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2017/10/23 - 15:21

Five short texts from Kafka's youth

translated by Christopher Mulrooney

"Es gibt... " (1897)

There is a coming and a gone
A rift and no more looking on

"Wie viel Worte... " (1900)

How many words are in books! They’re meant for reminders! As though words were ever reminders!
Because words are poor mountaineers and mountain men. They do not fetch treasures from the mountaintops and mountain deeps.
But there is a live remembrance which beyond the worth of any reminder gently leads there like a coaxing hand. And if from this ash flame rises, glowing and hot, mighty and strong and you stare within, as spellbound with the magic of it, then—
But in this chaste remembrance, one cannot inscribe oneself with clumsy hand and rude implement, one can do that only in these white, undemanding sheets. That did I on September 4, 1900.

"Kleine Seele" (1909)

Little soul
leap’st in dances
lay’st in mellow air thy head
lift’st thy feet from glimmering grasses
which the wind in gentle bestirring waves

"Wir wussten nicht eigentlich"

We knew not really if we had the need, to see an occult draftsman. And as it happens that a light and for a long time unremarked need under ever stronger attentiveness might nearly run away and only through a rapidly appearing reality feels itself held tight in its proper place, so were we a long time since become unobtrusively curious, before us one of those ladies drawing to see with inner but strange powers a tall moonflower, then deep-sea plants, then through ornamentation spoiled heads with great coiffures and helmets and other things as she even must.

"Das ist ein Anblick" (1911)

That is a sight, when great works, even in arbitrary divisions, from their indivisible inmost yet live, then perhaps especially whole accost our bleary eyes. Therefore every special edition, wherein attentiveness comes once and for all to a halt at its limits, has a practical use, if, like this collection of Kleistian anecdotes, it respects a new wholeness and so formally increases the range of Kleistian work. It increases of itself, then, if we all soon come to know these anecdotes, which to the great joy of many need not be the case. The expert will naturally be able to explain, why many of these anecdotes in various complete editions, even in the Temple edition, are missing; the amateur will not understand, let him latch all the more firmly onto this new text, which Verlag Rohwohlt in clear print and sober layout (especially the lightly toned paper seems to us apt) for the pittance of 2 marks delivers him.

Christopher Mulrooney has written poems and translations in Ars Interpres, PassportZoland PoetrySpring and Upstairs at Duroc.

Revision: 2011/01/08 - 00:18 - © Mauro Nervi




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