Franz Kafka et al. to Kurt Wolff, 1913:
Franz Kafka is often pictured as a solitary figure, brooding alone in his room. The postcard above is evidence of Kafka’s social side. It was sent on March 25, 1913 from Charlottenburg, a district of Berlin, where Kafka was meeting with a group of fellow authors who shared the same publisher. The writers decided to send a group postcard to their publisher Kurt Wolff. Kafka writes “Best greetings from a plenary session of authors of your house. Otto Pick, Albert Ehrenstein, Carl Ehrenstein. Dear Herr Wolff: Pay no attention to what Werfel tells you! He does not know a word of the story. As soon as I have a clean copy made, I will of course be glad to send it to you. Sincerely, F. Kafka.” At the bottom, in another hand, is written “Cordial greetings from Paul Zech,” and on the front of the postcard is a drawing by Else Lasker-Schuler with the name “Abigail Basileus III” next to it. The “Werfel” Kafka refers to is the Austrian-Bohemian writer Franz Werfel, who had told Wolff about Kafka’s unpublished novella, The Metamorphosis. Wolff had expressed interest in seeing “the bug story.” He published it two years later, in 1915.
— Louise Glück, Proofs & Theories: Essays on Poetry (with thanks to Whiskey River)
In the UK, where I watched the New Year’s fireworks in a blur because I was jetlag what I read I cannot remember because I was too busy falling in love again with a boy whom I had not seen in 7 months.
On the black sand of Tenerife in the Canary Island where I volunteered for the Atlantic Whale Foundation, inbetween sentences of broken Spanish and an aching heart, I read Flaubert’sMadame Bovary, which both annoyed and touched me. When I left vowing not to return again because twice was enough, I took and read from the pile of books that volunteers abandon and leave behind Alexander McCall Smith’s44 Scotland Street, which only annoyed me.
In Sydney, I read whatsapp messages from my then-boyfriend that were getting less frequent and more distant by the day. I read E.M.Foster’s ARoom With a View on the Physics Lawn of UNSW and Huxley’s dystopian Brave New World in stolen haste between shifts as an under-the-counter waitress at the Japanese restaurant, which I enjoyed (the book, not the job).
When I returned home, I read and reread many versions of my resume that lead me to read an eventual 6 offer letters and 1 confirmation letter. I read Bukowski’s poemThe People Look like Flowers at Last the day before my first day of work which left me in despair and doubt of my choice and career as a copywriter.
Then I read a list of old wives tales and wrote and read 6 stories Saatchi & Saatchi KL for a Jacob’s biscuit job as a first time freelancer at RM100 a piece. I then read that a freelancer would usually get about RM500 a piece, but that didn’t bother me that much because I was glad to be writing again.
After Alice Munro won the Nobel Prize for literature, I had a painful nostalgia and longing for short stories and my uni days at UEA and read Jeffrey Eugenides’ anthology of Love Stories My Mistress’s Sparrow Is Dead and gave my heart and my money to the disposal of Lorrie Moore, George Saunders and David Bezmozgis.
I reread super-dead-author-of-the-year Salinger’s Franny and Zooey and Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Beingthat are now my touchstones.
With my first paycheck from a full time job after 6 months of travelling, I bought and read Julian Barnes’ A Sense of An Endingand was left dissatisfied and angry. I read Zelda Fitzgerald’s Save Me The Waltz and grudgingly stayed on team F.Scott.
On a beach in Waikiki on a lonely three-generational holiday, I reread Junot Diaz’s The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Waothat contained the saddest question in the entire history of literature. Then I read This is How You Lose Her and was slightly less moved.
Back in Malaysia, I drowsily read a pamphlet titled Wisdom Teeth and What to do with Them at the waiting room before I went in for a 3-hour dental surgery. I reread Eugenides’ Middlesex with 3 less teeth while I recovered on a liquid diet for a month.
When the Man Booker Shortlist 2013 came out, I read Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being with an intention to read all the other books on the shortlist and make my decision on who should win before they announced the winner. As of yet, I have yet to read any of the other books on the list.
One Saturday, I read and signed many documents as a first time investor when I opened up a Unit Trust Fund with Citibank. At 23, it made me feel hopeful and foolishly wise.
Every day I wrote, read and rewrote many copies that fell short at so many levels before it made it out to the world – distorted and bent till it was nothing like I intended to write and create, which made me feel horrible and stuck. In Singapore for work, I let loose and with disturbing likeness as in Huxley’s Island, the work of a hundred years was destroyed in one single night.
I read John Updike’s Rabbit, Run which made me wish I was a man whose choice of escape seemed limitless. I watched and listened toHowl by Ginsberg which made me wish I was a man of the beat generation who had such an appetite for running back and forth between grief and high delight; for life.
I read The Stranger by Camus and got into such a state that I attempted to make an infographic on Camus’ notion of absurdity in Kant’s categorical and hypothetical imperatives at 2am. I then started reading more critically.
I am now (critically) reading Steinbeck’sEast of Edenthat reminds me of an adult version of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairiethat I read when I was 10.
I read over my wishlist at The Book Depository that is now at 91 books and have decided that with all that I have read and done in my year of reading and doing, 2013 has been pretty okay. For now, I look ahead 2014, with Auden and Huxley on the tip of my tongue, as 365 days of reading deeply and living lightly.
I have a strange obsession with the phrase “at last”. So much can be captured in that two syllables. The accomplishment of a lifelong dream, the arrival at a once-faraway-destination, the moment of realisation of the unrequited loved.
For some reason, that phrase has denied all impulses to become a cliché. It has managed to retain its definitive sincerity. The sensation of “at last” is ubiquitous across all literature: the turning point in a plot, the curveball, the awakening, the enlightenment. And yet, its emotion has never been tarnished. I think maybe a sad reason to explain this is because it has little place in the real world where things are rarely seen through.
But it’s beautiful. There is no other word in the English language that comes close to it. “Finally” is so final, in every sense of the word. It implies an end, yes an awakening, an a-hah, but then and always, a fullstop. The word itself is short.
But “at last”. It’s almost infinite. You hear it, and you see in your mind a path of footprints that extend deeper into a forest of untouched snow, the reunion of lovers that will get their happily ever after.
Just the motion of saying it is wonderful. A premature breath of anticipation that goes up with the “at” and then the deep satisfaction of exhale at “last”.
— Chuck Palahniuk (via binkshapiro)