4 July 2011

Some aphorisms from Kafka

All from Franz Kafka's (1883-1924) The Z├╝rau Aphorisms (Schocken Books, New York 2006):

13. A first indication of glimmering understanding is the desire to die. This life seems unendurable, another unreachable. One no longer feels ashamed of wanting to die; one petitions to be moved from one's old cell, which one hates, into a new one, which one will come to hate. A last vestige of belief is involved here, too, for during the move might not the prison governor by chance walk down the passage, see the prisoner, and say: "Don't lock this man up again. He's coming with me."

16. A cage went in search of a bird.

20. Leopards break into the temple and drink all the sacrificial vessels dry; it keeps happening; in the end, it can be calculated in advance and is incorporated into the ritual.

26. There is a destination but no way there; what we refer to as way is hesitation.

39a. The road is endless, there are no shortcuts and no detours, and yet everyone brings to it his own childish haste. "You must walk this ell of ground, too, you won't be spared it."

53. It is wrong to cheat, even if it is the world of its victory.

58. The way to tell fewest lies is to tell fewest lies, not to give oneself the fewest opportunities of telling lies.

62. The fact that the only world is a constructed world takes away hope and gives us certainty.

66. He is a free and secure citizen of the world because he is on a chain that is long enough to allow him access to all parts of the earth, and yet not so long that he could be swept over the edge of it. At the same time he is also a free and secure citizen of heaven because he is also attached to a similar heavenly chain. If he wants to go to earth, the heavenly manacles will throttle him, if he wants to go to heaven, the earthly manacles will. But after all that, all possibilities are open to him, as he is well aware, yes, he even refuses to believe the whole thing is predicated on a mistake going back to the time of the first enchainment.

69. Theoretically, there is one consummate possibility of felicity: to believe in the indestructible in oneself, and then not to go looking for it.

74. If what was supposed to be destroyed in Paradise was destructible, then it can't have been decisive; however, if it was indestructible, then we are living in false belief.

76. The feeling: "I'm not dropping anchor here," and straightaway the feeling of the sustaining sea-swell around one.
A reversal. Lurking, fretful, hoping, the answer creeps around the question, peers despairingly in its averted face, follows it on its most abstruse journeys - that is, those that have least to do with the answer.

79. Sexual love deceives us as to heavenly love; were it alone, it would not be able to do so, but containing within itself, unknowingly, a germ of heavenly love, it can.

80.The truth is indivisible and is therefore incapable of recognising itself; whatever claims to recognise it must therefore be a lie.

87. A faith like an ax. As heavy, as light.

91. To avoid the solecism: Whatever is to be entirely destroyed must first be held very firmly; if something crumbles, it crumbles, but resists destruction.

96. The joys of this life are not its joys, but our fear of climbing into a higher life; the torments of this life are not its torments, but our self-torment on account of this fear.

103. You can withdraw from the sufferings of the world - that possibility is open to you and accords with your nature - but perhaps that withdrawal is the only suffering you might be able to avoid.


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