, that she is constantly correcting his German, suggesting that he is not fully at home in this second language. And his later lover, Milena Jesenská, who was also the translator of his works into Czech, is constantly teaching him Czech phrases he neither knows how to spell nor to pronounce, suggesting that Czech, too, is also something of a second language. In 1911, he is going to the Yiddish theatre and understanding what is said, but Yiddish is not a language he encounters very often in his family or his daily life; it remains an import from the east that is compelling and strange. So is there a first language here?”]

*** [Kafka: “Written kisses don’t reach their destination, rather they are drunk on the way by the ghosts.”]

Behind the Scenes & Craft Notes & Massive People & Random / 1 Comment
April 6th, 2011 / 7:52 pm

Hot Dog

How much my life has changed, and yet how unchanged it has remained at bottom! When I think back and recall the time when I was still a member of the canine community, sharing in all its preoccupations, a dog among dogs, I find on closer examination that from the very beginning I sensed some discrepancy, some little maladjustment, causing a slight feeling of discomfort which not even the most decorous public functions could eliminate; more, that sometimes, no, not sometimes, but very often, the mere look of some fellow dog of my own circle that I was fond of, the mere look of him, as if I had just caught it for the first time, would fill me with helpless embarrassment and fear, even with despair.

first few lines of “Investigations of a Dog” by Franz Kafka (translated by Willa and Edwin Muir)

Excerpts / 14 Comments
January 13th, 2010 / 10:15 am

Franz Kafka: The Diaries 1910-1923

Excerpt from Franz Kafka: Diaries 1910-1923

From the section called Memoirs of the Kalda Railway

Once a month, but always on a different day of the month, an inspector came to examine my record book, to collect the money I had taken in and – but not always—to pay me my salary. I was always warned of his arrival a day in advance by the people who had dropped him at the last station. They considered this warning the greatest favour they could do me in spite of the fact that I naturally always had everything in good order. Nor was the slightest effort needed for this. And the inspector too always came into the station with an air as if to say, this time I will unquestionably uncover the evidence of your mismanagement. He always opened the door of the hut with a push of his knee, giving me a look at the same time. Hardly had he opened my book when he found a mistake. It took me a long time to prove to him, by recomputing it before his eyes, that the mistake had been made not by me but by him. He was always very dissatisfied with the amount I had taken in, then clapped his hand on the book and gave me a sharp look again. “We’ll have to shut down the railway,” he would say each time. “It will come to that,” I usually replied.

After the inspection had been concluded, our relationship would change. I always had brandy ready and, whenever possible, some sort of delicacy. We drank to each other; he sang in a tolerable voice, but always the same two songs. One was sad and began: ‘Where are you going, O child in the forest?’ The other was gay and began like this: ‘Merry comrades, I am yours!’ It depended on the mood I was able to put him in, how large an installment I got on my salary. But it was only at the beginning of these entertainments that I watched him with any purpose in mind; later we were quite at one, cursed the company shamelessly, he whispered secret promises into my ear about the career he would help me to achieve, and finally we fell together on the bunk in an embrace that often lasted ten hours unbroken. The next morning, he went on his way, again my superior. I stood beside the train and saluted; often as not he turned to me while getting aboard and said, “Well, my little friend, we’ll meet again in a month. You know what you have at stake.”

Author Spotlight / 3 Comments
December 10th, 2008 / 12:39 am