Posted by: glue | April 19, 2009

To Write

During the first few weeks I was in Madrid, still working on the language and not yet acquainted with many people, I went to a bookstore.

Attractor

Attractor

There were two Spains, equally real at the time:  one for my body, and the other for my imagination. What was I thinking, when I entered that store?  An inventory of the attractors governing my life trajectory must begin with the book, books as such, in any case.  From the bedtime stories read to me by my father to my choice of major in college (English) was one continuous development.  Before I could read I loved to look at the little illustrations in dictionaries.

Becoming Image Image Rising

The book I bought that day (which I still possess) was a copy of the diaries of Franz Kafka, 1910-23, edited by Max Brod.  The store had a large section of books in English.  Why choose this one?  I was imagining myself as a writer, without having written anything.  On the back cover there was this description.

Kafka’s diaries reveal to us the extraordinary inner world in which he lived.  Here he describes, perhaps to relieve the pain which they caused him, his fear, isolation, and frustration, his feelings of guilt and his sense of being an outcast.  In between come quick glimpses of the real world,  of the father he worshipped, and of the woman he could not bring himself to marry.  And throughout this personal journal Kafka the writer is experimenting, searching for his true mode of expression.

I opened the fat volume at random, and happened upon one of the most striking passages of all:

To be pulled in through the ground-floor window of a house by a rope tied around one’s neck and to be yanked up, bloody and ragged, through all the ceilings, furniture, walls, and attics, without consideration, as if by a person who is paying no attention, until the empty noose, dropping the last fragments of me when it breaks through the roof tiles, is seen on the roof.

Siren

Siren

That passage gave me the idea that a journal could be literature, that one could apprentice oneself to Kafka’s diaries, and explore in this way a possible vocation, to become writer.  My next stop was a papeleria to get a notebook.  This choice determined a certain mood, attunement, filtering my encounter with the Spain of 1965-66.

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